From Perfect Pitch to Home Run

7 Dec 2016

Mark Saunderson started his career as a professional baseball player, moved into pharmaceuticals and is now Area Director of Arthur J. Gallagher, based in  Canberra. He shares his journey into the world of insurance broking.

"I started out as a professional baseball player, first with the New York Yankees and then with the Seattle Mariners over a two-year period. It was quite an education and ultimately I landed off the field and back out into the professional workspace.

"Becoming a professional baseball player involves what I’d call a ‘shift and sift’ process whereby you train and learn on the field as part of a fast-moving talent pipeline of players that are gradually sifted through until they land the final team. Coming out the other side of the process was the perfect reality check and I decided to go to university to study for an undergraduate qualification in English and Psychology.

"Given the focus on mental health as part of my studies, pharmaceuticals offered an interesting way to translate my on-the-page learning into practical application, post-uni.

"I spent a number of years working for Pfizer back in my hometown of Canberra, initially as a representative before managing a team across NSW looking after ten product streams. At the time, I was heading towards the end of my MBA and wanted to develop broader business skills and strategy development beyond the traditional realms of sales and marketing.

"I didn’t actively seek insurance, it came knocking on my door through Gallagher’s Head of Recruitment who contacted me via LinkedIn.

"When it comes to the sales side of things, insurance and pharmaceuticals are generally two sides of the same coin. There are some differences, however. Insurance broking is far more agile and requires much greater accountability. You’re really wearing a number of hats. At one end of the spectrum, you’re a technical specialist, rolling your sleeves up and getting into the nitty gritty. At the other, you’re a trusted adviser, helping business owners work through often complex and significant challenges.

"The breadth of clients we work with and the enormous impact we can have on their lives makes insurance an interesting industry to work in. It’s much more innovative and creative than many people think.

"Most people in insurance say they ‘fell into it,’ and it wasn’t necessarily their first choice of career path. At times this can lead to them undervaluing the service they offer and the importance of their role for individuals and, more broadly, the economy.

"Ultimately, what I enjoy most about being a broker is the ownership, accountability and chance to make a genuine difference to people’s lives. You really need to be comfortable and energised by change and willing to roll with the punches when the unexpected happens."

*** This article is featured in the December 2016/January 2017 edition of NIBA's Insurance Adviser Magazine ***