A Woman of Substance

19 May

An interview with Nimmi Gunaratne, Chief Legal Officer- Aitken Spence PLC & Managing Director- Aitken Spence Insurance

A corporate force, a dynamic personality, a wife and mother, a woman; this is Nimmi Gunaratne, Chief Legal Officer- Aitken Spence PLC and Managing Director of Aitken Spence Insurance.

As a newly married law graduate, Mrs. Gunaratne joined Aitken Spence on a suggestion made by the late Mr. Ratna Sivaratnam. First assigned to the hotels section, the dynamic young woman was quickly moved into insurance where she truly began her career, as a Marine Insurance Executive in 1984. Just ten years later, the hardworking and multi-faceted Nimmi Gunaratne rose to Director, a post that had not been held by a woman in the over 120 year history of the company!

A bright orange sign on Mrs. Gunaratne’s desk reads, I get by with a little help from my friends.” Purchased 25 years ago, with her first salary, the sign speaks volumes about this corporate prodigy who is a self-proclaimed people-person. Whilst she admits to letting go of a few of the idealistic notions she had as a 25 year old newbie, she proclaims that she has met some “wonderful people” on the way and she is still an advocate of the belief that people work best when they are trusted.

When Nimmi Gunaratne speaks, one listens, for no other reason than the “joie de vivre” she exudes. As she re-counts her career she often side-tracks, filling the conversation with interesting and witty anecdotes, of both a personal and corporate nature and not one iota of negativity. Life’s little ups and downs have simply been learning experiences, for, in her words, “At the end of the day, we all have to work as a team and in a corporate setup I have learned to respect the others’ views and more importantly be able to know and acknowledge the strong points of each other.”

Currently heading up the insurance division and holding the responsibility of Chief Legal Officer, Mrs. Gunaratne’s assiduousness led her to sit for examinations in Insurance, adding to her wealth of knowledge and experience. By the time she was made Director, she was already a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute of London, in addition to being a Bachelor of Laws and an Attorney-at-Law. Then, in December 1998, she presented a paper entitled A Vision for the 21st Century” at the Lloyd’s Agency Group Meeting in Chennai and in July 2000 she was appointed the Area Representative for the Indian Sub-Continent at the inaugural Global Conference of Lloyds Agents in London.

Always aiming for the skies, Nimmi Gunarante was not happy to simply hold the Lloyd’s agency for surveying claims and pioneered the move to advocate the agency network to embark on pre-shipment inspections with lobbying and support from the Corporation of Lloyd’s. She was also instrumental in initialising the move which lead to the Lloyds Network, broad basing the availability of Cargo Surveying Proficiency Certification process. It was through this network that Aitken Spence was able to formalise its status as the Lloyds Sub-Agent in the Republic of Maldives.

When asked about her experiences at Aitken Spence and what she would take with her, she says that she is “Very very grateful to Aitken Spence for all that it has done for me and when I leave, what will make me proud are all the people I have moulded and seeing how well they do.”

And her parting words of advice to women in the corporate world? Simply this, “If you want to be treated as equal, think of yourself as equal, and just go out there and get the job done, but most of all, never stop being a woman.”

Ace Magazine – 2010

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