2018 Young Agents Survey: Straight Talk From Young Agents

By | April 16, 2018

Young agents want change. They want more diversity in the agency sales ranks. They want better paths to grow in their careers. They want other agents to adhere to professional standards and ethics. They want faster and better technology in their agencies and in the insurance companies they use.

Most of all, today’s young agents want to see more young professionals like themselves in the independent agency system.

That’s according to Insurance Journal’s 2018 Young Agents Survey, which asks young agents for their opinions on the industry, their agencies and their career as an independent agent.

“I would like to see the younger generation get more interested and involved in the industry,” said one young agent participating in the survey.

Young agents responding to the survey said they would like to see younger professionals in leadership roles, too.

“While it is not an issue at the agency that I work for, I do see some hesitance with carriers and agencies in promoting younger, hungry individuals,” one young agent wrote in the survey.

Other agents agreed saying that more young leaders are needed throughout the industry.

Profile of Young Agents
Older Side of Young
62.0% are 31 to 40 years old;
38.0% are 30 and under.
Career Choice
80.9% consider insurance to be a permanent career choice;
16.1% are unsure;
79.4% would recommend career choice to another young person but
13.7% are not sure they would while
6.7% wouldn’t recommend being an agent.
Experience
26.6% have less than three years in insurance;
22.2% have three to five years;
23.0% have six to 10 years;
20.3% have 11 to 15 years;
7.8% have more than 15 years.
Education
65.6% have a college degree;
8.3% have a master’s, doctorate or other advanced degree;
63.0% have completed or are working on an insurance designation.
63.2% have an insurance agent mentor.
Family Affairs
61.1% work in family-owned agencies.
24.2% are members of the family that own the agency.
Size
53.5% work for agencies generating $1 million to $25 million in P/C premium volume;
27.6% work for agencies generating more than $50 million in P/C premium;
88.3% are privately held.
Employment Status
89.2% are independent agents;
8.6% presently are sole owners of an agency;
15.7% share ownership with partner(s)
Ownership Dreams
75.7% do not presently own an agency; of these,
51.7% would like to own someday and
24.2% of those feel very confident ownership dreams will come true – but
34.3% don’t believe it will happen.
Book of Business
68.4% target mostly commercial lines;
31.6% target mostly personal lines;
Gender ID
60.7% Male
39.3% Female
What Young Agents Do
63.4% attend local business or community meetings.
65.3% volunteer in my community.
15.9% get involved in local politics.
76.6% use Facebook.
83.3% use LinkedIn.
30.8% use Twitter.
13.8% write a blog.
59.6% utilize insurance coverage or other checklists.
69.2% take insurance courses on the internet.

“Leadership needs to become younger,” one young agent said. “There is a large gap between generations, and I see hesitation to give the millennial generation leadership opportunities.”

Other survey respondents added that in some instances, younger generations are unfairly stereotyped.

“I would love to see the industry embrace millennials,” another young agent said. “I always hear from hiring managers and agency owners that they want to hire younger people, followed quickly by a complaint about how terrible they all are.”

Young agents also maintain a desire for better and more efficient technology that will make their job easier. They believe that the insurance industry falls behind when it comes to its use of technology.

“I would like to see more focus on technology, as the industry is very poor at moving in the right direction when it comes to that,” one agent wrote.

Young agents are split on how they rate the property/casualty industry’s use of technology overall.

The exclusive survey revealed that slightly more than half of respondents (51.1 percent) rate the industry as “excellent” or “good” in terms of its use of technology while nearly the same number of young agents (48.9 percent) rated the P/C industry as “fair” or “poor” in this critical area.

Ryan Thomson – Thomson Smith & Leach Insurance Group

However, according to the survey, when it comes to career attractiveness to younger professionals, the results weren’t quite as evenly balanced. According to the IJ survey, only 8.3 percent of young agents rate the P/C industry as “excellent” when it comes to attractiveness for young people. However, a whopping 68.1 percent rated the industry as “fair” or “poor” in this critical area.

Lagging Behind

Ryan Thomson, executive vice president and an agency owner for the Louisiana-based Thomson Smith & Leach Insurance Group, agreed with the survey’s findings stating that industry’s slow-pace in advancing technology is one thing that frustrates him about the insurance business.

Thomson’s father purchased the agency in 1973 after a career in banking. After college, Thomson wanted nothing to do with the insurance industry and took a job with Rubbermaid as a salesman. After five months, he called his dad to ask to interview for a job at the agency. “I came crawling back and started out with nothing. I mean literally nothing. I still keep in my top desk drawer the list I made on the first day of the 15 people I could call that had a house or were going to look at buying a house and owned an auto.”

Since then, Thomas, 37, says it’s been a great ride as the agency has grown from a small six-person shop in 2003 to a strong mid-sized agency employing nearly 50 people. Now, Thomson says there’s not much he doesn’t love about the insurance world, except its technology.

“We are lagging and missing the boat on technology adaptation and being able to serve our clients better, quicker and easier,” he said. Lagging carrier tech capabilities make agencies less efficient, he says, and make processes and procedures more difficult than they need to be. In some cases, there’s little communication between his agency’s system and the carriers’ systems. “It’s a frustration from an operations and ease-of-doing business standpoint more than anything.”

Thomson says his agency has three employees just to check for errors when a policy is issued, especially through surplus lines markets. “In south Louisiana, we have to deal a lot with [wholesale] brokers. … That’s probably most of my frustration, more than the direct bill, Progressive, types,” he said.

