With His Resume, You’d Never Believe He’s Only 34; How This Young Insurance Broker Quickly Became a High Grossing Producer

Fred Zutel has climbed the ladder the same way he broke into insurance — with hard work, integrity and laughing at fear of the unknown.
By: | September 15, 2020

Fred Zutel said it best: Insurance exists to save people from themselves. Zutel has made a fast career and name for himself by championing this mission.

Insurance backstops most legal issues and lets companies take on risks that allow them to expand and grow and try new things, because they are secure in the knowledge that they are insured.

When it comes to his own start in business, Zutel took a chance without ensured success, but with hard work, he found it. To countless others, his story is similar; his start in insurance came by accident.

“Right around the time I was graduating college, the company I worked for selling building supplies was sold due to the recession. I ended up taking a job selling insurance, thinking I could translate some of the sales skills and connections I developed from my previous job,” said Zutel, head of corporate risk and broking for Florida, Willis Towers Watson.

He was wrong.

Fred Zutel, Head of Corporate Risk and Broking for Florida, Willis Towers Watson

“I quickly realized how difficult insurance was in the sense of not only requiring sales skills but also technical knowledge of complex things and being able to discuss and translate that knowledge in a way people without risk backgrounds can understand and be compelled to trust their business wellbeing with you.”

Zutel dedicated the next few years to developing this skill, unafraid of the hard work involved.

“I had been working since I was 15, doing everything from cleaning public toilets to selling high end electronics, manual labor in a steel yard, and my last job before insurance, working in sales at a building supplies company.  I met a lot of people throughout those various jobs, and those experiences hardened me and developed a tolerance for sales and the hardships and rejection that comes with it.”

Climbing the Tower 

At just 34, Zutel is one of the highest grossing insurance producers in the entire industry and developed Willis Towers Watson’s CRB operation into one of the companies fastest growing entities.

Last year, Zutel was named one of the top 10 highest grossing sales professionals in the entire firm for the fifth year in a row. He has also been named a 2017 and 2019 Real Estate Power Broker® finalist by Risk & Insurance.

Zutel has built his book at Willis Towers Watson just like everything else — through honest hard work and building trust. Early on, he realized the importance of technical knowledge and being able to communicate it to his clients.

“This was really tough and took years to develop, and it really wasn’t until I sold my first $1 million premium account that I realized clients were so under-served in our market regardless of how big they were, and I could make a lot of money in this industry because of it. Since then, I have been trying to find those clients,” he said.

His largest satisfaction comes from the ability to deliver for skeptical clients.

“Convincing them to give you the opportunity to show them how we can help them and ultimately accomplishing that is extremely difficult and the odds are generally against you. It is a huge accomplishment when you do gain a client and improve their risk management strategy, and it’s an even better feeling when they thank you for it,” he continued.

A Power Broker in Every Sense of the Word

In a complex and more importantly ever-changing business, the learning opportunities as well as collaborative industries are endless, causing Zutel to balk at anyone who thinks his job could ever be boring. At such a young age, he has been able to travel the world and solve complex issues for some of the most interesting companies on the planet.

“I can’t think of another industry that creates opportunity to expose someone to a wide variety of other industries and see how many different businesses work … The insurance industry is misunderstood …  There are so many opportunities, you never do the same thing twice, and within any role there is so much going on. It’s a job where you never really become a master at all, because when you think you have mastered something, it changes.”

Talent gap aside, Zutel believes the industry could be doing a better job in terms of policy language to adapt with these changes.

“The industry itself still operates largely in the same way that is outdated.  Insurance policies are written in a language that hasn’t been used in 100 years.  This makes buying insurance and managing claims far more complicated than it should be and needs to be streamlined.”

With these improvements, the industry simultaneously takes a step towards making the talent gap smaller.

The Zutel Way

Insurance makes its money on fear of the unknown, which is a daunting thing to deal with every day in a career. Preparing for the risks of tomorrow while not knowing exactly what they are going to be is difficult. The challenges of the future bring Zutel excitement, not angst.

“The risks people and companies face now are very different than they were 15 years ago and will be very different 15 years from now … tech itself creates a great risk to industry and companies.  Brokers that are not specialized will become less necessary, especially as the lower end of the industry gets consumed by insurtech.”

As for facing the challenges of tomorrow, Zutel does it just like he does everything else – with optimism and no fear of failure or what’s on the other side of locked doors. With hard work, knowledge, and collaboration, he always eventually finds the key.

“Always find the silver lining and learning opportunity in adversity and grow from it. Embrace change, listen to the opinions of others, and act with integrity. The culmination of integrity, focus, persistence and discipline are the keys to success.” &

Emily Spennato is a former staff writer with Risk & Insurance.

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