When visionary business leaders take action, they always have their eye on the future. The problem is that it takes broad industry knowledge and experience to gain the perspective for making the best decisions.
If the marketplace always stayed the same, that wouldn’t be the huge deal it is today. But with change the only real constant in today’s world, institutions that prioritize leadership succession are better able to adapt and thrive than organizations without a sound continuity plan. To put it another way, forward-thinking businesses stay in the game while their rivals fall by the wayside.
It’s no different in surety. NASBP members need to be able to count on their executive leaders and board and committee members to promote their interests and responsibly guide their industry over the long term. That’s the best way surety practitioners can continue to make their case as society and the economy continue to change.
To do that, NASBP actually builds future awareness into its strategic plan. Through its 5-15 Leadership Committee, NASBP invests in surety’s future by continually infusing the industry with new leadership. An ongoing supply of new leaders undoubtedly improves the association’s ability to anticipate change, protect members’ common legacy, and increase their prestige and influence.
But total member buy-in is crucial to making it work. Managers and senior officers of NASBP member agencies must nominate standout young surety professionals with between five and 15 years of experience as candidates for participation on the 5-15 Leadership Committee. After successful completion of rigorous requirements during a two-year candidacy term, new 5-15 members emerge on a pathway to senior association leadership.
As NASBP prepares for a full-fledged return to in-person networking and events in 2022, now’s the time for members to visit https://www.nasbp.org/join/515 (under the “Join” link on the homepage) and make a thoughtful recommendation. With the new crop of Leadership Committee candidates scheduled to be introduced at NASBP’s May 2022 Annual Meeting in Palm Desert, CA, the candidate experience promises to be more engaging and productive than ever.
A Pool of Future Leaders
For 5-15 members, including Committee Chair Steven Tucker, Vice President at Tucker Agency, headquartered in Fort Worth, TX, that’s where the journey begins. Managers and senior officers making recommendations must be employed by NASBP member agencies in good standing with the association. Surety producer agents with between five and 15 years of experience may be nominated during the open enrollment period starting on January 1 and ending at that year’s Annual Meeting in April or May.
“Our mission is to identify, cultivate, and provide opportunities to the future leaders of our association, and that requires cooperation,” Tucker said. “NASBP provides the 5-15 with opportunities to learn from the best—meeting face to face with both agency and company executives—offering the next generation of leadership the skills and contacts to advance themselves. In turn, it is our responsibility to give back to the association and do the same for those following in our steps.”
Tucker was nominated to 5-15 by his father, longtime NASBP member and current president Tracy Tucker, who started Tucker Agency in 1982 with his own father. For Heidi Rodzen, Construction Surety Bonds Specialist and Surety Account Executive at Skillings Shaw & Associates, based in Lewiston, ME, the nomination came from Bob Shaw, another NASBP stalwart and a past president. At Skillings Shaw, Rodzen started as a receptionist before exploring different facets of the surety business and working her way up in the organization.
“I’ve been around for a long time, but I hadn’t necessarily been in the account executive role for my entire career,” Rodzen said. “Bob made the recommendation because we both see the value of NASBP—active involvement really does give you a good pulse of how things are going in the bond industry and the surety world across the U.S.”
Justin Tomlin also transitioned to surety from a role outside the industry, but in his case he came to his current role as Vice President and Mountain West Series surety team lead at Lockton Companies from a position at an insurance brokerage. Longtime active member Dave Dominiani recruited Tomlin to the surety industry and also got him involved with the association.
“Dave taught me the business and has proved to be an invaluable resource and mentor for me,” Tomlin said. “I’ve been fortunate to grow my network and make friends with respected industry colleagues, and I’ve benefited from NASBP’s educational offerings.”
Katie Kleinschmidt also started in insurance, but she had left that industry and had gone to work as a paralegal before a former colleague brought her into surety as a support person handling renewals. Now she’s based in Atlanta as Vice President and Midsouth Regional Surety Manager at USI Insurance Services.
Like many 5-15 participants, Kleinschmidt learned about the committee at NASBP William J. Angell Surety School sessions during her earliest years in the industry. Participation in 5-15 is an ideal way to move promising school participants on to higher level roles in association leadership.
“I was really interested because it fit me perfectly with the number of years that I had,” Kleinschmidt said. “As soon as I was done with all three levels of the school, I spoke to my manager, and he thought it would be great for me to join. So he nominated me.”
Creating a Team of Champions
The two-year candidacy period required for all new 5-15 members is meant to be rigorous, but that’s what makes it such a great opportunity for emerging professionals to demonstrate their commitment. Before it moves to entrust individuals with the responsibility of association and industry stewardship, NASBP goes to great lengths to develop individuals of the highest character and capability to fill those roles.
