A Day in the Life

In this edition of A Day In The Life, we will give readers an idea of what the typical day looks like for a Senior Broker. Cooper O’Connor from Burns & Wilcox has generously volunteered to provide readers with an example. In this edition we will discuss Cooper’s favorite parts of being a broker, the soft skills that make for a successful broker, tips for holding meetings and advice for newer brokers.

Insurance Brokers are responsible for facilitating insurance transactions. Typically, this involves assisting with the purchase of insurance coverage. Insurance Brokers commonly work for retail insurance agencies or wholesale brokerage companies. Brokers aim to find and negotiate coverage that appropriately matches the needs of each insured, based on that insured’s exposure. Wholesale Brokers work with retail insurance agents rather than working directly with individual insureds. Wholesale brokers are most often utilized by retail agents to help them place tough business, or business they do not have experience and expertise in.

What is your current position? What was your major in college?
I am a Senior Broker of Professional, Management, and Cyber Liability at Burns & Wilcox Brokerage. I went to Hobart College in Geneva, NY and graduated with dual majors in Economics & History.

What positions have you held to date? Why did you get into the insurance industry?
I began my insurance career in 2016 as a Broker Assistant at a wholesale brokerage. From there I worked my way up to being a Producer and later a Vice President. Like almost everyone, I fell into the insurance industry. I was brought in on a temporary contract. At the end of that contract, I was offered a full-time position.

What do you love most about your position?
I love the freedom my position provides. No day is ever the same. Some days I’ll be on a plane to meet with a retail agency and other days I will be at my desk working on placing accounts.

What is one misconception about your position?
Many people believe wholesale brokers only go to surplus lines carriers. We have the ability to approach the same markets as retail agents as well as surplus lines carriers. This allows us to give market access to retail agencies who do not have access to certain admitted carriers.

What professional designations do you hold (if any)?
I am in the process of getting my RPLU designation.

What skills make someone successful in your position?
It is important to be able to connect with people and understand the pain points they are currently experiencing. Most wholesale brokers have access to the same carriers, so the way to differentiate yourself is based on your knowledge and service.

What does your morning routine consist of?
I wake up and start every morning with a coffee while I read through the D&O Diary and Insurance Journal for any news. I usually make any calls to London early in the morning so I can have a few hours to get things done before their workday ends. Following those calls, I follow up on anything that has not been responded on yet from the day before.

What tips do you have for hosting meetings effectively?
I find taking meetings over an activity or food is the best way to get business. Meetings in a conference room do not feel like you are getting to know someone. Going out to lunch or golfing is when I find you learn the most about someone and can connect with them more.

What do you do to ensure you are progressing in your career and continuously learning?
I am constantly reading policy forms and trying to keep up on the latest industry news. Reading policy forms is the best way to learn a product and make sure you know the intricacies of them. Additionally, I try to attend seminars whenever they are available.

How do you approach mundane or administrative tasks?
I like to log in on the weekend to do administrative tasks. When you can work without new emails coming in it is the best time to get organized and complete administrative tasks.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t stress over the small things. There is so much business out there and you can’t win every account. All you can do is offer up the best terms you can.

What is one of your goals you are working towards and have not yet accomplished?
I would like to eventually manage a territory or a product group within a wholesale brokerage. It would be great to lend my experience to people after I have more experience in the industry.

What can the insurance industry do to attract and retain talent?
It is important to show people that insurance can be interesting. Most people only think of insurance as homeowners or their auto insurance. Commercial insurance is much more diverse and many of the companies you work with are innovative.

In this edition of A Day In The Life, we will give readers an idea of what the typical day looks like for an underwriting associate. Makenna Collari from Coverys has generously volunteered to provide readers with an example. In this edition we will discuss Makenna’s role, the importance of breaking up the workday, effective LinkedIn practices, career progress, and what the industry can do to attract talent in the future.

Underwriting associates are typically responsible for supporting underwriting departments or individual underwriters. Normal responsibilities include reviewing, analyzing and processing accounts in order to achieve production and profitability goals. Essential functions include supporting the underwriting function through collaboration, and communication. Typically, this is done by fostering key relationships with both internal and external customers via daily interactions.

