Succession in Action
Joel Wood: When you hang around a group for 30 years, some things begin to stick, even for somebody like me who barely graduated from the University of Mississippi with a liberal arts degree! It’s been such a privilege to lobby for this industry sector and to work for some of the most amazing entrepreneurs and leaders in the country. Over the years we’ve helped navigate regulations and laws that are at the core of brokerage business practices, so I think I have a good feel for what our executives want and expect from their trade association. That said, I wouldn’t have a clue on how to actually place a BOP for a bodega.
Catherine Richardson: I don’t have Joel’s political gifts, but there was a time when I could place a BOP for a bodega. Before coming to The Council, I was a broker. Ironically, The Council hired me to maintain and build a community of carriers, reinsurers, health insurers, voluntary benefits carriers, and solution providers. My past experiences and roles have given me a broad view of the insurance ecosystem—how it functions, what motivates the different stakeholders, and how these relationships impact the future for brokerage.
Wood: How to edit priorities, and how to sometimes say no. As a lobbyist, I’m a pleaser. I like saying yes. Ken is a serial entrepreneur (coined years ago by one of our executives). He’s taught us that sometimes it’s not just enough to respond to your members, we have to try our best to divine what will be most valuable to them down the road.
Richardson: Ken IS an entrepreneur, but he has also built a culture of entrepreneurship. He’s made The Council a safe space to grow and create. I want to dig deeper into what he thinks has contributed most to creating this environment. And as it pertains to leadership, when to intervene and when the opportunity for growth outweighs the possibility of failure.
Wood: Big picture, it’s ensuring that the world’s most prestigious gathering of insurance company officials and brokers—The Council’s Insurance Leadership Forum—stays just that, while continuing to build on the 20+year growth of our benefits programs. More granular would be to deepen our reputation as the best source for market intelligence. More than 90% of commercial p&c premiums flow through our members, and we serve two thirds of all Americans who receive employer-based health insurance. We should be the go-to source of information on the marketplace. I also want to up our game on state issues that significantly impact our members. We’ve got the federal side down well.
Richardson: Even though I have been at The Council for close to 10 years, I want to take the time to re-learn and re-assess where we are as an organization. I don’t want to skip this step and fall prey to my assumptions.
My other goal is to ensure the leadership team is aligned. The Council has been led by one person for over 30 years. Our executive team is now three people, enhanced by an experienced and talented senior team. It is incumbent on us to align on one set of common goals and objectives. That being said, alignment may not be too difficult as Joel and I agree that our community is unmatched and the possibility of generating benchmarks and indices to inform how our members serve their clients is a major opportunity in the near term.