Industry experts deliver important insight you need to keep your agency relevant in the future.
The independent insurance channel is facing two deeply interconnected issues with millennials: the average agency is struggling to attract the US’s largest generation as customers… and they’re unable to attract them as members of their team. If you want your agency to stick around for the long haul, you’re going to need to build a workforce that really understands what the customers of tomorrow look like.
To help you navigate this crucial challenge we gathered some of the leading experts on this topic for a Live Webinar Roundtable loaded with so much important information we felt we had to share it here too – because what was discussed is too important for any agent to miss out on.
Listen to this insightful conversation with Tony Cañas (Co-Founder of Insurance Nerds and Client Advisor & National Territory Manager at The Jacobson Group), Matt Masiello (CEO of SIAA and President & CEO of SAN Group), Christopher Cook (Owner & President of Alliance Insurance Services), and Joel Zwicker (Business Development Manager at Agency Revolution) so you can discover:
- Simple steps insurance agencies can take to get in front of more millennials and young professionals… and how to do a better job showing the values and opportunities in the insurance industry that are a natural fit with what millennials find most important.
- How millennial expectations differ from their parents. (Training, relationships, the paths to growth, company culture, and more – what they expect and how they define these concepts have evolved significantly from past generations).
- Key changes any agency can make to become a more attractive workplace for young professionals (and will make them want to stay with you for the long-haul!).
If you plan to keep your agency running in the future without depreciating in value, you must listen to this important, information-rich discussion.
What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster? Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where Michael Jans discusses the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent and broker with the industry’s leading figures.
One More Thing! What do you think? How will you and your peers use this to grow your agency or brokerage? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, subscribe to get updates delivered to you and *please share this if you found it informative
Joel Zwicker: Hey, everyone. Thanks for logging on. While we’re waiting for everybody to get logged in, we’ll just do some introductions here. I’m really excited and really thankful to have everybody on this call today where we’re going to talk about attracting millennials in the modern insurance landscape, which is a hot topic and I think we have a phenomenal panel to talk about just that. Who we’ve got here today is we’ve got Tony Cañas, he is the co-founder of Insurance Nerds and a client adviser and national territory manager at The Jacobson Group. Thanks, Tony, for jumping on.
Tony Cañas: Thank you.
Joel: We have Matt Masiello CEO of SIAA and president and CEO of the SAN Group. Matt’s having a little bit of a technical difficulty so we don’t get to see his beautiful face, but thanks for jumping on, Matt, to share your expertise.
Matt Masiello: You bet. Glad to be here.
Joel: Finally on, we have Christopher Cook who is the owner and president of Alliance Insurance Services. Thanks, Chris, for jumping on.
Christopher Cook: Hello, everyone. Thank you, Joel. Appreciate it.
Joel: We’re going to talk about millennials in the moderate insurance landscape. Before I jump into the first question, this is so key. My role here at Agency Revolution, I ended up talking to hundreds of insurance agencies on a weekly basis. One thing that always comes up is staffing. People struggle with keeping people, bringing new people in. Then, on the flip side of that, is how do you get millennials into the agency as clients? I don’t think those things are independent of each other. With that said, let’s jump into some questions here. I’m going to throw this question to Tony first. Tony, why do millennials show less interest in the insurance industry than previous generations?
Tony: I don’t think that they show less interest. They’re definitely not very interested. At least, they don’t know it. The research says only 4% have an interest in working in insurance. That’s very much our own fault. We have never marketed that this is a great career, which it is. I think that previous generations didn’t grow up wanting to work in insurance. They fell into it by accident. Then, the difference is that when previous generations fell into by accident, they found great careers.
Today, insurance is still a great career, but there’s a lot of entry-level jobs that are not great jobs. If you fell into it by accident and your first job is not a great job and you’re not– the big difference is they’re not afraid to make a move if they’re not happy, which previous generations were much more careful about. That’s where we’re really suffering is, we’re not keeping them long enough to get them to the point where they love what they’re doing for us.
Joel: Yes. Christopher, what say you?
Christopher: I want to reiterate Tony’s points or expand upon a little bit. I don’t know that that’s the real issue. I don’t think they’re less interested. I don’t think we’re telling the story very well. This is an amazing career. We’ve never really told the story that well. The difference to Tony’s point is millennials are happy to make another choice pretty quickly. In a little agency, a small agency like ours, we didn’t have until recently something as simple as an organizational chart to show a new producer that we hire, “Hey, this is how the structure looks. This is where you can go, maybe that ceiling is only one step up or maybe it’s five steps or whatever.” I think millennials want to know what the path is going to be. Not only do we have to tell the story of the industry, but we got to tell the story of their career at their respective spot in the industry.
Joel: Couldn’t agree more. Matt.
Matt: Just to bring that one home, we just haven’t sold it, which is basically what everybody else is saying. We haven’t made it interesting. We haven’t showed them– I heard the word ‘path’ thrown out. We’ve not only not showed them that there’s a path to a future, but a path where they can make a difference in our agencies. They can make a difference in how we run our businesses, they can make a social difference in the community as well if they were to join these organizations.