What is your current position? How long have you been in it? How did you find it?
I am an Underwriting Associate at Coverys Custom Accounts division (CCA) working in the Medical Professional Liability field. CCA handles the excess/umbrella & reinsurance opportunities for all of Coverys.

The job found me! I was recruited from LinkedIn. A recruiter reached out to me for an initial call to see if the role was a good fit for the company and for me. The call went well, and I proceeded through the interview process. Coverys is in a great location in Downtown Boston. Growing up, I dreamed of working in a big city. When the chance to join Coverys emerged, the location and the opportunity aligned with my interests.

Would you recommend other young professionals utilize LinkedIn as a way to network and find career opportunities? Do you have any tips for others?
I would highly recommend other professionals to actively engage on LinkedIn – I think of it as free marketing for yourself. I like to keep everything up to date on my profile, including an updated picture and description of my current role. For those who are looking to get into a specific industry, I think it’s important to tailor your profile towards the field you’re looking for.

Where is your undergraduate degree from? What positions have you held since graduating?
I graduated from the University of Massachusetts Lowell with a bachelor’s degree in Public Health and a concentration in Health Science.

After graduation, I continued working at Lowell General Hospital until joining Coverys in August 2019. I was an Underwriting Associate in our Traditional Unit for a year before moving into my current role in Professional Medical Liability. I have always enjoyed health science, so the Professional Medical Liability field was an interest to me.

What do you love most about your position?
I enjoy how my team works with a wide variety of accounts (hence the name “custom”). While I have the same day to day roles, every day is different.

What skills make someone successful in your position? What skills are essential and what are nice-to-have?
Attention to detail and communication skills are key. I am consistently asking questions and meeting with team members to be better at the role.

What does your morning routine consist of? How do you prioritize your tasks?
Every morning starts out with a coffee. I go through my notes from the prior day and prioritize any pending items. I like to provide any documents to our London brokers in the morning before their day ends due to the difference in time zones. I will typically have 1-2 meetings before the clock hits 10AM.

What tips do you have for hosting meetings effectively?
Most of my meetings are held over zoom. I like to prepare far in advance of every meeting I host, rather than 15 minutes before. I like to prep my screen by getting all of the attachments open and closing the items not needed. This helps ensure smooth transitions.

How do you achieve work life balance?
I like to have a consistent work schedule. There is always “one more” email or item I can cross of my list, but it is essential to end each workday at a certain time. I also like to take walks at lunch time to get some steps into the day and for fresh air.

What do you do to ensure you are progressing in your career and continuously learning?
Whether its healthcare trends or changes in the marketplace, there is always something new to learn. I enjoy reading professional liability articles and judicial reports that are available online.

My company also does a great job providing numerous education opportunities ranging from Excel, to managing teams, to RPLU courses. The list goes on - I take advantage by participating in several classes each year to focus on my professional development.

What is your favorite part of the day and why?
My favorite part of the day is lunch as it helps break up the day. My partner works from home as well, and we like to make some gourmet lunches. I also take time at lunch to play with my cat who has all the energy in the world.

What can the insurance industry do to attract and retain talent?
For attracting younger talent, I think the idea of Co-Ops are great opportunities for college students to get a feel of the insurance industry.

Recent graduates are often unsure of the career path they would like to take. Co-ops provide real-life work experience before committing or applying to the position. By participating in a co-op, students are also able to foster meaningful relationships which could lead to further opportunities down the road.

Can you tell us about your plans for your future career path?
For my future career path, I plan to be a Medical Professional Underwriter at my organization. I have gained invaluable experience in my current department and would like to continue my professional growth in the reinsurance field. To aid in my career, I also aim to achieve my ARe and RPLU designation within the next three years.

Snapshot of a Typical Day
8AM – 9AM | Review email and attend to any “fires”

10AM – 11AM | Update our data log by detailing submissions received

11AM – 12PM | Team Meeting

12PM – 1PM | Lunch!

1PM – 2PM | Complete any pending endorsements or renewals

2PM – 3PM | Meet with team members to go over upcoming renewal and new business opportunities.

