By DAN REYNOLDS, senior editor of Risk & Insurance®
Believe it or not, one of the core principles in journalism is fairness. Various parties could argue all day, until they are a very deep blue in the face, about whether one news outlet or another--Fox News, The New York Times or MSNBC, to name a few--are fair, or about which is fairer than the other. Perhaps they are all foul to you dear reader, and if that is your judgment, you are of course welcome and free to make it.
For our part, in our Power BrokerTM contest, we really try to be fair. When someone wins the award four or five years in a row, it niggles at our souls. Is that insurance
broker really that good, or are we being unfair to all the other excellent candidates out there?
Well, something that makes us feel like we are being fair is the number of people, and it is not an insignificant number, who have won the award for the first time.
In 2009, that number was 85 first-time winners out of 144 winners, that's 59.02 percent if this computer's calculator is working. And in 2010--guess what?--that percentage increased. There were 90 first-time winners this year out of 144 winners, or 62.5 percent.
It is with great relief, some happiness and a certain amount of pride that we report this number. Not only does it prove that there is a wealth of talent out there in the insurance brokerage industry but that more and more of that talent is coming to our attention in our February Power BrokerTM edition.
STORIES BEHIND THE FIRST TIMES
With each new face, comes a story. That is the payback for those of us that tickle keyboards for a living. Those new faces represent a brand-new tide of histories, of personal career dramas and of solid business acumen practiced in all humility, for the most part.
For William Gallagher Associates' Ronni Rausch, who wins a Power BrokerTM award for the first time this year in the public sector category, the path that led to a solid career in the insurance business began as many do.
She majored in Spanish in college and then did the fun thing and went to Europe for a year after her graduation. When she got back home, she realized she needed money and a career, and insurance crooked its finger.
"There is always a story to tell," is how Rausch begins hers. "I kind of fell into, it but I ended up really enjoying it," she said.
Now, 26 years after that return trip from Europe, Rausch has had the experiences of being an underwriter, a risk management consultant and, for the past 10 years or so, a broker.
The busy mother of three has found in insurance a profession that gives her a good living and the flexibility to attend her childrens' hockey games and cheerleading contests. And you know what, her children get it. They see how hard their mother works and what kind of difference that makes in their lives.
"I think I am really lucky, I think my children understand that I work hard, and it teaches them in life that you have to work hard and they understand that. But I have great kids, and they make it easy for me sure," said Rausch about her experience with the work-life balance, which so many in the business world have to manage.
Marsh's Jim Loesner, a graduate of the Navy's nuclear engineering program, took a very different path to insurance than the liberal-arts-educated Rausch, and he's got a humorous take on his journey.
"If I knew I was going to end up in insurance anyhow, I would have been a history major and drank a lot more in college," said Loesner, laughing as he said it.
But the reason Loesner is a 2010 Power BrokerTM in the utilities category is quite rational and sober. With his nuclear and mechanical engineering training, someone at Marsh who was very clever thought he'd be the perfect sort to place property/casualty insurance for nuclear power plants.
"I had been in the Navy nuclear power program, and the motto was that it was easier to teach guys who understood nuclear power insurance than vice versa," said Loesner.
Apparently, Loesner isn't the only Navy nuclear guy that Marsh has had the wisdom to draft into the service of its utilities clientele.
"I don't know who the originator was to be fair," said Loesner.
We'd sure like to know, if anyone reading this does.
Do you want to get a little jealous? Talk to Lockton's Doug Holm, a first-time winner in the marine category. Holm's got the right perspective on this award and his career, as he probably does on many things.
"After 25 years, I'm an overnight success, but I guess that's what it takes," said Holm.
Holm, a passionate sailor who is the staff commodore of the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, has a view of San Francisco Bay from his workplace and helps arrange coverage for yachts, racing vessels and other ships for a living.
When we talked to him, he was making travel arrangements to head to Valencia, Spain, where his client BMW/Oracle Racing was readying its giant trimarin for competition in the America's Cup Challenge against its archrival Alinghi.
"I am a lifelong boater and sailor, and I am just fortunate enough that I started talking to a boat yard here and a boat yard there and a yacht club here and there and the next thing I knew I could go out with my passion and what I do in life and make a living doing it," said Holm, who also has an engineering background and described his reasons for entering the business as wanting to be in sales in a sector with "unlimited product."
Susan Wells Carson, a first-time winner for Integro in the construction category, remembers the days when women got hired because there weren't enough of them in the business.
Carson started out with the Aetna Casualty and Surety Company 37 years ago and was one of five women in a training class with 95 men.
"They had to hire women to keep their federal contracts," is how Carson remembered it.
These days, she thinks of insurance as a great place for women to work. When she was having children, she was given the flexibility to raise her children and have a career.
She also recognizes that the gift of the insurance business is that it touches so many other kinds of businesses and provides an endless--sometimes daunting perhaps--opportunity for learning.
"So, why depart from that? It has really given me the flexibility to raise a family and continue on to a career," said Carson.
There are dozens and dozens of other stories out there, from not only the first-time winners but those who've won the Power BrokerTM designation again and again. We truly are the lucky ones at Risk & Insurance who get to listen to them firsthand.
February 1, 2010
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