I travel around the country, I talk predominantly to smaller agency owners or local agency owners and we just don’t sell it well. We have to sell ourselves well. I see everybody nodding and smiling about what a great path this is and we’ve all participated in it and we know it and we just going to get better at it.
Tony: This a mission-driven generation. We grew up with our parents telling us that we’re awesome and we grew up during a time of abundance in the late ’80s and ’90s. Basically, we want to make a difference. The funny thing is, in this industry, there are so many opportunities to make a difference. Ultimately, we have a great mission. What we do helps people, but what we are so bad at communicating that during the hiring process and even after we bring them in, communicating what they’re doing for their communities and how they can do very well while doing good,
Joel: Bang on. That leads me to how do we sell it better? Matt, how do we sell this better?
Matt: I think we’ve got to sell the benefits. I think we’ve got to sell the fact that– let me back up. Part of the selling is making sure that the agency principles– I’m just going to talk just predominantly on the agency side of things. We’ve got to build our culture and we’ve got to share that culture with them. I hear from folks all the time and I was one of these people that said, “Oh, my gosh. Millennials are awful. We can’t get them into the office. We can’t get them to work for us. They jump from job to job.” I made that statement one day and a whole bunch of folks jumped down my throat and they started to explain to me how great these folks were and how if you give them a problem and you give them technology, they will find you a solution.
Once I realized that and I started to see that in our own business, I realized that we have to do the things that interest them. There’s going to be a transfer of wealth to this group but there’s a statistic out there, one of the other folks may know that they’re going to be the largest small business owner. I think it’s after 2020 and so we’ve got to have them in our business. We’ve got to show them that we want their input, we want their feedback. They can help us build our community brand, they can help us build our culture, but they’ve got to want to be there.
I talk to agency principals that don’t even use basic technologies or haven’t moved their agency forward with technology. Why would a millennial want to go work for somebody that doesn’t utilize technology, that doesn’t have a community brand, that doesn’t have a program or a giving back or community involvement program? When we tie those things together, I think that helps them sell it. It helps us sell it to them. These younger folks, they’re not looking for the career path and the way we found our career path, they’re looking for it a little bit differently on tying all those things together.
Joel: Christopher, I see you nodding your head there. Anything to cherry on top of that?
Christopher: I don’t know that I could drive it home any better. What Matt is saying is, is the exercise in life that I’m currently going through as an agency owner and building out for my team, what is our culture? What are our values? Where are we going in the next five, 10 and 15 years and how are you a part of that? I guess on the screen, you can see that I’m getting a little bit gray-headed, but I’m still the old guy in the room.
We’ve got a lot of young folks, a young team that works with us. I’ve came to the realization that they need to understand what the culture is and what their path is and how they’re impacting not only their lives and their customers’ lives, but the community. It’s taken me a while to come around to that. Like Matt, I’m a little bit of a fuddy-duddy culture, “What the hell? I get up and go to work every day.” That’s not what people resonate with I guess.
Tony: I think that the technology piece is absolutely crucial and it’s hard for a small agency to get the right technology in there but this is a generation that grew up with technology, that had an iPhone. I’m an older millennial, I’m 36. I have had an iPhone since about my second year at work. A lot of millennials are just not willing to put up with bad technology and that is endemic in our industry. We need to invest in that. Now, there are many, many options and it’s hard to figure out which one’s the right way to go. If you’re not investing in it, you’re turning off your younger employees who are just not going to put up with the crappy technology.
Matt: This is Matt, I’ll just add to what Tony just said is, is if we get them in the door with the technology we have, they will help us sort through the other technologies out there to be better. Whether it’s making us better in social media or making our website more interactive or helping us find other solutions that the consumers that look like them are going to be using. We’re talking about these folks with technology being native to them. It’s not native to some of us. These folks walk the walk, talk the talk. I think that’s important to help us advance technology.
Joel: Matt, I personally think that’s a great point. As mentioned, talking to agents every day, like I do, in other parts of our life, when we don’t know how to do something, we go find someone that’s an expert or has knowledge in that field, but yet why not do the same thing with our insurance agency? If I’m not comfortable with technology or social media or whatever it is, why not go find someone and bring them into my circle that is knowledgeable? That I think that millennials can absolutely help any agency take that to the next level whether it’s technology or anything that you’re looking to move to the now with.
We’ll have time for questions from the audience at the end but someone posted something really true and pertinent at this point and it kind of resonated. I was at a conference about a week ago and mentioned that some states are developing within the high school wherein they have to create true tracks for students as they walk through. So a school has to be able to say this student has followed this track or looked at this track. Ashley mentions that we need to get to these people before college even or university. Start talking to even younger than maybe traditional. Any thoughts on that concept?
Christopher: I think that for our agency, that’s worked out well. We have done internships at the college level and recent high school grads not push down to the high school level just yet. It’s been a way for us to an earlier point gets an exposure to some technologies or some understanding on some technologies that maybe we didn’t understand. Snapchat or Instagram or whatever those might be from social platform aspect.
