While retaining his role as managing principal and CEO of Aon's Environmental Services Group, Peter Breitstone has also taken on the title of president and CEO of Agency Specialty Product Network Insurance Services Inc.
Surely, from the profitable sale of his brokerage firm, Breitstone does not need to work. And yet he does and said he sees himself forging ahead, breaking more new ground still, with Aon.
"I'm having too much fun," he said, with an eagerness and sincerity not unlike that of his six-year-old son. "When they give you things to do that you're good at, it's fun."
Breitstone attributes his success partially to a keen perspective, not any particular genius (he claims those around him are the ones who wear the smarty pants).
With the high energy level of a father of two young boys and the patience of a fisherman, Breitstone does not just excel at environmental insurance. Take his newest role at ASPN, a subsidiary of Aon Corp. that operates as a marketing arm for provider companies. Those companies include insurance carriers, wholesalers and general underwriting and specialty operations. ASPN's goal is to help independent agents and brokers prosper.
Part of his job as the newly appointed head of ASPN is to attend industry tradeshows such as the annual meeting of the American Association of Managing General Agents, which took place last week in Phoenix.
"What ASPN is doing at AAMGA is: We need to find out what areas these agents want to focus on and create products for them," he said.
Breitstone's lengthy experience in the agency business will go a long way in helping him lead the growth and prosperity of independent agents and brokers.
"Being a second generation agency owner, I know that they are looking for things that they can sell," he said. Breitstone can tell you he is the man who can help them do that. "I've been in the agency business all my life."
At the end of last year, Aon's CEO Greg Case called Breitstone into his office to discuss improvements at Aon, and Breitstone gave Case some suggestions. "Aon needs to give sales people help developing products of distinctive value," he recalled telling Case. "This would be game changing."
For someone who has displayed such a knack for it, Breitstone didn't always favor insurance, although he was raised in the family insurance business in New York and started selling auto insurance to his buddies in college.
"Even then, I was able to convince carriers that the perception of the risk was far greater than the actual risk," he said with a laugh.
After receiving a law degree from Temple University in 1979, he worked on the trial team for AT&T. That stint in an exciting, fast-paced job was short-lived but gave Breitstone a taste of a world much larger than that of his family insurance business.
"I came home shell-shocked at how pedestrian it all was," he said. But pedestrian or not, Breitstone worked for the family firm from time to time until it became a full-time gig in 1989, when he purchased the stock of Breitstone & Co. Ltd.
Breitstone learned the ropes of the environmental insurance niche when a client ventured to build a Wizard of Oz theme park in Kansas at a former U.S. Army facility. The location needed major environmental remediation, and the state brought in Rod Taylor, director of Willis' environmental practice, as a consultant.
When Breitstone received Taylor's critique, he was impressed. "He was the only guy in insurance who I had met who could write a 60-page report with an in-depth risk analysis," said Breitstone.
Although that theme park never came to be, Breitstone found much success in the environmental and construction sectors, working on projects such as Universal Studios Florida, the Las Vegas Sands Hotel, and American Airlines construction at JFK and Miami airports.
In July 2006, Aon purchased Breitstone & Co. Ltd., and Breitstone was tasked with improving the brokerage firm's environmental practice. In 2007, Breitstone led a team that helped double Aon's environmental revenue and more than tripled its new environmental business. In the environmental sector, he's won recognition as a three-time Risk & Insurance® Power Broker, in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
In recent years, Breitstone has also been demonstrating to Aon the need for clients to address the risks and opportunities associated with sustainability. The issue has become so hot that he's been supported by Aon's Innovation Fund to offer resources on sustainability worldwide.
For now, he's focusing on ASPN's small commercial sales, which comprise 25 percent of Aon's retail business. Reaching out and touching the small-time players is crucial in becoming a bigger presence in the middle market, Breitstone said. One project he's working on is a proprietary program to help independent agents understand how the market is doing at any point in time.
It may seem as if his appointment at ASPN would be too much to add to the list, but Breitstone said he's got it under control, especially because his team is so strong.
"I keep getting these new groups of people to work with," he said. "I'm not really the smart one. They are. My job is to bring them together."
ERIN GAZICA is associate editor of Risk & Insurance®.
(Read the rest of the People on the Move newsletter from May 28.)
May 28, 2008
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