3PM – 4PM | Review Patient Compensation Fund deadlines and submit any reports

Makenna and her cat, Ramona

In this edition of A Day In The Life, we aim to give readers an idea of what life looks like in the typical day of an field underwriting territory representative. Jennifer Pashby from The Cincinnati Insurance Company has been kind enough to provide an example. We will discuss Jennifer’s role, morning routines, career progress, challenges and what traits lead to success as a field territory manager.

The role of field underwriting territory representative is a dual role of underwriter and sales representative. I am responsible for 10 agency relationships ranging from small, family-owned agencies to large brokers. I manage these relationships by meeting with management, producers and account managers frequently to offer solutions to their account needs, track progress of our annual goals and work on strengthening our partnership. I underwrite P&C for all small and mid-sized P&C submissions as well as handle referrals to Key Accounts, Machinery & Equipment, our surplus division CSU, Management Liability, Surety and Life. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a great team of representatives for these segments!

What is your current position? How long have you been in it? How did you find it?
I graduated from Bentley University in 2014 with a double major in Economics Finance and Ethics & Social Responsibility. I am currently completing my MBA at Babson College with concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Marketing. Over the course of my career, I have worked at Liberty Mutual, CNA Insurance and The Cincinnati Insurance Companies. I fell into the insurance industry as many do, looking for an internship the summer before my senior year of college. I applied to the role of Project Management Support intern in Liberty Mutual’s Boston Home Office. The opportunities and connections made during my time on the team provided great memories and valuable experiences.

I had heard from peers that the insurance industry did not promote work-life balance and underwriters were expected to be available 24/7. However, I have enjoyed the flexible schedule and find ways to set boundaries and maximize peak productivity times. I have completed the CIC, CPCU, ARM, AU-M and AINS designations. I have also passed first few RPLU exams.

What traits make field underwriting territory representatives successful?
It is as simple as thinking outside the box and offering creative solutions. It also helps to be in-tune with the insurance marketplace. As generalists, we need to know a little (or more) about a lot of different topics.

What does your morning routine consist of?
I begin my day by prioritizing my To Do list, checking emails and voicemails, and following up on open items. I strive to accomplish three of the big items on my To Do list first thing in the morning, before the day gets hectic with urgent requests.

What do you do to ensure you are progressing in your career and continuously learning?
I block out an hour (or as much time as I can) each Friday for reflection – things I did well and want to continue to do, things I could have done differently and progress towards my short and long term goals. I try to spend some time on these “big picture” items to keep them moving forward.

What is the most challenging part of your day and how do you tackle it?
I find saying “no” to be challenging. Providing thorough and candid reasons as to why I made my decision has helped. If I can’t help someone, I like to present a scenario I can help with so the person thinks of me the next time they are in a bind.

What is your favorite part of the day and why?
I enjoy my lunch time walks with my two dogs, Kukla (6 year old Yorkie) and Whiskey (10 month old Irish Doodle). I had never intended on getting a dog, but when a family member could no longer take care of Kukla, I took her in and fell in love. I was told her name means “little doll” in Greek. My boyfriend and I enjoyed having one dog so much, we decided to get another one. It is a handful having two, but I wouldn’t change a thing!

Jennifer and her dogs, Kukla and Whiskey

In this edition of A Day In The Life, we aim to give readers an idea of what life looks like in the typical day of an insurance broker. To that aim, we have surveyed Albert Peterson a wholesale broker working for Burns & Wilcox Ltd, the largest independent insurance wholesaler and MGA in North America. We will discuss Albert’s role, what a typical day looks like, what traits lead to success as a broker and give a snapshot of a typical day in the life of an insurance broker.

Insurance Brokers are responsible for facilitating insurance transactions. Typically, this involves assisting a potential insured with their purchase of insurance coverage from an insurance company. Insurance Brokers can work for retail insurance agencies, wholesale brokerage companies, among other areas. Brokers aim to ensure that insureds find insurance coverages that appropriately match their needs and exposure, based on the insured’s business operations. Wholesale Brokers work with a retail insurance agents, rather than working directly with individual insureds.

