Meet Valeri Orsini, VP of Fusco & Orsini Insurance and our featured woman insurance leader
- In our month-long celebration of women leaders (in recognition of International Women’s Day), today we’re spotlighting another female leader in insurance.
- Meet Valeri Orsini, vice president and co-owner of Fusco & Orsini Insurance Services in San Diego.
- Orsini says long hours and determination helped her gain respect and leadership in the industry.
Continuing our March series highlighting women insurance leaders, today we’re featuring Valeri Orsini, vice president of Fusco & Orsini Insurance Services in San Diego, California. We chatted recently, asking Orsini about her career journey and experiences as a woman in the insurance industry.
Orsini started her insurance career at age 24. Pursuing a psychology degree with plans to work with kids in juvenile hall, her career goals took a turn towards insurance. Eventually she dropped out of college to become a full-time broker. “I’ve now been in the business for 22 years – and I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said.
In the beginning she was hired to write certificates of insurance only. Two years later, a top broker in the agency invited her to try sales. “I had no idea how to sell insurance. Obtaining your broker’s license does not prepare you for what you are actually selling. And the broker who hired me was rarely in the office so I had to figure it out for myself,” she recalled.
Three others on his team sold insurance, but Orsini was the only one selling full-time. “One by one the others dropped out, as I was the one doing all the work and servicing their clients,” she added. “When he left to pursue his own brokerage, I kept half of his book. It became the agency’s book, but it helped me start my own book of business.
“Long hours and determination helped me accomplish the goal of independence and respect in the industry.”
What’s the most enjoyable part of the job?
Connecting with my clients. Many clients I now consider close friends. I love to help them grow their business, give advice and be a part of their personal lives. I treat their business as if it were my own. I have their best interest at heart.
What do you do differently from your peers in the same profession?
I once told a client that when we finished, I had a counseling session right after. They asked, “What do you mean a counseling session?” I explained that, while some people want to talk about business, others just want to talk about what is going on with their lives. Yes that may mean I have to stay later to get my work done, but it’s not always about business. It’s about helping others get through difficult times in their own lives. I tell people: I’m a broker, attorney, psychologist, business consultant and friend.
What’s the worst part of being an agency owner and how do you deal with it?
Well, there are a ton of marketing meetings that could be more efficiently handled via email. And as an owner, you’re always working – even if you’re on vacation. Cell phones make sure that you’re always working. Not looking at my emails is mentally impossible. Your employees can go on vacation and they know someone will review their emails or take care of their accounts. But business owners can’t have an employee reading their emails, for HR reasons.
I’m a small business owner at the start of another growing spurt. Hiring the right people who are dedicated, detail-oriented and care about their job are hard to find. When one employee leaves, it cause a huge ripple in my business. Fortunately, we have been able to replace employees fairly quickly, but it still takes a toll.
What misconceptions do clients often have about your job?
There are a MILLION misconceptions about our job as a broker. People think we are actually the insurance carrier. Or they think we’re captive agents, writing one program and representing the insurance carrier. As brokers, we have some direct appointments with insurance companies; then there are other markets where we go through a wholesaler or managing general agent to obtain an insurance quote.
Another misconception is that insurance covers every single claim scenario. Unfortunately, this is not true. If it did, we would all be paying the same premiums for insurance.
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
Technology has definitely made our jobs easier. When I started in the insurance industry, we had to fax EVERY SINGLE document in order to do a change endorsement or bind coverage. Faxing 30-page documents then waiting to make sure they all went through was very time-consuming! Now I can text my clients, conduct drip email follow ups and schedule suspense items. Clients can make appointments via email links. Binding coverage and endorsement changes are at a click of an email. I can email my client’s quotes through a secure platform and have them sign it on their phone or laptop instantaneously.
Carriers are getting hip to technology as well. The days of emailing to change an endorsement are almost over. Having the ability to log onto a carrier’s website and do it yourself makes things a lot simpler and efficient for the client.
What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession, or to newbies in the field?
Our industry is ever-changing. You may think you know a program inside and out, but all of a sudden there are five more programs out there to take its place. So you have to learn to be better than the next broker.
Learn your programs in and out. And know that insurance is not a 9-5 job. Many deadlines you have to make in order to get a sale will require overtime.
Starting in sales from the ground up? Put in the overtime and dedication. Learn the craft as best you can, because not everyone sells the same way. Confidence and knowledge are key.