Rising Star Rebecca LaFazia Shares Her Advice for Young Industry Professionals Just Beginning Their Careers
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 now and continuing into 2022.
We sat down with Rebecca LaFazia, assistant vice president at Risk Strategies, and a 2021 At Large Power Broker and Rising Star.
R&I: Describe your journey into the insurance space. What led you to your career now?
Rebecca LaFazia: As a lot of people do, I sort of stumbled into insurance. My father is also a broker, so I had some exposure to insurance throughout my life. I interned at his company when I was in high school, but I never really considered insurance as a career when I was growing up.
When I was in college, I became a theatre dork and was very involved in student theater. I was usually offstage, doing music or stage management or directing. After I graduated, I wanted to find a way to be on the business side of the theater world. I don’t remember who it was, but someone suggested doing insurance for Broadway, and that seemed like a really great fit for me.
I wound up applying for an assistant position at what was then DeWitt Stern, which has since been folded into Risk Strategies, and I learned almost everything from the ground up. My boss, Peter Shoemaker, was incredibly patient with me. He taught me so much, not just about insurance but also the theater business.
I was lucky to have several great mentors throughout my career who have helped guide me to where I am now.
R&I: What excites you about the insurance industry, and specifically your sector?
RL: Insurance is really about protecting businesses and being there for them in their time of need. I really like the idea that in a very small way, what I do in providing insurance and risk management for these performing arts organization allows them to continue to work, and obviously their work is very important to me.
Especially now so many of them are coming back, and beginning to reopen after being closed for a year and a half. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for these organizations.
I also work on commercial wrap-up programs, which provide coverage for commercial productions for large advertising agencies. There are hundreds of commercial productions being insured throughout the year. The volume and fast-moving nature of the work that they do is really exciting, and it keeps me on my toes.
You never really know what you’re going to get when you open your email. It could be a stunt event happening the next day, or a client calling in a panic because they have a celebrity that was supposed to be in their commercial and they just broke their arm. We’ve seen drones and helicopters. We’ve had skydiving and BASE jumping. It certainly keeps things interesting, for sure.
R&I: What has been challenging about a career in the insurance space?
RL: There’s constant change in the insurance world, and I look at that as a challenge in a good way. There’s always more to learn and understand when it comes to being a good broker.
There is always a new problem that needs to be solved. It could be diving into details about a client’s operations and trying to really understand what they do. Or it could be a new type of coverage that I really am trying to make sure that I educate myself about.
Especially today in the current market, what we do in our department is constantly trying to anticipate what our client’s needs are going to be, and balancing that against what we’re hearing and seeing from the insurance companies. That information has been changing almost day to day or week to week, given in the current market that we’re in.
We’ve had several moments in the past year where I’ve hit a wall, when I have to say to myself, “How am I going come up with another option for my client?”
The challenge is always taking that and finding a way to think creatively, rely on teamwork and problem solve.
R&I: Looking ahead at 2022, what are key risks or trends brokers should be keeping top of mind?
RL: 2022 is going to be all about cyber liability. Obviously, we’re seeing a lot of types of businesses being affected by cybercrime. I see a time soon where this is going to be a standard coverage that most businesses will carry, specifically in the entertainment sector.
Pre-COVID, I think very few of our clients opted to carry cyber liability, but now we’re seeing more insurance companies, adding on specific exclusions for claims related to these incidents under standard property and casualty policies.
The biggest concern going forward is going to be business interruption losses due to hacking or ransomware events. Cyber is really going to be key in protecting those businesses.
R&I: What advice would you give to a young woman interested in a career in insurance?
RL: Find a specialty that you’re passionate about. I personally love that I work in a sector of insurance that’s unique, and a real niche.
Working at Risk Strategies has really opened my eyes to the fact that there are so many different types of specialties within insurance. Find something that you’re drawn to and that excites and motivates you every day.
I’d also say to look for a company that’s going to spend the time to train you and give you the hands-on experience that’s needed to help you thrive. I’ve been very fortunate to have many great mentors and colleagues throughout my career.
Make sure that you’re on a team that has your back, can help you answer questions that you have and tackle problems you encounter as you continue to grow in your career. &