Is your agency connecting with millennials?

The US’s largest generation is not flocking to the independent insurance channel like previous generations – and not just as customers. Across the next few years, the insurance industry is expected to see 25% of its workforce retire… and 400,000 positions are projected to remain unfilled by 2020.

If independent agencies and brokerages are going to win the hearts of this vital generation, they’re going to need to focus as much energy recruiting millennials to their team as they do seeking them as customers.

We understand that there’s no straightforward solution to this challenge. To help you overcome this crucial hurdle, we’re bringing together the top experts on this topic for a live discussion that will completely transform the way you approach this problem.

  • Tony Cañas, Co-Founder of Insurance Nerds and Client Advisor & National Territory Manager at The Jacobson Group. Tony Cañas is a respected young thought leader in the insurance industry and one of the leading advocates for engaging the millennial generation. When he’s not delivering insight and advice through or live in front of an audience, Tony helps insurance professionals find the right position in the industry as a Client Advisor and National Territory Manager for The Jacobson Group— the nation’s largest insurance staffing firm.
  • Matt Masiello, CEO of SIAA and President & CEO of SAN Group. As the CEO of SIAA and SAN Group—a national Alliance that consists of nearly 13% of all independent agencies in the United States, representing nearly $8 Billion of in-force premium, and the first and largest Master Agency in the Alliance—Matt Masiello has a view of what’s impacting the independent agency, and how important it is to engage the Millennial generation unlike anyone in the insurance industry.
  • Christopher Cook, Owner & President of Alliance Insurance Services. In 2004 Christopher Cook started Alliance Insurance Services from scratch with the goal of creating an agency that put the people in his community above all else – and has grown it into a thriving agency today. When Christopher put a young insurance professional in charge of the agency’s marketing, something happened: people engaged with the marketing, greater numbers of millennials began seeking coverage with the agency, and retention began steadily climbing.

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Joel: 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. 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 Canas. He is the co founder of Insurance Nerds and Client Adviser and National Territory Manager at the Jacobson Group. Thanks, Tony, for jumping on.

Tony: 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: You’re back. 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: Hello everyone! Thank you, Joel, appreciate it.

Joel: We’re going to talk about millennials in the modern insurance landscape. Before I jump into the first question, this is so key, my role here at Age Revolution. I end up talking to hundreds of insurance agency on a weekly basis and one thing that always comes up is staffing. People struggle with it, 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 out 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 want to know it. The research says only 4% have an interest in working in the insurance, and that’s very much our own faults. 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. The difference is that when previous generations fell into it by accident, they found great careers, and 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’s 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: 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 and 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, small agency like ours, we don’t have or 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 and 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’ve 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’ve heard the word path thrown out, we haven’t– 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. We’ve all participated in it, we know it and we just got to get better at it.

Tony: This is 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, and 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 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 principals– I’m going to just talk 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 a technology, they will find you a solution.

Once I realized that and I started to see it 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 agencies forward into 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 giving back or community involvement program? When we tie those things together, I think that helps; that helps them sell it. It helps us sell it to them. These folks, these younger folks, they’re not looking for the career path in the way we found our career paths, they’re looking for it a little bit differently and tying all those things together.

Joel: Christopher, I see you nodding your head there, anything to cherry on top that?

Christopher: I don’t know that I could drive it home any better. What Matt is saying is the exercise in life that I’m currently going through as an agency owner in building out for my team what is our culture? What are our values? Where are we going in the next 5, 10 and 15 years? And what– 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 come 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 with that. Like Matt I’m a little bit of a fuddy-duddy culture, what the hell, get up and go to work every day, but that’s not what people resonate with I guess.

Tony: I think that the technology piece is absolutely crucial and it’s hard. It’s hard for a small agency to get the right technology in there. This is a generation that grew up with technology, that has had an iPhone. I’m an older millennial, I’m 36, I’ve had an iPhone since about my second year at work, and a lot of millennials are just not willing to put up with that technology and that is endemic in our industry. We need to invest in that. Now there are many, many, many, many options and it’s hard to figure out which one’s the right way to go, but if you’re not investing in it, you’re turning off your younger employees who are just not going to put up with a crappy technology.

