Bernard J. (“BJ”) Giangiulio Jr.’s father owned an insurance agency, so he was fairly certain he knew his fate. Still, when he entered Temple, he had an eye toward studying psychology. That was until an aptitude test, taken during his first semester, indicated he was better off in business after all. (It also said he was best suited to work for himself, which became a point of contention between him and his father.)
But it was Aetna that hired Mr. Giangiulio upon his graduation from the Fox School, not his father. Within his first two months with the national insurance provider, he earned the highest grade ever recorded by an intern in the Aetna training program. The achievement still stands out in Mr. Giangiulio’s memory nearly 50 years later because of the congratulatory letter his father sent him. “It was the first time he ever signed, ‘Love, Dad,’” he says, half-joking. Within months he was working for his father’s agency. Four years later, his father suffered his third heart attack and Mr. Giangiulio was thrust unexpectedly—and, by his account, ill-prepared—into the position of overseeing the small company. Most of its client base at that point was builders, but Mr. Giangiulio made a concerted attempt, almost immediately, to court surrounding municipalities. “We were doing mailings once a quarter. I started doing them once a week,” he says. The response was swift and overwhelmingly positive. Mr. Giangiulio began working 80-hour weeks, coming into the office at 7 a.m. and routinely ending his days after 11 p.m., only after that day’s municipal meeting ended. And the investment paid immediate dividends. In 1973, Mr. Giangiulio sold his first municipal account. He landed 70 in 1977 alone. Today, his Chester Springs-based firm, H.A. Thomson Company, insures 750 municipalities across Pennsylvania, making it the state’s leading provider of municipal insurance. That in an age when the insurance landscape is dominated national corporations. “I wasn’t some great genius,” he says. “I was a great salesman. And the Fox School helped put me in that position by providing me with a practical education.” In the mid-nineties, Mr. Giangiulio and his partner sold everything but their municipal clients. Now in the twilight of his career, he’s finally allowing himself a chance to appreciate just how far his work ethic brought him. “I don’t like to refer everything back to business, but I worked so hard to build this agency from nothing at all to where it is today. Of course I’m going to be proud of it,” he says. “I employed a lot of people through the years and made a lot of friends in the process. Plus, I really haven’t done anything else. I wasn’t a golfer. I didn’t have the time. I promised my wife I’d stay home with her and our daughter on the weekends since I was on the road all week.” Looking back, it’s hard to envision him doing anything else anyway. Or working for anyone besides himself.
Temple University Degree
Bachelor of Business Administration ’69, Fox School of Business
Current Title & Company
President, H.A. Thomson Company
Temple University Awards & Affiliatons
- Member, Dean’s Council, Fox School of Business
- Member, Acres of Diamonds Circle
What I wanted to be when I was 20 years old
My dad was in insurance, so I was pretty sure I was ultimately going to end up a businessman, whether in banking, finance, or insurance, like him. I took business courses from the start because I thought they couldn’t hurt. No matter what you do, everything involves some business knowledge. That much was clear to me.
Best piece of advice anyone ever gave me
I didn’t want to go to college. I wanted to be a truck driver. I thought it would be a fun way to see the country. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and the farthest away I’d been was New Jersey, New York, and Delaware. My mom said, “Go to college, get a degree, and then, if you still want to be a truck driver, you’ll be the smartest truck driver out there. You’ll always have that degree.”