The first female producer to win MMA’s Rising Star Award, Nina Paez is reaping the fruits of her labors.
Nina Paez probably never imagined that a college job at a Texas car dealership one day would land her on stage at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, California. But, that is exactly where the Dallas native found herself this May as one of only 125 elite producers invited to attend Marsh & McLennan Agency’s Circle of Champions trip. Already bursting with gratitude to be in the company of MMA executives and the nation’s top-performing representatives, Paez was flabbergasted to hear her name called as the company’s “Rising Star” for the year.
“I was trying to run off the stage without even answering [CEO] Dave Eslick’s questions,” recalls Paez, who is the first female producer to win the award. Prompted by Eslick to share her story, the usually talkative agent found herself suddenly tongue-tied. “I can’t even remember some of the stuff I said, but I do know they laughed, which was a good thing,” she says.
Now entering her third year with MMA, Paez had no previous experience in the insurance industry, but a long and successful track record in sales has helped her achieve rapid success. “She has put in the time to learn the business and out-works almost anyone I have seen,” says Bill Henry, CEO of MMA’s Southwest Region. “She exemplifies what working, prospecting, great attitude, and listening can do to elevate your game in our industry,” adds Henry.
Paez’s tenacity has been part of her “M.O.” since she first pursued a career in the mortgage lending industry nearly 15 years ago. After starting as a loan officer, she boldly approached the company owner and asked what it would take to move up the ranks. “She gave me the books and said, ‘You have 30 days. We don’t do training here,’” recalls Paez, who not only accepted the challenge, but became one of the firm’s top representatives in a month’s time. After continuing to thrive in residential and commercial lending, the newcomer felt the rug pulled out from under her when the housing market took a radical nosedive.
“It was all taken from me, so I went into the recruiting world,” says Paez, who applied her sales acumen to become a regional team leader with an executive search firm based in Plano, Texas. She eventually went on to launch her own healthcare recruiting firm, which she ran for five years before approaching her sister, Lacinda Cooper, about a career change.
“I missed the stress and the motivation,” says Paez, a self-professed people person. She longed to return to a collaborative office environment and to set her sights on new goals. “I wanted to find a company I could work with forever,” she notes.
With more than 25 years’ experience as a commercial insurance broker at the time, Cooper suggested that her sister learn the Property & Casualty business. The tenacious Texan promptly reached out to her network and secured the first of several interviews with Marsh & McLennan Agency, where she later was offered an opportunity to learn the ropes. Paez studied the business from the ground up, and also brought Cooper back to MMA as an Account Executive to help her master the operational side.
“To get to where you want to be, you have to work for it, it’s not going to be given to you,” says the industry newcomer. “I was adamant about learning and getting things right. I didn’t want to be told, ‘This is the answer.’ I wanted to be told, ‘Go find the answer.’” Her thirst for knowledge and natural affinity for people provided a strong foundation for rapid success, and the determined producer quickly began racking up accolades. She was nationally recognized for MMA’s 100K Club at the end of her first year and was named Rising Star of the Month in May 2016, August 2016, as well as November 2017 and December 2017. Paez was also named the “Breakout Producer of the Southwest Region” at the end of 2017.
“Nina has possibly the strongest work ethic of any producer in the business,” notes Brett Herrington, President and Head of Office at Marsh & McLennan Agency SW – Houston, whom Paez considers a mentor. “She realizes that to succeed in our industry, you’ve got to put in the time and outwork the competition. Most importantly, Nina is willing to learn from others and adapts quickly to new ideas and approaches,” he adds.
Although she started as a generalist, Paez felt it was important to narrow her industry focus, so she could provide clients with more tailored solutions and personalized customer service. Drawing on her early experience at the car dealership and her sister’s in-depth knowledge of the automotive industry, Paez chose to focus on the transportation sectors, although she also services clients in the real estate and construction industries. In addition to doing an in-depth assessment of a company’s property and casualty needs, the top-ranked producer also helps clients address other risks to make sure they have all of the coverages they need. She already has set her sights on becoming dual-licensed, so she can offer clients more comprehensive employee benefits solutions.
“She has a passion for the business second to none,” notes Herrington. “Nina believes in building strong relationships with her clients and delivering a customized program based on their needs. She’ll go anywhere that an opportunity takes her coast-to-coast.”
Paez also holds her team to a high standard of excellence for customer service. “I take into consideration, if I were in their shoes, how would I look at things? Because I have owned my own company before, and I understand what that entails,” says the accomplished agent. Although her team also runs like a well-oiled machine, the producer still is very hands-on with her business. She learned how to talk to the markets and complete applications as part of her early training and doesn’t hesitate to step in when someone is out of the office.
“Being involved in the entire process is so important,” says Paez. “If my client calls me and says one of my team members called, I want to know what’s happening. If I can’t pick up where they left off, I’m doing no justice to my client. It’s all about communication.”
Not one to rest on her laurels, Paez already is laser-focused on returning to the Circle of Champions in 2019, so she can add the coveted “multi-qualifier” badge to her name tag. More importantly, she hopes to guide other up-and-coming producers toward their goals and help them rise in the ranks the way that she did. “I love to help others and I like to see them succeed,” says Paez, who aspires to one day be president of her own office. “The sky is the limit right now,” she adds, brimming with excitement.If her current track record is any indication, the goal may not be too far off. Notes Herrington, “She’s got an incredible future ahead of her.”