tv Nightly Business Report PBS January 2, 2012 7:00pm-7:30pm EST
>> tom: tonight on a special episode of "nightly business report", we meet an insurance broker, arguably one of the most influential women in america that most people have never heard of. >> she is one tough lady. and i find that tough women tend to fight harder for their clients. and that's what i love about her. >> there's something about pam where she just gets in there and kicks ass, she's all right. >> this is a special edition of "nightly business report". women in leadership, pamela j. newman. >> "nightly business report" is made possible by:
this program is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by wpbt >> tom: when you think of insurance, exciting possibly isn't the word that comes to mind. but the global insurance industry is a $4 trillion a year business, and when it comes to identifying and managing risk at the highest levels, it's not just exciting, it can be life and death for a company. one person who has been very successful in helping climate deal with that risk is pamela newman, she works very hard to not only make insurance thrilling but to transform it into a work of art. she's driven by her passion for making things happen. >> dare to be great! dare to be great!
>> drew: dr. pamela newman has a ph.d in psychology from the university of michigan, is not your average insurance agent. >> i think that i like people to be passionate about what they do. and i think i like to create an excitement that allows them to be passionate about what they do. there is no reason why every undertaking, even if it a schedule of insurance, can't be hugely imaginative, a piece of art. >> tom: to be sure the view from her office on new york's water street is inspirational. but from where she sits she also seeing the world through the looking glass of being at the absolute peak of her profession charged with understanding the risk of many of america's top businesses. and she's been successfully doing it for decades, through leadership, high expectations, the power of her personality,
preparation, and hard work. >> make it happen, let's share these good thoughts with clients. let's help them grow. it's totally dynamic. there isn't a day around here that isn't dynamic from the moment we arrive, and it usually goes from early in the morning until late in the evening. it requires high energy. it requires a really sophisticated capability to figure out what it is that clients requiring, needing, resolving, wanting to get done, and then going to make it happen. because your only measurement is your success of achieving it. >> happy birthday. >> spend a little time with newman and you realize she with be a dichotomy, as elegant as shees is determined. she heads up the global insurance giant. it's one of the biggest
players in the insurance business and pamela is one of out biggest stars. describe the relationship that the newman group has with aeon. >> the newman group is aon. we are a phrase, a tag line that i think clients like to use that we are a team that is going to be on top of them all over them, thinking ahead of them, part of their management in making things happen for them. >> tom: this nearness has become a major part of the team's success. her client list reads like a who's who of america's top businesses, c.e.o.s and entrepreneurs, including the trump organization, the "new york times", aig, warner music group, and even "nightly business report". she represents numerous companies on the fortune 500 list, not bad for a person who hadn't even thought about a career in insurance when she was studying at the university of michigan. however, the more she learned
about it, the more she felt it suited her. >> it sounded like the perfect requirement of my skills, persuasion, listening, getting people to follow somebody's desire to get something done, and then getting it done. one thing people in our business like is after we make a recommendation, we then have to deliver on it. and make it happen. >> tom: making things happen has become newman's trademark. she has the ear of some of the most powerful c.e.o.s in the world and she gives them the peace of mind to sleep well at night. >> pam has always just been there, when ever there was a problem, there's a flood, there's a fire, there's something, she's always there and her staff is always there, ready, willing and able. and i just find it to be a very, very motivated person. >> tom: donald trump is one of pamela's largest clients.
>> she's very big in the business and people will call and ask for references and i give her the highest reference. you're talking about professionalism, you're talking about you don't want too much insurance, at the same time you want to be properly insured. lenders like to see insurance, when you have lenders and had they see pam is involved they feel much more comfortable. >> i found that she tried a little harder, woke up earlier, went to bed later, and just worked hard for her clients. >> tom: john is a self made billionaire and the c.e.o. of a corporation in new york city. >> i would definitely consider her an industry leader, she's right on the top of her, of the insurance industry, she has access to the c.e.o.s of almost every insurance company. and she's a top gal. >> tom: at the heart of newman's success is an old school charm and graciousness that forges strong relationships, a toughness to achieve what clients want and the team approach with a group
of individuals that makes sure everything gets done. >> she sets the bar high, intentionally. she sets the bar high every day for herself. and then therefore expects those that are around her to have the same limits, and the same bar set up at the same level. >> tom: regina first met pamela 25 years ago. >> and we had the opportunity to come together at monday morning management meetings. and i would come in and be there prompt and on time, not that she wasn't, but she'd come in a little bit later and in a way that stopped the room. and pamela would come in and she just was elegant, feminine, beautifully dressed, big hat, heels, and i thought i have to get to know this woman. >> tom: today she had helps run the team as the executive vice president. they have a client retention rate of 98%.
