2014 Power Broker: Under 40

Young Talent Pushing Forward

Many insurance professionals say they “fell into” the industry. Our Power Broker® winners and finalists under age 40 are no different, crediting their introduction to the business largely to family members who got them an “in.” Their experiences entering and working their way up through the ranks demonstrate both the strengths and weaknesses of the industry, and paint a picture of what the future may hold.

2014 Under-40 rankings sponsored by:

The Institues

Denton Christner, 36, a Power Broker® in the Gaming and Hospitality category, started working as a file clerk in his father’s Allstate agency as a high school student. He stayed with Allstate through college and eventually became an agent at the age of 21.

After agency consolidation left him and other brokers with smaller books looking for other options, he took a tip from another family member and went the independent route, joining BayRisk Insurance Brokers at 24.

Eleven years later, Christner is vice president and has helped BayRisk build its biggest new business source: a program for food truck insurance. Taking advantage of social media and online marketing, he has used the Internet as a primary sales driver, bringing InsureMyFoodTruck.com to the top of search engine results lists.

“Trying to sell commercial insurance to business owners who are oftentimes 10, 20 or 30 years my senior was very difficult. That was a big obstacle as a young agent, trying to prove my professionalism.”
— Denton Christner, vice president, Bay Risk Insurance Brokers

“It was an amazing experience; totally life-changing,” Christner said. “I pretty much ate, slept and breathed food trucks for 18 months getting it launched.”

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Lindsay Roos, 30, and a Power Broker® in the Pharmaceutical category, secured an internship with Marsh as a college junior with the help of a family member. In fact, internships and early training programs are a common thread among our young success stories.

“I interned in our Morristown, N.J., office for two years,” said Roos, a vice president and excess casualty placement broker at Bowring Marsh. “It was my first real work experience, and I really liked the work and the company. Most importantly, I really liked the people.” Marsh hired Roos into a graduate training program that gave her a well-rounded and formalized immersion in the industry alongside her peers.

Kate Simons, a 28-year-old Power Broker® finalist in the Retail category, took a summer internship with Aon as a college student “without really knowing what it was at first.” But the program drew her in, opening up the world of learning opportunities that the insurance industry has to offer.

“In this job, the thing I like is that you ultimately get to learn about all the industries your clients are in, whether it’s retail, real estate, manufacturing, food, and the list goes on and on,” she said.

Like Roos, Simons participated in an early career development program at the company. The 18-month training helped her home in on what aspects of insurance most appealed to her and exposed her to key mentors, leading her to her current position as senior broker.

“I also felt that the industry had a really good focus on developing young talent and investing in the future,” Simons said.

Attracting Graduates

Indeed, internships and intensive training programs continue to be key tools in bringing new grads into the fold.

Big brokers like Aon, Marsh and Beecher Carlson reach out to colleges to find prospective talent and introduce them to the industry. If all goes according to plan, those interns become full-time hires.

A year or two of initial training for new employees gets their feet wet in every aspect of the business. Those onboarding programs help young brokers find what niche appeals to them, and in what function they can excel.

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For many, that process helps young professionals move on from simply “falling into” insurance to really embracing it as a rewarding and exciting career.

As evidence of these programs’ successes, notice that this year’s “Under 40” class of winners and finalists includes 60 brokers, as opposed to last year’s 40. More young brokers are thriving in the business.

“The best experience comes from clinging onto some good people who are willing to teach you.”

— Lindsay Roos, vice president, Bowring Marsh

Yet, for an industry that invests considerable time and resources in developing new talent, the concern remains that not enough young people realize the benefits of working in insurance. In spite of a wealth of opportunity, the influx of new grads remains troublingly low.

“There are not enough young people getting into insurance, unfortunately,” Christner said. “It takes a lot of convincing and hand-holding and mentorship to get new producers settled into their career.”

Roos echoed that thought, noting that most college students aren’t necessarily looking for a professional career in insurance, but end up there via a tangential skill or interest.

