Rising Star Joey Masters Knows Brokering Success Starts With a Solid Reputation

Insureds are not buying insurance; they are buying you. That's why Joey Masters of BKS Partners strives to turn his clients' wishes into realities.
By: | January 10, 2024

Come see the Stars! As part of our ongoing coverage of the best brokers in the commercial insurance space, Risk & Insurance®, with the sponsorship of Philadelphia Insurance, is expanding its coverage of the Rising Stars, those brokers who represent the next wave of insurance brokering talent.

Look for these expanded profiles on the Risk & Insurance website and in your social media feeds throughout 2023 and into 2024.

We caught up with Joey Masters, a partner at BKS Partners, and a 2023 Hospitality Power Broker winner.

Risk & Insurance: To begin, where are you from originally, and how did you get into insurance?

Joey Masters: I’m originally from Punta Gorda, Florida, north of Fort Myers. I grew up in a real small-town, blue-collar community. My father was military and ran a family business. I have two older brothers, and I learned a lot watching them.

But I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. A guidance counselor advised me to study accounting and finance and work for a Big Four accounting firm. So I went to Florida State University and majored in accounting and finance.

I got an internship in the Tampa office of Ernst & Young, and it was the best professional boot camp I ever could have had. It was working 60- to 80-hour weeks, tracking every six minutes of the day. I had some great colleagues and bosses working at very high levels, and there was a line out the door of people wanting to come in [so everyone was replaceable].

R&I: What were your early learning experiences? What mentors did you have?

JM: After about four years with E&Y, I realized that was not the life I wanted. I was always on a plane, or in New York or Los Angeles. I wanted to focus on the Tampa community and build a network locally. I wanted business development but not heavy sales.

I worked with several different recruiters over six or eight months. I had 17 interviews and got 17 offers. That was rewarding in a way, but it was tough on the recruiters. Finally one of them suggested insurance. From there it was a very quick journey.

I was very clear with E&Y about what I was doing, and my bosses there were very supportive. They helped me arrange to speak with two former insurance brokers who were in C-suite positions in companies that I had contact with through E&Y.

Then I sat down with Lowry Baldwin, founder of the firm where I am now, and something of a local legend. At the time Baldwin Risk Partners was just a small shop in Tampa. At the end of the conversation he asked, “So do you want to join the firm?”

I said I would start on the first of the next month.

That was it. No discussion of salary or benefits or duties. I just knew the big picture: I wanted to follow that guy.

It was very much an identity issue. As a young professional, I could not see myself as a partner at Ernst & Young. But I could see myself as a partner with Lowry. He really leaned into me, but I did not give him much choice. I was there by his side all the time. I had the work ethic from E&Y, but now I also had the motivation from him personally.

The other important mentor I’ve had is Ed Kobel, president and chief operating officer of DeBartolo Development, [the big national real estate firm]. He got me spiritually grounded and connected me with important contacts. That really changed the arc of my career. I mean, it really took off.

R&I: Your practice is concentrated in hospitality. What are some of the common challenges for that sector?

JM: Yes, hospitality, mostly large country clubs, multi-location restaurant groups, and multi-location hotel groups. And also allied and affiliated business, especially development groups that build or buy and operate hospitality businesses.

But my practice extends to sectors that support the hospitality industry.

Since 2020 there has been a huge consolidation across hospitality. It started before the pandemic, but that obviously accelerated the trend.

For example, one of my clients is a local hotel operator with 30 properties. Each was individually insured and had about six policies per hotel. That’s 30 different renewals and almost 200 hundred policies. It was a nightmare. They had total coverage of more than $300 million but when we consolidated we got that down to $70 million. That was not only a savings in efficiency and premium, but by 2023 you could not even get $300 million in total coverage, for these types of assets.

R&I: You focus on clients rather than prospects. That makes a lot of sense. Why do you think many brokers focus on prospecting?

JM: I definitely take a sophisticated and strategic approach. I am a consultant, a risk management professional. The main way I meet clients’ needs is by helping them buy insurance, but I am not a salesman.

Insureds these days want the high touch. They are not buying insurance they are buying you. They want to see you, talk to you, have you at their property. They want to see and hear you at the head of the table presenting them to the carriers and advocating for [them].

That approach has served me well. The referrals come without me even asking; business people talk to each other. I’ve had new clients come to me because they asked their friends and colleagues about what the most important thing to their business is, and the answer was their insurance broker.

R&I: Really?

JM: Yeah. With insurance so expensive and so impactful right now, people tell their friends when their broker is the one making the difference for their business.

R&I: Please tell us about your family and your hobbies.

JM: Earlier this year my wife and I spent 20 days in Italy for our honeymoon. We flew into Rome, and visited Naples, Positano, Florence, Venice and Lake Como. We also just bought our first home and do expect to start a family at some point.

I am a huge golfer — handicap is 6 — and my favorite course is Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande. That is my happy place. I love taking golf trips, and my wife likes to travel as well.

R&I: What are some of your favorite books, and what are you reading these days?

JM: I mostly read for professional development, but one book I read lately — “Scuttled: The Sinking of the Palmer Cay” by Ron Collins — gave me that feeling that avid readers talk about: I just could not put it down.

“Rich Dad Poor Dad” is a classic. I also enjoyed “The 5am Club” by Robin Sharma and “Relentless” by Tim Grover. &

Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist currently based in New York with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected].

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