  • Wholesale Brokers work with insurance agents rather than individual insureds.
  • Wholesale Brokers typically have access to dozens of insurance carriers to help find coverage for hard-to-place clients.
  • Key traits of a wholesale insurance broker:
    Communication, to detail, organization, and competitive drive

What is your current position? How long have you been in it? How did you find it?
I am a Broker, specializing in Professional Lines (E&O, D&O, EPLI, Cyber, Fiduciary, Crime, etc.) I work for Burns & Wilcox Ltd. I am based out of Minneapolis, MN and have worked for Burns & Wilcox for 6 years. I began my career by working into a Commercial Underwriter position. In that position, Commercial Lines included General Liability, Property, Inland Marine, Excess Liability and Professional Lines. I gained experience working with various lines of business and had authority to underwrite with a variety of carriers. Through my work with all of the various lines of coverage, I discovered that E&O, Cyber, D&O, EPLI were the most interesting to me. I engaged in the RPLU designation to learn more about those coverages. Pursuing the RPLU designation further expanded my interest in Professional Lines. From there I began to focus on Professional Lines and transitioned into the role of Broker.

My role as a wholesale broker is to help independent insurance agents find coverage for their Professional Lines clients. That means utilizing my relationships with various insurance carriers to help get quotes for different insureds. Typically, independent agents will try to place coverage with their direct markets (those that they can contact directly or have authority to bind business with). If the agent is unable to place an account directly, they then send the account to their favorite wholesale broker(s). A broker’s ability to quickly find coverage for an account and effectively communicate with the agent is what separates good brokers from mediocre ones. Brokers must also act as an expert by helping break down the differences in quotes from various companies. Analyzing each insured’s exposure and helping to find appropriate coverage for them is very satisfying.

Snapshot of a Typical Day
8AM – 9AM | Arrive at desk. Review my submissions inbox and work on New Business quoting and follow-up on the inquiries I sent to my markets yesterday.

Catch up on industry news.

Follow-up on last week's accounts.

10AM – 11AM | Open inbox and check emails. As a broker, I typically send/receive over 100 emails in a day; so waiting to open my inbox until I have already completed some tasks is a great way to make sure I am productive but also responsive.

11AM – 12PM | Call clients. I try to call 10 agents per day to touch base, give market updates, help solve problems, etc. During the pandemic, this has proven to be a very important habit. I also try to schedule 2 video meetings per week with my clients.

12PM – 1PM | Continue working on responding to emails, handling new business submissions.

1PM – 2PM | Eat lunch. Take my dog for a walk around the block. This helps me reset for the afternoon. After walking my dog, I typically look at my inbox and then try to tackle any urgent tasks.

2PM – 3PM | Most of my video conferences are scheduled for the afternoon; this tends to be the best time for my clients. If I have a video conference, I will prepare beforehand by looking at the recent successes our office has had with this client, the history we have had for the last 2 years and using that history to get an idea on the market trends that I should discuss.

3PM – 4PM | Respond to more emails or phone calls.

4PM – 5PM | Check my inbox to make sure all urgent tasks have been handled and submissions have been forwarded to my carrier partners so we can receive quotes in the morning. I make sure all of my new submissions are addressed before signing off for the day. 

Daily Structure
What does your day typically consist of?
My days vary drastically depending on what calls I am making, what accounts I am working on and what meetings I have. Typically, I go out and physically visit 10 agencies per month, updating them on market trends, what areas I can assist them with and asking if they have any accounts I can help them place. I have been working remotely for the last several months so my days have changed to making around 10 phone calls to my various clients per day, rather than visiting in-person. Aside from phone calls, I send and receive a lot of emails each day. As a wholesale broker, I am communicating with various insurance carriers and independent insurance agents on each account I work on, so clear communication is very important for me. One of the most important aspects.

What is one misconception about your position?
The biggest misconception I see is often from the independent agencies that don’t trust wholesalers. Until we have a strong relationship and I have proven that I can be a valuable asset in the marketing process, many independent agencies have the perception that wholesalers are trying to sell the most expensive products available. In reality, my goal is to help find the best option for each individual client. If I can help my client place an account, everyone in the process wins.

How do you achieve work life balance?
We are in a work-from-home model currently so I try to take my dog for a walk most days and try to go outside and play fetch with her if I am feeling distracted. She helps me mentally reset and brings a lot of joy to my day. She can also be distracting and sometimes speaks out of turn during phone calls and video meetings; but you take the good with the bad.

Albert and his dog