Finding the time to fulfill both career and personal obligations can be next to impossible.
That’s why the achievements of this year’s group of Responsibility Leaders is so impressive. As the delta of time available to busy professionals shrinks, these professionals find the space and time to do more. They do more in the area of mentoring young professionals that will make a difference in this industry and in our economy in general.
They do more in the area of education, writing papers, giving lectures, sometimes in the halls of universities, on the vital topics of risk management and insurance. They do more in their communities, coaching young athletes, delivering meals and building homes for those dealt a tougher hand of cards.
Let’s talk about Wells Fargo’s Jamie Pincus, a Power Broker® in the Construction category, who made the time to help deliver prepared meals to 77 families in the Washington, D.C. area. She brought her eldest daughter along on that journey of compassion. All three of her daughters went along for her next project, painting and repairing the home of a needy family.
Let’s talk about Arthur J. Gallagher’s Tim DePriest, who takes money out of his own pocket to aid the nonprofit organizations that depend on his industry knowledge to keep their doors open. DePriest also helped find funding for LA BioMed so it could continue research on such illnesses as cancer and dementia.
Read about these brokers. Think about your own busy schedule, what you do and what you just can’t get around to. Be inspired by these professionals. They are worthy sources of inspiration.
Bringing a Fresh Take on Client Service
There may be no better example of the innovation and fresh air the insurance industry craves than the work Denny Christner has done with BayRisk. By insuring hundreds of gourmet food trucks, Christner has not only displayed a sharp eye for new business, but has helped to cover a sector of the economy that speaks to new generations. If insurance is an enabler of commerce, then Christner is an enabler of good taste.
He also breaks the mold by using modern channels of communication with his clients: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Promoting and advocating for his always-on-the-go customers via social media speaks to his ability to adapt traditional business models to modern demands. That demonstrates a level of media savvy not typically seen from seasoned brokers.
And Christner is also serving the insurance industry and the economy in other ways. He has served on the Young Brokers & Agents Committee of Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of California and chaired that committee in 2011. In that leadership position, he hosted events geared to younger agents that encouraged them to discuss their progress and offer mutual support. Christner has also accepted a board position with the IIABCal in 2014.
“I continually engage young professionals and those entering the workforce to consider an insurance profession,” Christner said, calling the field personally rewarding, but often overlooked by young talent.
Goals Beyond Commissions
Serving nonprofit organizations is more than a job to Tim DePriest. His compassion for the services these often cash-strapped organizations provide has compelled him to take cash out of his own pocket — to the tune of more than $25,000 last year — and donate it to his clients.
In addition, rather than see a children’s residential center shut down because of increasing workers’ compensation costs, DePriest urged the center to go in a different direction. Being a trusted adviser meant more to him than the commissions he could receive as the group’s broker. Instead, he advised them to explore options available only through other brokers, such as other market channels or a self-insured program.
“I was more concerned with their ability to remain open than in retaining them as a client,” DePriest said, noting that his company supported his efforts.
His company also supported another initiative of his — helping to fund LA BioMedical Research so it could continue clinical research on such diseases as cancer and dementia, which have affected family members of staffers. After discussions with Gallagher’s area president and operations director, as well as coordination with LA BioMed’s development staff, DePriest was able to see his company become a corporate partner and agree to a multi-year financial commitment.
DePriest also commits a significant amount of time to staff development, training a junior producer every year and “selling” people on the virtues and benefits of the insurance industry.
Helping Those Less Fortunate
Michael McHugh gives extensively to those in need. His family sponsors three inner-city Chicago students so that they can receive a Catholic education. He also is involved with his church’s “adopt a needy family” program during the holidays.
“I am fortunate to have a loving family and that is why I feel it is important to reach out and help those that are less fortunate,” McHugh said.
He is also involved with his local church, serving on its finance committee for the past 10 years, and with the church’s fundraising committee and building committee to renovate the parish school and church.
Most recently, he came to the aid of two employees at his golf club who had lost their home in a fire. Over a period of weeks, he used his professional experience to counsel them prior to and during the claims process, reducing the anxiety they experienced during the stressful time.
McHugh is also very active in his organization’s college summer intern program. He interviews potential summer interns in the fall, is involved as they work with the company in the summer, and hires some of the young producers when they graduate.
“I am pleased to say that many of these young producers that began their careers in my business unit have been promoted within Gallagher to leadership roles, including branch managers,” he said.
McHugh is also active in other community programs, including youth baseball and soccer programs.
Helping Young Leaders Achieve
Having seen to the coverage needs of dolphins, ghost hunters, and gun-toting, bear-hunting moonshiners, Lorrie McNaught has plenty of experience for young brokers to draw upon.
