A Career Built on Passion Finds Meaning and Success

By Mary Pontillo

About Mary Pontillo Fine Art Practice Leader:

Mary came to Risk Strategies through the 2014 acquisition of Arts & Entertainment specialty brokerage DeWitt Stern Group.

A Career Built on Passion Finds Meaning and Success

I have bachelors and masters degrees in art history. I’ve worked as an elementary school art teacher. Art has been a lifelong passion. In 2002, I shifted from teaching art to protecting it as an in-house underwriter handling large line Fine Art accounts in Aon’s Washington, D.C. office.

Wanting to work in the art world’s “hub,” I took a job in 2006 as a Fine Art account manager with DeWitt Stern, which was pushing to expand its business and increase its profile in the space. I got deeply involved in this effort, including creating a monthly newsletter and educational forum for art dealers, and was eventually tapped to head up the Fine Art department’s new business efforts.

When Risk Strategies acquired DeWitt Stern in 2014, I was the Fine Art group manager. I was happy we weren’t acquired by a mainline mega firm, but still apprehensive about what being part of a larger, growing, national specialty broker would mean for our group and our careers.

What I experienced after the acquisition was all that was promised and more.

At every turn, I found incredibly welcoming, genuine and collaborative people eager to share expertise in mutually beneficial ways. After the acquisition closed, for instance, we were quickly contacted by the Risk Strategies Higher Education Practice to discuss working together. While we had a broad base of Fine Art industry clients at DeWitt Stern, we hadn’t even scratched the surface of Higher Education.

Having a national scale firm behind the Fine Art group brought new resources and market leverage with real client benefit. Premium volume with an individual carrier in the Fine Art practice might be small, but many times larger across Risk Strategies as a whole. The entirety of that relationship can have real meaning in a tough negotiation.

For me, joining Risk Strategies meant continuing to do those things that were making us successful, and the access and support to explore new opportunities. The company’s flat structure and focus on strategic growth allows for easy access to the highest levels of leadership; who are intensely interested in hearing new ideas that can help the company succeed.

Shortly into my tenure as Fine Art Practice Leader at Risk Strategies I proposed a “Getting to Know you” series of presentations by colleagues. Drawing on our employee base’s diversity, having them share their life experiences, perspectives, and preferences, would, I believed, help us work more closely as colleagues while gaining better understanding of our changing client and prospect demographics. I was able to present the idea directly to Risk Strategies CEO John Mina who not only supported it, but volunteered to go first and pushed the rest of the senior management team to sign up, as well.

Entering the insurance world I hoped to build a meaningful career where I could make a real difference in the Fine Art world. Being part of Risk Strategies is helping me do that.