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Tough times test Willis

When he took over the reins of the state’s largest insurance broker early this year, KJ Wagner (left) could never have known that he would be diving into the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

“In difficult times true leaders show what they’re made of,” says the 37-year old President and CEO of Willis of Arizona.

His leadership has been tested. When insurance giant AIG was on the verge of bankruptcy, Wagner and his team jumped into action.

“We have a dedicated team that, if need be, can make a change and re-create an insurance program with any number of companies very quickly,” he explains. “With the depth of our bench and our capabilities, our clients know what we have and it reassures them that we’re the right broker.”

Through its global team of 16,000 associates, Willis Group Holdings Limited provides professional insurance, risk management, and financial and human resource consulting. Willis has more than 300 offices in more than 100 countries. Wagner’s responsibilities include leading the Arizona and Nevada operations and production team – a challenge any time, but even more so now.

“We’re fortunate to be the largest insurance broker, but that doesn’t tell the whole story,” he says. “It just means we have more revenue. To lead the industry and our clients through this financial crisis with the resources and capabilities we have…we’re creating deep relationships through existing clients and prospective clients are looking at us as a significant option.”

Wagner and his staff understand the ultimate test of excellence is providing exceptional client service. To focus solely on the best interests of clients, Willis became the first broker to call for an end to insurance companies paying contingent commissions to brokers and to refuse supplemental compensation. And, Willis was also the first broker to develop a Client Bill of rights.

“I’m incredibly loyal to Willis and passionate about what I do,” Wagner says. “I think it’s a great time to put Willis of Arizona on a higher player field when it comes to perception in the marketplace.”

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– Written by Christina Estes. This story originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of IMPACT Magazine.