Q&A with Emily Viner, Guardian Life Insurance

By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I

Triple-I has created an “Insurance Careers Corner” series to highlight trailblazers in insurance and to spread awareness of the career opportunities within the industry.

This
month we interviewed Emily Viner at Guardian Life Insurance, who provided us
with insights about her career trajectory, how she’s working to build a more
inclusive workplace, and her advocacy work helping more women reach management
roles at agencies.

Name: Emily Viner

Current Role: VP of Agency Growth & Development

Years at
Guardian Life Insurance
:
22

Tell us about your current role at Guardian Life. What does a typical day look like for you in this role?

As VP of Agency Growth & Development, I make sure that we hire enough of the right people to serve our communities and that our leadership bench is growing. We’re committed to growing future leaders from within the company.

In a typical
day, I act as a bridge between what our field needs–our general agents who own
and operate their businesses as partners of the Guardian networkand the home office. A typical day depends on what’s
going on in the community. In the last three weeks that’s changed dramatically
in what we need to provide to our partners.

As VP of Agency Growth & Development, what is top of mind for you?

Top of mind
for me is making sure that we have the capacity to hire enough of the right
people, and we’re equipped to hire people from diverse backgrounds–creating
workplaces that are inclusive where people feel that they want to be part of
that environment.

One of my
colleagues years ago called it the greenhouse. Is the greenhouse set to make
sure that someone can grow and thrive, and if not, then you’ve got to fix that
first.

You
began your career as a financial advisor before moving on to the corporate side
of the business. What advice would you give to women looking to make a shift in
their careers?

I remember
that first year was so hard. As an advisor, I was in complete control and in a
different environment I didn’t always have that. I would tell all women to say
‘yes’ when you don’t know how. That’s a scary thing, but once you do it, you
realize ‘I made it and I’m fine.’

It’s also
trusting that you’re competent and that you’ll figure it out.

I read an
article years ago that stated women spend a lot of time being competent but not
confident. That’s why saying yes when you don’t know how is so important. If
you’re taking on a project where you only know 20%–if you fall, you’ll learn,
and you’ll move on–that’s how you build confidence.

How
did you get that confidence to follow through knowing that you had that
skillset?

I spoke at
an industry meeting years ago, and during that time, two companies had asked me
to join them. At the time my children were young [three and four], and the
companies weren’t being flexible. One of the companies offered the idea of me
consulting three days a week to help with recruiting and building field
leaders, so I just jumped in to do what was best for my family and my children.

I did that
for two years before joining Guardian Life. In looking back–the two years I
spent consulting–the knowledge that I gained helped me accelerate in the role
once I arrived at Guardian. It’s having faith in your ability and what works
for the current situation and what you’re looking to build. The perspective of
having patience is important. It’s knowing that maybe this is the time that you
need to learn something more or different for that next role.

As
we celebrate Women’s History Month, what are some ways that Guardian Life addresses
topics such as equal pay, leadership opportunities, and inclusion efforts? 

We have an
amazing executive leadership team that leads by example [CEO Deanna Mulligan
and President, Andrew McMahon]. They live our values every day through their
actions. We hold ourselves to very high standards, we seek to do the right
thing and people count. That transcends to equal pay, equal opportunities, and all
our inclusion efforts around hiring to ensure that there’s a diverse pool of
candidates for open positions as well as opportunities for internal moves. I’ve
seen inclusion programs really accelerate over the last ten years.

We’re
living in an uncertain time. Your CEO Deanna Mulligan and President Andrew
McMahon have made a public commitment to minimizing business interruptions
during COVID-19 and maintain response during the crisis. How has this type of
leadership impacted your role directly, and how is it impacting the company
overall?

My team
feels proud of the communication. There was a work-from-home strategy starting
March 10th. The safety of our employees is a priority, as is client
communication and services. We were built for this. We got through the 1918
Spanish flu pandemic. We got through the great recession. We payed our
obligations and still paid the dividends. We’re in the same position to be able
to do that today–not just for our employees but for all our clients and
consumers across the country.

Our clients
are in good hands. We updated our website and communications to clients to let
them know they can update their policies and get answers to questions through all
our digital platforms. We’ve also provided our field partners with information
they can share with their clients on market volatility and what they can do to
help calm their fears. With the stock market volatility, the cash value in life
insurance is not going to change, [it’s not subject to the same volatility] so
there is also reassurance with those decisions.

What
are your goals for the future in terms of where you want to take your career?

I’m thinking
about how I’m positioning the firm for the future and building up our bench–
ultimately grooming my successor. I’d also like to continue to help young women
in male dominated industries. I’ve been working towards this for the past 30
years, but there is so much more to do whether it’s in my company or
philanthropic/volunteer. It’s important to me to continue this work.