Rochelle Sweetman combines legal, health care experience in new role at Howalt+McDowell

This piece is presented by Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company.

Meet Rochelle Sweetman, a lawyer-turned-sales-executive for Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company. To learn more, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at with your specific questions about managing your company’s risk.

Hometown: Miller

Education: Bachelor’s degree in mathematics from South Dakota State University, juris doctor from University of Minnesota School of Law

How did you get interested in the insurance industry?

I originally planned to follow my mother’s footsteps and become a high school teacher, but my professors encouraged me to pursue a law degree. Apparently, using a calculator wasn’t my strongest skill! After graduating from law school, I returned to South Dakota to pursue a career in the courtroom. For 10 years, my practice centered around insurance defense litigation. I handled auto liability, general liability, professional liability, workers’ compensation, product liability and insurance bad-faith claims. I was also fortunate to spend five years at Sanford Health, which provided invaluable exposure to the complexities of the business of health care and the intersection of health care and liability insurance.

What attracted you Howalt+McDowell Insurance?

The opportunity to be part of a talented team of people who have one common goal: to help our clients achieve their business objectives. The phrase “client is king” isn’t just a tagline — it’s truly the culture in which we work at Howalt+McDowell. Our team helps clients identify, mitigate and finance their risks in a way that helps them achieve their goals. The icing on the cake is being part of the Marsh & McLennan Agency network, which allows us to connect with colleagues around the country — and the world — to offer insight and resources to our clients that might not otherwise be available in our market.

What is your role at Howalt+McDowell like?

The most succinct explanation of my role is problem-solver. I help prospective and current business clients — both large and small — evaluate their current property and casualty insurance coverages to ensure their assets are adequately protected from risk, whether that be through insurance or other risk-transfer mechanisms. I help clients benchmark their insurance programs against those of their peers, and I connect them with resources to address areas of opportunity.

How does your legal background relate to your role as a risk management consultant?

My experience on the claims side of insurance — that is representing parties who are being sued — helps immensely when explaining coverages to clients. People have a general understanding of auto, property and work comp insurance, but what about cyber or management liability? Does the average business owner know what those terms really mean? Can they fathom a situation that might trigger coverage? My experience responding to claims brings a unique perspective to my clients’ risk planning.

What have you been surprised to learn about insurance?

I readily admit that I’m a big nerd, but it’s true — insurance isn’t boring! An insurance policy is a contract, and I love digging into the policy details to understand how the coverages work. I will surely be mocked for saying it, but I enjoy comparing policies from different companies, explaining the differences to a client and working on behalf of the client to negotiate better coverages. As they say, the devil is in the details, and I’ve been trained to dig into the details. It may not be glamorous, but insurance is a great fit for me.

What motivates you professionally? 

Regardless of the professional hats I have worn, helping others has remained the consistent theme in my work. It’s unreasonable to expect businesspeople to be experts in risk management and insurance, and I find great satisfaction in being the first point of contact when questions arise. My goal is to take risk and insurance issues off my clients’ plates, so they can focus on what they do best — running their businesses.

When working with current or prospective clients, what is your ultimate goal for them?

My ultimate goal is to make sure my clients’ risks don’t keep them up at night. I want them to sleep soundly, knowing that the time we have invested in risk planning will result in adequate protection of their assets in the event of a claim. Even in the worst-case scenario, we will be beside them every step of the way. 

What is one piece of advice you’d like to offer businesses when it comes to managing their risk?

Be open to new ideas. Often, businesses don’t recognize the complexities of risk until they are facing a claim. Hindsight is 20/20, particularly when that perspective arises while sitting across the table from a lawyer in a deposition. Our job as insurance consultants is to help our clients be proactive in identifying their risks and managing those risks in a way that makes sense financially for the business. Our clients may be surprised to know that our toolboxes don’t just include insurance policies. Our value-added services include technology platforms to streamline OSHA and HR processes, in-house safety consultants and more.

 What activities are you involved in outside of work?

Outside of work, I love spending time with my family and enjoying my kids’ activities. I also volunteer with Junior Achievement and Girls on the Run. When I can sneak away, you’ll find me at the gym or on the bike trail. I’m lucky to be part of a group of 12 — admittedly crazy — ladies who run 200-mile relays for fun!

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Rochelle Sweetman combines legal, health care experience in new role at Howalt+McDowell

Meet Rochelle Sweetman, a lawyer-turned-sales executive for Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company.

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