For Kleinschmidt, it’s a matter of maximizing career potential and generating future opportunities for giving back and helping others. “As a young professional, I’m in a great position in that I still have so many opportunities in front of me,” Kleinschmidt said. “But people aren’t just handing them out—it’s up to me to put myself out there and get involved.”
Candidates in 5-15 must participate in three out of the four NASBP 5-15 Leadership Committee quarterly calls per year and attend one in-person NASBP meeting per year (such as the Annual Meeting, a fall meeting, or the Mid-Year Board Meeting).
Also required within the two years of candidacy is participation in at least one ancillary event such as the NASBP Legislative Fly-In held every spring or a surety company home office visit scheduled under the auspices of 5-15 itself.
“Annual home office visits are our flagship event because they are planned specifically for the 5-15,” Tucker said. “We are excited to get in-person meetings back on track. We also urge every member to participate in the Legislative Fly-In, where you have the chance to sit down with public officials in DC. There’s nothing like it.”
It’s that face time with industry movers and shakers that is invaluable for creating cordial working relationships and friendships with competitors, because through NASBP all surety professionals share a common interest. And it’s fostering those connections with outside stakeholders that helps producers grow their business and become invaluable participants in the surety process.
“You get out what you put in—I’ve been able to meet key home office underwriting executives that I never would have been able to meet this early in my career,” Tomlin said. “And as time has gone on, I’ve better understood the political advocacy that the association does day in and day out to protect the integrity of the surety product.”
Likewise, Rodzen highlights opportunities for relationship building as a prime benefit of the candidacy process. Because surety is a people business, the practice in forging productive relationships that candidacy makes possible is crucial to extending surety’s influence and building value for agencies.
“The association is ultimately about networking,” Rodzen said. “I’ve made a lot of great friends, and from a business standpoint the relationships are really beneficial because you never know when you’ll have a question or run into something. Having friends that you can reach out to is a great resource.”
Succession Extends Progress
Perhaps the most important requirement for 5-15 candidates is that they must be enrolled in an NASBP committee other than the 5-15 Committee by the end of their two-year candidate term. In other words, candidacy is a period for investigating and investing in a career and association leadership pathway.
And that’s the whole point. When NASBP senior members recommend younger colleagues for 5-15, they’re ensuring the association’s leadership pipeline continues to produce individuals who have a vital interest in maintaining surety’s authoritative role and extending the progress that has already been made.
During her 5-15 candidacy, for example, Rodzen ended up joining a total of three NASBP committees—Automation and Technology, Government Relations, and Professional Development. She put herself in a position where she had to juggle a lot of different responsibilities, but the decision paid off when she was invited to become NASBP Region 11 Director, which makes her a part of the NASBP Board of Directors.
“I’m excited about the opportunity and look forward to learning even more about the association and to getting even more involved,” Rodzen said. “Inevitably you’ll make new contacts and just grow as a person when you take on these leadership type roles, and that can only help you grow professionally.”
Tomlin also recently embarked on a regional director’s role, taking on that position for NASBP Region 3. “I was approached about the role by NASBP Past President John Bustard. After some discussion, I felt it was the right time to serve the association and get more involved,” Tomlin said. “It’s rewarding to have come full circle from my early days of bond school to being directly involved in the leadership of the organization.”
Like Rodzen, Kleinschmidt perhaps took on more than she bargained for in joining NASBP’s Government Relations, Membership, and Professional Development Committees during her candidacy. Now that she’s graduated into full membership status, she’s also serving as Membership Committee Vice Chair.
“I realize the importance of NASBP and what it did for an emerging surety professional like me,” Kleinschmidt said. “There’s a huge gap in talent, and we’re going to be filling that gap, so taking advantage of what NASBP offers will translate into long-term career returns.”
Meanwhile, from his position as 5-15 Committee Chair, Tucker is concentrating on building out in-person member networking opportunities for 2022. In addition, Tucker participates on NASBP’s Government Relations Committee, which advances the interests of bond producers and educates legislators and officials about the importance of surety.
“It’s a matter of learning what’s going on in the industry, educating ourselves on what’s coming down the pipeline, and advocating our product to maintain its integrity,” Tucker said.
As open enrollment for new 5-15 nominations approaches, Tucker also encourages agency producers with a stake in the future of surety to take time to surface and recommend new leaders to NASBP.
“The 5-15 Committee is a stepping stone for those looking to be involved and make an impact,” Tucker said. “These are lifelong relationships that you create, and when you find people who share the passion and the drive that you have, it’s always empowering.”