Matt: I’ll add to– this is Matt, I’ll just add to what Tony has said 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, making our website more interactive, or helping us find other solutions that the consumers that look like them are going to be using. We talk 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 lives, 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 at that? I think 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, really true and pertinent at this point and it kind of resonated. I was at a conference about a week ago, it mentioned that some states are developing within the high school where they have to create a true track for students as they walk through. 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 them even younger than maybe traditional. Any thoughts on that concept? [crosstalk]

Christopher: I think for our agency that’s worked out well, we have done internships at the college level and recent high school grads. We’ve not pushed down to the high school level just yet, but it’s been a way for us to, to your earlier point, get some exposure to some technologies or some understanding of 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 agency as well. They were able to kind of get a taste of the business as they finished 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 letting folks know, I think that program that’s ran through the IBA here in the States is the invest program that distributes that knowledge to high school and college age kids.

Tony: I think we have a lot to learn from the CPAs. They invested heavily as a profession in getting kids interested very early on in a county. If you think about it, thousands of kids show up at every college campus every fall, specifically looking for an accounting degree. Personally I think we have a much more interesting and much more rewarding career. We really are doing 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 a younger crowd. Things like InVEST, like insure MyPath, my own Insurance Nerds. I think we need a lot more of that and over a long continuous time. I think locally you can do it in your local community; work with your local schools to 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: Matt, anything to add on to that?

Matt: Yes. I would just say let’s not ignore the community colleges as well. I think there’s a lot of opportunity coming out of there. I know some are trying to start some 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 standpoint. Certainly the high school programs are phenomenal, but the community colleges are a great place for us to swing around and take a look as well. Many times these are folks who not only live in our communities, but they’re looking to stay in our community.

Joel: Yes, I agree with that. The agency I formerly worked at, 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 the– 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 a little, but I think it’s more– 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 work for young professionals?

Christopher: I got in the 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 worked 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? The flexibility is a big attraction that we probably don’t sell enough in my opinion. It’s what brought me to this space.

Joel: Matt?

Matt: As agency principals, I think first thing is we need to lighten up a little. We all kind of want to do things the way we were brought up and the way we think other agencies do them. 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 tick. Then I think we let them help us define the path forward.

We do things here at our company that I 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’re 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’s getting done.

Joel: Tony

Tony: Flexibility and work from home, flexibility is really non-negotiable. It’s going to be even more so as the gen zers come further into the market because they’ve always had the ability to get their schoolwork done from wherever even more so than the millennials. I understand on the agency side it’s hard because you probably have some walking traffic that needs somebody there in person. As Chris is showing, there are roles that are perfectly doable from home. Any sort of flexibility you can give them on where, 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: For sure. Let me ask this on top of that. We have this work remote and we have flexibility. What are millennials less accepting of in the work place than, say, previous generations? Go ahead, Christopher.

Christopher: I knew I was going to get the hard question.

Joel: I could tell. Yes, I could tell you have the look on your face.

Christopher: I think this is a more socially diverse, a more socially accepting crowd. I think that in the insurance space, Matt alluded to the fact we need to lighten up a little bit. This is still a good old boys network in large part with a 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. They’re certainly not tolerant of old school attitudes that still linger in this industry.

We don’t train very well either in this industry. 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. Once you show them how to do the job, they can do it exceedingly well. They don’t really want to be thrown into the fire and say go figure it out, or at least the millennials that I work with don’t.

Joel: Tony?

Tony: The diversity piece is absolutely crucial. I generally don’t mention diversity in my public speaking. Sometimes it comes up and I’m like, “Come on it’s 2019. How have we not got this right?” but it’s the truth, we don’t. We’ve got to figure that out. We’ve got to figure how to engage and retain different crowds. They’ll help you bring in business from diverse groups which are growing. That’s very, very– it really is crucial.

