Mentorship, Knowledge Transfer and Diversity of Thought: We Give You the 2022 Rising Stars
The insurance world is constantly changing. With each new decade comes innovation; with each new year, trials and triumphs.
What sets apart today’s insurance world from years’ past is the people driving the change. Tech savvy. Resourceful. Keen advocates for diversity and inclusion.
And a thirst for knowledge.
We see these qualities in our Rising Stars — those 2022 Power Broker winners and finalists under the age of 40. They exude confidence, compassion and care. They want to help their clients have the best. They want to do their best.
These Rising Stars are empowered when they help others. But they also know they wouldn’t be able to push the insurance industry forward without the help and guidance of those who came before.
“It‘s important for seasoned veterans to remind us all that the longevity of our industry is built on the ability to help educate newer entrants into our industry, and that spending that opportunity and that time to help us understand not just the basics but also the really intense, complex things we advise our clients on every day [benefits us all],” said Jenee Page, 34, a 2022 Health Care Power Broker.
Page, vice president and account executive at Aon, finds herself in the unique transition of student to teacher. With 12 years in the industry under her belt, she is confident in her ability to educate new entrants. But she’s still learning something new every day.
Knowledge Is Power
The concept of knowledge transfer — this ability to instill industry knowledge from seasoned professionals into the minds of up-and-coming entrants — is not new. But it is vital to today’s changing work environment.
We’re in the midst of the Great Resignation, with a reported 47.8 million people quitting their jobs in 2021. The workforce is still facing a mass exodus as an average 4 million people continue to leave each month.
Coupled with that, the insurance industry has been facing a talent shortage for years. Only 16% of insurance professionals believe there will be enough graduates to fill open positions in risk management by 2025, according to one RIMS report.
As individuals retire, teaching the younger generation is paramount for both these brokers and the industry to keep thriving.
“Without the knowledge of past historical marketplace, or just past programs, leaves us at a great disservice to our clients,” said Nick Terlecki, 27, and a 2022 Public Sector Power Broker. With the right knowledge, he added, “you go in with a better idea of what you’re able to accomplish for clients or present new ideas.”
Terlecki followed his father, Richard Terlecki, area senior vice president with Gallagher, who acted as an insurance mentor for his son. Having grown up around insurance and hearing the stories of helping clients shaped the younger Terlecki’s passion for the industry.
“My father was probably my number one mentor growing up,” said Terlecki, area assistant vice president at Gallagher. But he’s also found great mentors in a few others at the firm, including Chris Conley, Erica Connick, Judy Arnes and Michael Gillian.
Page, too, has found mentors in those who embraced the industry before she entered the space: “Being a woman and working in the insurance industry, it’s so amazing to see just how many women do work in our fields, are knowledgeable, have leadership positions and are really wonderful sources of knowledge and expertise,” she said.
What Makes a Good Mentor?
For this year’s Rising Stars, the common theme among their mentors was the ability to teach hands-on while also providing a space for the Stars to ask questions, even ones that may seem like they should be common knowledge.
“The industry as a whole is very relationship driven,” Cullen Bickle, 28, a 2022 International Power Broker, said. “We’re building relationships and we’re conversing with each other and negotiating.”
Bickle, assistant vice president at Aon, found a home in international brokering, his own work taking him from Aon offices in Charlotte, N.C. to Los Angeles and even Sydney, Australia.
“The mentors who helped me, my managers in both Charlotte and Los Angeles, had me sitting in on a lot of different meetings and seeing how they converse with clients, converse with markets, the relationships they built, how they did that. When they had tough situations, they showed me how they react in those situations and how their minds thought and solved those problems,” he said.
Being able to sit and watch the process before he got to take the reins himself was key.
Rafaela Bustamante, vice president, Marsh and a 2022 Marine Power Broker, echoed this sentiment, adding it’s important for young professionals to have multiple mentors show them the ropes.
“I’ve been able to work with a lot of different brokers throughout my career … It’s been extremely important, extremely beneficial to pick from everyone whom I’ve learned from. All the different skills that I’ve been able to learn, I’ve used to create my own broking style,” she said.
Bustamante, age 28, sees the need for good mentorship and knowledge transfer, too. In her purview, there are many seasoned professionals looking toward their retirement years, and so she said it’s imperative the knowledge they hold be instilled in younger professionals.
“It’s extremely important to make sure that we are able to pass on all of those skill sets, all of that knowledge, all of the capabilities that we have in the industry to younger colleagues, so that we can continue to succeed,” she said.
Pairing junior team members with senior leaders will enable them to learn and grow from that hands-on experience, she added.
Diversity & Inclusion Play a Role
As the industry continues to educate new entrants, there’s another element to learning that can’t be ignored. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts abound in all industries, and a good mentor will know DEI’s value as they bring young professionals into the fold.
“When we’re hiring, when we’re recruiting young talent, and when we’re teaching them, we have to make sure that we are doing so by getting a diverse pool of talent. Because, eventually, that will help the company as a whole,” Bustamante said.
And with a diverse talent pool, new ideas will form. And new ideas will only give way to better solutions.
“As we think about how our industry grows … we should be thinking about the next generation of insurance leaders,” Page added. “It’s really critical for us to make sure that we have an eye on true diversity; not just diversity in our people but diversity in our processes as well.”
Different people will have different learning styles, she said, and with diverse backgrounds, each employee will have new ways of distilling knowledge onto others.
“We have to really provide those opportunities to learn and to share knowledge while realizing that we might have to learn how to do it in a couple of different ways, so that we’re really truly meeting someone where they’re at based on what their needs, their learning style, their communication preferences are.”
Paying It Forward
One thing is certain of this year’s Rising Stars: They’ve used their knowledge to forge solutions for clients, and those smarts shine through with every action and interaction — including in the training of new faces in the industry.
“My favorite part of my job is helping people. Helping clients with their insurance program or what’s going on in the marketplace,” said Terlecki. “I’m also involved with our internship program. I love helping out the new hires and the interns, helping them really understand what the day-to-day [in this business] is.”
“As a student, you don’t know what you don’t know,” Page said. “You really do have to take a lot of initiative to ask questions and to be vulnerable. As educators, we also need to be cognizant of the fact that asking questions is a vulnerability for new entrants. Not every question might be asked. So, it’s important for us to also tap people on their shoulders and say, ‘hey, I want to show you this, I want you to really understand what this process looks like’ and provide learning opportunities for newer colleagues.
“You’ve got to take the initiative when you’re trying to learn as much as you can,” Page continued, “but then, when you are one of those knowledge experts, it’s really important to provide people with a safe space to not only ask those questions but to also engage in the process.”
Above all, when bringing new brokers into the fold, seasoned veterans — whether by decades or even by a few years — should be looking for those teaching moments to help guide the next generation along. It is in that relationship where the best business secrets are learned.
And then the younger workforce blossoms into Rising Stars. &
Rising Stars are winners and finalists in Risk & Insurance®’s Power Broker® award competition, all of whom were under the age of 40 as of the Power Broker® publication date of Feb. 21. Since the launch of this designation in 2014, more than 500 brokers have been so recognized.
Risk & Insurance® celebrates these Rising Stars, as sponsored by The Hartford, for their achievements and for their emerging role as leaders of the commercial insurance industry. The recognition honors their creativity, exceptional customer service and industry knowledge in finding solutions for their clients.
To view the full list of 2022 Power Broker Rising Stars, visit here.