Young Agents look for opportunity… and a future

By | April 20, 2011

Come along for a ride with me… or better yet, join me for a cup of coffee in my office, as we discuss articles from the April 4th issue of Insurance Journal magazine about Young Agents and the industry’s future.

I sat in my office early this morning reading the articles in IJ regarding their Young Agents survey. Some of the information is not necessarily new, and has been somewhat the same since the survey’s inception. The fact that over 20% of those surveyed feel optimistic or very optimistic that the soft market will end in a year (let’s hope they are right), has been fairly consistent over the past several years. Young agents have been somewhat consistent in their outlook on their career, with 47.1% of respondents feeling very optimistic of their future and another 36.6% being optimistic.

So it looks wonderful for our industry, right? We should all hold hands and sing by the campfire? Probably not…

It is nothing new that the insurance industry is an older group overall… we know that already. Now we have the younger generations, specifically Gen Y, coming into the offices as producers. So why is this a problem… is it a problem?

I don’t know if problem is the right word… maybe dilemma… for many agency owners.

Gen Y likes structure. The insurance industry has structure if you really look at it. There are rules, there are guidelines, there are right and wrong ways to do things.

Gen Y likes projects and working with people. Well, our industry definitely has all of that, and then some!

Gen Y works best when managed efficiently. Well… well… this is where we may be falling a little short. Ok, a lot short.

In most of the Main Street Independent Agencies around the country that main producer was / is the owner. We all know who that person was. They were the face of the agency in their communities. That is not a bad thing by the way.

Chris Burand touches this in his article “The Future of the Independent Agency (has nothing to do with age)” in the April 4, 2011 issue of IJ.

This main producer / owner Burand refers to knows how to manage themselves. That is just what a producer does. Even if they are salaried, their livelihoods have always relied on how much business they have brought in.

Now in comes Gen Y. Needing that management, needing that guidance, and needing that support from their manager / owner. but does the average owner know how to give it? Does the average 55-60 year old agency principal really understand how to mentor someone and manage them? Or so they install systems and procedures and expect employees to manage themselves?

And what is so wrong with expecting people to manage themselves?

Looking at the different generations in the work force today (4 different generations to be exact) we have to understand that not only is how we have to sell insurance changing, how we have to manage and work with our employees is also changing.

Agency owners not only have to look at competition and regulation they have to possibly rethink their internal structure. The question becomes is the average Main Street Independent Agency set up to manage employees – specifically new producers – or does the owner produce the main bulk of the business. Will these agencies where the owner IS the agency be able to maintain a presence in the future if he or she does not look to step back from production and concentrate more on mentoring and managing?

There is a place for everyone in our industry. I am a firm believer in that. But at some point we have to stop pointing the finger at the “big guys” and the carriers and the direct writers. We have to look in the mirror and see what we can do to embrace our future and not stick our heads in the sand.

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