A product of the East and the Midwest

If you ask Gary Bhojwani's employees, they will tell you that he knows how to put the smiles back on their faces. Since the new child development center – Bright Beginnings – opened its doors at the Allianz Life Minneapolis office complex in May 2011, employees have no longer had to rush back and forth to off-site day care centers. Instead, they can visit their children anytime during working hours. No wonder Allianz Life received the top employer award again this year. And being married with three children himself, Bhojwani understands the pressures that families face in balancing everyday life.

Bhojwani describes himself as a "product of the East and the Midwest".  He was born in India but grew up in Chicago.  "People of the Midwestern US are hard-working, down-to-earth, honest as the day is long and optimistic," which, he says, is precisely why he is "in the business of keeping promises."

Take the 2008 financial crisis. Instead of jeopardizing their promises by under-pricing products, Allianz Life opted to suspend all sales of variable annuities – yet hold on to all employees – and retool those products. Six months later, AZ Life re-entered the market and has since grown revenues steadily and created sizable profits. "Not taking the easy way out creates lasting loyalty with employees and the agents," Bhojwani says.

An entrepreneur at heart, at age 29 he founded a p/c agency, Avalon Risk Management, in 1998, an insurance broker, underwriting manager, and third party claims administrator. There he became familiar with every aspect of the insurance business, the technical as well as the sales side. After leaving Avalon, he served as President and CEO of Lincoln General Insurance Company, before joining the Allianz Group in 2004 as President of the Commercial Business segment at Fireman's Fund. Eventually, in 2007, he became CEO of Allianz Life in Minneapolis.

Some people are surprised to learn that Bhojwani has a degree in actuarial science – a highly technical subject that requires mulling over mortality tables and numbers. Indeed, Bhojwani defies the stereotypes associated with his earlier field of study; he is a people person, someone who often writes thank you notes to individual employees for their contributions.

He is one who cares. When he heard that one of his employees, whom he had never met, had lost her house to a fire, he immediately dropped everything to call her and offer assistance. "God is in the details," he likes to say, by which he means that all aspects of business execution are important to him – but also that goodness is lived out through gestures great and small. One employee at Allianz Life sums it up: "Gary is the kind of person who brings out the best."

And when Bhojwani wants a challenge of another sort – one somewhat farther afield from his company’s executive office suite – he heads off to his home workshop to build furniture, a hobby he started many years ago. There, too, attention to detail makes all the difference.

Gary Bhojwani

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