The training piece, I think what we need to understand is that this is a 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 got this distrust of business, especially a 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.

So 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 in to the different educational opportunities in the industry. It’ll help them do their job better, and it’ll help keep them here.

Joel: Matt?

Matt: Yes, I think the guy has summed it up pretty good. I mean, rigidity is not something that they’re looking for. We all have jobs, we have to get done in our business, we have to put some rails on either side of them, and we know that there have to be expectations to get the work done, but as long as they’re within those rails and follow it, let them help to find some of that path on how they’re going to do it.

Joel: So with that said, Matt, let me ask you this, what’s one major change the average agency could do to cultivate a work environment that millennials would want to stay at?

Matt: I’ll go back to the comment that I made a little bit earlier. I mean, we as– I’m looking at the video right here, I’m the oldest one on here, and we can sit here and at my age and I’ve been in the business 26 years, and 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, and 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 helped to find that path.

That’s the biggest thing. Let’s not– the old Machiavellian rule of my way or no way just doesn’t, it doesn’t work and this is going to be our workforce of the future. So we all need to stop fighting it, and we need to get on board.

Christopher: I think that is really–

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 and Tony’s point about diversity, this is the largest generation in the history of the United States, and so they’re going to continue to help each other. And whether that is by generation or by gender, or socio-economic 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 surely missing. And in many ways, we kind of fight against it. We are risk averse as an industry. I met a lot of resistance on the carrier side with insurance nerds and with with being publicly disciplined 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 and that’s why somebody just 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 kicking this one off. Sure, I think millennials do care about relationships, but I think the way we define a relationship as the traditional insurance person versus the way they define it 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 are wanting to walk into an office then sit down and talk to somebody or have the kind of the glad hands 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.

Joel: Tony?

Tony: I agree 100%. We’ve done ourselves a lot of damage, the direct carriers marketing that insurance is only about price has done a lot of damage and 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 home owners, have significant assets that do need to be protected, and they do need that advice for from an agent. I’m preaching to a choir on that, but what I can definitely tell you is it has to be the way I want it, the medium I want it.

I definitely don’t want to have to go in person, I try to avoid having to make a phone call. I want to be able to text or Facebook message and at the time that I want. That’s a hard thing to adapt to. That sort of thing you really place into it but basically, it needs to be seamless, regardless of whichever way I reach out to you, you need to be able to service me in whatever medium that I reach out to.

Joel: Christopher?

Christopher: These guys have said it perfectly that 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 want it both.

Joel: Got it. Matt?

Matt: Yes, they want them both and they want it quicker than we’ve ever delivered.

Joel: Tony?

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 were talking about different things that let’s talk about that experience. What are some things that you think could take that experience for a 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 a pig basically. It doesn’t make the culture. You have to get the culture right, so 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 kind of what that looks like. I think it’s huge to remember that they did not grow up wanting to work in insurance, and showing them the path and helping them connect the dots is the only way to having a chance for them getting engaged in growing within the agency.

Joel: Christopher?

Christopher: Yes, I’ll take a little different spin just to talk about the experience that maybe the customer expects, and certainly the 9:00 to 5:00 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 with 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 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 need to- they’ve remembered to add a driver or drop a driver or whatever, and the technology is out there to do that. We just need more agency owners to choose to invest in implementing that technology.

Joel: Matt?

Matt: I’ll take a little bit different tact 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 $1.5 billion advertising spend. 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 cyber and all these other things. 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 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, I have gotten a little deeper into the brand relationship piece of late. This blue star behind me is a new star three or four years ago, we re-branded and I think that that’s something you have to do every 10 years at a 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 bit around 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. That family extends to customers, and vendors, and carriers and certainly team members. I think the brand is crucial.

Joel: Matt?

Matt: 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. We have to tie together both traditional marketing and digital marketing, because we do still have our current customers in addition to our future customers coming down the pipe. Understand that I must go back to the social media. Media, again, the brand that they trust may be the one that they’re reading or seeing or recommending online ratings online as well. The brand is defined a little bit differently to me as well.