It’s also led to some great hires for our agencies as well. They were able to get a taste of the businesses as they finish up their education and decide that, “Hey, this is a pretty good place to work. I like these people and I like what they do.” I would have tend to agree with Ashley that letting folks know. I think that program that’s ran through the IBA here in the States is invest program that distributes that knowledge to high school and college-aged kids.
Tony: I think that we have a lot to learn from the CPAs. They invested heavily as a profession in getting kids interested very early on it in a county. If you think about it, thousands of kids show up, every college campus every fall specifically looking for an accounting degree. Personally, I think that we have a much more interesting and much more rewarding career and we’re really arguing something for the world which is very attractive to this generation.
We just need to figure out ways as an industry to come together and communicate that better to the younger crowd. Things like invest, like assure my path, my own Insurance Nerds. I think we need a lot more of that and overall a long continuous time. I think locally you can do it in your local community, work with your local schools; get in front of them as young as possible, get them excited about insurance. Invest can provide you with the curriculum to do that.
Joel: Yes. Matt, anything to add onto that?
Matt: Yes, I would just say let’s not ignore the community college as well. I think there’s a lot of opportunity coming out of there and I know some are trying to start insurance programs. They struggle with it, it would be great to see if they do it. I know some agencies; some of us struggle with hiring kids coming out of four-year degree programs because the amount of debt they have and what they’re looking for from a compensation stand point. Certainly, the high school programs are phenomenal but the community colleges are great place for us to swing around and take a look as well. Many times these are folks not only within our communities, but they’re looking to stay in our communities.
Joel: Yes, I agree with that. The agency I formally worked at ended up several of our people that worked with the agency ended up teaching the insurance course at the community college. At the end, they could take the licensing exam. It was a.) a great way to introduce people to the industry but b.) we found some great people to work for us from that program. You kind of get to cherry pick the best of the best if you will. I love that idea. This may be kind of re-asking what we’ve already talked about things. What makes a business an attractive place for young professionals today? Technology, that’s a pretty big term but Christopher, in your opinion what makes a business attractive place to young professionals?
Christopher: I got in insurance space because of the freedom that it allows. I’m an insurance brat. My mother was an insurance professional, a life insurance agent. She was able to provide a very good lifestyle for my little brother and I. She works very hard but she had a lot of flexibility in that. She didn’t miss things that we were participating in and that meant a lot to me. I think that still holds true in our agency. Tony and I were talking a little bit earlier about working from home. We have, in our agency, two employees that work from home, full-time and four more that do it part-time. Why not, if they can get the work done, right? The flexibility is a big attraction that we probably not sell enough in my opinion. Of course, it’s what brought me to this space.
Joel Zwicker: Matt?
Matt: Yes, look as agency principle, first thing is we need to lighten up a little. We all kind of like do things the way we’re brought up and the way other agencies do, but that’s just not the way other successful businesses are operating nowadays. I think we need to understand what makes our current and our future staff members’ tech. I think we let them help us define the path forward. I mean, we do things here in our company that I’ve never thought we would do. We have somebody that does yoga in our training room one day a week, we’ve got a mentoring program, they’re starting a public speaking program for career development for some of the younger folks here, but they are all defining these paths. All we’re trying to do is just let them see that it’s okay to do these things as long as all the other work is getting done.
Tony: Flexibility is really non-negotiable. It’s going to be even more so as Gen Z come further into that market because they’ve always have the ability to get their school work done from wherever even more so than millennials. I understand that on the agency’s side, it’s hard because you probably have some walking traffic that needs somebody there in person but as Chris is showing, there are roles that are perfectly doable from home. Any sort of flexibility, you can give them on where and what hours they work and being able to dress casually for work is a big attractor. I know it’s silly but it’s a big reason we lose people.
Joel: Yes, for sure. Let me ask this on top of that, so we have this work remote and we have flexibility, so what are the ways that millennials less accepting of in the workplace than previous generations? Go ahead, Christopher.
Christopher: I knew I was going to get the hard questions.
Joel: I could tell you have the look on your face.
Christopher: I think this is a more socially diverse and more socially accepting crowd. I think that in the insurance space, Matt eluded that in fact we need to lighten up a little bit. It is still a good old voice network in a large part with large lack of diversity. In any consideration of the word diversity you want to have, we just don’t do it very well. I don’t think they’re very tolerant of that and they’re certainly not to tolerant of old-school attitudes that still linger in this industry.
We don’t train very well either in this industry and I think they’re less and less tolerant of that as well. As a generation or as a group, they have an expectation to be trained and once you show them how to do the job, they can do it exceedingly well but they don’t really want to be thrown into the fire and say go figure it out or at least the millennials that I worked with don’t.
Tony: The diversity is absolutely crucial and I generally don’t mention diversity in my public speaking and sometimes it comes up and I’m like, “Come on, it’s 2019. How can we not get this right?” It’s the truth, we don’t. We got to figure that out. We got to figure out how to engage and retain different crowds. They’ll help you bring in business from diverse groups which are growing. It really is crucial.
