Zealous Woman Kristin Suga Heres profiled The Beazley Group's Elisabeth Ditomassi for the Fall 2011 issue of the Massachusetts Reinsurance Bar Association's (MReBA) Cover Notes newsletter. An excerpt from the profile is located below. To view the complete profile, please click here to visit MReBA's website.
Elisabeth Ditomassi is not the type to shy away from a challenge. In her former role as General Counsel and Deputy Commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, Elisabeth tackled head-on some of the most pressing regulatory issues to face the industry in the Commonwealth for decades, including the introduction of competition into the Massachusetts personal auto insurance market. These days, however, Elisabeth is taking on new challenges, this time at the helm of U.S. Compliance and Regulatory Affairs for Beazley Group, an emerging presence in the U.S. property and casualty market.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Elisabeth to discuss her unique perspectives on the insurance industry and her transition from the halls of state government to her new, in-house role. Given Elisabeth's energy and tireless enthusiasm for her work, as well as her disarming and affable nature, it is not at all surprising that she has risen so far so quickly.
An Introduction to Insurance
Like so many who find themselves working in insurance, Elisabeth ended up in the industry by pure chance. After graduating from Boston University School of Law, Elisabeth worked as an attorney in both private practice and state government. Her roles included working as a litigation associate at a small Wall Street law firm, and later, the law firm formerly known as Kirkpatrick & Lockhart; serving as a prosecutor of public corruption for the Massachusetts Attorney General; and working as Chief of Litigation at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. In 2003, when Elisabeth was seeking a general counsel position, an opportunity opened up - by chance - at the Massachusetts DOI, where she went on to serve as General Counsel and Deputy Commissioner for seven years. Elisabeth's position at the DOI was her first, but certainly not her last, position in the insurance industry.
At the DOI, Elisabeth wore many hats. A few of her many roles included monitoring and participating in all litigation involving the Division, presiding over administrative hearings, reviewing and analyzing all insurance-related legislation that had any likelihood of becoming law, advising the commissioner on numerous matters, working with the Governor's counsel to carry out certain objectives affecting the insurance market, and drafting regulations. However, Elisabeth's favorite role was that of policymaker. "It was a blast creating policy," Elisabeth observed; politics, however, sometimes dampened some of the fun involved in that endeavor.
Reflecting on her time at the DOI, Elisabeth noted that one of her most formidable tasks was working to move the personal auto insurance market from a price-setting regime to managed competition. In doing so, Elisabeth and the DOI faced substantial resistance from domestic companies working to retain the existing system. Creative thinking was critical, as the DOI had to work substantial change within the existing (archaic) legal framework. On a few occasions, Elisabeth and the DOI were faced with the task of convincing the Supreme Judicial Court that the Commissioner had the legal authority to take these monumental steps. The DOI prevailed. "The early years on this project taught me how to think strategically and creatively," Elisabeth reflected. "You often cannot get to where you need to be with the current laws, so you have to figure out how to build what you want with only the tools you already have in your tool box."
When asked to opine on the biggest misconception about the Massachusetts DOI, Elisabeth noted that the "the industry often underestimates and undervalues the Division: I worked with some of the hardest-working and committed individuals in my career [there]. They really care about sustaining a healthy market and protecting consumers from bad practices. They work very hard to achieve these goals and often under less-than-desirable circumstances, including a shortage of resources." Significantly, Elisabeth observed that although Massachusetts has the tenth-largest insurance market in the country, its department of insurance has the smallest budget (in relation to premiums) of any in the nation.