Interview: Kathleen Carey, Paragon

We are inspired by people who are passionate about insurance, project finance, and technology that solves pressing global challenges. In this interview series, our chief actuary, Sherry Huang, talks with friends of New Energy Risk whose work makes a difference, and whose journeys will inspire you, too.

By now, you have probably heard that New Energy Risk has been acquired by Paragon Insurance Holdings (see the press release for more details). Together, we are even better positioned to bring innovative solutions to our clients and partners while Underwriting a Greener Future. For my first interview since our new partnership, I reached out to Kathleen Carey, vice president of underwriting operations at Paragon, to learn about her journey and her work for our new owner. Kathleen is genuine, engaged, and passionate. She is also a true team player; from the start, she wanted to highlight other Paragon leaders. With such a great group of colleagues, we know NER is in good hands!  


Kathleen, how did you get to where you are today? Did you ever imagine a career in insurance for yourself?  

This is not intended to be a cliché response, but I got where I am through focus, hard work and self-education. (Editor’s note: Kathleen has certifications obtained through IIA CPCU, AKA the institutes, and is an active member of the Association for Insurance Compliance Professionals and currently pursuing her ACP designation.)  

I didn’t set out to work in insurance. I started in computer operations (back when they had reel tapes and disk packs!). I had moved to the Hartford, CT area and applied for a second-shift operator position at Orion Capital. Instead, they offered me a different opportunity working with statistical codes for insurance policy entry into a DOS-based system. I decided to accept the job since I was newly married and preferred to work first shift. That’s how my career in insurance started!  

From there, I moved through methods and procedures, underwriting, and program management, then progressed into new business coordination to assist with the operations of program launches. My career reached a pivotal point when I got involved with the launch of an alternative risk specialty program division. The program involved multiple reinsurers covering layers over primary limits on specialty ‘niche’ program business, which was a fairly new concept back in the mid- to late-90s, and what many MGAs were looking for at the time. My career progressed from there, first as the business services manager at Artis Group, director of operations for professional liability at Travelers, then vice president of operations at AIX overseeing ratings, premium audits, loss control, and compliance.  At Paragon, I am now vice president of underwriting operations; I manage our support services, underwriting assistants, and premium audits. 

For an audience that might not be as familiar with insurance, what’s the essence of a program business, which is Paragon’s bread and butter?

Program business is niche business and unique in nature – it is not ‘cookie cutter’ insurance. For example, our contingency cancellation program provides coverage for special events, festivals, rock concerts and the like. Paragon offers underwriting expertise in these lines of business and unique coverages, so we can provide excellent service to our agent partners and maintain a solid reputation in the marketplace. 

Every day here is different. We are always evolving, looking for ways to do things better, and building to stand out and be top notch. 

Throughout your career, have you had any mentors who helped shape your career or inspired you? Have you ever been able to mentor someone else?

I’ve been lucky enough to have many mentors. I had a very supportive vice president of operations early in my career at Orion Capital who gave me that shot to become the new business coordinator. After I moved into underwriting, a great program manager in the transportation division took me under his wing and taught me the ins and outs of underwriting. Then there was my boss at Artis/AIX (now president at Paragon), who had confidence in me and challenged me to take on a role managing compliance, something I didn’t know much about at the time. My current manager, our COO at Paragon, has been very supportive and always listens to and values my ideas.  

These invaluable mentorships helped build my own leadership style. I try to recognize people’s strengths and acknowledge their accomplishments. I have mentored many colleagues who were new to their management roles. Also, multiple people who have worked for me in the past have moved on to have successful careers. Some of them I’ve had the opportunity to recruit back onto my team again. 

Tell us about Paragon’s recent and future growth and how that has influenced your day-to-day work?

Paragon is focused on solid M&A opportunities with businesses that are well established, have expertise within their staff, and fit our business model. I’ve only been with Paragon for a year and a half, and the approach has been quite successful for us even in just this time. The growth certainly influences my day-to-day work by ensuring I learn as much as I can about the new programs and work collaboratively with my team to launch the programs successfully. 

Paragon has many growth opportunities ahead as we are only eight years young. Of course, I’m excited about the new business opportunities but also infrastructure growth, investment in people, service improvements, increased data reporting… all the things that will keep us at the top of our game.

What advice would you now give to yourself back when you were starting your career? 

Bet on yourself; be confident in taking a chance to step into something unfamiliar and learn from it. 


Thank you, Kathleen! Here’s to a great NER-Paragon partnership!