When Peter Browne was presented with the John Newton Russell Memorial Award at the 2015 NAIFA Career Conference and Annual Meeting, he expressed his profound gratitude for being chosen for the award. The John Newton Russell Memorial Award is the highest honor bestowed on a living individual in the insurance industry.
Browne also took the opportunity to share the five types of relationships he believes are essential for success in the financial services industry. His words of wisdom are based on decades of experience and will come in handy as you map out your strategy for success now and in the months ahead.
The Path to Success
The first type of relationship needed to succeed is family, Browne said. For his part, his wife has been his best friend and confidante for 54 years, providing him with undying support through long nights as he worked with clients and colleagues.
Client relationships are another ingredient for success. Browne’s earliest client relationships were with his fraternity brothers while he was in college. These relationships gave him his first sales idea.
He would ask each fraternity brother to buy a $5,000 whole life insurance policy on himself, and they would name a family member as a beneficiary — but the dividends would be assigned to the fraternity. The policies would become a great source of reliable, repeatable revenue for them, he added. Chief among Browne’s fraternity relationships was the president, Cecil, who got his own policy in place and encouraged the rest to do the same. As their lives grew, so did Browne’s career, and at a tender age, he was asked to manage Union Central’s New York City agency, at one time the largest agency in the country.
Along the way, he learned another lesson — the value of peer relationships in achieving success. Although his recruiting training had not prepared him to hire Juan Calles, an agent who was looking for a job, Browne’s instincts told him Calles would succeed, and he did. Calles rose to stardom in the company’s sales force and was asked to begin a new agency in Miami, where his understanding of the local market would be unrivaled. He took the challenge and grew the agency from nothing to one of the most powerful agencies in the company.
“This peer relationship,” Browne said, “grew from recruiting and mentoring to one of the best peer relationships. He made me complete and improve myself and taught me to trust the unique individual potential in recruits. Juan’s meteoric rise lit fireworks in my imagination, and I would never again look for standard-issue recruits.”
The fourth kind of relationship critical for success is the one you build with people in the companies you represent, Browne said, because company relationships are important in caring for clients. He said one of his great blessings was to represent a company that made agent relationships a priority. Cecil, the president of the fraternity mentioned earlier, became such a great advocate in helping him establish his practice that Cecil became a lifelong client and friend. Cecil’s leadership skills took Browne far in his career, and he became president of the company.
When Cecil died in a plane crash, there was a grieving family to care for and an entire company of employees who were uncertain about their future. Browne sat down with the company’s chief financial officer, who was thrust unexpectedly into the company’s top role. Browne delivered several checks to the company and to family members.
Great industry relationships represent the fifth criterion for success, Browne added. During his career, he has met some of the best leaders in the field through his industry involvement, including Lester Rosen, the 1972 John Newton Russell Award recipient NAIFA past Presidents Bob Brown and Alan Press; and NAIFA Secretary Keith Gillies. “These relationships have built bridges for shared success — success for our industry through advocacy and education, success for our practices through sharing of ideas, and ultimately success for our clients,” he said.
A Challenge for the Next Generation
Toward the end of his remarks, Browne challenged the next generation of leaders to take on these roles:
» Fight to reinforce our role as personal financial advisors in building lasting relationships — not executing transactions.
» Uphold and guard the industry that is vital to the well-being of humanity.
» Reach for a bright future, realizing that the future is not a place we are going to but a place we are creating.
Browne ended his presentation by pointing out a truth that resonated with many in the audience: “Paths are not to be found but made, and finding them changes both the maker and the destination.”