By MATTHEW BRODSKY, senior editor/Web editor of Risk & Insurance®
As you might expect from an intelligent, life-loving lot, their answers were upbeat, fun and, yes, entirely anonymous.
For optimism, how about 122 out of 122 respondents saying yes to "I expect to gain new clients" in the coming year? About 52 percent (or 64 people) said yes to "I expect to write more insurance."
As far as their general business outlook, 88 percent said that it was "excellent" or "good" (34 percent and 54 percent, respectively). About 10 percent said "about the same." Only two people said they expected business to be "bad," only one "the worst ever."
Business good or bad, you'd expect Power BrokerTM winners to travel the world to earn it. If you had to guess what was the highest number of miles a Power BrokerTM had traveled in a year, what would it be: 50,000? 100,000?
Try 500,000 ("guestimating").
How about in a day? Try 16,000 miles traveled. (Amazingly not the same broker).
When asked what their favorite travel destination was, brokers names the usual suspects: several votes for Paris, Chicago, London, San Francisco, New York City. There were the votes you'd expect from an insurance crowd as well: Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
You had a couple cheeky broker answers, like: "Anywhere a sale may occur."
Or: "Anywhere that is warm when it is cold in New York, and cool when it is scorching hot in New York."
There were the random couple of votes for the likes of North Carolina, Tennessee and Miami.
Or simply the practical: "Anyplace I can get to and back in a day."
Exotic locales or not, business travel involves delayed flights, stuffy planes, deranged co-passengers--not as romantic as the airline TV commercials make it seem by any stretch.
The overall impression of business trips could be summed up by one respondent: "Too many lately. It's a balance between the value of face-to-face interaction and the resourcefulness of being at my desk (and home with my family at night)."
Of course, the value of face-to-face interaction is always increased when that interaction involves food and wine.
Yes, wine ... better than most handshakes at sealing a deal. As one broker put it when asked what his or her favorite kind of wine was: "No true favorites. I like most anything."
Some brokers were generic in their answers to the question, "What is your favorite wine?" Some mentioned simply "reds" or "white," some got specific enough to list a particular varietal or blend, even by region. But others had a particular label in mind--so those of you shopping for your wine fridge or cellar, take notes now:
The biggest winner, with five votes, was Rutherford, Calif.'s Cakebread. "There is no better wine," said one respondent.
Other multiple mentions included Silver Oak, Caymus, Silver Oak, Pellegrini, Frog's Leap and Opus One.
The connoisseurs of the bunch threw out responses like "any Bordeaux from 2005," or even more specific, a "2005 L'Oratorie St. Martin Cotes du Rhone Haut Cous."
Of course, not all brokers imbibe. Some politely responded that they do not drink at all, that their favorite drink was Diet Coke or Pepsi (no need to get into that debate here), iced tea, Starbucks or just plain water.
One asked, "Does hot tea count?" Yes, hot tea counts!
A majority of the brokers, however, had their favorite before-dinner drink, after-dinner drink, during-lunch drink and after-anything drink ... other than wine. Again, the spectrum of answers went from the generic--gin and tonic, bourbon, vodka and sodas, beer--to the eye-raising--pear martini, doppio, pina colada--to the 007 specific--"Glenmorangie Prot wood finish (neat)."
Some brokers just have problems!
One said, "Various."
Another: "Vodka early, wine with dinner, scotch to close."
... AND FOOD
What are they (hopefully) eating with all this alcohol while meeting with clients? An amazing 74 (out of 122) responses for "What do you typically order during a business lunch" came back ... salad. Second place was something seafood related, with 42 responses.
Other answers, focusing on foods that simply weren't messy or entrees recommended by the server, expressed the practical and flexible nature of the Power BrokerTM.
"Everything from sushi to hotdogs," said one.
And some simply seemed to be saving their appetite for dinner. We asked the Power BrokerTM winners and finalists to name their favorite all-time restaurants for steak, seafood, Italian, French, American, South American ... you name it. Their detailed responses reaffirmed our belief in their expertise at fine-dining and far-flung traveling.
These detailed responses were so good, in fact, we might have to release a " Power BrokerTM Directory of Dinner"--keep your eye on Amazon for it.
What we can share now is how much these Power BrokerTM winners spend at their favorite restaurants when treating clients.
