FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Head of Underwriting Solutions, Laura McKiernan Boylan
This former actuary turned underwriting solutions head has spent her career delving into the complexity of analytical impacts of financial risk. Laura McKiernan Boylan’s typical day consists of working with software engineers, product owners, and QA to design and build an underwriting platform that supports a fully digital life insurance new business process. Currently, she is focusing on execution and operational optimization, while chasing a toddler around her home office and expecting a second baby. We dive into Laura’s background, career, and life in this FinTech Female Friday feature.
Full name: Laura McKiernan Boylan
Current job title: Head of Underwriting Solutions
Current company: Haven Life
Current location: San Diego, CA
Works from: Home
Laura McKiernan Boylan has an impressive educational background, having studied applied math at Harvard. She then went on to traveling through Latin America for a year and a half before beginning exams to become an actuary. Laura joined the actuarial student program at AXA Equitable, rotating through hedging, reinsurance, and data analytics for life underwriting. In 2017, she joined Haven Life as the Product Owner for Algorithmic Underwriting, working with a software development team to implement accelerated underwriting programs, which provide a no medical exam, instant decision for some customers.
Laura has since transitioned to leading the Underwriting Solutions team, and now works with four product teams focused on human underwriting, program design software, and distribution channels for MassMutual (Haven Life’s parent organization, which provides the support of a large, mature company while maintaining the flexibility and innovation possible in a smaller organization).
Laura is an expecting mother, so a lot of the focus right now is right now planning to ensure her team can drive the strategy, while she is on maternity leave.
“We spend a lot of time talking about strategic planning for upcoming quarters. We’re focused on making iterative improvements to our InstantTerm no-medical exam process and creating software that will make it easier for underwriters to design risk selection programs and process applications.”
Laura’s team is also building out new products that can leverage their distribution partnerships network so that they can offer more flexible solutions that can be more easily customized to consumer needs.
When asked about challenges throughout her education and career, Laura recalled the passing of a close family member during college, which caused her to stop and take time to really reflect. Losing her father was emotionally devastating and led her to withdraw from school for a semester to go home and be with her mother. “I had already lined up a volunteer position at a children’s hospital in Cambodia for the summer, and I spent those few months coordinating arrangements for traveling physicians, packing acetaminophen packs to fight the Dengue fever epidemic, and supporting art therapists for the kids. Every evening, I rode a bicycle up to the ruins at Angkor Wat to sit and observe and think. It was a transformative time. It can be so powerful to make a space for yourself to process your emotions, even when doing so means walking away from something important, at least for a little while.”
Laura lives in her childhood home in San Diego, with her mother, husband, her 18-month old son, and one more on the way. She is originally from Encinitas, California, and loves traveling (and daydreaming about future trips). The best part of her day is hugging her son in between meetings!
Laura's Productivity hack: The reality is that at this point, I have too many things on my list to actually be able to get everything done. I have to make a list, put it in priority order, and start at the top. That ensures that I can focus on the most important things, and I have to let some things go.
6:45 am: Roll out of bed and get ready to start the workday at 7am (I work East Coast hours). Check in on Slack to help with any questions that have come up in the morning.
8:00 to 9:30 am: Weekly meeting with my Product Owner team. We talk through goals and project progress, work together to update cross-team dashboards, and draft a newsletter to send out to the broader team.
9:30 to 10:30 am: Weekly meeting with our underwriter users to get feedback on features and bugs and address any issues that come up.
10:30 to 10:40 am: Ten minute standup with my development team.
11:00 am to 12:00 pm: Intro meeting with a vendor to discuss a new data source and options for an initial build.
12:30 to 1:00 pm: Working session with another dev team to work through open questions on our insurance application language update.
1:00 to 2:00 pm: Brainstorming session with another team to explore options for building capabilities to simulate underwriting rules and tie to pricing.
2:30 to 3:00 pm: Meeting with the infrastructure team to discuss analytics querying options for a new database.
3:00 pm: Late lunch while I catch up on Slack and emails I missed throughout the day.
4:00 pm: Sign off for the afternoon, and take my son for a walk around the neighborhood.
7:00 pm: My husband cooks dinner for everyone.
10:00 pm: Read a chapter of an underwriting manual for an upcoming exam.
6:45 am: Roll out of bed and get ready to start another early workday, check Slack.
7:30 to 8:30 am: Meet with our PR team to discuss an upcoming article and ideas to explore and discuss.
8:30 to 9:00 am: Check in with another dev team to work through open questions on our insurance application language update.
9:00 to 10:00 am: Weekly check in with our internal recruiter to discuss an open job posting, submitted resumes, and candidate interviews.
10:30 to 10:40 am: Ten minute standup with my development team.
12:00 to 2:00 pm: Friday afternoon hangout with the actuarial team on Google Meet. We get together to work quietly on our own projects or discuss issues that people are working through. We also occasionally discuss a special topic, like a data modeling exercise for a specific market or an actuarial standard of practice.
2:00 pm: Catch up on Slack and emails I missed throughout
3:00 pm: Sign off for the weekend.
5:30 pm: Meet up on Google Meet with friends on the East Coast to play our weekly game of Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle (we’re on box 3 of the Charms and Potions expansion).
7:30 pm: Order in takeout.
8:30 am: Wake up late. My mom is a morning person, so she gets my son up and feeds him breakfast. It’s an amazing perk of our pandemic quarantine bubble!
10:00 am to 12:00 pm: Go to our local botanical gardens to explore and let my son run around. We always make sure to visit the rainforest waterfall and the children’s garden.
12:00 to 1:00 pm: Head home to feed my son lunch and put him down for a nap.
1:00 to 3:00 pm: Play a game of Pandemic Legacy with my husband while the baby sleeps.
3:00 to 5:00 pm: Play with my son, Johnny, and read Corduroy at least six times.
5:00 to 7:00 pm: Hang out with my husband and mom while my husband cooks. Feed Johnny dinner.
8:00 pm: Put Johnny down to bed.
9:00 pm to 11:00 pm: Watch a few episodes of a TV show (we recently wrapped up Lovesick).
11:00 pm: Read mom subreddits until it’s time to fall asleep.
Reach out to Laura on LinkedIn.