The training piece, I think what we need to understand this is that this is the generation that grew up with no expectation of lifetime employment. If you’re not being promised lifetime employment, and you saw your parents and your grandparents getting downsized after spending decades at the same companies, you get this trust of business especially big business. Basically, they’re looking to keep themselves marketable because they understand that you’re not promising them more than a job this month, right? That the easiest way to keep themselves marketable is by getting as much education, as much training as they can. It’s a very natural reaction. Let’s take advantage of that. Let’s encourage them to dig into the different educational opportunities in the industry and it will help them do their job better and it’ll help keep them here.
Matt: I mean, I think the guys summed it up pretty good. I mean, rigidity is not something that they’re looking for, right? We all have jobs. We have to get done in our business. We have to put some rails on either side of them. We know that there has to be a have to be expectations, get the work done. As long as they’re within those rails and follow it, let them help you find some of that path on how they’re going to do it.
Joel: With that said, Matt, let me ask you this. What’s one major change the average agency could do to cultivate a working environment that millennials would want to stay at?
Matt: I’ll go back to the comment that I made a little bit earlier. As I said, looking at the video right here, I’m the oldest one on here. We can sit here and at my age and I’ve been in the business 26 years, I can say what I think they want. I think they have to help to find that path. If you get some good young people in your organization, and they’re engaged and they’re excited and they can see that future we were talking about it, they can see that they can make a difference, both in the business and maybe even outside of the business, including the social aspect. Let them help to find that path. That’s the biggest thing. The old Machiavellian rule of my way or no way, it doesn’t work. This is going to be our workforce of the future. We all need to stop fighting it and we need to get on board with it.
Joel: Tony. Christopher, I was going to let you back clean up on that, but go ahead.
Christopher: I think it’s really smart to allow them to help define that path. Tony’s point about diversity. This is the largest generation in the history of the United States. They’re going to continue to help each other. Whether that is by generation or by gender or socioeconomic class or race or whatever label you want to put on somebody, having more and more of those people involved in our industry only helps us communicate what a great industry this is to this generation and future generations as well. That’s why the diversity context is so important to me.
Tony: I think that encouraging them to be proud and loud about what we do is something we’re sorely missing. In many ways, we kind of fight against it. We’re risk-averse as an industry. I met a lot of resistance on the carrier side with insurance nerves and with being publicly visible in the industry. I imagined that it would be similar on the agent or broker side. I think that if we encourage them to whatever medium you use, go ahead and talk about what the things that you like about your job. Help us attract other people that you’d like to work with.
Joel: I’m going to move this script a little bit more from the hiring to having them work with you to as a customer a little bit. Once again, these are not independent things, having millennials work for you and having them as customers really follow the same path. For years, I think a lot of people said this is a relationship business. This is a relationship business. That’s why I think a lot of us enjoy working in it. That’s why somebody feel they grow so quick is that relationship, but do millennials care about relationships as consumers as much as previous generations. Matt, do you want to lead us off with that one?
Matt: Yes. I don’t mind kind of kicking this one-off. Sure. I think millennials do care about relationships. I think the way we define a relationship as the traditional insurance person versus the way they define it is is very different. They consider their relationships could be around social media, could be around comments on social media, recommendations on social media, they want the relationships but it may not be a physical face to face meeting, it could be digital text, could be done from afar.
I think that from a customer standpoint, they still want to have that person to reach out to or be able to research it online but it’s not the same. I don’t think a lot of them wanting to walk into an office and sit down and then talk to somebody or have the gladhands meetings that we’ve had with clients over the years. That’s still important for relationship, but it’s just not the same way the relationship is formed.
Tony: I agree a hundred percent. We’ve done ourselves a lot of damage. The direct carriers marketing that insurance is only about price has done a lot of damage. That’s going to be hard to get over. I’m 36. I’m one of the older millennials. The oldest is probably 37, 38. A lot of them are homeowners, have significant assets that do need to be protected then they do need that advice for from an agent but I’m preaching to acquire on that, but what I can definitely tell you is it has to be the way I wanted, the medium I want it. I definitely don’t want to have to go in in person. I try to avoid having to make a phone call. I want to be able to text or Facebook message or- and at the time that I want. That’s a hard thing to adapt to. That’s what the thing only really plays into it but basically it needs to be seamless, regardless of whichever where I reach out to you, you need to be able to service me in whatever medium that I reached out to.
Christopher: These guys have said it perfectly. They may value relationships more than past generations to be quite honest. It’s just they have an expectation of getting an answer when they want an answer.
Joel: Let me throw this up there. Is it relationship or is it the experience they’re looking for? Whether it’s consumer or as an employee. Go ahead, Christopher.
Christopher: It’s all table stakes. That’s not an either/or. They wanted both.
Joel: Got it. Matt.
Matt: Yes, they want them both and they want it quicker than we’ve ever delivered it.
Tony: I’ve got nothing to add. They’re absolutely right.
