There are few leaders of her caliber in the insurance industry. Over the past 25 years, Jackie Hunt has made a name for herself as one of the sector's eminent financial experts. It’s no surprise that she was courted by many potential employers after leaving Prudential last November. The native South African ultimately chose Allianz, where she will be responsible for asset management and the life insurance business in the United States from July.
Hunt, who studied business in Johannesburg and started her career at Deloitte & Touche, knows the financial and insurance sector like the back of her hand. She has worked in South Africa, New Zealand, the US and Europe, held the position of CFO at Aviva, Norwich Union and Standard Life, and spent two years successfully heading up Prudential's insurance business in the UK, continental Europe and Africa.
Employees and business partners alike complement her calm and reserved demeanor, which some commentators mistakenly viewed as a lack of assertiveness early in her career. They were soon forced to recant. "I’d rather under-promise and over-deliver than be known for talking big and not being able to deliver," says Hunt, whose dream was originally to become a geologist.
She is fully aware of her special position as a woman in a male-oriented domain. "I know what it feels like to be one of only, say, three women in a conference hall filled with hundreds of men", says the 47 year old. And she is also familiar with the pressure that comes with it, the expectations placed on her shoulders, the special attention that a woman on the Board of Management receives from the media. "While it's obviously an honor to be able to play this sort of pioneering role for women, it also means that you come under a lot more scrutiny. It's a big responsibility to live up to."
The opera enthusiast, who enjoys traveling with her family, earned success through a combination of skill and endurance. Those who know her testify to her "quiet steeliness" in pursuing an objective. Hunt describes herself as rational, target-oriented and level-headed. "But being rational doesn't mean that you are incapable of showing empathy", she says. As you talk to her, you very soon realize that she offers a convincing combination of both.
Hunt is familiar with the daily problems faced by working parents. "I've been through it all myself", says the mother of a 17-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter. The fact that she was able to forge a career while raising children is due not only to her abilities but to real team work with her husband and parents-in-law. But she is well aware that not all working women have the same support network. Helping these women is very close to Hunt's heart.
"But it's not just about women", she adds. "It's also about men who want to spend more time with their children. It's about people who have relatives to care for. We have to use a much broader definition of what it means to strike a balance between work and family commitments."
By appointing Jackie Hunt, who will take over responsibility for Asset Management and US Life Insurance, Allianz will welcome a proven expert into its ranks, someone who can really make a difference – and not just in asset management.