Lifestyle Personal Lines the Jan/Feb 2022 issue

Renee Keen, CEO for National Personal Lines and Small Business Practices, McGriff

“I would say I’m a good problem solver, but I also think it’s being tough but fair.”
By Chris Hann Posted on January 18, 2022
Q
You’re based now in Raleigh. Are you originally from North Carolina?
A
I am. Can’t you tell? I sound like Scarlet; what can I say? Early in my career I tried to change my inflection. Now I just don’t care.

Favorite vacation spot: “It sounds boring, but Holden Beach, North Carolina.”

Favorite movie: “I’m a Star Wars fanatic. We’re huge movie people. I guess Forrest Gump is probably my favorite movie. I love Caddyshack. I liked Pretty Woman.”

Favorite musician: James Taylor

Favorite restaurant in Holden Beach: Moore Street Oyster Bar

Favorite Dish at Moore Street Oyster Bar: Oysters and Bloody Marys

Q
So do you root for the Tar Heels, the Blue Devils, or the Wolfpack?
A
Oh, I would never root for the Heels. We are huge N.C. State fans. We go to all the football games, all the basketball games. My daughter was on the dance team. My son graduated from there. My husband graduated from there. I went to a women’s college across the street from N.C. State called Meredith.
Q
Why Meredith?
A
I always wanted to go there. I liked the sense of promoting young women and focusing on women’s issues. We didn’t have sororities. I lived with the same 20-something girls all four years. We are still thick as thieves even though we are all over the country.
Q
You were raised in Selma, a small town near Raleigh. What was it like growing up there?
A
We rode bikes and played kick the can and hung out in the neighborhood. You came in when the streetlights came on. It was a normal eastern Carolina childhood.
Q
What does your perfect weekend look like?
A
At our beach house, in Holden Beach, with my kids and their spouses—my daughter, Marion, and her husband, Nick, and my son, Holden, and his wife, Sarah. We’re on the boat. We’re cooking—I’m a big foodie; I love to cook. And I have the most amazing husband. We’re celebrating our 35th anniversary in December.
Q
What do you like to cook?
A
I guess you’d call it Southern eclectic. I make an amazing shrimp and grits, which I jazz up with my own different spices and vegetables.
Q
And you’re about to become a grandma.
A
Marion is having a baby in February. I’m sure he will be the smartest, most brilliant, kindest child ever. He will love everybody. I’ve already bought him a closet full of clothes.
Q
You were named CEO just a few months ago. What has been the biggest surprise in your new position?
A
The outreach I had from people who I don’t even know that have said, “If I can help” or “Congratulations.” It’s really very humbling. There were people who said, “If you don’t understand something, just call me.” I wasn’t expecting that. I thought it would be me doing it all alone. I got a lot of response from people who are so excited that the new CEO is a female. A big passion of mine is empowering young women.
Q
Is there a female executive in the industry whom you most admire?
A
One of my heroes is Stephanie Bush at The Hartford. She’s like this female dynamo. She’s strong. She’s smart. She just good at what she does. I want to be that. I’m so excited that I get to carry that flag now.
Q
Have you mentored women at McGriff?
A
I have. In fact, two of them just got promoted. One, Rachael Yelverton is now the chief distribution officer for small business and personal lines. Crystal Sanderson took my previous position as national practice leader for small business and personal lines. They have been on this journey for 12 years, and I have not made it easy for them. They know they can walk into a room, run a meeting, run a practice, run a project. They are both amazing and in their early 40s.
Q
Last question: What gives you your leader’s edge?
A
(Long pause.) I would say I’m a good problem solver, but I also think it’s being tough but fair. I think that’s why I’ve been an effective leader.
Chris Hann Associate Editor Read More

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