Melanie Loiselle-Mongeon had no intention of following in her father’s footsteps into the insurance industry.
The family business, Loiselle Insurance Agency in Pawtucket, had been part of her life since she was young – she even worked there stuffing envelopes in high school. But Loiselle-Mongeon was determined to take a different path: She had always wanted to be a teacher, and her father, agency owner Bob Loiselle, didn’t object.
After graduating from Providence College with a degree in special education in the late 1990s, Loiselle-Mongeon headed off to a classroom.
It was not what she expected. Along with the daily lessons, Loiselle-Mongeon dealt with piles of tedious paperwork and discouraging school politics. “They didn’t teach us about that in college,” she said.
After about a year of seeing his daughter in distress, Bob Loiselle made a pitch: He’d give her a trial job to see if she could excel in the insurance world. OK, she said.
Fast forward little more than 10 years, Loiselle-Mongeon is vice president and owns a portion of the business – one of the biggest independent agencies in the state – along with her sister, Brenda, and her father.
But hers is not a story of paternal favoritism. Yes, Loiselle-Mongeon acknowledged, family connections helped her get a foot in the door. But she seized the chance and eventually ascended to the top leadership role of the local industry group.
In 2008, Loiselle-Mongeon, then 31, became the youngest-ever president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Rhode Island, and only the third female leader in its 110-year history.
In some ways, being the boss’ daughter forced her to work harder.
“You had to prove yourself to everyone,” Loiselle-Mongeon said recently. “It can be a lot of pressure.”
Now as Bob Loiselle is putting in fewer hours at the office, Melanie and Brenda are playing bigger roles in the family business that was started by their great-grandfather in the 1940s.
Loiselle-Mongeon oversees 25 employees at the multimillion-dollar agency and maintains relationships with more than 20 insurers and hundreds of clients.
And she’s looking to the future. She talked recently of a desire to open a second location, or possibly to acquire another agency.
Though always comfortable at the office, industry gatherings took a little getting use to.
Making use of her teaching background, Loiselle-Mongeon first volunteered for the Independent Insurance Agents of Rhode Island’s education committee.
Initially, she felt insecure about her age and her relative lack of experience. Although her father was well-known in insurance circles, the name would only get Loiselle-Mongeon so far.
The teacher who became a student of the insurance industry has become a teacher again.
Loiselle-Mongeon has taught pre-licensing, property and casualty and customer service courses for the IIARI.
And now Loiselle-Mongeon and her sister can teach their father a thing or two about marketing in the Internet age.
The sisters upgraded the agency’s website and online presence.
“My father would have never done it,” Loiselle-Mongeon said. “He says, ‘Why do I need a Facebook page?’ ” •