2015 Power Broker: Under 40

Youth Will Be Served

Many of the Under 40 set "fell into" the insurance industry and have realized its many benefits.
By: | February 19, 2015

The writer Oscar Wilde once said, “Youth is wasted upon the young.”
While Wilde was making an interesting philosophical point, his words do not apply to the crop of the Risk & Insurance® Under 40 Power Broker® finalists and winners for 2015.




To the person, our Power Broker® Under 40 designees demonstrated that when it comes to succeeding in the commercial insurance business, age is a minor hurdle. Some went to law school; others came from undergraduate internship programs. One even took a temp job that morphed into a permanent position as a successful broker.

Across the board, the group didn’t let age limit their success. The women among the group encountered the dual challenge of age and gender … in a business not historically known for its youth nor its availability to women, though those issues are becoming more extinct with each passing year.

“Insurance chose me, you might say.” — Allison Barrett, senior vice president, Willis

Allison Barrett, 34 Willis New York Financial Services

Allison Barrett, senior vice president, Willis

Allison Barrett, 34, a Power Broker® winner in Financial Services, graduated from law school and became a legislative aide in Washington, D.C., before landing in the insurance business. Today, Barrett, a senior vice president in Willis’ New York City office, specializes in financial services.

“Insurance chose me, you might say. I wanted to come back to New York so I reached out to a friend working on the operations side at Marsh,” she said. “I went in not knowing much or having high expectations.”

She hasn’t looked back, saying she now “loves” the business to the point of being a “fanatic about what I do.”

Falling into a Career

Kimberly Mann, 26, a Power Broker® winner in the Environmental category, from Marsh’s Philadelphia office, said like many others, she fell into her insurance career.

Specifically, Mann started as a temp employee in Marsh’s filing department, working for six months before moving to the more high-potential broker side. Within a month, she interviewed in the environmental practice and found her niche.

“I was absolutely drawn to the breadth of clients at Marsh, the different industries and the practices within Marsh,” she said. “Some of the people I work with have been here for 20-plus years and started out doing what I am doing, and that is a good sign.”




Even with the industry-wide understanding of the need to bring more young people into commercial insurance, she said, she still senses the immediate perception of her age when entering a room to meet a client.

“Some might look at me as if to say, ‘OK, where is my adviser, my senior adviser?’ It can be a challenge, but once they see you doing your job well, it becomes a non-issue.”

Tiffany Davis, 36, a Power Broker® winner in the At Large category and a vice president and consultant of client services at Lockton Cos., in Los Angeles, also never planned on working in insurance. In fact, her background was in distressed turnarounds and private equity – at first blush, a far cry from explaining P&C coverages to clients.

Diversifying the Ranks

“Not having an insurance background, I sort of laughed when someone asked me to look into the business,” said Davis.

“I first talked to the person I work for right now, and he said I would be working in a niche within insurance.”

Being both female and African-American has created some trying situations, Davis said, because at its foundation the business remains stocked predominantly with older men.

“Being female and an African-American, I have experienced a little pushback now and then, but things really are changing.”— Tiffany Davis, vice president, consultant of client services, Lockton

“As I sit in front of a CFO or CEO, when they perceive insurance, they perceive an older, white male, or any white male for that matter,” she said. “Being female and an African-American, I have experienced a little pushback now and then, but things really are changing.”

Lee Newmark Area Vice President Arthur J. Gallagher, Chicago

Lee Newmark
Area Vice President
Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

Unlike folks who fell into insurance, Lee Newmark, 27, area vice president in the Chicago office of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., completed the AJG summer internship program while still in college and segued into a full-time job upon graduation.

Newmark, a Power Broker® winner in the Health Care category, actually had the offer prior to his senior year, a rare luxury for today’s millennials (outside the tech industry, anyway).

“I dropped off my resume and nine weeks later, I was done with the internship and had an offer from Gallagher,” said Newmark, who started in 2009 and specializes in health care. “I had known some great people who worked there, so I figured why not give it a shot?”

