MaryOliva.com A brand dedicated to elevating the insurance industry through dialogue and sharing of ideas.
“Can you just talk about how you do what you do?”
The response caught me completely off-guard. My question had been, “What topic or product do you want me to speak on?” When the conference chair responded with the request above, I was surprised on three levels.
Level 1: I was surprised because no one had ever asked me to speak on that topic before.
Level 2: I was surprised that it had taken that long for someone to ask me to speak on that topic.
Level 3: I was surprised to find myself groping at what to even say in response to such a generous prompt.
The year was 2019 and I had been asked to speak to an audience of over 300 insurance professionals. This wasn’t a new experience for me. I have had the privilege of being a leader, innovator, and pioneer in my corner of the insurance world, and I have been asked to speak at numerous such conferences.
Usually these keynote addresses have a general focus—the future of life insurance, a specific product, how to write more policies in 2020, etc. When I was young in the game of public speaking I would prepare my remarks, but now that I was an old hand at crowd management, I usually just asked for the topic and then riffed for 30-60 minutes, taking questions, telling stories, sifting through my decades of experience in hopes of producing spontaneous gems.
Well, my passion for winging it had come back to bite me. Days before I was expected to take the stage and dazzle 300 undazzlable insurance professionals, I had been handed the opportunity to make a personal statement … and here I was flailing. What do I tell them? How do I do what I do?
I was comfortable socializing with and presenting to some of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in the world, people with the phone numbers of presidents and the power to make or break enterprises … and here I was, sweating over the responsibility to explain myself to a crowd of 300 people who, without wanting to brag needlessly, would swoon to have my company’s sales figures.
I didn’t want to shrink from the challenge, though. I thought of my children, my colleagues, and the descendants of my clients who would benefit from my work and would one day need the same help themselves. Would my approach to insurance die with me? And if not, if my goal was to build not just a business but a legacy, what better time to start than now?
So I took the stage in front of those 300 insurance professionals, over 600 attentive eyes on me. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I probably introduced myself something like this: “Hello, my name is Mary Oliva. The businesses I have founded and co-founded help high-net-worth individuals access life insurance products on an international marketplace to generate liquidity, protect their assets, and safeguard their legacies.” For years, that’s been my version of “I sell life insurance” … but that wording cuts closer to the sheer size of what I do, and why I get asked to speak at these conferences.
Then, using a hastily-prepared PowerPoint presentation, for the first time in my career I laid out the pearls of my resume in a public forum:
- High-net-worth clients in 25 countries and growing.
- Average case size: $30 million.
- Career highlight: writing a $185 million life insurance policy.
- Over 1 million miles flown to speak, present, and listen.
This immediately hooked the attention of this crowd used to dealing with their local community and respectable-but-pedestrian $1 million policies. They listened with rapt attention as I laid out some of my core principals, subjects I could have expounded upon forever, including:
- Building a consistent professional identity.
- Adapting to changing market conditions.
- Embracing opportunities to reinvent yourself.
- Never losing sight of your core purpose.
Instead of polite clapping, this address received a standing ovation and a flood of follow-up calls, requests for mentorship, invitations to speak and consult.
I glimpsed the opportunity to have a positive impact on an industry hungry for the kind of insight I had painstakingly acquired over my career.
There was a problem, though. The companies I founded continue to grow, serving clients to whom I owe discretion and complete allegiance. If I struck out under my company banner to become a thought leader in the insurance world, I would be training my competition at best, creating conflicts of interest at worst.
Thus, MaryOliva.com was born, a separate brand dedicated to elevating the insurance industry through dialogue and sharing of ideas.
MaryOliva.com seeks to up the game of insurance agents and trusted advisors everywhere by focusing on several core concepts, including:
- International Insurance Intelligence. Most insurance professionals will never see an international client … and in doing so, they neglect rich opportunities to offer value to underserved markets. How do you navigate legal barriers, language barriers, cultural barriers to bring your products to an international market?
- Sowing Demand in Rocky Soil. The best thing about high-net-worth individuals is that they can afford to purchase large face amount policies. The worst thing about them is that they’re so wealthy they think they don’t need insurance. They may come from cultures unfamiliar with life insurance. How do you make insurance palatable as a tool to build wealth, create liquidity, strategize for tax benefits, and safeguard assets for future generations?
- Bringing Insurance into the Future. Insurance is one of the most stubbornly “old-school” industries in the world. How can we bring insurance into the digital realm and serve a global market that demands instantaneous results and tangible benefits?
- Making an Impact. If all we’re here to do is to “sell, sell, sell,” what does it even mean? How can the responsible, ethical insurance professional make a positive impact on the world, even while pursuing personal enrichment and professional success?
How can I help you? What sticking points have kept your insurance practice from making the impact you know it can? Leave a comment, and join the conversation!