August 29, 2017
Boyle Insurance President Gresham A Trailblazer for Women in Industry
Memphis Daily News
August 25, 2017
In 1973, Cindi Gresham was a biology major at the University of Memphis – then called Memphis State University – when she was offered a part-time job, and later a full-time job, at a now-defunct Memphis insurance agency.
“I was a typist who didn’t know how to type, which was what I was originally hired for,” said Gresham, who was born in Ohio and moved to Memphis as a child when her father, who worked for Wonder Bread-Hostess Cake, was transferred to the city.
Once she got her feet wet in insurance, Gresham committed herself to learning as much as possible about the industry, where she saw opportunities for growth and advancement. She transferred to a Collierville agency, where she learned about construction and bonds.
Her strong people skills and solid industry knowledge made her an attractive candidate to Memphis-based Boyle Insurance Agency, which hired her in 1987 to work as a customer service representative.
Gresham set to work learning about homeowners’, auto, commercial and other types of insurance, working her way up to assistant vice president of the agency by 1994, vice president in 2001 and senior vice president in 2003.
In 2009, Gresham was named the first woman president of Boyle, an independent, family-owned insurance agency established in 1933. She said she enjoys working for an independent agency that’s not tied to one carrier.
“That means we represent a variety of carriers that best fit our insurance needs,” she said. “If you have an issue and maybe the company you’re with isn’t the best fit, we have other companies. So we can really focus on service to our clients.”
As president, Gresham oversees all operations, including marketing and personnel, for the agency, which writes for everyone from small, local business owners to large national companies and even a few international clients.
She said Boyle differs from its competitors in that several producers focus on a specialty area, including health care, nonprofits, trucking and construction, and many have been on staff for decades, giving them tremendous knowledge and experience.
But most of all, Gresham takes pride in the agency’s top-notch, personalized customer service.
“We want to give our clients the personal service they need,” she said. “We don’t send them to an 800 number where they’re getting a call center. I think that makes the difference. We really stress the relationships with our clients.”
Gresham’s leadership style follows the Golden Rule.
“Back to the basic principle: to treat others like you want to be treated,” she said. “And I think it helps that I’ve had every job in this office at one time or another, so I understand their challenges and try to be respectful of everybody.”
Her goal, she said, is to “leave the agency in a better spot and larger than when I inherited this position, and we’ve done a good job with that. I believe it’s all teamwork. I believe we’re all just a big team that works well together. I had a couple of ideas and visions and everybody worked really hard to make all of those come true.”
The insurance industry’s most formidable challenges right now are cyberattacks and data breaches; distracted drivers who cause more claims and an increase in rates; and natural catastrophes.
“The fires in Gatlinburg really hurt Tennessee this year,” she said. “But we normally are considered a really good state to write insurance in. We don’t have the coastal issues. We do have the earthquake issues with the New Madrid fault.”
But those ongoing challenges and the need for people who understand them are what make the insurance industry a stable career choice for young people matriculating from college.
“I think it’s a phenomenal career path for young people,” Gresham said. “Like so many industries, we’re an aging population, so there are so many opportunities – not just selling insurance. There are actuaries, loss control, agents, service, bonds – many different paths you can take within the industry, and everybody wants younger people in their offices.”
And, she pointed out, it’s a career in which you can find a job anywhere.
“You’re not tied to a geographical area. Wherever you go, they have insurance needs.”
Gresham served a nine-year term as president of Insurors of Tennessee, a professional association of independent insurance agents whose purpose is to offer support to agencies so they can better serve the public.
“It was very rewarding meeting people across the state, and I was the second woman president in 122 years,” she said. “The other one was in 1995, so a lot of the younger people never knew we had another female president, so that was a nice honor.”
She also served as president of Insurors of Memphis and is an active member of numerous professional associations.
And Gresham recently was asked to join the committee for Middle Tennessee State University’s Robert E. Musto Tennessee Insurance Hall of Fame, which honors entrepreneurs who established insurance companies, and agents and employees who made a difference in their companies and communities and who significantly impacted the lives of many people and advanced the role of insurance in society.
“They’re really the only school in Tennessee that has an insurance school,” she said. “A lot of them have finance, with insurance as minors, but Middle Tennessee actually has it as a major. So, I was really honored.”
Gresham volunteers with various civic groups, has served on the pastor parish committee at Collierville United Methodist Church and is a die-hard Memphis Tigers fan.
In fact, Boyle sponsors Tiger Athletics.
“One of the things we do that I just love is taking a group from the Boys and Girls Club to a basketball game every year,” said Gresham, who has two adult sons and six grandchildren. “We take them down on the court and give them an autographed basketball. They’re just so much fun.”