Warren Schafer began his career in insurance broking in the same way as many others – at the bottom.
Starting out as an office junior at Bruce Chiene Insurance Brokers in the early 1970s, Schafer has worked his way to the top, now Managing Director of the company. But Schafer still has a soft spot for the junior mentality, which shows through his community service.
Ready to work
Spanning back over more than a decade, Schafer has been recruiting young members of the community who need a hand up, a foot in, and, in many cases, a role model. When there’s a position in his company that needs filling, Schafer finds the person who needs the job.
“We’ve had a lot of young people come through,” Schafer says. “I found the first candidate by asking around at our local bank branch. I said, ‘Does anyone know any juniors who are looking for a job, but can’t find anything?’ The teller said, ‘I’m looking for something for my son. All he’s doing is going from job to job and cannot settle down.’
“I gave him my card and told him to get his son to come and see me. It took six months, but he turned up eventually.”
And it’s turning up that’s half the battle. Schafer says that work ethic is the most important factor when training new recruits into full-time work. If they are willing to turn up, then Schafer is willing to teach them.
“I had a young man start with me only last year and it turned out that insurance just wasn’t for him. But I think I mentor him now more than I did when he was working for me,” Schafer says.
“He’s a young fellow who’s lost his way a little bit. But he wants to become a photographer and start his own business. Once a month, we’ll meet up for an evening and I’ll just ask him how things are going and put a few ideas out there.
“I believe that they have to give it a fair go to see if they’re going to enjoy the industry. Obviously, they don’t all stay. Insurance is not for everyone.”
But for those who do stick around, the sky is the limit as far as Schafer’s concerned. He’s a strong advocate for throwing recruits in as quickly as possible. “They’re involved from day one. I’m a firm believer that the only way to get to know a policy is to get involved in claims,” Schafer says.
“I ask them to explain to me why the claim is a claim. They have to read through the policy and that’s one of the ways you get them interested. And then all of the sudden, it clicks. They understand what it’s all about.”
While Schafer has been around long enough to see people come and go, there have been some trainees who he has guided to achieve great professional success within the industry.
“The most success I’ve had as a mentor started about eight years ago. I had a young fellow come and work with me and he’s the first employee that I got through to a diploma,” Schafer says.
“When he started with me, he was fresh out of school. It was challenging, to begin with. I convinced him that if he was going to choose insurance as a career, then he had to achieve his Tier 2 qualification.
“That was a real struggle. There were plenty of arguments. But he actually gained that Tier 2 qualification and now he’s a changed person. He gained confidence in himself. His whole attitude towards work changed.
“My junior Kathryn Archer is also very promising. She started with me four years ago. Kathryn completed Tier 1 qualification and a diploma, achieving Student of Excellence in both. She is on her way to becoming a successful broker, with her sights set on being an authorised rep.”
“We’ve had plenty of failures, so it’s good to see one succeed every now and then. That’s very
rewarding for me,” Schafer adds.
In accord with his belief in the power of work ethic, Schafer sees broking as an opportunity for young people to build a rewarding future.
“The insurance industry doesn’t advertise itself enough, it doesn’t share what it’s about to get people involved. It’s a shame, because it’s such a great industry,” Schafer says.
“Bruce gave me my start as a junior broker. He was my mentor. I want to put something back into the industry. That’s what got me involved.”
But for this broker, giving back to the community isn’t just a matter of payments where they’re due.
“Insurance broking has been very kind to me over the years. It’s a very good industry. The problem with a lot of the brokering firms is that the principals, like myself, are getting older, and there aren’t enough young people coming through,” he says. “The reason I’m putting so much time into these people is that hopefully one or two of them might take over my business one day. They’re our industry’s future.”