That’s how a career in insurance brokering developed for Blythe O’Brien Hogan, a director in the Global Fine Arts Practice at Aon. O’Brien Hogan majored in art history as an undergraduate, then pursued a master’s degree in art business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. That got her interested in art protection, both for personal collections as well as in transit or on display in a gallery or museum. She eventually wrote her master’s thesis on the development of insurance and risk management for fine art.

“From there I segued into the very dynamic, but a little bit niche, risk management insurance industry for fine art collections,” she said.

Aon’s Global Fine Arts Practice, launched in 2005, allowed O’Brien Hogan, a Power Broker® in the Fine Arts category, to work more closely with all players in the art industry, from handlers, shippers, storage facilities, and conservators to appraisers and tax attorneys.

Growing Pains

Despite being given opportunities and responsibilities early in their careers, many young brokers have had to overcome ageism in order to move ahead.

“Trying to sell commercial insurance to business owners who are oftentimes 10, 20 or 30 years my senior was very difficult,” Christner said. “That was a big obstacle as a young agent, trying to prove my professionalism.”

“It is challenging at times to get people to look past your age,” Simons said. “Being younger and still successful; sometimes, people tend to look for a little gray hair.”

Ultimately, though, a sound working knowledge of clients’ industries wins out, gaining their trust and building a positive reputation.

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Seth Cohen, 30, and an Entertainment Power Broker®, worked around the challenges of youth and inexperience by focusing on educational opportunities and industry training.

“I realized I could really accelerate my experience beyond my years,” said Cohen, an entertainment area vice president with Arthur J. Gallagher. “I got my ARM and CPCU as quickly as I could. I took a UCLA filmmaking and production course that was very intensive. I continue to attend media law conferences. Staying on top of current affairs helps to stay ahead of your inexperience.”

A little persistence never hurt either.

“Hard work and perseverance, being creative and asking questions has been the way to work through all that,” Simons said.

Younger brokers also have the advantage of greater familiarity with changing technologies, which shape industry best practices in a number of ways. Social media and online marketing are becoming increasingly common and important ways to reach clients, as Christner proved with the success of his food truck program. Sophisticated data analysis and modeling are now equally invaluable items in the broker’s toolbox.

“The younger generation probably embraces it more and adapts better,” Simons said. “They have more innovative thoughts as far as asking, ‘What else can I do with this technology and data to look at things a different way?’ ”

Tips for Success

So what can entry-level brokers learn from our Under 40 winners and finalists? First and foremost: Pounce on every new venture.

“I would say take advantage of every single opportunity, meaning every chance to be involved with other professionals [in the industry],” O’Brien Hogan said.

Simons echoed that advice. “Jump on every opportunity, and there are many in the industry, but you have to make the most of them,” she said. “Work hard. Be confident.”

And that uncle, sister or cousin with experience in the field? Tap into their knowledge base, and pick mentors’ brains as often as possible.

“The best experience comes from clinging onto some good people who are willing to teach you,” Roos said.

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Finally, the best brokers — no matter what their age — always have an in-depth knowledge of their customers’ industries. Specializing in areas of interest helps develop expertise that clients covet.

“Knowing the industry is key,” O’Brien Hogan said. “From all different angles — not just insurance, but all the little components that go into risk management.”

While challenges remain for the industry’s stability and growth potential, the growing number of Under 40 Power Broker® winners and finalists offers hope that the industry will remain dynamic for the future.

Listing of Power Broker Winners and Finalists Under 40:

Sarah Allison Senior Vice President Marsh, New York

Sarah Allison
Senior Vice President
Marsh, New York

James Bernstein, 34 Mercer, Cincinnati Employee Benefits

James Bernstein, 34
Mercer, Cincinnati
Employee Benefits

Morgan Anderson, 36 Arthur J. Gallagher, Irvine, Calif. Real Estate

Morgan Anderson, 36 Gallagher, Irvine, Calif.
Real Estate

Charles Blackmon, 34 Krauter & Co., Chicago Private Equity

Charles Blackmon, 34
Krauter & Co., Chicago
Private Equity

Joseph Braunstein, 37 Marsh, New York Aviation

Joseph Braunstein, 37
Marsh, New York
Aviation

Denton Christner, 35 BayRisk Insurance Brokers, Inc., Alameda, Calif. Gaming/Hospitality

