Marlene Windmiller Named New Agent of The Year for 2015

A Heartfelt Acceptance Speech

Our own Marlene Windmiller was named Guardian’s Top Agent of the Year for 2015. Congratulations Marlene, it’s an honor to have you as part of our team! Here’s the transcript of her heartfelt acceptance speech.


And now the top new agent, our winner certainly got her career off to an incredible start during 2015. And it’s worth noting that this is the third year in a row that a woman has earned this distinction. Please welcome to the stage, the winner of the 2015 Christopher Ferrara Memorial award Marlene Windmiller.

Marlene Windmiller:

Thank you. When I learned, I would have to say a few words tonight, at first, I was delighted because show me a woman from New York who doesn’t want to take center stage. But really, when I became serious and finally sat down about a week ago, I realized that this wild, wonderful ride with Guardian over the past year and change was directly correlated to several key facts about me and my life. First, I am a woman, readily apparent… Second, I am 50 years old, and this is when you say not so readily apparent…

But the fact, that I am 50 years old is inextricably intertwined with my next fun fact, which is that my role as an FR with Guardian is my third career. I have invented and reinvented myself three times over. The last important piece is my mother, my Jewish mother from a generation before, repeatedly born to my head that my success and overcoming failure, because I would encounter both, required working hard, working smart and having grit. And because I am a woman, I would have to work harder, with more grit and more determination than any man. That I could move mountains, and I would be a winner. “You could move mountains. Don’t wait for luck”. So with that tucked away, what did I do? I went to law school and the firms I worked at, I noticed, there were virtually no women at the top, in partnership roles, in executive committee roles.

I also noticed that no matter how hard I worked and no matter how well I did, I never got the choice assignments nor was I recompensed based on merit or productivity. I saw my future as being marginalized based on gender and never fully compensated based on my true value. So what did I do? I traded in the practice of law along with its guaranteed salary to become a recruiter for attorneys, starting my own company, which my partner and I ran for over 15 years over the last several years. However, business was less than robust with the legal markets impacted by the financial crisis. I was at crossroads. I had to either reinvent, reinvent my business or reinvent myself. Enter stage left Eric Bouskila.

I met Eric under social and professional circumstances. And the very first thing I noticed about him is that he did not stop talking about insurance. And I had no idea what he was talking about. Whole life cash value, dividend participating contracts, all with the same vigor I would describe an ice cream sundae, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, sprinkles. It was incredible. Around the same time, I needed to reinvent myself. Eric was seeking to aggressively expand his business to the New York market. The timing was perfect. After initially resisting his offer to shadow him. I somehow found myself spending the entire next day, following Bouskila from meeting to meeting. And while I was still completely lost, I was simultaneously captivated. I knew I wanted in, but the challenge of starting something new, brand new, realizing this would require starting from the very bottom at almost 50 years old in an unfamiliar industry sector, let’s face it, that was daunting. Suffice it to say the learning curve was steep, but I had the benefit of Eric’s patience.

And this is where all the facts and trivia I shared with you became relevant to my success. This is a merit-based business. I would not be held back because of my gender or my age. In fact, my years of professional experience and knowing how to conduct myself at the upper most echelons of business and banking as a woman were all invaluable. And finally, my desire to embrace all. Eric had to share and teach. Parking my ego at the door speaks to the lessons about grit and hard work my mother drilled into me. Incidentally, back to my mother, when I told her about this award a few weeks ago, over the phone. And now, unfortunately, since she’s suffering from dementia, I’m never quite sure what she’s absorbing, but I talk and talk. She actually whispered to me Malka, you’re a winner.

The truth is, I haven’t won anything or achieved anything on my own at all. My success over this past year is as they say, because I have stood on the shoulders of giants and those giants include first and foremost, Eric Bouskila, who’s been a mentor and a friend extraordinary. He saw something in me that enabled him to endure my endless questions and phone calls, his support and dedication to my professional development is a gift I will always treasure and never forget. The entire team at ARI Financial Group were also instrumental in shortening my learning curve and an incredible source of personal and professional support. Mindy Soiferman, Elizabeth Torres, and of course my New York colleague, my bestie, Peter Harjes, who’s been an exceptional teammate. I cannot forget our group at National Financial Network, Tony Mazzei in particular, Veronica Chang and Victor Ehrlich, who were staunch advocates, supporters, and cheerleaders from day one. Thank you.


Finally. I must acknowledge my amazing, magnificent daughters, Joellen and Sophia, who are here tonight and tolerated all the long hours, the travel, my newfound obsession with premium finance and who, at the age of 14 and 15, know more about dividend participating whole life than any teenager has a right to know.


Everyone, thank you.


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