Pionne Corbin: From Intern to GEICO’s First Female and African American Regional Vice-President
by Jennifer Earle Strickland
Pionne Corbin’s oversight of GEICO’s auto insurance operations spans the entire northeast region, covering 7 states, from Maine to New Jersey; about 1.4 million customers, and includes approximately 2,600 employees
Since 1999, the name GEICO, brings to mind the image of the reptilian creature, the gecko; the featured character of the company’s widely popular and successful advertising campaign. However, GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company), founded in 1936 by a Texan couple, is one of the largest corporations in the world, and is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, the mega-corporation that reported 2016 revenues of $223.6 billion, and earned the position of #2 on Fortune 500’s 2017 prestigious list of the top 10 most successful companies.
GEICO, definitively one of Western New York’s largest private sector employers, currently provides insurance coverage to more than 16 million policyholders, and over 24 million vehicles. The company, which insures both government and non-government employees, according to their website, is one of the fastest growing insurers in the U.S. They have perhaps planted an indelible footprint in the path of American business and industry.
Pionne Corbin; wife, mother, and Regional Vice-President of GEICO’s northeastern U.S. (Auto) division since 2016, is an example, inspiration, and testimony to how hard work and persistence will support a determined candidate in their quest for success. She is the company’s first female and African American regional vice-president. Corbin, a graduate cum laude with a B.A. in Economics from the University of Mary Washington, joined the company in 1993 as a management intern, then rose through the ranks in various supervisory and management positions. In 2012, she was promoted to Director, then in 2013, elected to Assistant Vice- President over Buffalo Underwriting, and in 2015, to AVP of Claims.
Corbin’s area of oversight of GEICO’s auto insurance operations spans the entire northeast region, covering 7 states, from Maine to New Jersey (excluding New York); about 1.4 million customers, and includes approximately 2,600 employees whom she encourages in retention (corporate loyalty), growth, and success. She promotes achievement through education and, in her role as VP, includes actively influencing current employees, through mentoring, and seeking quality, diverse, and inquisitive-minded candidates for future employment. She believes that the company’s internal culture ultimately affects its external brand. Pionne Corbin attributes her success at GEICO to not being afraid to seek advocates and mentors to guide and support her on her journey. “Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemy,” declares Corbin. “You must speak up and put yourself forward. Seek for influences and access to opportunities.”
Before moving here, the former resident of the Washington, D.C. area was well aware of the racial disparities of the corporate world and in the Western New York area. She knew that her responsibility would not be to make others “comfortable” with having an African American female at the helm. Although her vision is to have a workforce that is recognizably diverse, making others feel less intimidated by who we are as Black women “shouldn’t be necessary. As African American women, we should bring people together, from multiple communities. This creates synergy.” Mindful of this personal action plan, Corbin’s positivity leaves little, if any, room for consideration of challenges. Her focus is on getting the job done. “Work hard; produce high-quality work; be confident in your abilities.”
Pionne Corbin, an African American woman who has earned the rank and respect worthy of her position in a corporate community still widely dominated by white males, shares, with a smile in her voice, that the most rewarding part of her job is to hear that someone who she’s mentored, has been promoted or reached a milestone in their path to success. Her advice to young people speaks volumes. As the mother of both teens and middle-school aged children, she is genuinely concerned about the future of our youth and strongly encourages them to take advantage of information and resources; to have curious minds. GEICO’s college internship program is available to students who are looking to establish a coordinated path to their success. “If you seek information, opportunities will find you. Always be aware of what’s happening in your world, and connect to others who will support you.” Words of wisdom from a woman who’s proved their worth. –