Joel: I guess the point is here to– if you want to know your audience, hire your audience. If you want to leverage technology to attract a different audience, bring those people in and ask. Previous to this, we’re talking about different things that- let’s talk about that experience. What are some things that you think could take that experience for our millennial to the next level? Tony, you go ahead.
Tony: The first thing is the pool table, the ping pong table, and the beer keg; it’s makeup on kit, makeup on a pig basically. It doesn’t make the culture. You have to get the culture right. Don’t fall for the cheap fix of trying to bring fun things into the office. It really comes down to– they need to feel listened to and they need to feel that they’re making a difference and that there’s a path for growth. Very early in the conversation, we talked about having a path and letting them see the path. Where can you go within this agency and what that looks like. I think it’s huge to remember that they did not grow up on working in insurance. Showing them the path and helping them connect the dots is the only way to having a chance of them getting engaged in growing within the agency.
Christopher: I’ll take a little different spin just to kind of talk about the experience that maybe the customer expects, and certainly the nine to five piece is not necessarily what that customer is expecting. They understand that if they want to talk to you in person that may have some parameters around it, but with quick questions or things that they want to self-service, text is a must and a mobile application, or at least a mobile-enabled website are requirements to where they can do some self-service work. There are opportunities to be 24/7 no matter what time zone you’re in there.
There are folks throughout the world that can answer calls and take service requests for your agency at a reasonable price. There are things that we can do that help meet that expectation, but to still be the local voice and the local trusted adviser, just giving them that service that they want in the time. Maybe that’s at 11:30 at night that they remember to add a driver or drop a driver or whatever, and the technology out is out there to do that. We just need more agency owners to choose to invest in implementing that technology.
Matt: I’ll take a little bit different tack even further on that one. Look, there’s a certain part of the market where we’re not going to be able to compete moving forward. As independent agencies, we can’t compete with a billion and a half dollar advertising spends. Where we compete is building local brands. The agency of the future will have that local brand and I love Tony’s line he just used a minute ago which was loud and proud. We do a lot of good things in our communities, giving back and helping other businesses and educating them on Fiverr and all these other things and, and let your staff, let these young folks be loud and proud out there on social media about your business and communicating with the community and being a community resource. I love that.
Joel: For sure. I’m going to keep going here with it with another question. Just remind the audience if you have questions, we’re soon going to be getting into that part. If you have a question for the round table, punch it in there under questions and we’ll get them out there. With that said, talk to me about brand and brand relationship. Does that still matter? Is it more important now than ever? Go ahead, Christopher.
Christopher: Yes, an independent agent, I think Matt hit it on the head and I have got a little deeper into the brand relationship piece of [unintelligible 00:31:15]. This blue star behind me is a new star three, four years ago, we rebranded and I think that that’s something you have to do every 10 years at max. Maybe every five years. That’s the only brand we show in our agency, no matter what company we’re advising a customer to go with. It’s an alliance insurance proposal, and I think brand matters. Now trying to get a little deeper into communicating what that brand means and what our culture is and what our values are, what it means to be part of the Alliance family, and that that family extends to customers and vendors and carriers and certainly team members. I think the brand is crucial.
Matt: Yes, I agree. I just think how we define brand is a little bit different. When we throw the term brand around, of course, we think of big-name brands. What we’re really talking about here is local and community brands. I think we have to tie together both traditional marketing and digital marketing, because we do still have our current customers that addition to our future customers coming down the pipe, but understand that I must go back to the social media. Media, again, that the brand that they trust may be the one that they’re reading or seeing recommendations and ratings on online as well. Brand defines a little bit differently in the social media world.
Tony: I think branding is certainly important in the– I think that in the insurance space, we’ve never really thought of what our brand stands for when it comes to the employment side. I think it’s something we do need to think about. Especially if you do have a sizable agency, you’re developing a brand of what it’s like to work there and it makes a huge difference on whether people will want to come work for you. You have to be explicit about your– you have to be conscious about building that in a positive way. Branding is as important or more than ever, especially because it’s so easy to find reviews both of the consumer and as an employee.
Joel: I think the brand, the experience and the relationship all go together and understanding that not everybody’s going to like your brand, your experience, and your relationship and that’s okay. It needs to be defined for your agency. You need to know what it means to be a client of your agency and that needs to start not at the point of sale, but at that prospect what you’re saying to the world on social in wherever you’re saying it, rates through the entire process. That person’s been a client for 15 years. What does that brand say? What does that experience like? It all has to, to feed into that. That’s my personal opinion. Anything to add to that, Tony?
Tony: Tony? It’s very easy. So I’m a former underwriter and a former sales manager. So I met a lot of agencies in that time in several different states. I worked in Maryland, Delaware, then I worked in Northern California, and I also worked in Mississippi. Very, very different areas. Most agencies were pretty unremarkable. They kind of looked and felt the same. In the few that were very, very different. Have always stuck in my head. There’s one that I really really loved working which is called Barber in Northern California. They bring your dog to work everyday type of environment. They’ve got a big fish tank, they’ve got a big birdcage. You either like going to visit Barber or you don’t. It’s not for everybody. If you like it, it’s such a unique experience that it’s memorable. I think that’s what most agencies are missing. They’re missing the memorable piece. It has to be authentic to who you are.
