2019 Rising Stars: Young Brokers Primed for Success
Throughout the history of the Power Broker® awards, three essential elements resonate among the thousands of winners: knowledge of the industry they cover, superior problem-solving abilities and a fellowship of cheerful customer service.
As young Rising Stars take their places among the industry veterans in the rankings, they are exhibiting those same qualities.
Youthful exuberance can be something of a qualified compliment, but it applies in all the right ways to Tammy Mission, 31, founder and CEO of BeemaBroker in Danville, Calif., east of Oakland. The agency specializes in tech-savvy service to millennials, especially start-ups and ‘micro-preneurs.’
“It is silly to talk about whether technology will or will not change insurance,” said Mission, who won a Power Broker® award this year in the At Large Category.
“Technology is already changing insurance. What technology is doing is making it more collaborative and more customized.”
Mission is originally from the East Bay area, around Richmond, and went to school at nearby St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif.
Even then her energy and inquisitiveness were evident: She finished her double-major bachelor of science in economics and business administration by her junior year, so she added a minor in theology and religious studies.
“I was on track to go into finance in New York,” Mission recalled. “I had a few offers already, but I was young and idealistic and I did not want to go to Wall Street and sell my soul. I looked into wealth management but got an offer in business insurance. I took to the brokerage business naturally.”
Having come in from the outside armed with curiosity, Mission thrived. “I had a great relationship with the underwriters, because I did not assume I knew anything. I asked a lot of questions and listened. At my first license renewal, I had about a hundred continuing-education credits, because I was so hungry to learn.”
Mission was on top of the leaderboard and became a source of guidance around the office. Before long she was the youngest sales manager in the firm.
“I did not intend to stay,” she said. “I just kept setting bigger and bigger goals. There was an alignment between my economics and small-business background and the business lines I was selling.”
When it was time to move on, instead of just moving to a larger agency, Mission founded BeemaBroker. The name is derived from bima, which is Hindi for insurance. “There are parts of business insurance that are broken, and we are using technology to help fix them.”
Farther down the coast, another polymath, Kathryn Christensen, 35, grew up in Los Angeles, “and left as soon as I could.”
She studied genetics and developmental biology with a minor in classics, Greek and Roman studies at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The next step was a masters in biomedical science and public health at Tufts University, near Boston.
“I did a research project in public health and disease management, including a concentration in hospital management and organization,” Christensen said.
“This was just before Obamacare. Massachusetts had the precursor. I could see at the time that the health-care industry was in flux.” Along the way she did some consulting in health care that led to a position doing that for Aon, which took her back to L.A.
“We have a small team, just four people, one on the East Coast. We have a support role in responding to RFPs, so we are all involved in selling, but it is not our primary duty.”
The bulk of her work is providing insight and guidance to clients, including a great deal of activity with captive programs.
“What is great about this job is that there is something different every day. Clients face certain similar problems conceptually,” but each has a different way of approaching them. “Captives are great incubators for dealing with emerging risks.”
Christensen’s outlook for the captive sector is sanguine.
“There is strong support from legislation and regulators in most states,” she said. “There are about 40 that now have enabling legislation. There are always new captives being formed while others are being wound down,” but the net change is growth.
“What is great about this job is that there is something different every day. Clients face certain similar problems conceptually,” but each has a different way of approaching them. — Kathryn Christensen, senior consultant, Aon
For all the multi-disciplinary skills that some rising stars bring to brokerage, insurance in many cases is still sold rather than bought. Zach Brown, with Orion Risk Management in Newport Beach, Calif., got his start selling commercial lawn mowers. He grew up in Indiana and studied business management and marketing at the Indiana Institute of Technology in Fort Wayne.
He did well in sales, and aimed for big-ticket business. “I did a search for things that people had to buy every year, not just one time,” Brown, 31, said frankly. “I also looked for the richest areas of the country, which were New York and California. It’s warmer in California than in New York. So I came out here. I slept on the beach at first before I got things sorted out.”
He got a job as a producer selling workers’ compensation, general liability, property and automobile insurance. “I got licensed, and they handed me a phone and a directory. It was my job to set up the meetings for a senior broker. I learned enough by osmosis that in several years I was able to start my own firm.”
That business did well enough to affiliate with Orion, and then was acquired by Orion in November 2018.
“We do a lot of diverse work,” said Brown, who won a Power Broker® award this year in the workers’ comp category.
“That includes a lot of consulting on claims, as well as on mergers and acquisitions. When a client sells a company, we get the first call. In some cases, they are selling to another client of ours.”
Not surprisingly, Brown sees the outlook for insurance in terms of underserved opportunities.
“There is a void in the middle market as a result of the consolidation of the industry,” he said.
“There are companies with 100 to 200 employees that need sophisticated programs and service.”
In an interesting contrast to the perspective of Mission at BeemaBroker, Brown asserted that “insurance is the last industry I know that has not been hugely affected by technology.
“But that said, there still will always have to be a human element. No one is going to go online and spend a million dollars on workers’ comp. There will always be a need for someone to sit across the table to explain things and address concerns.”
That element of care and support is the core of the practice for Traci Crimm, a senior account executive with Aon in St. Louis. She is a second-generation broker and a 2019 Power Broker® in the Private Client sector.
“I grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, where my mother had a 40-year career in underwriting. She saw insurance as a good fit for me and thought I had an itch for sales rather than underwriting.”
In the private client sector, Crimm, 33, handles a mix of sales and service. The key, she said, “is being available 24/7. Because things happen at any time. I care about the people, so I just do it. Clients understand that you have a life and don’t mind if you have to call them back.”
Echoing Brown, Crimm added, “It is important in the private client sector to maintain a personal touch. There are personal lines that can be handled over the Internet, but there still has to be a human touch, especially with affluent clients.” &