By DAN REYNOLDS, senior editor of Risk & Insurance®
When analyzing the careers and qualifications of insurance brokers, two distinct categories of career track become discernible. That's not to say that there are not additional categories of career development tracks that brokers take--there are dozens of them--but there appear to be two that appear most frequently.
One track is what we might call a financial services academic and training track. In this category are the M.B.A.s and other business-school graduates, people who also tend to start getting insurance education designations affixed to their resumes once they enter the field.
The other track is of professionals who, either due to disillusionment in their original career choice or a business relationship that leads to a conversation that leads to a job offer, wind up in insurance after having taken aim in a completely different direction coming out of college.
Peter Persuitti, a managing director in the religious and nonprofit practice at Arthur J. Gallagher Co., falls into the latter category, not because he became disillusioned with his chosen field, but because he met an insurance executive in mid-career, was invited into the field and ended up thriving in it.
The holder of a bachelor's of arts in classics from the University of Scranton, Persuitti pursued advance degrees in Latin and Greek and earned a master's and an A.B.D. in classics, in the process spending a year abroad at Loyola University in Rome.
His genre was satire.
"Which is a tough genre when the society no longer exists and the languages are dead," said Persuitti.
"Can you imagine trying to pick up a joke?"
Demanding as it was, Persuitti's interest in classics led to a variety of adventures, both professional and personal.
Faced with the academic's dilemma of "publish or perish," he found work at a Benedictine Boys school in Rhode Island that required Latin and offered AP Greek to the fourth level.
With that as a beginning, Persuitti worked his way into a variety of administration positions and went to work at Choate, the well-known preparatory school in Connecticut. It was there, as dean of admissions and financial aid, that he brushed elbows with wealthy families and had the hard task of turning down both applicants to the school and applicants for financial assistance.
"Administration got me into managing multimillion dollar budgets, leading organizations and faculty, and dealing with consumers who are parents," Persuitti said.
His employment in academics also gave him the opportunity to sail the Aegean and stay in Florence, Italy, as part of a summer vacation studying antiquities.
Persuitti was on the verge of accepting the presidency of a religious school in the Midwest, when, as part of his research into the position, he visited Princeton, N.J. to speak with the CEO of what was then known as American Re.
"I was at their corporate headquarters, and I noticed there was a "Re" in front of the word insurance and I though that was peculiar," Persuitti said.
The conversation with the CEO began to roll, and as conversations sometimes do, this one took some interesting turns. Persuitti revealed that he had studied in Rome, where a well-known place called the Vatican exists.
"Do you realize what we do?" Persuitti recalled the CEO saying.
"No. Not necessarily," Persuitti recalled responding. But Persuitti, ever the scholar, was interested to know more.
The CEO told him, that among other things, the company insured the Catholic Church.
This led to that, and Persuitti ended up spending five years, not as the head of a religious school in the Midwest, but as executive director, public and nonprofit, for what we now know as Munich Re America.
He's been with Arthur J. Gallagher now for 10 years and has specialized in girding the Catholic Church and other religious organizations in helping them face the scourge of sexual misconduct and in developing risk management techniques to prevent it.
"I was coming to lead a practice of a broker that had been doing religious and nonprofit since 1927; it really is the foundation of the company," Persuitti said.
When you run into Persuitti at public functions, he prefers to draw attention to his Miami-based colleague in Gallagher's nonprofit practice, Tony Abella, for whom he has the deepest respect. Abella, in another unique career twist, was jailed by Communists for his pro-democracy activism as a young man before finding a career in insurance in the United States.
And Persuitti is also humble enough to recognize the importance of qualified succession, a concept that some argue many brokerages are not doing a good job of building.
"I really work hard at being a leader and a role model. But part of being a leader is not making yourself indispensible," Persuitti said.
Well said, and good advice for the industry, we would warrant.
February 17, 2011
Copyright 2011© LRP Publications