Joel: Matt, anything to add on to that?
Matt: No, it’s good.
Christopher: He hit it in the head.
Joel: Here’s a question from the audience. I think this is very specific. Wow, this is a common one that I certainly hear a lot. I’m going to read it word for word here. This question is, we’re in the process of hiring a commercial and agribusiness sales producer with experience, it would be great to here if this is an opportunity for millennials. Seems that we may be looking for someone with more experience, what advantages what a millennial bring to the table? This is pretty specific. Matt, what do you think?
Matt: You get into the end of the commercial exposures obviously, and we can’t forget the fact that there is still a technical aspect of that. When you’re playing in small business and you’re playing and personal lines, you still want to make sure you’re doing the right thing by the customer but more complex commercial lines. You got to have some experience here. I think the question I would ask the audience on that one is, is do you have the team or do you have the people in your office that can mentor this person to help them build up or provide some of that technical support? If you can find the right millennial that’s got some sales skills and can play in the market that you’re trying to go after, that’s worth it, but I certainly wouldn’t walk by the need for some technical expertise here.
Christopher: I too would agree with Matt but I happen to find myself in the unique position of recruiting the exact same person. The person I’m recruiting in the world is a 22-year-old college graduate, who mother was an educator, father worked for a large manufacturer and grandfather is the largest landowner and farmer in our county. The young man will speak farm and agribusiness pretty well, and he’s well-spoken and he understands business. I think you have to understand the right opportunity. Now, to Matt’s point, the coverage is very technical and yes, I feel confident that my team can support a young producer and make sure that we help them learn the information and not make some common mistakes and look over their shoulders so to speak. The right person can fit the role. To a degree, this still goes back to the diversity comment. If you want to grow within a segment of society, it helps if you have someone who understands that segment of society?
Tony: Producers are hard. Several things go into it. I do think that Christopher’s approach of finding somebody that’s already embedded in that world is going to help you a lot. Certainly, the technical aspect that Matt talked about is crucial. We can teach insurance. You can’t teach the ag community, right. I think that you’re much better off finding a young kid in the area that comes from that community and that is passionate about the community. Maybe they went to school for ag and for whatever reason, have decided to pursue more of a business career that true ag career, that be kind of your perfect person. We can teach them the insurance piece.
I love that that you mentioned the mentoring part. I think that mentoring programs when it comes to producers are something in our industry that nobody’s really figured out. If you’re asking your producer to mentor somebody, but they’re not getting skin in the game, it’s hard, right? They’re taking time away from their own producing and building their own book. I think that we need to figure out ways to make sure that both the new kid and the mentor have skin in the game, they’re both benefiting from the business that gets brought in together for that to be successful. I think that’s going to be key in getting an ag producer going. Is that the mentoring for somebody who’s done it before?
Joel: I think you guys have answered that question spot on and just to kind of raise some urgency to take in what has just been shared here, was reading an article just before this webinar. By 2025, that sounds like a big number but remember, that’s just six years down the road. We’re not that far away. By 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be made up of millennials. If you’re wondering whether you should hire a millennial or not, you might want to start because in a very short time, you may not have a choice. I think finding a way to whether it’s work shadow, mentor, finding a way for it, so everybody is getting skin in the game here is going to be a win-win for your agency if you see your agency here in six years. If you don’t well, then I guess I don’t know why you’re on the call. If you want to be around you need to be.
Just to add on to that maybe we could dive in. There’s a question here it’s, can you talk a little bit more about you develop young producers? As in what kind of runway do you provide for them? Great word, runway. How do you distribute leads? Are we distributing leads to young producers and let them trial by fire? Matt, do you want to jump on that one first?
Matt: I’m going to kick that to the other panelists since I’m just one step removed from the retail and producer training.
Joel: Okay. Tony, what do you say?
Tony: I will give the warning I normally give, which is that I have not worked a day of my life at an agency or brokerage. I’ve just been tangentially around them for a long time. Ultimately, where I do have strong opinions, Matt mentioned it a little bit when it comes to student loans. We have a problem here. If you’re hiring somebody that’s coming out of college with student loans, the traditional three-year validation period, it’s going to be very hard unless they already have a great sales background. I think that we need to push that to a five-year validation period, but in order to do that profitably you’re going to have to be a lot smarter upfront as to who you take. That’s the piece that I can help with.
The only thing that I would be careful about is we can teach the insurance piece. If you find yourself somebody who has done well in B2B sales, we can teach them the insurance piece, the sales piece is a lot harder. I’ll defer to Chris for most of the answers since he actually lives in this world day by day.
Joel: Absolutely. Chris, you’re the man here. Tell us all about it.