Adding Youth and Talent

Newmark laughed about his prior insurance misconceptions — that it was only about life insurance, benefits, auto and other personal lines. He’s certain that early perceptions like his are the main reason commercial insurance is challenged to attract as many young people as it needs.




“Insurance isn’t considered very sexy,” he said. “But it’s a great business-to-business industry where you often are calling on C-suite and high-level executives,” he said. “For me, it’s easy to tell younger people how much different the insurance reality is compared to the perception.

“That’s our biggest struggle as an industry.”

Tandis Nili, 34, a vice president at Aon in New York City, much like Newmark, started working as a broker shortly after college graduation, nine days to be exact.

“Even though my only contact with insurance was my car insurance, I had a contact at Aon,” said Nili, who majored in finance and minored in chemistry in college and is a 2015 Power Broker® in the Energy/Downstream category.

“Aon was looking for someone in the financial industry because of the need to understand operations and earnings.”

Since joining Aon, Nili also earned a law degree while going to night school (she is both a part-time coverage counsel and broker).

She reasoned that a law degree would help her be even more effective to her finance clients, mainly Fortune 500 companies. For example, if they are going to sign a lease or contract, she can give it the legal once-over.

In 2006, Nili launched a network of insurance professionals, many of them under 40, to try and help others navigate an industry that had been mostly populated by older male brokers.

“I still sometimes find gender is a challenge, but on the flip side, some of the older men I have met have proven to be great mentors,” she said. “I would say it’s not so much the youth aspect as gender bias. I still see it with clients sometimes.”

Mary Pontillo Vice President DeWitt Stern, New York

Mary Pontillo, Vice President
DeWitt Stern

Mary Pontillo, 38, a vice president at DeWitt Stern in New York City, came to the industry with a M.A. in art history and a paucity of job offers within the art world.

Despite her advanced degree and an internship at the world-famous Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., Pontillo faced the harsh reality of few open museum positions.

As luck would have it, Pontillo, now a perennial Power Broker® in the Fine Arts category, came across a fine arts claims adjuster who needed administrative help and within a few months she started considering a career mixing insurance with fine arts.

“I had no idea this industry segment even existed in undergrad or graduate school,” she said. “What I love about it the most is that my career started off with me knowing more about art and less about insurance. But today, my art background allows me to speak the language with clients.”

“I had no idea this industry segment even existed in undergrad or graduate school.” — Mary Pontillo, vice president, DeWitt Stern

Pontillo said being a broker specializing in fine arts requires a very hands-on, personal relationship with underwriters and clients because every day poses a different challenge.

Looking ahead, she’s secure knowing that her age is a benefit.

“Many of my broker competitors are close to retirement age and there are few people in my age bracket in the industry,” she said. “It’s great to be in a really strong position at a relatively young age.”

Entrepreneurial Mind-Set

Tammy Mission, 27, an assistant vice president at EPIC, in Concord, Calif., also was recruited out of college, St. Mary’s College of California. The school has strong local ties in the insurance business, so Mission figured she would get “into sales” for a year and then move back to the finance track career-wise.




As it turned out, her initial two-hour interview at Heffernan, in San Francisco, was so positive she was hooked.

“They sold me on insurance,” she said. “They knew I was a millennial and they knew how to pitch me.”

Mission’s business acumen kicked in and her client pipeline began to grow. This marks her second year running as a Power Broker® in the Nonprofit category.

“Early in my career, I had challenges. I was so young and naïve,” she said. “But I believe it comes down to personality. My parents are entrepreneurs, so at an early age I received tasks without instructions other than do it fast, keep it moving.”

