The desire to help people has always been innate for 32-year-old Ryan Gonzalez, an associate broker at Aon Risk Solutions. With the consumer-centred focus of the insurance sector, it did not take long for him to realize that this is the industry he would thrive in.
Prior to working in insurance, Gonzalez served the military as an Active Duty member of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), where he was deployed to one of the largest Coast Guard vessels. His experience with the military has given him a greater sense of responsibility and a stronger desire to save lives.
Following his stint at the USCG, Gonzalez went on to become a paramedic and worked at several fire stations across Miami and in many emergency rooms in South Florida.
It was in 2012 that he jumped aboard Aon and, through the years, he has seen how the firm’s values align with his personal commitment to serve people.
In this Q&A, Gonzalez shares how his experience with the USCG has helped him in his current work in the insurance industry. He also outlines what he thinks are the biggest challenges facing the insurance space today.
Tell us how you got into the insurance industry, what led you to this career?
I didn’t plan on going into the insurance industry. I first began working in the industry in 2012 when I learned about an open opportunity within Aon. Driven by a desire to help people, I had just finished paramedic school and was on a waiting list for a position as a paramedic/firefighter. I was hired by Aon and it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was where I wanted to be. Aon motivates their employees to work hard every day in the interest of our clients. Aon has a great office culture, insists on a work/life balance and has fantastic benefits. It has been five years since I started with this great company and I will never look back.
Tell us briefly about your company and its role in the insurance industry. What makes it different from other companies in the same space?
Aon is a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. Our 50,000 colleagues in 120 countries empower results for clients by using proprietary data and analytics to deliver insights that reduce volatility and improve performance. We understand that risk is a fundamental driver of the global economy. Therefore, Aon plays a leading role in the global risk management industry. Risk and people are two of the most important issues of our time, and they are increasingly interrelated.
What do you think are the most challenging issues facing the insurance industry today?
Trends in economics, demographics and geopolitics along with rapid technology advancements are transforming traditional risks for businesses and the insurance industry today. We are hearing from clients that these trends are adding new urgency and complexity to old challenges. In today’s market, risks are more complex, severity has increased and there is more at stake for businesses. Aon launched its bi-annual Global Risk Management Survey earlier this year. The survey gathers inputs from nearly 2,000 CEOs, CFOs and risk managers from countries around the world and companies of all sizes.
The objective is to provide organizations the insights necessary to compete in an increasingly complex business environment. It also allows us to anticipate our clients’ needs and understand what keeps them up at night. The top three concerns for North American business today according to our most recent survey are cybercrime, damage to reputation/brand and failure to attract or retain top talent. Aon, as well as the insurance industry, is challenged with helping businesses manage these risks.
If you were not working in the insurance space, what would you be doing now?
Paramedic/firefighter and jewelry store owner.
Prior to joining Aon, I served in the military as an Active Duty member of the United States Coast Guard. I was stationed on one of the largest Coast Guard vessels, a 378’ Coast Guard Cutter. The Coast Guard motto is Semper Paratus (Always Ready) and, living by that motto, I worked night and day with the other members of my crew to defend our maritime borders and save those in peril.
Once my military time was up I sought other ways to save lives. Joining a family of paramedic/firefighters was an easy decision. I went to paramedic school and graduated at the top of my class. While in paramedic school, I worked at fire stations throughout Miami as part of the rescue crew, saving lives and helping those in need.
I also have a degree in business which would be put to good use working in my family business. My family owns several fine jewelry stores throughout South Florida, so on my days off I would help people in an entirely different way. Instead of saving lives, I would be working in Islamorada, FL alongside my father (a retired Lieutenant for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue) at his store, Blue Marlin Jewelry. Every day my father helps people capture special moments in their lives with fine jewelry that serves as stunning reminders that last a lifetime. I have always admired strong family businesses that have stood through time, where descendants continue in the footsteps of the generations before them. Working with my father would be no different; I would walk in his footsteps and continue the wonderful business that he began.
You served the US Coast Guard. What are some of the lessons you learned from that experience and how do they help you in your current role?
Serving in the military as a member of the United States Coast Guard (“USCG”) was one of the most fulfilling times of my life. I learned the USCG Core Values1 of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty along with the USCG Ethos2 while in basic training and although they aren’t necessarily lessons, they are principles that were instilled in me and serve as a guide for every scenario that I encounter. I simply think about them and always know what to do. For those who are interested and find yourselves looking for a solution, I say to you: Although you may not have been a member of the USCG, you can live by the same guiding principles and always find a solution.
What or who do you think has been the secret to your professional success? How do they motivate you?
So many people have contributed to who I am today. I of course credit my mother and father in particular for being a source of support and advice throughout my life. But, the person who is the secret to my professional success is my beautiful wife Erin. We have been together for most of my professional career and she has supported me throughout. With her unwavering love and personal strength, she has helped me to become the best version of myself. We just had a baby boy who we named Chase and, like his name, he will be a huge motivation for me to continue the chase of a successful future.
What are you passions or hobbies outside of insurance?
Family is very important to me; I love and support them as they do for me. Now that I have a son, my passion for the betterment of my family has a whole new light!
Fitness, I think it is that looming passion that everyone holds on to throughout their life and I am no different. It started for me with the ‘Got milk’ commercials saying “Milk does a body good”, followed by a fit athlete flexing their new found biceps. As a boy, I saw that commercial and couldn’t get to the refrigerator fast enough, I would chug milk straight from the gallon while standing on the inside ledge of the fridge…no time to get a glass! Of course my nutrition plan has changed since then but my passion for fitness has never wavered.
Fishing is something that I have been doing since before I could walk; living in Miami and growing up in the Florida Keys, I was always on the water. What started with my first cast of the fishing line where I hooked a random person (by accident) has evolved into grand fishing trips to Panama for Marlin and of course spearfishing in the beautiful waters of South Florida. Every day in or on the water is one to remember.
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