Christopher: I’ll tell you, we’ve tried a lot of different things and I think most small agency owners like myself have what I’ve seen work well are a couple of different models. We have brought in young producers who are titled producers but who were given some other task but then the agency as well, so that the agency didn’t feel like they were getting drained of all their resources and not getting anything back. For instance, a personal lines producer may do quite a bit of marketing for the agency. Five years ago, marketing meant something different than it means today but maybe that social media marketing for a new producer or maybe that’s networking at the old-fashioned networking way, that still does work or maybe that’s doing video productions.
We have had success where bringing new people on and teaching them the insurance business slowly as they began to produce. That production started at the personal lines level, call selling existing monoline accounts or cross-selling current package to customers and learning the business that way and that model. Tony’s point did take four or five years to really pan out and that particular individual is our number one producer in the agency at this point in time. Another model that has been successful is we did hire still a millennial, but wasn’t green and fresh out of college, had experienced a little bit of life first.
They were put on a three-year validation track. They, thank god, validated in 15 months. They understood a little bit more about life, they were hungry. Simple example, but knowing the difference between a crawl space and a basement, a lot of college kids, I don’t know that I knew that when I graduated college. Some people just don’t know basic facts about life. Early 30 or late 20 is a millennial but they’ve experienced a little bit. That young man like I mentioned, he validated very quickly. We tried to support him with the markets that we had and helped him understand, “Hey, here’s some niches you can go after because our carriers really want these types of risks and if you’re focused there, we can win.” He did.
Joel: I’m just on the, without giving away too much of my age here, when I hired in the insurance industry, I was 24 years old. I can say, I think I had a good run, I’m still in the industry today, but on the technology side, but as an independent agent. What made a big difference for me, and I stayed with that agency for 11 years, so that’s a pretty good run. What made a difference for me is, they let me carve out my own path. Obviously there was some oversight, some guidance, I was mentored. That allowed me to find my own way to find what it was and I really had no real knowledge of the industry. Giving me to take the reigns of my own life if you will, was a big impact for me and why I want to stay as long as I did because I could make my own choices.
Matt, you took yourself, deferred that last question. I got one that I think is bang on for you. Liz is asking a question here. How do we get our existing agents to buy into the millennial idea? I think everybody on this call says, “Really?” Really, I think this is a great question and the need to cater to millennials’ needs. Liz is on marketing and no one within their agency obviously, she’s American and she’s working with multiple different agents I guess or whatever have you. What would be your suggestion to get buy-in on this? Matt, go ahead.
Matt: That’s a great question. I love the line about catering to their needs and this has already been said a couple of times. Gang, this is going to be our workforce. Don’t cater to them at your risk of your own peril. Also, they’re going to look a lot more like our customer of the future than we do. I don’t know as if we’re necessarily catering to this group as much as we’re evolving as culture and as people and as a workforce and a customer, and potential client base changes. I’ll just throw one thing out that I thought is really interesting and I will take no credit for this other than allowing it to happen, that we have an executive here at SIAA who came up with the idea of a mentorship program, a formal program and it’s a couple of hours a month.
She put it together where some of the, “Older or longer-term folks were the mentors and some of the younger folks majority being millennials, were the mentees.” As I’ve sat back and watched this over the last several months, I’ve realized that our mentors have as much to learn from the mentees. These younger folks, the way we do business in the future is going to look more like what these younger folks are talking about than what the more tenured folks are talking about. I wasn’t sure about this mentor program. I loved that this executive put it together. She’s done a good job with it, but I think it goes both ways. Our seasoned people that don’t necessarily understand these millennials will learn from the folks that they’re mentoring. I’m not really sure who’s mentoring who at this point but I think it’s a great concept and idea.
Christopher: I want to go down Matt’s path a little bit there. You think about an earlier comment you made that by 2025, 75% of our workforce is going to be millennials and I’m not sure the statistic you threw out about business ownership. In large majority, businesses are going to be owned by millennials here in the next few years. Then we’ve talked about the technical aspects of insurance. I can just imagine how poorly a conversation is going to go with a 60-year-old traditional insurance guy trying to explain to a 30-something, why he needs cyber liability, EPLI and why he has to call at twelve o’clock on Tuesdays to get his certificates printed and he’ll have them there by 3:30 on Friday. That’s not going to go well. We’ve got to mesh this thing together if we’re going to grow our agencies, if we’re going to serve our communities, if we’re going to serve our staff, our team. It’s a requirement.
Tony: There is an excellent book called, Y-Size Your Business. Y like letter Y, Size Your Business. Jason Ryan Handley does a fantastic job of not only explaining how to engage the millennials, but the first half of the book is helping you understand why you have to because it really comes down to millennials are already the largest work force in the US and it’s simple demographics. The boomers are retiring, the Xers are 25 percent less people than the millennials are. As the boomers retire, the millennials are going to be a just a huge piece of both the work force and the business owners out there. It’s not bending to the way that the millennials do it, it’s just the world is changing around you and if you want to continue serving it or if you want the agency to not be a depreciating asset as you retire, you need to figure out basically.
