By MATTHEW BRODSKY, senior editor/Web editor of Risk & Insurance®
As you've probably already heard us boast, this is the fifth year in a row for the Risk & Insurance® Power BrokerTM. Sure, it's a chance for us to puff out our chest. We delivered a needed and lasting new form of recognition for the insurance business. Or perhaps we should be lambasted for shining the spotlight on just the type of salesy producers who crave it.
Moving right along ... when we first came up with the idea for the awards, we weren't quite sure how it would all turn out. Jack Roberts, our former editor in chief, knew, though, that an award contest for insurance brokers could match his overall view of how the insurance marketplace should be covered.
Roberts knew that he wanted to provide content and insight that wasn't already available from the industry trade press; that delivering such content would take a lot of entrepreneurial research; that he wanted to identify and write about important personalities in the insurance space; and that he wanted to cover things from an industry or sector perspective.
"I thought most of the brokerage and risk management business had been organized along those lines," he said.
The Power BrokerTM awards checked all those boxes.
To give credit where credit is due, Roberts said that the Rising Star list from Institutional Investor magazine sparked his original idea.
But also to give credit where credit is due, Roberts and the Risk & Insurance® editorial staff transformed that initial premise into a full-blown project for the insurance brokerage business.
Another challenge was overcoming skepticism, or as Roberts put it, the "what the hell are you doing" questions.
We're talking here about making sure our judging process was as clear, comfortable and technically sound enough for everyone involved, especially for our primary source of information--risk managers, who would have to be willing to speak with us, let alone nominate a broker.
To help this along, it was decided early on that we would offer these risk managers, and any other judge or reference, absolute confidentiality.
Risk managers have over the years indeed become increasingly candid in their assessments of individual brokers and whole firms. Some of the horror stories and passionate criticisms are so informative and (yes) entertaining, it is a shame we can't share them ... though of course, we much prefer focusing on the positive.
(Only this year, by the way, did we offer risk managers the chance to get their name in print alongside a quote or comment, though most still chose anonymity.)
And we had one last bit of skepticism to overcome: from the brokers themselves. Believe it or not, many brokers do not seek out fame, at least not all for themselves. We wanted to identify top individual brokers, but many balked and wanted their whole teams recognized.
(Let it be known, too, that some brokers do not mind the individual acclaim. For some, even that isn't enough. Your friendly author recalls one broker from 2007 who, after being highly regarded and nominated, received a personal request to fill out an application form. The broker asked if the award came with a cash bonus? No. A free trip and dinner? No. A guarantee that it would boost his sales the following year? No. He declined to participate.)
Though most brokers love to share any acclaim with their teams, winners have warmed to the Power BrokerTM recognition. Again, not to toot our own horn too much, there is now a certain "cachet," as Roberts put it, to earning the award. Risk & Insurance® editors have been surprised to see Power BrokerTM plaques on winners' office walls.
"I've also heard from brokers who thought they'd be in it and weren't," Roberts added, chuckling.
Our focus, too, was not just on the individuals but on the problems they solved. As Roberts put it, he was hoping that the winners' profiles would turn out like "150 case studies." For the most part, that is how the profiles do read, except that brokers rarely only win for tackling one problem. The profiles typically delve into the numerous exploits brokers have forayed into for the sake of their risk manager clients.
Since 2006, when the project first launched, it's been expanded to include finalists on our Web site--brokers who just barely missed the cut as winners in a category but still deserve some recognition according to their clients and our judges. We also put together special editions for benefits and reinsurance brokers in June and August, respectively.
With all the changes, the Power BrokerTM awards have become, over time, simpler, in that the goal really is all about giving risk managers who are in a respective industry or looking to place a particular line a quick "first cut" picture of the panoply of brokers out there who might be of service to them.
We look forward to growing the project further to meet the feedback and needs of the risk management and brokerage community.
Who knows ... perhaps next year we will have a category for best golfing partner or best client dinners.
(Editor's note: Browse the 24 categories on our 2010 Power BrokerTM page to see the profiles and photos of this year's 144 winners and 117 finalists.)
February 1, 2010
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