Expert Commentary

Leadership and Loss

This week, a light went out in our insurance industry. This article is dedicated to Daniela Finch, AAI, National Managing Director at MarketScout, and my friend. Daniela exemplified the best parts of leadership and management in a rich and varied career in insurance. She was a self-proclaimed insurance "nerd" and not at all ashamed of that label. We talked about this over a glass of wine not long ago. She loved knowing all about insurance in such depth and said "I just can’t get enough! I know that makes me a real nerd!" Her story teaches many lessons in how to get ahead in this wonderful business, and I’ll share a few of those lessons with you today in her honor. 

Leadership at All Levels
September 2015

More than anything, Daniela radiated happiness. She simply loved her work, and her life. I’m sure like anyone she had bad days (or years), but professionally, you wouldn’t know it. She had a ready smile and was practiced at staying positive.

We could all do a little more of that, and a little less complaining. Positive, joyful behavior is contagious, and we can lead our employees and customers to that state of mind simply by acting it out on our own. This is very old news, of course. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and many others have been teaching the idea for decades, and whole religions are based around this. Daniela truly lived it. The next time I’m feeling cranky, I’m going to remember her brilliant smile.

The Importance of Perseverance

Perseverance was at the top of her list, too. Before she was 30, and as a mother of 2, she built her own independent insurance agency from the ground up, and it was so successful that a large Fortune 500 agency snapped it up about 5 years later. She then stayed with Gateway for 7 more years. While there she earned the "High Achiever" award from Travelers. This is around when I met her, and I know many there are very proud of all that came next for her. She never stopped looking for the next challenge, and practically helped invent the concept of high net worth personal lines service over the next phase of her career.

We can be like that. We can keep on high alert for the next thing that will move our career or business to the next level. Leaders can demonstrate perseverance in the big things, by never giving up when things look dramatic, or in the smaller things, by picking up the phone just one more time to check on a client or prospect.

The Importance of Education

Education was very important to Daniela. Sometimes I taught at Gateway, or would sit in a class with her at the Florida Association of Insurance Agents Convention. She absorbed the new information like a sponge, diligently. She never grumbled about education in any form. And she eventually helped create the Council for Insuring Private Clients via her work at MarketScout, writing and teaching parts of a new certification program within the specialty.

We too can decide that we want to make the most of our required continuing education. And, like Daniela, we can decide to do more than the minimum. Find out where your strengths are and enhance them. Fill the gaps in your talents by taking courses that will help you manage those weaknesses without worrying about completely reversing them. Embrace your uniqueness and use it; don’t waste a lot of time trying to be something you are not.

Daniela had an incredible executive career without having a college degree, and it didn’t slow her down at all. Her life experience was so much more valuable, and she didn’t let the naysayers deter her. She earned her Accredited Adviser in Insurance designation and never stopped learning. She always did a little more than was mandated. In the end, many others benefitted from her perseverance. She coached so many in their careers, and our industry is better for having her around.

The Importance of Friendships and Family

Friendship gets a bad rap at some companies, because fraternizing with the employees can create a variety of tensions and problems. But Daniela knew how to balance that. She had great friends because she was a great friend. I think she felt her coworkers were like family to her. Family was clearly her first priority, too, in everything she did. While we’d been professional friends a long time, I was just starting to know her personally when she moved to Dallas last year. I know a lot of people who knew her well, and I believe that they’d all agree with me about this strength of hers. Having the ability to treat others professionally, but still care about them as a person, is a delicate balance that we can all try to improve. Figuring out how to do that is hard, but we should take the challenge.

Our biggest asset at any company is the people who work there. And many sources now tell us that the most important relationship anyone has at work is the one they have with their boss. (Read First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham, as a start.) I sense that most of Daniela’s employees would walk through fire for her. But the balance goes both ways, and sometimes we have to take action or even fire someone that we also call friend. I had to fire a real friend one time, for a difficult reason, and we are still friends. It’s brutal. But it can be done.

Even after she left a company, her friendships remained healthy. Long friendships even meant having those who worked for her in the past call her and hire her to work for them years later, as happened with MarketScout. Networking for her wasn’t about anything more than making lots of loyal friends. And we are loyal, even now, as we mourn her.

The Importance of Service

Finally, I feel much of Daniela’s success came from her attitude of service. She did many things to demonstrate her servant heart. She was a volunteer, and especially interested in the causes of children in need. In her short time in Texas, she’d already helped the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center and, before that, at Children in Distress in Wilton Manors, Florida. Daniela used to volunteer there when she lived in Florida, and donations there in lieu of flowers for her memorial have been requested.

At work, too, she treated every day as a new day to serve someone else. Over barbecue last December, she was fairly bouncing with excitement about being able to teach new people in the industry about how to do a great job for their high net worth clients. She wanted, genuinely, to help others. It was a natural to her. We can all learn from that; service is a gift and will never do you harm. Her last gift of service to the world was to donate her organs, and up to 50 (yes, that’s 50) people could benefit from her gift of organ donation.


I could go on about how smart and lovely and genuine and warm she was while she was in this world. Everyone who was around her learned from her, and most of the time, your day got better if you had the opportunity to visit with her.

Do we make everyone’s day better, too? We’ll miss you, Daniela. Rest in peace.

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