I saw this photo on Linkedin this morning and it reminded me of Albert, a South Texas native with one of the biggest set of brass cojones ever recorded within the insurance industry…………..

By Bill Rusteberg

Years ago the Harlingen Independent School District in deep South Texas went to bid for group health insurance. The district had been with Blue Cross Blue Shield for over two decades so the newly elected school board thought it was prudent to check the market.

New York Life Insurance Company won the business offering similar benefits with competitive pricing. This was back in the day when there were numerous carriers vying for health insurance business in a competitive market. It was not unusual for a competitive bid process to produce 20-30 proposals from carriers those of you born after 1980 have never heard of. (Crown Life, Fireman’s Fund, Provident American, Home Life, Republic National and more. Aetna was solely a property & casualty carrier back in those days, Blue Cross was dominant, Cigna was a remote regional carrier…… you get the picture).

The school board was pleased with the RFP results but staff, rank and file were pissed. They were the Denizens of The Deep Blue after more than two decades of indoctrination by the Caring Company with membership cards recognized in places far and wide, from New York City to San Francisco to the Amazon basin. Life as they had become accustomed to was changing. Change is difficult. Some even thought they would die because they worried their medical care givers would refuse to treat them under the new insurance plan.

Emotions ran high and leadership was AWOL.

The New York Life group rep. was a close friend of ours and would often stop by our office in Harlingen when he was in town. We would share war stories and keep each other abreast of market developments within our industry. Albert was originally from the barrio in San Benito, Texas, a town with a unique personality and the home of Freddy Fender. Albert was one of the best in the business and I learned a lot from him.

Albert visited us a lot more after he landed the Harlingen account. The Harlingen ISD administration building was two blocks away from our office. He would often tell us about his dealings with pissed off school teachers and how he wished he had never landed the case. He had an incurable case of sellers regret.

Almost a year after he wrote the Harlingen account he came by or office once again. Albert looked like a new man.

“Bill, I just left the superintendent’s office. Let’s celebrate! “

“What’s the event Albert? I haven’t seen this side of you in a long time. You must have just renewed Harlingen ISD” I said.

“No, I just non-renewed the Harlingen ISD account! You should have seen the superintendent’s face. He and the business manager were shell shocked.”

“What. You’re kidding right? How did you tell them and why did you tell them?”  I responded.

“Well as you know, ever since we wrote the case it’s been hell. Employees were unhappy. Administration was not supportive. Not because we were doing anything wrong, in fact our people bent over backwards to provide the best service possible. The problem was we are not Blue Cross. Every meeting I’ve had with district staff and plan members I heard THATS NOT THE WAY BLUE CROSS DID IT.”

“So I thought it best to terminate the group. I told them “You’re not happy, we’re not happy , so let’s part ways so we can both be happy.”

“But Albert, I responded”, “that’s a huge multi-million dollar account. You are going to lose a lot of money!”

“Bill, money doesn’t buy happiness and this is a classic case book example of that” he responded. “I’ll replace it somewhere else and have fun doing it. Nothing like being on the attack instead of being on the defensive!”

Albert taught me a lot back in the day. In this instance he taught me you pick those who you want to do business with and fire those you don’t. And, unless you can deal with strong leadership you are probably doomed to a tumultuous short lived relationship that won’t end up very well for anyone.

Albert’s unusually strong set of South Texas cojones survives to this day. His legendary exploits are remembered by many of his contemporaries still active in the business. Albert is now retired and enjoying his travels around the world meeting rich widows and spinsters on overseas junkets. When he’s not traveling he’s polishing his Ferrari in between collecting rent money from his rental properties in Dallas. Albert, if you read this, give us a call. It’s been too long brother!