Joel: Yes, for sure. Let me tidy this up with a question and it’s posted on here when I saw it I was like, “No, this is walking the line here.” I’m going to ask this question. I think I know the answer from everybody. Lee asked the question. I’m going to alter this just a little bit, so your 22 year old son/daughter is graduating from college and wants to take over your agency. This is very real. Would you recommend or send him or her to another long-term field or not? Christopher, go, I could see you, go.
Christopher: All day, I’ve got a five and 17 year old. I pray that each run multiple locations for this agency and this is the greatest business you could ever be in and I can’t imagine referring someone to go somewhere else.
Joel: Could agree. Matt, what do you say?
Matt: You know what; I’d love to see my family in the business. Chris is talking about it as well, generational business. I would like to see them bring some experience and some– Having tried some other things and bring that experience back to my business.
Tony: I spent a lot of my time trying to convince young people of insurance a career because it truly is and I’m more of a carrier guy than an agency side guy, but it truly is a fantastic career on both sides and the agency side has the unmatched income potential and unmatched flexibility. If you have the advantage of inheriting a book from your parents, you’ve got a fantastic head start.
I do agree with Matt that you probably want him to go and get some experience elsewhere within the industry, but ultimately, yes, thank your lucky stars.I tell people all the time, I ask them if their kids brought them in the industry and they tell me that they didn’t. What went wrong, right? Why you didn’t spend enough time telling them how incredible it is because it really is. Clearly, this person who’s asking the question has done the right thing in making sure that at home, they can see that it is a great career. Don’t let the insure tech stuff scare you. There will be a future here for agents. What the agency looks like will change, but it will continue being a great career for as far as we can see in the future.
Christopher: I would challenge Lee to reach out to some generational agencies out there. Mike Crowley, Rob McCarthy, Joey Gingola. They’re some great guys and obviously there is probably one next door to you but don’t hold on to the reins too long. Let that young person taste a little bit of it as quickly as you can. That’s probably not the day they stepped off of diploma stage, but don’t hold on to the reins forever.
Joel: Ashley is adding here, she said really, “Send them away. I was the perpatuation plan and started right out of college. I should have tried something else and then came back. After 10 years, I needed to spread my wings.” With that said, I’ll add that I agree with everything that’s said, Ill add that I agree with what Ashley just added, but I would also add that if you’re an agency and you know that you’re struggling with all these things, I would be actively recruiting my next generation, my kids to come in regardless of age and maybe help with those decisions that– to get them in the room and say, “Hey, what does this experience, what does it mean for you if we’re able to do this?” They may not work directly certainly bring them in for the advice but it may be a good idea to recruit. Go Tony, I see you.
Tony: I think that for most agencies, the problem is more the kids are not interested. In which case, there is now just from the last couple of years, so much content that is fantastic, that is really aimed for the younger professional. All the stuff that Ryan Hanley left us with, Joey Gingola, Ashley Fitzsimmons, all the Insurance Nerd stuff, including our two new video podcasts, there is just so much content out there that you can share with your kids that will help get them interested in insurance. Don’t miss the opportunity to get them interested in taking over the agency.
Joel: I’m glad you mentioned Ashley there, Tony. That was Ashley Fitzsimmons who proposed that “send them away” comment, so I thank Ashley for that. Before we tie it up here, let’s get on it. Matt, if people want to get in touch with you, how do they find you. Here’s your two minutes of glory. Tell us all about it.
Matt: Absolutely. Welcome to reach out to SIAA at siaa.net. Can certainly reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are comprised of 48 regional master agencies that operate in all of the communities across the United States working with our agencies and company, and can visit our website to find out who the local contacts are or certainly can e-mail me and I’ll get in touch with the folks out there too.
Joel: Awesome. Thanks, Matt, for being here. Christopher, quick, tell us about how we can get a hold of you.
Christopher: Sure. Myallianceinsurance.com. Pretty long web address but that’s where you can find our agency alliance insurance services. All of our e-mail addresses are just email@example.com, so firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m on all the social media channels as well if you want to search for me there.
Tony: So, I’ve got two lives. Check out Insurance Nerds which is insnerds.com. We also have a podcast, video podcast, books, conference, you name it. It’s all at insnerds.com. Check on my book which is about this specific topic, “How to engage Millennials” It’s very carrier heavy. Also, in my day job with the Jacobson group, I work with staffing every day. I helped agencies find talent every day, so if you need help finding talent, reach out. LinkedIn, I’m really easy to find whether it’s permanent or temporary, we can probably help with your recruiting needs.
Joel: Thanks everybody for being here. I can tell there’s probably a lineup of people that are dying to get in contact with me but I’ll say this, if you’re looking for the solution to help define the customer journey, agency revolution and our suite of solutions can absolutely be part of that and you can always find me on LinkedIn, Joel Zwicker, or if you want to find us, I encourage you to check out the rest of our podcast, blog, and other webinar series at agencyrevolution.com under that media. Search it out. Thank you, Tony, Matt, Christopher. Appreciate everything you guys making time. I know you’re all busy. I know it was valuable for everybody and thanks again.
Matt and Christopher: Thank you.
Tony: Thank you.