The agency/broker world is rife with family connections: sons and daughters working in the agency started by their fathers or grandfathers; brothers working for sisters, sisters working with brothers; brothers and sisters working for shops run by in-laws.
At Aon, two brothers come to mind. Paul M. Graziano, executive vice president and national sales leader of Aon Risk Services' National Industry & Product Group, has built a reputation as a man who brings in the business. His younger brother, John Paul Graziano, an assistant vice president, is considered an expert on directors' and officers' liability policies, a man who services the business. Both made the 2007 Power BrokerTM roster compiled by Risk & Insurance®.
The Graziano brothers are not the only siblings working for the sprawling Chicago-headquartered brokerage house. Yet, they are unusual in their similarities: They're both based in Aon's Denver office, they both have expertise with technology-related clients, they sometimes work on the same deals. They're both Italian-Irish, and all Catholic from Chicago.
The older of the two, Paul, former leader of the Aon Technology Group, turned 40 this year. John Paul is 28.
Michael D. Rice 2nd, CEO of Aon Financial Services Group and chairman of Aon Risk Services, Chicago office, calls the circumstances surrounding the Graziano brothers "somewhat unique."
"Is it unique to have them working together on occasion?" Rice said. "Yes, I think that's somewhat unique. I can name a brother or sister team in the industry. I can't name so many that actually have the opportunity to work together on deals."
Rice himself has relatives at Aon--his father, Michael D. Rice, chairman of Aon Risk Services Americas, and a brother, Matthew Rice, a member of the Aon Healthcare Executive Committee. Children often join the industry in which their parents work, but not in the Grazianos' case. The closest their father came to insurance was signing off on the family's homeowners, auto and life policies, said Paul.
It was Paul who broke from precedent and joined Aon in 1997 after working in sales positions at Xerox. He distinguished himself through his ability to bring new tech clients into the Aon fold at a time when Silicon Valley was exploding into the national consciousness.
"He was a top sales guy for Xerox at a young age prior to running Aon," said Rice, who attended the same preschool as Paul. "So he's kind of a classically trained sales guy and realizes the value of activity and figuring out what our prospect's needs are and figuring out ways to deliver solutions for those needs."
The elder Graziano is the "people person" of the two, according to their sister, Ann Marie Hayes, herself in sales for publisher R.H. Donnelley in Chicago. "He loves to entertain, talk to people and negotiate solutions," she said. "People like and respect him because he delivers."
Rice considers both men type-A personalities. But it's clear from interviews with colleagues and family that Paul, a multisport athlete at Indiana University, has a slight edge in the race for the title of Alpha male.
Yet the elder Graziano isn't quite enough of an Alpha male so as to be reckless. Looking to join the university baseball team as a catcher right out of high school made him pause.
"I went to walk on, and I found out very, very quickly that the catchers in front of me were far more talented," he said. Recognizing his limitations, he joined the intramurals and threw himself into campus leadership, though he did play rugby.
Asked what attracted him to sales, the elder Graziano, a father of three, replied: "Sales requires very strong communication, leadership and problem-solving skills. I would argue that some of the most successful world leaders possess these very traits."
GRAZIANO THE YOUNGER
And Paul's success doesn't strip away the talents of the younger Graziano, a former securities analyst with Deutsche Bank in Houston and New York, who landed at the prestigious securities firm after graduating from Georgetown University with a degree in international economics.
He's 12 years younger than his older brother, but he's taken his Wall Street experience with him and carved out a niche for himself within the Aon universe as an insurance policy analyst, particularly in the D&O world, which demands technical precision and a keen eye for detail.
"Anyone that knows us both will indicate that we are very different people," said John Paul. "Separate and distinct from that, we've done very different things within Aon. He's always been primarily on the origination, production, management side, and I've always been on the technical specialist support side."
John Paul, according to his sister, is a little more reserved than his elder brother and is blessed with a drier, quieter, more cerebral wit. When they were younger, the family could always count on John Paul to bring the fact book to Wrigley Field. "We'd go to a Cubs game and he'd bring a book and you'd think he'd be reading the book, but he knew exactly what was going on in the game," said Hayes.
The younger Graziano is all grown up now, and can perhaps teach the elder sibling a lesson or two in the minutiae of insurance contracts.
"I think what's happened over time is Paul has realized that his brother J.P. is the real deal and he's a guy that can help him win on behalf of his clients, and so the relationship changes from, 'This is my little brother and I'm going to do everything I can to protect him,' to, 'This is my brother and he's great,' " said Rice.
John Paul said he joined Aon after a D&O opportunity in the Financial Services Group came his way for which his skills were a fit. He admits to relishing the details and technicalities of insurance contracts. "From my perspective, being a technical D&O broker is very important because, in our line of products and our area of business, the devil is in the details and a misstep in a particular contract can be a significant differentiator to our clients depending on how a contract may read, and that's why you have so many lawyers in the Financial Services Group," he said.
The Graziano brothers have become a complementary team, with Paul acting as more of a generalist with a focus in the technology space and a "door-opener" to bring clients into the firm.
"Paul is going to be the driver to make sure things get done," said Rice. "John Paul is going to be the guy that actually gets them done and then services them on a day-to-day basis."
So, at the end of the day, as the shadows of the Rocky Mountains lengthen with the setting sun, do these two Chicago standouts fly home and tally the number of new accounts they've reeled in? Not even close. Competitive antagonism between the two just doesn't exist, said John Paul, and never has there been a day when he's gone home thinking he has to reach the summits scaled by his older brother.
October 15, 2007
Copyright 2007© LRP Publications