Brandon Cole is a National Director for Schools and Nonprofits at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. in Orange County, CA. He graduated from Arizona State University and currently holds CIC, CRM, CISR, and CSRM designations from The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research. Brandon initially wanted to study law but became interested in insurance after meeting with company representatives during a college career fair. Brandon's mother worked in the insurance industry and inspired him to jump into the profession. His first insurance job was with Philadelphia Insurance Companies. He joined the organization as an Account Representative in 2005.
"The harsh reality is that it’s best to start at the bottom, work your way up, and learn the ins and outs. It helps you build respect for people. Initially, my job was to receive faxed submissions and enter them into our underwriting system."
Philadelphia Insurance Companies champion sports and encourage employees to embrace active lifestyles. Brandon was interested in running marathons and completed his first triathlon as an employee.
"Because I was an athlete, the company's active lifestyle values attracted me right out of college."
Brandon's limited experience and young age were the biggest obstacles he faced during his early career. In 2006, he moved from the carrier side to the broker side of insurance within the company. Brandon found the transition intimidating.
"I remember calling companies to ask if I could write their insurance. I must have looked like a kid. Validating myself as a producer early in my career was a hurdle."
"I was really young when I started working in insurance. Earning designations from The National Alliance was a way for me to earn instant credibility. Philadelphia Insurance Companies supported my professional development and offered paid time off and bonuses so I could take classes. The designation proved I was a professional and an expert in my field."
BRANDON'S LEARNING PATH
Brandon holds four designations from The National Alliance. He earned his CIC designation in 2009. Following that, he earned the CISR, CRM, and CSRM designations. Although he benefited from all of them, the CRM designation has proven to be most useful for his career.
"Earning the designations was challenging. It involved more than just showing up and expecting to pass."
After earning the CIC and CISR designations, The National Alliance hired Brandon as an instructor. During his tenure, he taught CISR classes, specifically Commercial Casualty I, Commercial Casualty II, and Insuring Commercial Property.
"Teaching was great for my career. I taught insurance brokers and agents who I worked with on a day-to-day basis."
Becoming a champion
Brandon has held many different positions within the insurance industry and encourages people to explore different areas to find their best fit. Underwriting taught him how to evaluate and create quality account submissions.
"Underwriting helped me discover my passion for meeting people and drove me to the sales side of the business."
In 2007, Philadelphia Insurance Companies offered Brandon the opportunity to start a new office in Boise, Idaho. He became responsible for a book of new and renewal business. Under Brandon's leadership, the office grew from $4 million to $20 million in sales in four years.
"What's made me successful is my willingness to get outside of my comfort zone and experiment."
Philadelphia Insurance Companies challenged their employees to break Nike's record with an Ironman Triathlon. Brandon and his team won! The self-proclaimed "nerds of insurance" beat Nike at their own game.
In 2011, Brandon joined Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. as a broker and has moved into the role of National Director of Schools and Nonprofit Organizations.
"I am passionate about my role as a broker. I enjoy helping people understand products."
"There was no turning back when I left Philadelphia Insurance Companies. Failure was not an option. I worked really hard to build a reputation and was fortunate to have my family's support throughout the transition."
"I've always had an internal drive to do my best. I'm not trying to be the biggest broker in the country, but my philosophy is, how can I be better? That's what has continued to push me to the next thing. My book of business now generates over $3 million in revenue."
"You never know where your next opportunity will lead you. Building a reputation and trust in people will take you far in your career."
Brandon was recognized as a Power Broker by Risk & Insurance Magazine five years consecutively starting in 2014. According to the publication, Power Brokers are selected annually from thousands of nominees based on superior customer service, depth of industry knowledge, and success in solving difficult client risk-related problems.
Brandon was also selected as a Break Out Awards Winner by Business Insurance in 2018. His mom and longtime mentor was very happy and excited to learn about his Power Broker and Break Out Awards.
"My mom is typically more excited than I am about awards. As an insurance professional, she understands what they mean. For me it's a little embarrassing, but it's an honor to receive acknowledgements for your hard work."
"None of this would be possible without my wife. "
Brandon's mission is to build more gender and ethnic diversity throughout the insurance industry. Through an apprentice program with Arthur J. Gallagher, Brandon mentors the next generation of insurance professionals.
"I ask myself how can I help new producers come in and be successful? How can I help those who come in fresh out of college?"
"I hate to say this, but the industry is made up of a bunch of old white guys. We're not good at mirroring our buyers. Having more diversity in the insurance industry can only make it better. Some of the most successful producers we have at Gallagher are women."
Brandon and his wife support initiatives that enhance equality and education for girls. With their support, Girls Athletic Leadership School now has a softball team.
"As we become more successful, we also give back. I want to help people get into the industry. Hopefully, this will inspire people to earn their insurance designations."
"There are people in the industry with huge books of business that are jerks. That was my fear, and I never wanted to be that person. You have to be very protective of your reputation. It's something I can't stress enough."