Listing of Power Broker Winners and Finalists Under 40:

Allison Barrett, 34 Willis New York Financial Services

Allison Barrett, 34
Willis
New York
Financial Services

Travis Biggert, 39 HUB, Tulsa, Okla. Workers’ Compensation

Travis Biggert, 39
HUB, Tulsa, Okla.
Workers’ Compensation

Chris Birch, 34 Aon Hewitt, Chicago Employee Benefits

Chris Birch, 34
Aon Hewitt
Chicago
Employee Benefits

Justin Buren, 30 Buren Insurance Group, Columbus, Ohio At Large

Justin Buren, 30
Buren Insurance Group, Columbus, Ohio, At Large

Michael Burg, 32 Arthur J. Gallagher, Appleton, Wis. Workers’ Compensation

Michael Burg, 32
Arthur J. Gallagher, Appleton, Wis.
Workers’ Comp

 

Jimmy Clark, 33 Harden, Tampa, Fla. Real Estate

Jimmy Clark, 33
Harden,
Tampa, Fla.
Real Estate

 

Brandon Cole, 30 Arthur J. Gallagher, Irvine, Calif. Nonprofit

Brandon Cole, 30
Arthur J. Gallagher, Irvine, Calif.
Nonprofit

Clayton Corbett, 26 Aon, Houston Energy/Upstream

Clayton Corbett, 26
Aon
Houston
Energy/Upstream

Juan Cordoba, 34 Wells Fargo, Coconut Grove, Fla. Construction

Juan Cordoba, 34
Wells Fargo, Coconut Grove, Fla.
Construction

 

 

Cara Cortes, 34 Aon, Pittsburgh At Large

Cara Cortes, 34
Aon
Pittsburgh
At Large

02012015_PB_09_Education_CDavis

Courtney Davis, 29
Marsh
Chicago
Education

Tiffany Davis, 36 Lockton, Los Angeles At Large

Tiffany Davis, 36
Lockton
Los Angeles
At Large

 

 

Tom Draper, 30 Arthur J. Gallagher, London Technology

Tom Draper, 30
Arthur J. Gallagher, London
Technology

Ariel Duris, 39 Aon, Denver Financial Services

Ariel Duris, 39
Aon
Denver
Financial Services

Larissa Gallagher, 27 Aon, Southfield, Mich. At Large

Larissa Gallagher, 27
Aon
Southfield, Mich.
At Large

 

 

Jackie Geiger, 29 Aon, St. Louis Financial Services

Jackie Geiger, 29
Aon
St. Louis
Financial Services

 

 

Richard Geiger, 39 Marsh, New York Marine

Richard Geiger, 39
Marsh
New York
Marine

 

 

Alexander Gold, 31 Jacobson, West Orange, N.J. At Large

Alexander Gold, 31
Jacobson, West Orange, N.J.
At Large

 

 

Jessica Govic Area Vice President Arthur J. Gallagher, Itasca, Ill.

Jessica Govic
Area Vice President
Arthur J. Gallagher, Itasca, Ill.

Adam Hall, 39 Alliant, Fort Worth, Texas Energy/Upstream

Adam Hall, 39
Alliant
Fort Worth, Texas
Energy/Upstream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Henthorn, 30 Arthur J. Gallagher, Itasca. Ill. Public Sector

Marcus Henthorn, 30
Arthur J. Gallagher, Itasca. Ill.
Public Sector

Nadia Hoyte, 38 Willis, New York Retail

Nadia Hoyte, 38
Willis
New York
Retail

 

Brian Hudler, 39 Alliant, Fort Worth, Texas Energy/Upstream

Brian Hudler, 39
Alliant, Fort Worth, Texas
Energy/Upstream

Mira Jacinto, 29 Marsh, Los Angeles Marine

Mira Jacinto, 29
Marsh
Los Angeles
Marine

 

Michelle Jackson, 31 Marsh, Beverly Hills, Calif, Retail

Michelle Jackson, 31
Marsh, Beverly Hills, Calif,
Retail

Nick Kalist, 37 Aon, St. Louis Private Equity

Nick Kalist, 37
Aon
St. Louis
Private Equity

 

Kimberly Mann, 26 Marsh, Philadelphia Environmental

Kimberly Mann, 26
Marsh
Philadelphia
Environmental

 

 

Anthony Martinico, 30 Aon, Chicago Retail

Anthony Martinico, 30
Aon, Chicago
Retail

Megan McClellan Senior Vice President Marsh, Washington, D.C.