>> i think the thing that i most like about pamela is the people she surrounds herself with. she has an amazing staff, an amazing group of people, absolutely top notch. >> i want each of our clients to grow by 20%, in 12 months. i think for a leader to have a vision and share that vision, is critical. i think for a leader to be dependable and reliable is a wonderful, wonderful capability. >> tom: can a leader make mistakes? >> without question, a leader can make mistakes. and a leader isn't doing much if they -- >> tom: pat ryan, the founder of the company. >> she's a visionary in our industry. she sees opportunity, she sees problems that may be people haven't realized that they
have the problem. >> tom: ryan met newman in 1991 after a colleague raved about her. newman worked for insurance giant marsh at the time and when marsh hired away 13 employees, he recruited -- employees, he are kruted newman. >> i went to an industry conference and a senior person from her former employer said we want a truce. i thought she must really be good. you take 13, i take one, you want a truce. i feel even better. >> tom: newman quickly proved she was a very special talent. >> she just, i'll say relentless to pursue her goal. and that's what causes this make it happen, and i've seen it for the 20 plus years that we worked together and it unique. >> there's nothing she doesn't
see. she's an unbelievable keene skill set. she identifies everyone's top qualities and she has the ability to bring those out. that's what she does for me every day. >> i've got a little cliche that you've probably heard, the speed of the leader is the speed of the team. and because she travels, at a very high accelerated pace. and that moves everybody else with her. >> tom: what does an insurance broker do? an insurance broker serves as an advocate for someone who needs the insurance. the client matching them up with an underwriter, someone willing to take the risk. it all about management and pricing risk. >> people care more about them, and it's all the nontraditional things, global warming, cyber risk, all these things fit into what makes life difficult for our clients. what policeman does and what
we do is really help clients understand, measure and take action to mitigate those risks and that is part transactional, part insurance brokering, but it's also evolving to be more of a risk advisor, helping clients understand how to take action to improve their business. >> tom: have you come to a conclusion or a concise definition of what risk is? >> risk is omni present. >> tom: and how do we deal with it? >> we first figure out what the risk could be. we review the possibility that seems the most remote, and then we seek ways first to reduce it to mitigate it and then we transfer it. when a client says that has never happened to us, that's the point where you have to
then come back and say, and it never will. in the meantime, we want to have a backup plan in case it does. >> tom: there isn't much that newman does not think about and try to foresee. perhaps one of the most challenging aspects to her job is that she and her team have to learn about new businesses constantly. how does your investigative work into a client's business begin? >> we are actually show up, that really is like woody allen's comment of 99% of success is showing up. so when you visit a site, you see a great deal. if it's construction, you can see if there's protection around the elevator shaft. if it's a manufacturer, you can see what the attitude is of the workers. so showing up is a big key. >> tom: are you a professional worrier? >> oh, without question. >> tom: how does your family live with that?
>> supportively, and they listen well. and comment, and their words are really helpful. >> tom: her expectation is -- >> her expectation is to make you be who you want to be. >> tom: teddy newman is pamela's 29-year-old son. after working seven years in the insurance business he's now in his first year of law school. >> you know, my sister and i always thought this... i won faster if she would host the party in high school, and most parents would say no, i don't want kid around things like that, and her answer was always i don't want the liability. >> tom: they realized early on their mom was a little different. what was it like going to school with a mom like pamela? was she a room mom, for instance in school? >> no. she wasn't. and i think it's so interesting for me, because i'm just becoming a working
mom and i think about it a lot. my mom really, it must have been a very challenging time, she was a nine near, it was the mid '70s when she had me, and she was very protective of her to be at a senior level in her organization and be so successful, and i think the expectations of her at work were that she would either be a successful professional or she would be a mom, but not both. and i think she took, i don't know if anybody has told the story, but she took her office by surprise when she came in one day to let them know she was pregnant, and i think her mission was to find a way to continue her success and her career, and also make time with her family. and so my whole life i've been a part of her professional life. >> tom: henry is her husband of 16 years. they first met on a group date when he found himself walking down broadway in new york city, passing up his friends in order to get closer to newman. >> i moved up in line and started talking to her.
and i haven't stopped talking to her since, all in a good way. >> tom: do you remember that night? >> i like the way he, we had a people a party of six people, he scooted up to me and kept the conversation going. >> tom: what makes you curious about pamela after these years together? >> i've never seen her without her clothes on. ( laughs ) still makes you laugh, doesn't it? >> every day. >> tom: one of pamela's most powerful skills is her ability to communicate with people one on one. consider the story of how she met catherine graham, owner of the washington post, in an elevator. the specifics vary depending on who is telling the story, some have the two women going up, others have them going down. but one thing is certain, it was an elevator pitch before that were elevator pitches. >> pamela is 24-7, always an
her game. and an example, one day coming back from her brisk walk one morning, she quickly got in the elevator and may have been still on her phone, quite possible, and there was a very properly dressed woman on the elevator. >> and we got to the lobby, pamela said you look so familiar to me, but i can't place you, but my name is pamela newman. >> and this lovely woman said, i'm catherine graham, nice to meet you. >> only pamela could do this. pamela said, i've always wanted to get into the washington post, but i've never been able to get an appointment. >> and pamela said, may i follow up with you today, mrs. graham? and she so politely said, please do, pamela. and that was probably 15, 16 years ago, and the washington post is still a client today.