Denton Christner, 35
BayRisk, Calif.
Gaming/Hospitality

Krista Cinotti, 35 Willis, New York Financial Services - Banking

Krista Cinotti, 35
Willis, New York
Financial Services

Seth Cohen, 30 Arthur J. Gallagher, Glendale, Calif. Entertainment

Seth Cohen, 30
Gallagher, California
Entertainment

Anne Corona, 36 Aon, Los Angeles Gaming/ Hospitality

Anne Corona, 36
Aon, Los Angeles
Gaming/ Hospitality

Bryan Eure, 34 Willis, New York Real Estate

Bryan Eure, 34
Willis, New York
Real Estate

Lindy Connery, 29 Marsh, New York Technology

Lindy Connery, 29
Marsh, New York
Technology

Ariel Duris, 38 Aon, Denver Aviation, Financial Services - Banking

Ariel Duris, 38
Aon, Denver
Financial Services

Larissa Gallagher, 26 Aon, Southfield, Mich. Chemicals & Refining

Larissa Gallagher, 26
Aon, Southfield, Mich.
Chemicals & Refining

Elisa Black, 28 Aon, Chicago Automotive

Elisa Black, 28
Aon, Chicago
Automotive

David Garrett, 37 John L. Wortham & Son, Houston Private Equity

David Garrett, 37
Wortham Ins., Houston
Private Equity

Jim Gillette, 34 EPIC, Los Angeles Retailing/ Wholesaling

Jim Gillette, 34
EPIC, Los Angeles
Retail

Mike Gingrich, 38 Neace Lukens, Dayton, Ohio Workers' Comp

Mike Gingrich, 38
Neace Lukens, Ohio
Workers’ Comp

Angela Giunto, 37 Aon, Denver Gaming/ Hospitality

Angela Giunto, 37
Aon, Denver
Gaming/ Hospitality

Meaghan Haney, 27 Aon, Washington Education

Meaghan Haney, 27
Aon, Washington
Education

Chris Heinicke, 38 Aon, Hamilton, Bermuda Automotive

Chris Heinicke, 38
Aon, Bermuda
Automotive

Matthew Heinz, 37 Aon, New York Private Equity

Matthew Heinz, 37
Aon, New York
Private Equity

Drew Johnston, 38 Aon, Wichita, Kan, Aviation

Drew Johnston, 38
Aon, Wichita, Kan,
Aviation

Jared McElroy, 33 Aon, Cincinnati Chemicals & Refining

Jared McElroy, 33
Aon, Cincinnati
Chemicals & Refining

Brian Lu, 32 Aon, New York Environmental

Brian Lu, 32
Aon, New York
Environmental

Matt Mautz, 33 Beecher Carlson, Atlanta Workers' Comp

Matt Mautz, 33
Beecher Carlson, 
Workers’ Comp

Tyler LaMantia, 27 Arthur J. Gallagher, Itasca, Ill. Public Sector

Tyler LaMantia, 27
Gallagher, Itasca, Ill.
Public Sector

Lorrie McNaught, 39 Aon/ Albert G. Ruben, Sherman Oaks, Calif. Entertainment

Lorrie McNaught, 39
Aon, California
Entertainment

Keith Montone, 31 Willis, Radnor, Pa. Environmental

Keith Montone, 31
Willis, Radnor, Pa.
Environmental

Anthony Moraes, 36 Integro Insurance Brokers, San Francisco Technology

Anthony Moraes, 36
Integro, San Francisco
Technology

Sean Murphy, 34 Arthur J. Gallagher, Houston Gaming/ Hospitality

Sean Murphy, 34
Gallagher, Houston
Gaming/ Hospitality

Lee Newmark, 26 Arthur J. Gallagher, Itasca, Ill. Health Care

Lee Newmark, 26
Gallagher, Itasca, Ill.
Health Care

Tandis M. H. Nili, 33 Aon, New York Real Estate

Tandis M. H. Nili, 33
Aon, New York
Real Estate

Blythe O'Brien, 29 Aon, New York Real Estate

Blythe O’Brien, 29
Aon, New York
Real Estate

Dennis O'Neill Jr., 33 Aon, Philadelphia Retailing/ Wholesaling

Dennis O’Neill Jr., 33
