Finding your niche and finding success is name of the game, right? It’s what you try to attain throughout the course of your career.
And for Jeff Cunningham, finding that career sweet spot seems to have happened in the past year.
Cunningham, 47, director of underwriting at environmental MGA American Risk Management Resources Network, recently picked up the Top Wholesale Broker of the Year award at the Insurance Business America Awards.
Speaking a week after the event, Cunningham said during the past year he’d found where he needed to be in his career – having recently switched from working in large brokerages to working for a smaller, niche agency.
“Before I came to this company, I was working in New York for probably 15 years at various large brokers – Willis, Marsh
, Hub International – so I was exposed to a lot of the big bureaucratic-type insurance brokers,” he said.
“I think I’ve found my niche – this [job] goes well with my personality, getting a team around me. It’s been great.”
At the Awards ceremony, with his trophy in hand, Cunningham said 2017 had been his banner year. “To be appreciated at this point in my career is incredible,” he said. “It has been a lot of hard work over the years, but it’s paid off. I’ve found my niche and this year I’ve really been able to shine.
Moving from a large broker to a small one isn’t necessarily the right move for everyone – but Cunningham said it came at the right time for him. And the benefits are that he has more freedom, more autonomy, and is able to make more of a difference to the company.
Personally and professionally, the small agency model works for him, he said.
“[Before] I was a broker just doing my job … [but] once I got here, everything felt right. I had almost a clean slate. I was really energized about the idea of being able to bring in my own ideas and start my own practice, really. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m excited about this. It’s just been a really solid year and we’re just ramping up.
“I’m given a lot more freedom to do this as I see fit. [That makes] you really want to strive, because you have more opportunity … to be able to do your best. I find that more appealing. And it’s just a little easier not having to go through all that [big company] corporate mumbo-jumbo.”
Of course, he cut in his teeth in the bog brokerage model. But for other brokers maybe contemplating downsizing to a small independent agency job,
Cunningham offers some insight into how positive a change that can be.
“In the big corporate world … you don’t always feel like they’re behind you. So, after a while, you sort of just do what you have to do, enough to get by. That’s what it can seem like sometimes. There’s not a lot of incentive to really strive and do better. But that’s not necessarily disparaging against the big companies – but just for me, this is more my fit,” he said.
“There were a lot of great things that I learned from the bigger brokerages. But coming to a smaller company like this, it’s much more of a family environment.
We have that work-life balance and they [management] strive for that, for people to take vacations, and take time off. In the summer we wear shorts. It’s much more relaxed.”
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