The global insurance industry is on the precipice of confronting simultaneous changes of historical proportions and these changes are fundamentally redefining the industry. A variety of challenging factors are in play such as uncertainty in the financial markets, the emergence of more digitally savvy competitors and new risks that have no historical perspective, such as cyber. Addressing insurance industry challenges through leadership and human capital strategies was the genesis of Sterling James. Sterling James is a boutique executive search firm comprised of a team of women who are leadership advisors in the insurance industry.
An official survey report suggested that the number of women leading corporate businesses in the United States of America is quite less as compared to the number of men due to various challenges faced by women. Women often face problems due to a clash in their personal and professional lives, managing work, family and life. But winners are the ones who do not give or accept excuses. One such winner who followed her dream towards success is Erin Hamrick, the Founding Partner of Sterling James, who started looking for what she can do rather than finding things she cannot do right from her childhood days. Not only that, she takes pride in saying that Sterling James has placed more women in senior executive roles in the insurance industry than any of their competitors.
Breaking Stereotypes since Childhood
Erin spent her childhood in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Since her childhood, she has always been taking the road less traveled and was giving her best efforts to overcome the hurdles one by one. While she was in high school, she showed her first interest in the game of golf. She took up the challenge and became the first female to play on the boys’ varsity golf team. Erin has recently started to serve the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) as a Foundation Board Director.
Erin Hamrick graduated in Economics from Villanova University and joined the insurance company, The Hartford. While working at The Hartford in Atlanta, she developed her skills in the areas of underwriting and field marketing. From there, she moved on to the broking side of the business with Hamilton Dorsey Alston in Atlanta before shifting into executive search.
Erin is a frequent contributor to Wells Media Publications’ Carrier Management Magazine. In 2014, Erin was named as one of the top 50 women globally in re/insurance by Reactions Magazine and in 2016 was named Woman of the Year by the Association of Professional Insurance Women (APIW). Through Sterling James, Erin has encouraged and supported research efforts through Saint Joseph’s University and Drake University to better understand gender disparity in the insurance industry. In 2017, Erin joined Georgia State University Risk Management Foundation’s Board of Directors.
Beginning days of Gaining Experience – Incidences that Transformed a Girl into a Woman
Erin joined Heidrick & Struggles’ Insurance Practice in 1995 as an Associate and was later promoted to the post of Principal and Partner. After five years, she was transferred to the Wall Street office of the company where she witnessed the events of 9/11. Erin was so moved by the attacks of 9/11 that when she was asked to join the Department of Defense to help assist with the reconstruction of Iraq, she obliged in the opportunity to give back and took a leave of absence.
Just after getting back to work from her leave, she re-joined Heidrick & Struggles and was later recruited to Spencer Stuart’s Insurance Practice. After gaining solid experience of about 16 years, Erin founded her own Executive Search Consultancy firm, Sterling James.
The Leader’s Idea behind Sterling James
While working at the Insurance Practice of Heidrick & Struggles, Erin realized the need for a boutique insurance consulting firm. She was looking for a firm that could truly partner with CEO’s and their management teams on consulting services beyond pure recruiting and succession planning and that is when she founded her own organization. With her team at Sterling James, Erin has placed senior level executives in insurance and reinsurance companies as well as with insurance brokerage firms, private equity firms with insurance portfolios and with insurance services organizations. Additionally, she has helped Fortune 500 insurance companies launch several new insurance businesses and helped an insurance distribution company launch their Insuretech initiative.
While talking about such a great achievement, Erin said, “There is no greater reward than to see a client build and grow a business because of your direct involvement. Furthermore, knowing the culture of a company takes time and an intimate knowledge gives us a perspective as to why some executives have succeeded where others have failed. It is rarely about the technical skills and all about the ability to lead within a particular company’s culture. When one is a true partner to a client you move from hired consultant to a true trusted advisor.”
Erin describes her company as an executive search firm which is primarily focused on the insurance industry. Sterling James is one such enterprise which is 100 percent retained by its clients and thus works directly for their client companies to assist with their talent retention, talent assessment and executive acquisition strategies. Erin Hamrick as Founding Partner of this company differentiates her organization from others by only working with those clients whose value proposition they believe in and support. The firm stays very active in the market through participation and attendance of industry conferences and seminars.
Erin’s Vision for the Future
Balance and objectivity are the words which describe Erin the best, but like all other successful entrepreneurs, making time is the biggest challenge for Erin. Even after having an extremely busy schedule, she never stops making plans for developing her business. She recently launched a new company, Executive Insurance ID, which offers customized solutions for middle market hiring needs for the benefit of her clients.
Erin advises the new generation of ambitious women to learn from every situation. She asks next-gen women to find their voice, focus on themselves first, increase the pace, work smarter instead of harder and always play to win.