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Rising star Dean Sandonato details his rise in the industry and the biggest challenges facing the education sector: Risk and insurance

Power Broker and Rising Star Dean Sandonato brings a passion for education to his role helping higher education clients overcome the barriers posed by COVID-19.



Come see the stars! As part of our ongoing coverage of the best brokers in the business of commercial insurance, Risk & Insurance®with the sponsorship of Philadelphia Insuranceexpands its coverage of Rising Stars — those brokers who represent the next wave of talent in insurance brokerage.

Look for these extended profiles on the Risk & Insurance website and in your social media feeds now and through 2023.

Here’s a look at Dean Sandonato, vice president of global risk for Gallagher, and an education broker and 2022 rising star.

Risk & Insurance: What initially attracted you to a career in insurance?

Dean Sandonato: When I was at Bentley University, I took a course in insurance and risk management and it stuck with me. Then, as I was preparing to graduate, I heard about an account manager opportunity at Liberty Mutual that included an intensive 3-month sales training program. I took the opportunity to take sales training with such a great company and then started my sales career with them.

R&I: What excites you about the education sector? What challenges have you helped overcome?

DS: I enjoy helping colleges and universities manage their global risk insurance programs and ensure their travelers have the support they need. We are always facing new challenges and I really enjoy finding creative solutions for our clients.

International travel was the first higher education sector to be hit hard by COVID-19. Our customers had to cancel and interrupt trips and bring all their travelers back to the United States

Unfortunately, the threat or fear of a pandemic was not a trigger covered by their current general insurance policies. COVID-19 has created a major gap in insurance coverage. We immediately responded to this and launched a Cancel for Any Reason/Interruption for Any Reason (CFAR/IFAR) product that closed this coverage gap for future travel.

When travel finally resumed in the spring of 2021, we were faced with a new challenge that we had never seen before. Travelers were required to test for COVID-19 when entering and leaving foreign countries, then quarantined if they tested positive.

None of our clients had quarantine coverage in their policy. We have worked with our insurance partners to add a quarantine benefit. We have seen many quarantine requests since we added the benefit and our customers are relieved to have insurance to cover these unforeseen costs for things like hotel, meal delivery and change fees flight.

R&I: Who have been your mentors in your career? What is the standout advice they gave you?

DS: Teresa Koster, my former boss, who founded Koster Insurance Agency – which was later sold to Gallagher and became Gallagher Koster and is now known as Gallagher Student Health & Special Risk. In my opinion, and I’m sure many others in the industry do, Teresa is the most knowledgeable and respected broker in the history of student health and special risk insurance. I had the privilege of learning everything I know about risk management in higher education from her.

“Do what you say you are going to do” is something Teresa has always said and as simple as it sounds, it has helped me build great relationships with my clients over the 11 and a half years that I’ve been to Gallagher. .

R&I: How would you describe your brokerage philosophy? What are the factors that allowed you to succeed in the industry?

I live “The Gallagher Way” every day, which are the guiding principles of our culture and the way we work: Gallagher Principle #20 is my favorite principle and the one that I believe has allowed me to succeed in the ‘industry. “We run towards problems – not away from them.”

R&I: How can the industry attract and retain new talent?

I think attracting new talent starts at the college/university level. There needs to be more insurance courses offered and more schools offering risk management majors. When I was at Bentley University in 2009, I took the one and only insurance course they offered.

Retaining new talent begins with an intensive internship/training program. We need to give these talented new people the knowledge and tools they need to succeed before launching them into real-world sales opportunities. &

Courtney DuChene is Associate Editor at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]