For New York City-based Foa & Son International Insurance Brokers, the company’s roots and history play an important role in its approach to customer service.
“Our agency writes business in every state in the U.S., as well as writing outside the country,” one employee said of the agency in an anonymous Insurance Journal survey. “We have people that speak multiple languages and legal counsel as well, as this is important to our clients. We are all about customer service.”
Foa & Son employees filled out the survey as part of Insurance Journal’s Best Agency to Work For rankings, in which agencies are nominated by their employees and winners are selected based on survey responses. Foa & Son won the Best Agency to Work For silver award this year in the East region.
The company has a long history of serving customers and living up to the “international” element in its name. The fifth-generation family owned agency dates back to 1861 when Fortunato Foa first opened his insurance company in Genoa, Italy. Fifth generation family and current CEO Justin Foa assumed leadership of the agency, now headquartered in the U.S., in 2006.
“I was kind of born into it,” he said. “I majored in insurance at university and worked for several large global insurance brokers before joining the family business. So I had a trial run outside the family business and got to see the great career opportunities insurance had to offer.”
While helping clients is important to the agency, its generosity also extends to its employees, according to survey responses. “Foa & Son is a wonderful company to work for because they make me feel that I belong to a great and big family,” one employee wrote.
Every summer, employees said the company gathers for an annual outing which can be anything from group picnics to white water rafting trips. It also gives employees the flexibility to work remotely when needed. “I have been with this Foa & Son for most of my life,” one employee said. “As I have gone through changes, Foa & Son has been extremely accommodating to my needs … the best place to work at, even with our ever-changing world.”
Indeed, employees cited the agency’s pandemic response as one reason they believe it’s the best place to work. “One specific event that comes to mind is that Foa & Son took the time and made the effort to ensure that we were safe both physically and emotionally [during the pandemic],” an employee wrote. “They shared exercises to combat depression during the pandemic as well as making counselors available for us to talk to if needed.”
Additionally, all departments began meeting regularly via Zoom — a practice that continues today and has enabled the agency to grow as it meets with clients virtually, another employee said.
“I am so proud of our people in the face of such adversity,” Foa said. “In some ways, it has been the hardest year in our history, with employees, clients and loved ones being challenged physically, mentally and emotionally from the pandemic. After 18 months of heartbreak, childcare challenges, Zoom fatigue and a hard market, the fact that all our employees continue to function at a high level leaves me in awe of their mental toughness.”
Many employees attributed their mental strength to the way the agency’s leadership invested in them during the pandemic. “The support we received during this pandemic is what stands out most,” one employee said. “They instituted a Zoom town meeting every week where we were kept up with everything going on with the company, and we had an opportunity to see each other and not feel so isolated. We even had casual fun days with snacks sent to our homes so we could still feel part of the Foa family.”
Foa said he believes the agency’s passion for examining new ways to understand risk and structure insurance sets it apart. He says its aim is to constantly be evolving, negotiating new products, implementing new systems and learning from its peers and clients. As for his advice to other agencies seeking to become a best agency to work for, he stresses the importance of investing in people first.
“Just put your people first,” he said. “…if you are constantly focusing on what resources your employees need to effectively do their jobs, you cannot go wrong.”
Foa & Son employees said the longevity of its workforce speaks volumes to how effective this approach can be.
“As a more than 30-year veteran, it’s amazing how many long tenure staff are part of the Foa & Son team, which obviously translates to very minimal year to year turnover,” one employee said.
In response to the survey question, “Why do you believe your agency is the best place to work?” another employee posed a simple question in return.
“Doesn’t the fact that I have been here since 2006 explain it all?”
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