Joel: Tony?

Tony: I think that branding is certainly important. In the insurance space, we’ve never really thought of what our brand stands for when it comes to the employment side. 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. It makes a huge difference on whether people will want to come work for you. You have to be explicit about– 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 on the consumer and as an employee.

Joel: 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, right through the entire process to that person who has been a client for 15 years. What does that brand say? What is that experience like? It all has to feed into that. That’s my personal opinion. Anything to add to that, Tony?

Tony: It’s very easy. I’m a former underwriter and a former sales manager. I met a lot of agencies in that time, in several different states. I worked at Maryland, Delaware, then I worked Northern California, and I also worked Mississippi, so very, very different areas. Most agencies were pretty unremarkable. They looked and felt the same, and the few that were very, very different have always stuck in my head.

There’s one that I really, really loved working with, was called Barber in California, Northern California. They have a bring your dog to work every day type of environment, they’ve got a big fish tank, they’ve got a big bird cage. 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.

Joel: Christopher.

Christopher: He hit it on the head.

Joel: Yes, here’s a question from the audience. This is very specific, but 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 hear if this is an opportunity for millennials. Seems that we may be looking for someone with more experience, what advantages would a millennial bring to the table?” This is pretty specific. Matt, what do you think?

Matt: You get into the commercial exposures obviously. 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 in personal lines, you still want to make sure you’re doing the right thing by the customer. More complex commercial lines, you got to have some experience here. I think the question I would ask the audience on that one 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? Because 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. I certainly wouldn’t walk by the need for some technical expertise here.

Joel: Christopher?

Christopher: I too would agree. I 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 shoulder, 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.

Joel: Tony?

Tony: Producers are hard. The several things go into it. I do think that that Chris’ 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, but we can teach insurance. You can’t teach the ag community. 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 that community. Maybe they went to school for ag and for whatever reason, have decided to pursue more of a business career than true ag career. That’d be your perfect person. We can teach them the insurance piece.

I love 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, because if you’re asking your producer to mentor somebody, but they’re not getting skin in the game, it’s hard because 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 the mentoring from somebody who’s done it before.

Joel: You guys have answered that question spot on and just to raise some urgency to take in what has just been shared here. I was reading an article just before this webinar and 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 of whether you should hire a millennial or not, you might want to start because, in very short time, you may not have a choice.

I think finding a way to whether it’s work shadow, mentor, finding a way so everybody’s got some 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. Can you talk a little bit more about how 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 letting 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: [laughs] 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, 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 up front as to who you take. That’s the piece that I can help with. The other 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. Christopher, you’re the man here, tell us all about it.

Chris: 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 were titled producers, but who were given some other tasks within 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 Alliance 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’s 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, we’re bringing new people on and teaching them the insurance business slowly as they began to produce. So that production started at the personal lines level, cross-selling existing model on accounts, or cross-selling current package customers and learning the business that way. That model, to Tony’s point, did take four or five years to really pan out, and that particular individuals are 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, 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 are some niches you can go after because our carriers really want these types of risks and if you’ll focus there, we can win.” And he did.

Joel: You know what? So giving away too much of my age here. When I was hired in the insurance industry, I was 24-years-old. I can say that 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, 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, but allowed me to find my own way to find what it was.

I really had no real knowledge of the industry, but giving me to take the reins 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 had that I could make my own choices.

Matt, you took yourself out, deferred that last question. I got one for you. 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?” I think this is a great question and the need to cater to millennials needs. Liz is in marketing and no one within their agency– obviously, she’s in marketing, she’s working with multiple different branches 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. Look, I love the line about catering to their needs, and this has already been said a couple of times. Again, 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 our workforce, and our customers, 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. It’s a couple of hours a month and 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 love that this executive put it together. She’s done a good job with it, but I think it goes both ways our seasons 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.

Joel: Christopher?

Chris: I want to go down Matt’s path a little bit there. You think about the earlier comment you made by 2025, 75% of our workforce is going to be millennials and I’m not sure the statistic you threw out about business ownership but in large majority, businesses are going to be owned by millenials 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 a certificates printed, and he’ll have them there about 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.

