Georgina Serio has come a long way since her first job at McDonald’s at age 14, thanks in part to a commitment to ongoing education. In her current role, she’s responsible for client management and business development for one of the nation’s fastest-growing insurance brokerages, Beecher Carlson.
I was born in Cuba, and migrated to the United States at the age of six in 1967. I lived in a number of cities—New Orleans, Phoenix, and Shreveport—before moving to Miami in 1979. I’m sure the adjustment to a new culture was difficult, but [I] don’t have any specific negative memories. I guess I was too young.
I started in the insurance industry in 1979. My getting into the industry was a matter of chance: I had cousin who worked at State Farm, and when I moved to Miami, there was an open position at State Farm Insurance. I stayed at State Farm for two or three years before moving on to work at several smaller firms in the industry. My passion for the industry took off when I started working for Marsh & McLennan Companies in 1998. It was more than a local insurance brokerage; it provided risk management and consulting to businesses all over the world.
I joined Beecher Carlson in 2010. I worked at Marsh & McLennan Companies for four and a half years, Aon for four and a half years, and Frank Crystal & Company for nine years before taking my current position. I’m in business development. My job entails looking for new clients and managing existing clients. I have clients in a variety of industries: retail, pharmaceutical, real-estate property management, and more.
I’m very passionate about what I do. I initially stayed in the industry for financial reasons: I was a single parent, and working in the industry allowed me to support my children. Throughout the years, however, I’ve grown to love insurance. I absolutely love being able to help people. Coming into work, taking a look at a clients’ insurance program, and finding ways to improve its terms, conditions, and service is wonderful.
Everyone is trying to do more with less these days. On the client side, we’re seeing a trend of decreased client revenues and lower payrolls. At the same time, the insurance industry is trying to maintain a level of premium that can sustain losses over time. Those things don’t always balance out. It’s a challenge.
The changes occurring with the health-care industry are also challenging. It’s difficult for employers. They’re trying to maintain the same level of coverage in terms of deductibles, but it’s hard when premiums are increasing in the 10 percent range in southern Florida. And, they don’t know what will happen after 2014. Some employers are sitting back and waiting; others are trying to figure out the best scenario now. We don’t know where those changes will take us.
Education is crucial in this industry. Knowledge is power in our industry, and the more knowledge you have, the better you can serve your clients. I did all of my education at night, while working full-time. I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida, both in business administration. It’s also critical, in this industry, to get insurance designations. The education allows you to stay on top of what’s going on in the industry. We’re required to get a certain number of hours of continuing education, so you might as well use those hours to get a designation. I currently hold three: certified insurance counselor (CIC), certified risk manager (CRM), and construction risk insurance and specialist (CRIS). I’m working on a fourth.
Pivotal moments for me have been primarily personal. I love my work, but I live for my kids. I have four: a 33-year-old daughter, a 23-year-old son, an 18-year-old son, and a 14-year-old daughter. My husband says everything I do in life is about them. Achieving balance can be difficult, but I manage it all with a calendar. If it’s on my calendar, I do it. My kids know that by now, so they’ll often grab my cell phone and enter events they want me to attend themselves.
If I had to do it over, I’d start with a larger firm that works with risk-management clients. I started at a local broker, and didn’t join a larger firm until I began working at Marsh & McLennan Companies, which was well into my career. Doing it earlier—maybe 10 years earlier—would have given me broader experience that would have been invaluable.