From switchboard to CEO – Adrienne O'Sullivan

21-Jun-2016 10:32:15 / by The Insurance Institute

The Insurance Institute

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Adrienne O’Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of DAS Ireland, talks the importance of work/life balance, starting an award-winning company from scratch and why a career in insurance is so rewarding.


How did you get started in the insurance industry, Adrienne?

Like lots of teenagers, babysitting was my first career and the father of one of the families asked if I was free to answer phones for a couple of weeks, as the receptionist in his company was ill. It was a busy insurance company switchboard and I loved it.

The weeks turned into a month and then my Leaving Cert results came out. When the manager saw my grades, he asked if I would like to study to become an underwriter. It was an exciting prospect as my parents couldn’t afford college fees, so going to university was not an option. And so my first steps into an insurance career began!


Did mentoring play a role in your career success?

Absolutely. I was very lucky to learn in the old school style of ‘sitting by Nelly’ and learning from others. I was mentored by excellent underwriters with superb communications skills, both written and oral, and it’s something that has stayed with me ever since. As a result, I try to mentor others within my organisation as it is one of the best ways to develop professionally.




What’s been the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career?

Leaving a comfortable pensioned position (remember those?!) and starting DAS Ireland from scratch. No premium income, no staff, no concept in this market of Legal Expenses Insurance – it was certainly a challenge, but one that has really paid off.


What advice would you give your 20 year old self?

Continue to work hard – but don’t forget to play too! Life and work must be enjoyable to make for a happy, balanced and successful person.


What do you think are the benefits of working in insurance?

The insurance profession offers diverse and challenging careers and I think this message isn’t communicated enough to those outside the industry. This career path has given me and many of my peers a really good living, allowed us put our children through school and college and has been a most rewarding and enjoyable sector to be a part of.


What’s been your most rewarding professional experience?

Seeing DAS grow into the award-winning market leader it now is has been rewarding beyond words. In addition, the honour of serving The Insurance Institute as President of Dublin and Ireland and the Insurance Charities as President has been exceptionally rewarding both personally and professionally. Getting involved in industry organisations and giving something back is something I would highly recommend.


How do you spend your free time?

Free time?! I love spending precious time with my family and large circle of friends. Saturday mornings find me on the golf course battling to get my handicap down – something that has alluded me thus far!