Movers and Shakers: Catherine Reimer, Vice President, Senior Insurance Portfolio Manager, ING U.S. Investment Management

By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

After excelling in mathematics at her Quebec high school, Catherine Reimer, now Vice President and Senior Insurance Portfolio Manager at ING U.S. Investment Management, went on to study actuarial science in college. For her first internship, she worked on the investment side of an insurance company and from there she was hooked. “I really enjoyed the dynamic environment of fixed income,” she said. She began her career working in asset and liability management and then moved to new product development for institutional clients, derivatives and then to Insurance Portfolio Management.

“I had a great boss at the time, who gave me plenty of opportunities to work on new projects. When he moved to the USA, he asked me to work at his new company, so I moved to the USA too.”

In fact, Reimer emphasized the importance of good bosses and mentors she has had along the way in helping build her career. “I’ve never had a formal mentor, but I have been blessed with having really strong male bosses, who opened doors for me and gave me credit when I deserved it. Being surrounded by great people has been the key to my career.”

Solving Problems

Reimer has been with ING since 1999. She took two years off when her daughter was born and then returned to the company in Atlanta and has been there ever since. “You have to find a place that supports you as a parent,” she explained. “It’s extremely important to have people in your firm who do. There were no questions for me when I took the time off. Family is very important to me, and ING supports that.”

In 2008, Reimer became an insurance portfolio manager at ING. “My job is to liaise between the insurance client and the asset management teams to achieve investment objectives as well as manage liquidity.”

The following year, she was honored with the ING U.S. Investment Management Chairman’s Award. “It was for creating a company-wide framework for liquidity and for helping ING navigate the difficult times after the financial crisis.” She continued, “For me, it was all about creative problem solving. We had no framework and we had to build one as a team. It was a great achievement.”

Problem solving is what motivates Reimer at work, she explained. “The most exciting part of my job is that I don’t know what I’m going to work on when I get into the office. I enjoy problem solving – but I never know what the problem is going to be. My job is about connecting the dots and helping other people. I get to be creative in coming up with ways to help our clients and that’s what I enjoy.”

She says one particular problem the insurance industry is dealing with is how to invest in a prolonged low interest rate environment. “We have to find creative solutions to the low rate environment without increasing risk beyond our comfort zone and it’s something everyone in the industry is working on.”

Advice for Professional Women

Reimer wishes she had learned earlier in her career that nobody is perfect. “People make mistakes and I wish I had known that earlier. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it all. I wish I had been a little easier on myself.”

She encouraged young women to stay true to themselves as they begin their careers. “Be yourself and trust your instincts,” she said. “Sometimes as women we don’t trust our instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, then raise your hand and talk to someone. Be yourself.”

While the investing world is no longer the “old boys club” it once was, she continued, women are still in the minority at many companies. “That means we have to be strong women. We have to know that it’s okay to be different. People will respect you if you work with integrity and have confidence.”

Reimer has enjoyed participating in ING’s partnership with the organization Girls Inc. to teach high school girls about investing. “ING volunteers go into the classrooms and work with sophomores all the way through their senior year. The girls get to keep some of the profits they’ve made from investing.”

“It’s a great way to connect,” she continued. “It makes me feel really good as a woman to help other women – and the teenagers share what they have learned with their moms, dads, brothers, and sisters. It’s a really great program.”

In Her Personal Time

Outside work, Reimer spends as much time as she can with her eight year-old daughter. “We love to travel,” she said. “She belongs to an international school so there are many opportunities to gain exposure to many different cultures. It’s absolutely fabulous and will allow her to travel the world.”