>> tom: certainly speaks to her tenacity and her ability to connect with other powerful leaders, doesn't it? >> she does it brilliantly, and effortlessly. >> i don't know of anybody else who can meet somebody on an elevator, particularly somebody who is important as kath rip graham, and end up -- catherine graham, and end up with the business. and i think that story, motivates her team, because they know that she is out there, constantly with her creativity. developing opportunity. and so people want to be on her team, they want to be an important part of those opportunities. >> wonderful town, wonderful people, places to go, things to see, life is good in kalamazoo. >> tom: pamela believes part
of that ability to relate to people quickly comes from growing up in kalamazoo, michigan. >> my older brother joel who grew up with me, he became a heart surgeon and taught me the expression that minor surgery is somebody else's. coming from kalamazoo, i think has improved my ability to have an inner ear that when that client discusses those issues, i know that it sounds like minor surgery to everybody else, when he's talking, but it really matters to that man, it has consumed hours of sleeping time for him. it is serious. and in kalamazoo we know to hear it that way. >> tom: newman grew up with solid middle american values. her father was a college professor and dean of the -- and her mother a high school teacher. >> we had a radio announcer who would say every day, life
is good, in kalamazoo. and life was good in kalamazoo. but it was a changing environment. >> i think she really wanted to impress her father, who was a business school professor. and that created an extraordinary determination for her. unfortunately, also her mother was very ill when she was a teenager and eventually died when she was 19. and so that created a really fierce independence in her. so i think those two things together made her as passionate as she is, and aspiration al as she is. she finds great success. >> it was a big hole for both my brother and myself and certainly for my father, to adjust to the center, the nexuss of our existence leaving. >> tom: another crushing loss happened on september 11, 2001, she was in san francisco visiting a client and
witnessed the horror both on television and in the voice of a colleague a was on the phone from the offices on the 105th floor of the south tower of the world trade center when the second plane hit. 176 employees at aon lost their lives that day and she worked hard to help their families and the survivors. >> my... found out what she could do and became a self appointed ambassador for aon. going to homes to visit, write bringing food. >> so it was a terrible time for the country, and there were a lot of people that reacted well and strongly and firmly, and you sort of remember that. and there were some people that really panicked and acted very poorly. and weak. and i can tell you pam was very, very strong, very strong. >> we visit the 9/11 memorial in new york city on a rainy
day shortly after the 10th anniversary of the attacks. it was the first time pamela had ever been there. >> the loss is always around for all of us. >> tom: what are the lasting lessons of leadership that came out of this tragedy for you? >> that you have to move forward. it's ironic that our name is aeon, which is gaelic for moving forward together. we found out we really needed to do that, you have to do that, you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other. >> how did the girl from kalamazoo get to the 33rd floor? >> one step at a time, and with a lot of fear and trepidation, and then taking a risk, and -- >> tom: a woman who deals with risk for a living so successfully for her clients has constantly taken her own risks, from moving to new york city to leaving a secure job
and starting a new company, to buying her apartment. >> later on i had another mentor, a woman i bought my apartment from here in new york city who i remain very close friends with this woman, her name is irena paps. and when i felt that the apartment was out of my reach she leaned forward and looked at me and locked eyes and said, pamela, my dear, in life one has to reach. now, reach. and i leaped out of that chair, went right over to the bank and that was why i owned an apartment that i certainly didn't think i could afford. >> tom: the apartment has become more than home, it's an extension of her business and a blending between her profession and personal life. pamela has become known for hosting countless dinners and luncheons at her apartment with clients and friends. promoting a continuous meeting of minds, discussions and business. >> for my mom work isn't work
in the sense that we all think of it. it's her career brings her so much joy, and i think she has such high level of engagement with it. >> tom: pamela's push to make things happen, as she says, extends to many charitable and community organizations. she tries to promote programs that allow people the opportunity to become who they want to be. new york's police athletic league is especially close to her heart. >> it's about our whole eco system here in new york of keeping people educated, keeping people going forward, keeping people, finding opportunities that they didn't know they would otherwise have. >> tom: pamela is also very active with a studio of acting, a nonprofit school where students are immersed in the art of acting. >> what makes it important is it works really hard at getting people to understand who they are themselves.
>> tom: the artistic director met pamela in 2003 and she soon joined their board of directors. >> when i'm with her i always walk away bigger than i was when i approached. and i imagine that people around her do. >> i think what's extraordinary about my mom is she never, she never thought i won't be able told do this, there were no limits to the success she thought she could find. she didn't say, you know, i'm from kalamazoo, i can't take new york by storm. one of the most important things i've learned from her is that anything is possible. and she has an extra oh ordinary level of determination and she never takes no for an answer. and so i think work for her is so enjoyable because she's created a world for herself that is the result of never giving up, never seeing limits to what's possible, and really just aiming for the stars and reaching them.
>> tom: what more is left for pamela? >> i think that i am reminded of the visit i did of the museum over here on 42nd street where one of the singers had a sign over her head which said i'm just getting started. >> tom: just getting started. after decades of working her way to the top of her profession, becoming a recognized industry leader and mentor and transforming the world of commercial insurance into an art and commerce every day. i'm tom hudson. on behalf of the entire "nightly business report" team, thank you for joining us. captioning sponsored by wpbt captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org