Joel: Tony?

Tony: There is an excellent book called Y-Size Your Business. Y like letter Y-Size Your Business. Jason and Ryan Hanley 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 millenials are already the largest workforce in the US. It’s simple demographics.

The boomers are retiring The Xs are 25% less people than the millennials are. As the boomers retire, the millennials are going to be just a huge piece of both the workforce and the business owners out there. It’s not bending to the way 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 depreciating asset as you retire, you need to figure it out basically.

Joel: For sure. Let me tidy this up with a question and it’s posted on here. When I saw it I was like, “Now this is walking a line here.” I’m going to ask this question, I think I know the answer from everybody. Lee asked the question. Lee, I’m going to alter this just a little bit. 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 a long-term field or not? Christopher, go. I can see you, go.

Christopher: All day. I have got a 5 and 17 year old. I pray that they each run multiple locations for this agency. This is the greatest business you could ever be in and I can’t imagine referring someone to go somewhere else.

Joel: Couldn’t agree. Matt, what do you say?

Matt: You know what, I’d love to see my family in the business. I am, like Chris was talking about as well, a generational business. I would like to see them bring some experience and having tried some other things and bring that experience back to my business. I still want them to come back.

Joel: Tony?

Tony: I spend a lot of my time trying to convince young people that insurance is a fantastic career, because it truly is and I’m more of a carrier guy than an agency side guy. It’s truly is a fantastic career on both sides. 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 alternately yes thank your lucky stars.

I tell people all the time, I ask them if their kids followed them into the industry and when they tell me that they didn’t, what went wrong? Why? You didn’t spend enough time telling them how incredible it is because it really is. Clearly this person 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 insurtech 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.

Matt: I would challenge Lee to reach out to some generational agencies out there: Mike Crowley, Rob McCarthy, George and Goal there are some great guys and obviously there’s probably one next door to you. Don’t hold on to the reigns too long. Let that young person taste a little bit of it as quickly as you can. That’s probably not the day they step off the Diploma stage. Don’t hold on to the ranks forever.

Joel: Actually Ashley is adding here, she says “Really, send them away! I was the perpetuation 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. I agree with what Ashley just added, but I would also add that if you’re an agency and you know 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 to get them in a room and say, “Hey, what is this experience? What would this mean for you if we were able to do this?” While 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 years, so much content that is fantastic, that is really aimed at the younger professional. Older stuff that Ryan Hanley left us with, George and Goal Ashley Fitzsimmons, all the insurance nerd stuff including our two new video podcast. 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 posted that send them away comment. Thanks, Ashley, for that. Before we tie it up here, let me– Okay let’s end. 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 [email protected]. Can certainly reach out to me at [email protected]. We are comprised of 48 regional master agencies that operate in all of the communities across the United States working with our agencies and our companies, and can visit our website to find out who the local contacts are or certainly can email me and I’ll get you in touch with folks out there too.

Joel: Awesome. Thanks, Matt, for being here. Christopher, tell us about how we can get a hold of you.

Christopher: Sure. pretty long web address, but that’s where you can find our agency Alliance Insurance Services. All of our email addresses are just [email protected], so [email protected]. I’m on all the social media channels as well if you want to search for me there.

Joel: Tony?

Tony: I’ve got two lives. Check out Insurance Nerds which is We also have a podcast and a podcast video, podcast books, conference, you name it. It’s all at Check on my book which is about the 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 help agencies find talent every day. If you need help finding talent, reach out LinkedIn, I’m really is to find, whether it’s a permanent or temporary, we can probably help with your recruiting needs.

Joel: Thanks everybody for being here. I could 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. 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 podcasts, blogs and other webinar series at 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: Thank you.

Christopher: Thank you.

Tony: Thank you. I got to run. I’ve got a plane to catch.

Matt: Good luck, Tony. See you later man.

Tony: See you next time. Great chatting with all of you.

Matt: Yes, sir.

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