Mark Pasko – QBE North America
The complexities unique to being an international insurance and reinsurance carrier necessitate specialized legal counsel. So reasoned Mark Pasko after his 2019 promotion to chief legal officer and corporate secretary at QBE’s North American division.
A stickler for organization, Pasko divided his team of 50 into five groups: corporate and shared services, litigation, regulatory, state filings, and business unit support. Not that they’d be siloed; each team was to be a particular go-to while feeding off the expertise of its counterparts and thus enabling QBE efficiency.
Though Pasko couldn’t have anticipated what the next year would bring, he now raves about how each team stepped up its game, especially during COVID-19. For example, when questions arose over QBE’s business interruption liability for insureds impacted by the pandemic, the litigation team, headed by Brendan Malley, analyzed the myriad insurance policies involved, developed consistent positions across the business, and handled the subsequent lawsuits throughout the country.
“The litigation team does great work,” Pasko tells Vanguard from New Jersey. “The top strategic priority of the team is prevention, which means the attorneys provide extensive training for their clients and other work to identify and mitigate the company’s exposure before litigation is filed.”
The regulatory team led by Beth Terrell is similarly a difference-maker. During COVID-19, it was asked to track, analyze and disseminate new laws and regulations on a range of pandemic-related developments and did so on a weekly, if not daily, basis. In addition, its monitoring of legal and regulatory trends and emerging issues informs its analysis. It has adopted a proactive approach to its relationships with regulators while sharing QBE’s relevant strategy and performance information to build more resilient relationships.
“One of the fundamentals of a successful regulatory team is communication,” says Terrell. “Through an open dialogue, we are able not only to share information and analysis but also to learn from our customers, our internal business clients, and regulators, which continues to inform the regulatory process.”
Strength in diversity
The other three teams add tremendous value to QBE, says Pasko, who either hired or promoted the leaders: Jacklyn Thies, corporate; Janet Kiger, state filings; and the last team of business unit support divided into subunits and fronted by the troika of Joseph Decker, Kristi Garrett and Kate Woodall.
“I always tell them that their top five or 10 needs must be the same as the client’s,” Pasko says. “Look at everything through a commercial lens. Don’t work on projects that don’t connect to a broader need.”
They take that to heart, he says. The corporate side covers everything from contracts, procurement and tax and treasury to privacy, governance, and employment. Privacy being an area of particular interest, they cover the bases by tracking legislative and regulatory developments across the country and working with its internal clients and peers in its overseas operations to ensure the company is coordinated in its efforts.
“Our team touches many different parts of the organization given all of the functional areas we support, and we prioritize taking every opportunity to support our clients by providing practical advice and saying ‘yes’ whenever we can get the job done. We want to, and have the ability to, positively impact the company’s results,” says Thies.
The lawyers comprising the business unit support team are assigned to both business units as well as shared services clients. Their services include drafting transaction documents, supporting M&A and new product launches or refreshers.
“Their close access to their clients gives them the ability to issue spot, problem solve, and provide real-time advice,” says Pasko.
The state filing function interacts much with the regulatory side, with Kiger submitting rate details to the appropriate parties, overseeing product launches and keeping abreast with rules and regulations.
“Our team is a comprehensive solution for filing products, and we work closely with our business partners to facilitate speed to market while ensuring regulatory compliance,” says Kiger.
And Pasko is quick to note the diversity of his team.
“I really believe in having a diverse team that brings in all perspectives,” he says. “A genuine commitment to building and maintaining a diverse team helps me bring in and retain the best talent. Candidates recognize it when they interview.”
Pasko welcomes such insight as QBE, like the rest of the insurance industry, evolves with the times. This summer, he attended the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Conference in Seattle, which covered various topics, including data privacy, artificial intelligence, catastrophe insurance and climate change.
“My regulatory team and I can stay close to these developments and bring what we learned back to our North American leadership team and board,” he says.
For Pasko, listening and building relationships is a big part of being an in-house lawyer, where he has made his professional home since his preceding role at AIG from 2005 to 2016. Before then, he logged three-and-a-half years with Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti in Morristown, New Jersey.
A 1995 Georgetown University undergrad who spent the next year earning a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Pasko returned to D.C. and spent two years as a paralegal before heading to Notre Dame Law School.
“I have been working in Insurance and regulatory affairs since my first day as an attorney,” he says. “I loved the substance of law firm work and how it could make a difference. But when you’re in-house, you can make a difference in real-time by solving client problems and being a part of the organization that ultimately benefits from that advice.”
Such has been Pasko’s in-house career for nearly 18 years, and he wouldn’t be surprised if others follow in his path. His son, a freshman studying government at Cornell University, had his intellect partially shaped by the same international relations teacher at the Delbarton School in Morristown, where Pasko and his classmates were required to read the New York Times’ Sunday global section. His daughter, a high school sophomore, has already taken a strong interest in history and business/marketing.
Pasko’s wife Kristina, also graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 2001 and, after 15 years of private practice, commenced teaching English at the prestigious Villa Walsh Academy in Morristown.
So, it’s an intellectual brood, which Pasko furthers by taking them on trips to such historic locales as Gettysburg, Lexington, Concord, Saratoga, Yorktown and Philadelphia. There’s always something to learn from history, he emphasizes.
On Day 1 of the Battle of Gettysburg, Union Generals Buford and Reynolds quickly assessed the needs of their army in the heat of battle,” he says. “Communication, preparation, and steadfast leadership won the battle. Those same traits are invaluable in the corporate legal setting.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter I 2024 Edition here.
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