Megan McClellan
Senior Vice President
Marsh, Washington, D.C.

 

Laura McMahan, 37 Marsh, Atlanta Health Care

Laura McMahan, 37
Marsh
Atlanta
Health Care

Tammy Mission , 27 EPIC, Concord, Calif. Nonprofit

Tammy Mission , 27
EPIC, Concord, Calif.
Nonprofit

 

Lee Newmark, 27 Arthur J. Gallagher, Chicago Health Care

Lee Newmark, 27
Arthur J. Gallagher, Chicago
Health Care

Tandis M. H. Nili, 34 Aon, New York Energy/Downstream

Tandis M. H. Nili, 34
Aon
New York
Energy/Downstream

 

 

Michael O'Neill, 36 Aon, New York Private Equity

Michael O’Neill, 36
Aon
New York
Private Equity

 

 

David Owen, 34 Arthur J. Gallagher, Dallas Energy/Upstream

David Owen, 34
Arthur J. Gallagher, Dallas
Energy/Upstream

Michael Pelegrini, 34 Marsh, San Francisco Marine

Michael Pelegrini, 34
Marsh
San Francisco
Marine

 

Mary Pontillo, 38 DeWitt Stern, New York Fine Arts

Mary Pontillo, 38
DeWitt Stern, New York
Fine Arts

Samuel Pugatch , 32 DeWitt Stern, New York Fine Arts

Samuel Pugatch , 32
DeWitt Stern, New York
Fine Arts

 

Daniel Rbibo, 35 Arthur J. Gallagher, North Hollywood Entertainment/Hospitality

Daniel Rbibo, 35
Arthur J. Gallagher, North Hollywood
Entertainment/Hospitality

Brent Rieth, 29 Aon, San Francisco Technology

Brent Rieth, 29
Aon
San Francisco
Technology

 

Robert Rosenzweig, 29 DeWitt Stern, New York Technology

Robert Rosenzweig, 29
DeWitt Stern, New York, Technology

Patrick Roth, 34 Aon, Denver Pharma

Patrick Roth, 34
Aon
Denver
Pharma

 

 

Stephen Ruisi, 36 Marsh, New York Health Care

Stephen Ruisi, 36
Marsh, New York
Health Care

Christian Ryan, 36 Marsh, Dallas Entertainment/Hospitality

Christian Ryan, 36
Marsh, Dallas
Entertainment/Hospitality

 

Robert Scheige, 35 Willis, Potomac, Md. Aviation

Robert Scheige, 35
Willis, Potomac, Md.
Aviation

Ian Schwartz, 30 Aon, Los Angeles Financial Services

Ian Schwartz, 30
Aon, Los Angeles
Financial Services

 

Wynne Sharpe, 34 JLT Specialty Insurance, Houston At Large

Wynne Sharpe, 34
JLT Specialty Insurance, Houston
At Large

Wynne Sharpe, 34 JLT Specialty Insurance, Houston At Large

Aaron Simpson, 38
Aon
Philadelphia
Pharma

 

Stephen Stoicovy, 28 Aon, Houston Energy/Downstream

Stephen Stoicovy, 28
Aon, Houston
Energy/Downstream

B.C. Thibeaux III , 29 HUB, Lafayette, La. Marine

B.C. Thibeaux III , 29
HUB, Lafayette, La.
Marine

 

Rene van Winden, 35 Aon, Houston Energy/Downstream

Rene van Winden, 35
Aon, Houston
Energy/Downstream

Nicholas Warren, 33 Marsh, Portland, Ore. At Large

Nicholas Warren, 33
Marsh, Portland, Ore.
At Large

 

Jeremiah White, 37 Aon, Frederick, Md. Transportation

Jeremiah White, 37
Aon, Frederick, Md.
Transportation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casey Wigglesworth, 36 Aon, Washington, D.C. Fine Arts

Casey Wigglesworth, 36
Aon, Washington, D.C.
Fine Arts

Tom Starner is a freelance business writer and editor. He can be reached at [email protected]

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