But McNaught is not your average mentor. Last year, she worked to revitalize a small business unit at Aon that was formed to give junior professionals leadership experience. The unit had folded only months after it was formed, for various reasons. But McNaught championed the unit and fought to bring it back, taking on the task of managing that unit, and hiring and re-training its members. She also took ownership of the unit’s disenfranchised accounts, maintaining their business and earning back their confidence until the unit was ready to take on accounts again.
Less than a year later, the unit isn’t merely stabilized, it is achieving success. It has grown by more than 100 accounts through her efforts. “The team is encouraged and inspired,” said McNaught.
In the long run, this accomplishment not only benefits the insureds, but serves to bolster the future of the industry through the development of young professionals.
Within her company and on LinkedIn groups, McNaught offers herself as a mentor to younger professionals. In that role, she has tutored younger brokers on what it takes to succeed in the entertainment sector of the insurance business. McNaught’s goal is to empower young brokers, and to encourage them to embrace the opportunities before them.
Nurturing the Next Generation
Ross Pebley is passionate about his career in insurance. So passionate, in fact, that he has made it his mission to share his knowledge with young insurance professionals and to encourage young people — including his own daughters — to explore the rewarding career paths in entertainment insurance and beyond.
Pebley has a unique perspective to share. Having been the head of risk management at both DreamWorks, LLC and DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., he has an insider’s understanding of the challenges the industry faces.
Pebley later made the move to Marsh and began serving DreamWorks as a broker instead.
The move to the brokerage side meant that Pebley had to step down as president of the Los Angeles chapter of RIMS after serving for two years. But he happily agreed to continue serving as program chair, and continues to bring dynamic educational programs to the LA chapter for the benefit of its membership.
Pebley has spoken with members of the Gamma Iota Sigma society for risk and insurance management students and also offers himself as a mentor for young colleagues at Marsh, sharing his experiences and insights as well as his love of learning.
“I never stop learning,” said Pebley. “I always enjoy learning from people who work with various mediums in the entertainment industry. No one knows everything, but everyone knows something.”
Investing in Industry Improvement
It is often said that the insurance industry is its own worst enemy when it comes to public relations.
Joe Picone is one insurance professional who understands the importance of providing the media with the information it needs to sketch a balanced, useful portrait of the industry.
Picone frequently serves as an information source to this publication and many others, which plays into his desire to improve the industry as a whole. At Willis, he helped to design a robust “Strategic Risk Planning” process that personalizes the workers’ comp claims process for each client. It breaks away from the broker’s “playbook,” but is “yielding millions in savings for our clients,” Picone said.
He is also keenly conscious of the importance of preparing the next wave of talent that is going to impact the industry. Picone personally vets and interviews every candidate the company hires into the claims practice, as well as works on career development programs for new hires. The programs ensure that the skills baby boomers take with them when they retire are passed along to the incoming class, strengthening the practice as a whole. His involvement also shows new candidates “how serious we are about hiring and training the right people not just for Willis, but for our industry,” Picone said. He also recently spoke at a Workers’ Compensation Institute conference on the importance of hiring the right people into a claims organization.
A Family Effort
Wells Fargo’s Jamie Pincus is a firm believer that the best insurance policy is the one that you might never need.
“In the construction industry, it’s not just about the insurance placement, it’s about the people working on the construction site, providing a safe environment and seeing something develop that others will benefit from and there must be a business understanding of what our client is looking to accomplish,” Pincus said.
Pincus is a big believer in voice-to-voice communication with clients.
“Email is efficient but a lot gets lost in electronic delivery,” she said.
Pincus serves as a mentor to young professionals, not just handing down instructions but giving them the tools to do their jobs better.
“I lead by example. There is nothing I like better than digging into a policy to learn about what coverage is provided and researching a client’s exposure to have a complete understanding about their risk,” she said.
“I’ll do this as a mentor on a daily basis to demonstrate good service.”
In her community, Pincus involves her family in her efforts to help the less fortunate. Her eldest daughter recently joined her and other Wells Fargo team members to deliver groceries and prepared meals to 77 families in the Washington, D.C. area.
She brought all three of her daughters along for a more recent project, painting and repairing the house of a family in need.
Volunteering His Time
Tony Rey is enriching the lives of young people in his personal and professional life. As an education broker, he was challenged to help give college students better access to professional training by designing coverage for university internship programs. Students and faculty members were being stymied by the lack of insurance coverage for professional liability as they competed for work outside of the university. He was able to construct coverage and negotiate with the excess carrier to include the program at no additional costs for the members.
