Joanna Rotgers – Marsh McLennan
COVID-19. Climate change. The war in Ukraine. For Marsh McLennan, a global professional services firm based in Manhattan, developments like these present challenges to continued growth.
But such issues also create opportunities to show the firm’s expertise, says Marsh US Chief Compliance Officer Joanna Rotgers.
“Every front-page headline issue is an issue somehow touched by insurance and our company,” says Rotgers, who in addition to managing compliance provides regulatory counsel. “Our objective is to help our clients navigate these risks, to the point of being an indispensable partner in solving these puzzles.”
Rotgers works for one of four divisions of Marsh, it focused on data-driven risk advisory and insurance broking services provided to commercial clients. Her role encompasses everything from how Marsh onboards clients to how it develops offerings and supports clients when claims issues arise.
“What I like best about my current role is its dynamic nature,” Rotgers says. “I really enjoy the fast pace of things and the ability to support the company on what has been a terrific journey since I joined more than 10 years ago.”
Navigating a regulatory minefield
Among her contributions, Rotgers has helped Marsh respond to privacy laws in states other than California, which was among the first in the U.S. to roll out stricter legislation covering consumer privacy, health information privacy, online privacy and commercial communications. The introduction of new state-level privacy laws has required Marsh to adjust its public explanations of data handling and to brace for more inquiries from across the country.
Rotgers responded to the new framework by helping the company write disclaimers describing how cookies would be used and by providing her employer with a technical analysis of the commercial considerations at play.
Through each regulatory challenge, she sought input from her team members, who have experience in licensing and insurance broking. The goal, she says, is to find ways to position the company consistently on the right side of regulations.
“Legal and regulatory changes impact both us and our clients,” Rotgers says. “We stay abreast of what’s happening both in legislation and regulation at the state and federal levels and aim to be proactive where possible.”
Updating and streamlining
Besides navigating regulatory changes, Rotgers has also led Marsh through an overhaul of its back-end insurance broking processes. She has standardized workflows and updated software, allowing the company to work with brokers more easily, shifting away from the manual processing of documents, and letting clients and brokers see changes to documents.
“These operational changes present a terrific opportunity to embed best practices so that brokers are delivering a great client service without the effort of constantly returning to a mental or physical checklist,” Rotgers says. “The checklist is built into the technology.”
It’s just one more way Rotgers tries to contribute to the company’s growth, which rose to 15 percent in 2021 and continued steadily throughout 2022, with quarterly revenue increases ranging from 4 percent to 9 percent. And that growth seems poised to continue: Credit Suisse analysts recently predicted that Marsh McLennan’s core business will grow by around 5 percent annually through 2024.
In line with the company’s growth, Rotgers has been tackling a heavy workload with a relatively small team. Her group, which includes three direct reports and five indirect reports, aims to find creative ways to get to “yes” while keeping the business compliant with laws and regulations, she says.
“We are a department that relies on collaboration,” Rotgers says. “Although there are times any legal or compliance professional simply has to say no, most of our work is around collaborating.”
Tackling sophisticated matters
Educated at Loyola University-Chicago and the University of Iowa College of Law, Rotgers says she’d long wanted to wind up in New York working out complicated legal questions.
“In New York, which is where I’d always wanted to practice law, you consistently see the most sophisticated and complex matters,” she says. “I began as, and have been for most of my career, a litigator—first on a fairly generalized basis, handling all sorts of commercial litigation, relatively large and long-running cases in a variety of U.S. jurisdictions.”
Rotgers spent nine years at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, setting a foundation for the more specialized litigation she now handles.
Beginning at Marsh in 2011, Rotgers oversaw not only U.S. litigation but also international cases. Over time, she began offering daily strategic advice to colleagues—for example, how to handle difficult client interactions, or how to approach hard market negotiations with insurers—which helped her rise to the compliance role she now holds.
Today, Rotgers works in multiple areas of the business, drawing on her litigation experience and business savvy to help Marsh avoid risk while also responding swiftly to opportunities.
“I’m excited about evolving and hopefully growing our compliance team in way that meets the challenges of tomorrow and supports smart company growth with no compromise on our shared values,” Rotgers says.
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