Aon, Philadelphia
Retail

Michael O'Neill, 35 Aon, New York Pharmaceuticals

Michael O’Neill, 35
Aon, New York
Pharmaceuticals

Stefanie Pearl, 33 Marsh, New York Financial Services - Banking

Stefanie Pearl, 33
Marsh, New York
Financial Services

Adrian Pellen, 30 Aon, New York Environmental

Adrian Pellen, 30
Aon, New York
Environmental

Mary Pontillo, 37 DeWitt Stern, New York Fine Arts

Mary Pontillo, 37
DeWitt Stern, New York
Fine Arts

Samuel Pugatch, 31 DeWitt Stern, New York Fine Arts

Samuel Pugatch, 31
DeWitt Stern, New York
Fine Arts

Brendan Quinlan, 34 Arthur J. Gallagher, San Francisco Utilities

Brendan Quinlan, 34
Gallagher, Calif.
Utilities

Chris Rafferty, 34 Aon, Chicago Automotive

Chris Rafferty, 34
Aon, Chicago
Automotive

Lindsay Roos, 30 Marsh, Hamilton, Bermuda Pharmaceuticals

Lindsay Roos, 30
Marsh, Bermuda
Pharmaceuticals

Duncan Ross, 35 Marsh, London Energy - Traditional

Duncan Ross, 35
Marsh, London
Energy – Traditional

James Sallada, 34 Marsh, New York Retailing/ Wholesaling

James Sallada, 34
Marsh, New York
Retail

Scott Schachter, 39 Marsh, New York Entertainment

Scott Schachter, 39
Marsh, New York
Entertainment

Aaron Simpson, 37 Aon, Philadelphia Pharmaceuticals

Aaron Simpson, 37
Aon, Philadelphia
Pharmaceuticals

Sharon Sotelo-Lee, 39 Integro Insurance Brokers, San Francisco Technology

Sharon Sotelo-Lee, 39
Integro, San Francisco
Technology

Stephen Stoicovy, 27 Aon, Houston Chemicals & Refining

Stephen Stoicovy, 27
Aon, Houston
Chemicals & Refining

Marc Toy, 38 Beecher Carlson, San Francisco Energy - Alternative

Marc Toy, 38
Beecher Carlson, Calif.
Energy – Alternative

Andy Vetor, 34 MJ Insurance, Indianapolis Employee Benefits

Andy Vetor, 34
MJ Insurance, Ind.
Employee Benefits

Gina Visor, 35 Marsh, Charlotte, N.C. Utilities

Gina Visor, 35
Marsh, Charlotte, N.C.
Utilities

Michael White, 37 Beecher Carlson, Atlanta Construction

Michael White, 37
Beecher Carlson, 
Construction

Ross Wheeler, 37 Aon, Chicago Retailing/ Wholesaling

Ross Wheeler, 37
Aon, Chicago
Retail

Alexander Zavala, 33 Willis, New York Real Estate

Alexander Zavala, 33
Willis, New York
Real Estate

Clayton Corbett, 29 Aon, Houston Energy - Alternative

Clayton Corbett, 29
Aon, Houston
Energy – Alternative

Neil Cayabyab, 34 Marsh, Irvine, Calif. Utilities

Neil Cayabyab, 34
Marsh, Irvine, Calif.
Utilities

Brandon Cole, 29 Arthur J. Gallagher, Greenwood Village, Colo. Nonprofit

Brandon Cole, 29
Gallagher, Colo.
Nonprofit

Helena Lai, 34 Aon - Huntington T. Block Insurance Agency, Washington Fine Arts

Helena Lai, 34
Aon, Washington DC
Fine Arts

Adam Rekerdres, 35 Rekerdres & Sons Insurance Agency, Dallas Marine

Adam Rekerdres, 35
Rekerdres & Sons, Dallas
Marine

Kate Simons, 28 Aon, Chicago Retailing/ Wholesaling

Kate Simons, 28
Aon, Chicago
Retail

More from Risk & Insurance

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The Profession

For This Pharmaceutical Risk Director, Managing Risk Means Being Part of the Mission to Save Lives