In addition, Rey gives freely of his time to a number of nonprofit organizations, including personal participation and involvement in fundraising activities. Among his activities are donating blood to the Red Cross, aiding the Rotary Club as it donates to many community causes, and involvement in the United Way. He also organized a day of volunteering at the Children’s Hospital in Detroit, and coaches Little League and Babe Ruth baseball.
Rey also aids the industry’s future by mentoring new employees and participating in local chapters of the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter society. In addition, Rey works to increase morale among co-workers by involvement in his organization’s Employee Committee.
A True Team Leader
The global upturn in commercial construction is, on the face of it, good news.
But many of our risk management sources caution that there is great risk in this upturn. Geographic challenges in catastrophe-prone areas and rapid changes in laws governing construction risk are just a few of these factors. Aon’s Matthew Walsh has built a unique analytics and brokerage platform tailored to address the risks of stakeholders in complex, global undertakings.
Walsh’s base in his 25 years in the business is Chicago, which as a venue ranks as either first or second in construction liability risk from year to year. He feels he’s learned a lot about the business, which is why he is so passionate about passing his knowledge on to a new generation of brokers.
“What has remained constant is that you need a vast team, with vast knowledge and access to vast resources to deliver in these environments,” Walsh said.
“Going it alone was, and never is, an option; it’s all about our team and always will be,” he said.
“At present, I am privileged to have a talented group of young people recruited from our career development program, and young leaders from the construction risk management community, to develop a new generation of construction risk tools delivered through a web portal environment.”
A Friend of the Water
Max West first became interested in the environment when, as a young man windsurfing off of Hayling Island in Great Britain, he became ill due to an accidental sewage spill.
After graduation, he took a position with AIG as an environmental underwriter and a career was born.
These days, West makes his mark by being a tireless advocate for his clients.
“I have a tremendous desire to win and manage the expectations of the client,” West said.
“I think some insurance brokers sit on data and submissions. I understand how important environmental insurance is to making a deal happen. I will never let environmental insurance get in the way of making a deal happen. They will never be waiting for me,” West said.
West regularly networks with environmental attorneys and consultants both to educate himself and to provide better professional contacts for his clients.
On the nonprofit side, West is a supporter and a board member of the Friends of the Chicago River. He also recently assisted his home town of Glenview, Ill., by finding an environmental solution that allowed affordable housing to be maintained on Chicago’s North Shore.
“Deals would not happen and litigation would not be settled without environmental risk transfer,” West said.
Commitment to Clients and the Community
Aon’s Jeremiah White takes involvement and leadership to the next level, both within his company and his community. He writes to political representatives on the federal level to express his clients’ opinions on industry-relevant topics and lobbies for their interests. He meets with local municipalities to discuss contract requirements and upcoming railroad projects, exceeding expectations to make life a little easier for his customers.
At Aon, he commits a few hours each week to talking with younger brokers, “to make sure they are learning the ‘why’ instead of just ‘how.’ ” He presents himself as a resource for his younger colleagues, helping to boost their product knowledge and pass along his energy and excitement.
And the number of community service projects that White gives his time to cannot be counted on two hands. He participates in 5K charity runs for schools in his community, volunteers for an area cold weather shelter, serves as a volunteer assistant coach for youth football and participates in his local chapter of the American Legion. White also represents the rail industry and Aon at numerous professional events.
“My time is my most valuable resource,” White said, “so whenever I am giving my time to help others I know that I am contributing positively to the future.” As the main contact for and face of the Aon Rail Practice, White is making a good impression.
Winnie Wong’s passion for the industry that she serves as an insurance broker clearly goes beyond the transactional. She strives to be a resource for the filmmaking community and has taught classes on entertainment insurance for UCLA Extension, the International Documentary Association and Film Independent. Wong has also written articles and authored blog posts on some of the finer points of the film production business.
Experience taught Wong that filmmakers tend to pour all of their energy into the creative process and often lose sight of other crucial aspects of the business. She recognized that this lack of knowledge could imperil young filmmakers financially and even prevent promising films from ever being released. To help fill that gap, Wong authored a 14-chapter textbook, Hollywood Studio Production Techniques, to give young filmmakers the tools they need to navigate the business end of film. In addition to information about insurance and risk management on the set, it also covers the roles of the production crew, deal memos, contracts, tax incentives, locations, equipment, scheduling, budgets and more.
She does this because she wants to see young artists achieve their full potential creatively and not be blindsided by unforeseen liabilities. She is equally committed to helping young brokers thrive in their careers.
As a member of several film associations and a Women in Film board member, Wong encourages young people to pursue jobs in the entertainment insurance field.