What would you guess the most-ever was?
Of course, some respondents pled the fifth, said "not telling," reasoned that "answering that seems like a bad idea!!" or bragged they never pick up the check.
"Since I'm a resource/expert, I usually don't pay!" one said respondent.
Other brokers attempted obfuscation through currency exchange, with answers like "425,000 lira." (Is that Turkish lira or obsolete Italian lira?)
The highest figure revealed to us was $10,000.
But hat's the big deal anyway?
As one respondent said, "Some client dinners are invaluable."
All of us should remember that line when questioned about our next expense report.
What's a few shillings spent on supper when you're dropping thousands to stay at some of these conference hotels? Yes, we all know some of the swank resorts where insurance industry events take place (some have even been on the news lately).
Kidding aside, it is a sensitive subject these days, but our winners were kind enough to mention the fanciest, swankiest resort hotels they've stayed at for an event.
Though particular details will be found, again, in our yet-to-be-published " Power BrokerTM Guide to the Universe" book, some common themes include: Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Biltmore ... the type of places where they shine your shoe by sunrise after you've been tromping along the beach until the wee hours. (See the Ritz on Grand Cayman for particulars.)
As for most exotic destinations, some winners take the cake. We had respondents mention as their most exotic travel destination faraway but recognizable locations as the Arctic Circle, Sumatra, Tahiti, Leningrad, as well as destinations you might need to get your atlas out for: Morrea and the Massai Mara, Wadi Rum, Turtle Island and Caquali.
And some of this far-flung travel wasn't just for their duty of brokering.
"Two years in Jerusalem, Israel, while in the USMC," said one respondent.
For all of our fun with broker stereotypes--fast-talking, deal-making lovers of the lush life--according to our Power BrokerTM Lifestyle Survey, they turn out to be very hard to pigeonhole. They all seem to be interesting, unique people who could make great conversation on the showroom floor at RIMS or as a guest in your dining room.
Sure, there can be some generalizations made about them (on top of the few we've made already about fine dining and travel). They are, for instance, relatively God-fearing folks. Three-fourths claimed to belong to a church, synagogue or temple of one sort or another.
Yet politically, their views were diverse. Sure, "Republican" was the most-answered political designation, with 44 percent of the vote. But "Democrat" came in second with 28 percent respondents, "Independent" with 22 percent, and the mysterious "Otherwise" designation received 6 percent.
And as for hobbies and personal interests, forget about it. Talk about diverse. The most agreement that could be found among the answers was for favorite sports team--with New York squads (Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Devils) earning 25 mentions out of 121. Boston/New England squads scored nine mentions. And other cities' teams received a smattering of votes, namely Philly, Los Angeles, Chicago and Pittsburgh. Even the lowly Dallas Cowboys somehow managed to be mentioned a couple times.
College teams got their fair share of mentions as favorite sports teams too. But individualist respondents went with mixed martial arts as their favorite sports "team," or the "Kent County Cricket Club" and "Portsmouth Football Club."
And don't forget whatever team their children happen to be playing on.
It was even harder to find trends in the favorite hobbies of our winners. They were all over the board. Perhaps one common thread was naming their kids as their hobby. Other than that, the only other theme was keeping busy with multiple pursuits: from the expected (golfing, running, reading) to the amazing (triathlon, racing sailboats, playing the accordion, raising oysters on the beach, flying gliders), Power BrokerTM winners are multitalented.
Out of 122 respondents, 114 mentioned more than one hobby.
So what are we to make of these Power BrokerTM winners and finalists? They are a well-fed, lively lot?
If anything stood out in our survey, it was again how content and positive they did appear. They loved their work. Sure, many got into brokering as part of a family legacy. But many--80 out of 124 respondents--said they had or have no family members in the business.
They're in it because they, as individuals, are drawn to it.
When asked "In retrospect, if you were starting out your career all over again, do you think you would become an insurance broker? Why or Why not?," there were only five respondents out of 120 who did not answer in affirmation. Three said outright "no." Or in the case of one: "If I were to do it all over again, I'd gone to Med School."
But mostly, the answers came in with multiple yeses and exclamation marks. All summed up by one particular answer:
"If I had known I would love it this much, I would have started sooner!"
February 23, 2009
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