Meet Eric Dobkin, director, insurance and risk management, for Merck & Co. Inc.
By: | September 28, 2018 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?
My first job out of undergrad was as an actuarial trainee at Chubb.I was a math major in school, and I think the options for a math major coming out are either a teacher or an actuary, right? Anyway, I was really happy when the opportunity at Chubb presented itself. Fantastic company. I learned a lot there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
After I went back to get my MBA, I decided I wanted to work in corporate finance. When I was interviewing, one of the opportunities was with Merck. I really liked their mission, and things worked out. Given my background, they thought a good starting job would be in Merck’s risk management group. I started there, rotated through other areas within Merck finance but ultimately came back to the Insurance & Risk Management group. I guess I’m just one of those people who enjoy this type of work.

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R&I: What is risk management doing right?
I think the community is doing a good job of promoting education, sharing ideas and advancing knowledge. Opportunities like this help make us all better business partners. We can take these ideas and translate them into actionable solutions to help our companies.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think we have made good advancements in articulating the value proposition of investing in risk management, but much more can be done. Sometimes there is such a focus on delivering immediate value, such as cost savings, that risk management does not get appropriate attention (until something happens). We need to develop better tools that can reinforce that risk management is value-creating and good for operational efficiency, customers and shareholders.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’d actually say there hasn’t been as much change as I would have hoped. I think the industry speaks about innovation more often than it does it. To be fair, at Merck we do have key partners that are innovators, but some in the industry are less enthusiastic to consider new approaches. I think there is a real need to find new and relevant solutions for large, complex risks.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber risk. While it’s not emerging anymore, it’s evolving, dynamic and deserves the attention it gets. Merck was an early adopter of risk transfer solutions for cyber risk, and we continue to see insurance as an important component of the overall cyber risk management framework. From my perspective, this risk, more than any other, demands continuous forward-thinking to ensure we evolve solutions.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Sticking with the cyber theme, I’d say navigating through a cyber incident is right up there. In June 2017, Merck experienced a network cyber attack that led to a disruption of its worldwide operations, including manufacturing, research and sales. It was a very challenging environment. And managing the insurance claim that resulted has been extremely complex. But at the same time, I have learned a tremendous amount in terms of how to think about the risk, enterprise resiliency and how to manage through a cyber incident.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?
Have strong intellectual curiosity. Always be willing to listen and learn. Ask “why?” We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our business, and the more you seek to understand, the better you will be able to apply those learnings toward developing solutions that meet the evolving risk landscape and needs of the business.

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R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?
We’re continuing to look for ways to apply technology. For example, being able to extract and leverage data that resides in our systems to evaluate risk, drive efficiencies and make things like property-value reporting easier. We’re also looking to utilize data visualization tools to help gain insights into our risks.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?
I think, at this time, I would like to continue to learn and grow in the type of work I do and broaden my scope of responsibilities. There are many opportunities to deliver value. I want to continue to focus on becoming a stronger business partner and help enable growth.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
I’d say right now Star Wars is top on my list. It has been magical re-watching and re-living the series I watched as a kid through the eyes of my children.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in? When I was about 15, I went to a New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I wore my Rangers jersey. I would not do that again.

Eric Dobkin, director, insurance & risk management, Merck & Co. Inc

R&I: What is it about this work you find most fulfilling or rewarding?
I am passionate about Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives. “Inventing for Life” is Merck’s tagline. It’s funny, but most people don’t associate “inventing” with medicine. But Merck has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases for a long time. It’s amazing to think the products we make can help people fight terrible diseases like cancer. Whatever little bit I can do to help advance that mission is very fulfilling and rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?
Ha! My kids think I make medicine. I guess they think that because I work for Merck. I suppose if even in a small way I can contribute to Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives, I am good with that. &




Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]