In Their Words: Peggy Larsen

Pete CodellaIn Their Words

Interview with Peggy Larsen, senior vice president, WCF Insurance

This article is part of a series featuring business executives who choose to live and work in Utah. If you know of an executive we should interview, please contact us.

A runaway hippie at 13, Peggy Larsen was pregnant, married and suffered domestic abuse by age 17. Some might say Larsen did not have a promising future. But they would be wrong.

At an early age, Larsen experienced significant life challenges of addiction, domestic abuse and cancer. Years later, Larsen became the first female executive at WCF Insurance, and recipient of the 2014 Salt Lake Chamber’s prestigious Athena award. Larsen recently published a memoir, which chronicles her life experiences and aims to help struggling mothers and young women in need through Amber Haven Foundation, a foundation she established in honor of her late daughter, Amber.

She has been with WCF Insurance for the past 25 years. She is also the president of Univantage Insurance Solutions, a managing general agency appointed by Lloyds of London.

How did you get started in the industry?
I started in the insurance industry in 1971 when I was an 18-year-old single mother needing to support a new baby. With no experience, I got a job as a file clerk at an insurance agency in Barstow, California. I told them I would be the hardest working person they have ever hired, and I used the opportunity to learn everything I could about the insurance industry. Now, I am a senior vice president at a billion-dollar company. As they say, I’ve “come a long way, baby.”

What recent professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am proud that I have earned almost every insurance designation, which required a strong commitment and many late nights studying. I am also very proud of being recognized by the Salt Lake Chamber as an Athena, given to only one woman each year. 

What do you like most about living in Utah?
We lived in Flagstaff, Arizona, when my husband’s company told him they were closing the office. We had the choice of moving to Cleveland, Chicago, or Salt Lake City. That was 25 years ago, and we are still here. We love the beautiful mountains, great hiking, biking trails and the national parks, especially Moab.

What do you like most about doing business in Utah?
Doing business in Utah is such a pleasure. The people are honest and friendly. I have made so many amazing friends in my business dealings.

What advice do you have for individuals considering starting a business, or relocating their business to Utah?
Utah is a great place to relocate employees. The state offers something for everyone, including outdoors, adventure, arts and culture. The cost of doing business in Utah is much less from a workers’ compensation perspective. We have the fifth lowest rate in the United States.

What is your primary challenge of doing business in Utah?
Finding qualified information technology employees is always a challenge. It is highly competitive, and everyone wants and needs qualified individuals for these roles.

What is your business philosophy?
My guiding principle is “Just do the right thing,” and it has not failed me in my career. I also believe in taking care of the customer. Don’t worry about the bottom line; run your business for the customer.

Tell me a fun fact about yourself.
I have run 68 full- and half-marathons since turning 50.

I was a hippie as a teenager and recently wrote a memoir entitled “Beyond My Wildest.” The proceeds from the book are used to fund a nonprofit called Amber Haven Foundation, named in memory of a daughter I lost.

What takeaway would you like to leave readers with?
Giving back and making a difference in the lives of others is what life is all about. It’s up to all of us to work together for the common good of all.

Peggy Larsen is the first female executive at WCF Insurance and the recipient of the 2014 Salt Lake Chamber’s prestigious Athena award.
Connect with her on LinkedIn.