Thomson believes technology hurdles reflect the industry’s slow-to-change mindset. “Technology is something we have to embrace, as an industry,” he said. “We can’t stick our head in the sand; we just can’t. It’s amazing still today [the number of] policies we issue in somebody else’s system that have errors.” He believes some of those errors could be overcome with better technology aimed at improving communication among agencies, carriers and wholesale partners.

What Young Agents Think Basically True Basically False
As a younger agent, I have to work harder to gain the confidence of clients. 70.1% 23.9%
I fear that my career will be hurt by a merger or sale of my agency. 31.1% 51.7%
I wish I could specialize more than I am now permitted to do. 28.5% 59.2%
I have one or more areas of specialization 74.9% 16.7%
Much of my production supports older producers in the agency. 35.2% 52.7%
During my career, I have worked for more than one agency. 41.9% 56.9%
While in my present position, I have been offered a job with another agency. 65.2% 31.4%
Success in this business is mostly about building relationships. 94.1% 3.6%
Success with 40 and younger clientele is built first by relationships online. 28.0% 52.8%
Efficiency and effectiveness are more important than relationships to succeed in this business. 28.7% 56.4%
I propose new ideas but our firm rarely seems to get to them. 26.2% 57.6%
The agency ranks could use more women and minorities. 38.1% 33.4%
I wish my agency would expand into new markets. 34.6% 45.3%
I think my compensation is fair. 68.1% 22.7%
I think my agency’s management is fair. 74.2% 17.0%
I believe advancement is based on relationships more than performance. 31.3% 55.5%
I would like to increase the time I spend on sales versus servicing or administrative tasks. 63.2% 22.3%
Insurtech will have an overall positive effect on the insurance industry. 34.4% 12.8%
The industry has been too slow to adopt new technology. 64.7% 21.4%
In 25 years, the independent agency system will be stronger than it is now. 54.6% 21.8%

Agencies Embracing Tech

While critical of the overall industry, young agents have a different view of their own agency’s use of technology. According to the Young Agents Survey, 73.8 percent of young agents rate their agency as “excellent” or “good” in terms of technology use.

Laura Locke Baskind –
Independent Insurance
Group Inc

Thirty-two-year-old Laura Locke Baskind, JD, who serves as the director of agency operations at Dallas-based Independent Insurance Group Inc. (IIG), says her agency’s commitment to technology and its quickness to adapt has been beneficial not only in efficiency but also in attracting talent.

“The ownership of our agency has been wonderful in terms of bringing in young talent, foreseeing the need for younger talent, [and] creating an environment that’s very adaptive and open to technology,” she said. “I now have an in-house IT manager, and we are doing our own coding, and building out our own management services, own agency app, so that we can automate things on our own to make sure that we’re the most efficient that we can be,” she said.

The agency went through a complete overhaul of its agency management software last year.

She knows IIG is not alone in this tech-forward agency mindset. Other agencies are taking great strides to push forward technology that enables agencies to be more competitive, serve customers better, and attract new employees. “I think that that is how we will attract top talent, and the younger generation,” she said.

Like Thomson, Locke Baskind grew up in her father’s agency but took a different path before joining the insurance world. She went to law school and practiced at a large, international law firm before joining the agency. She also worked for Uber Technologies.

She admits her father had been “grooming” her for the agency world since she was 14 years old. She started off in sales for the agency, then moved to an account executive role before landing into operations when someone retired. “For me, it is a much better fit in terms of my skillset, and what I’m good at,” she said. “I love to really dig in and solve problems.”

Danric Jaime, an associate in Lockton’s San Francisco office, agrees that while the industry has been “pretty slow” to adapt new technologies over the past 10 years, there are some agencies such as Lockton pushing forward. That has helped Jaime, age 35, find his niche in the agency channel.

Danric Jaime – Lockton

Jaime, while not a sales producer, has been involved on the tech-side of sales by helping Lockton producers solve technology issues in the employee benefits sector. He doesn’t sell policies to consumers, but instead sells a Lockton-sponsored employee benefits app to Lockton producers and their customers.

“Our Lockton employees will put me in front of a client, I’ll talk through the app, do a demo. If they like it, great,” he said. But Jaime also must sell the app to Lockton employees. “Lockton employees may not have heard about the app or maybe they’ve heard about it but have questions.”

If Jaime were to give advice to other young people considering a career in the independent agency channel he would tell them there are many areas young professionals could consider in the agency world, not just sales. Thus, they need to be more inquisitive.

“Make sure you ask as many questions as you can and then really just try to find a mentor that you can trust and help guide you,” he said. There’s a lot to consider in the insurance world. “A mentor, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be your boss, is someone you can lean on and ask advice.”

Young Agent Opinions on Current Employer Excellent Good Fair Poor
Quality of agency technology in general 25.1% 51.2% 19.3% 4.4%
Quality of agency management system 27.5% 47.0% 18.8% 6.8%
Quality of laptops, phones and other devices 33.7% 43.9% 18.4% 4.1%
Mobile technology capabilities for customers and employees 18.6% 37.3% 25.6% 18.5%
Quality of rating and quoting system(s) 19.9% 49.5% 23.4% 7.2%
Quality of management 41.1% 38.3% 14.6% 6.0%
Use of social media 14.3% 30.6% 31.1% 24.0%
Use of technology tools to help with sales, marketing and prospecting 17.6% 32.4% 32.2% 17.8%
Agency website capabilities 19.0% 34.8% 31.1% 15.1%
Employee compensation and benefits 28.2% 41.4% 22.1% 8.3%
Opportunities for advancement 30.0% 36.0% 22.2% 11.8%
Administrative support 25.2% 43.7% 20.8% 10.3%
Opportunities for educational improvement 44.5% 33.5% 14.7% 7.4%
Telecommuting/flexibility with work-life balance 39.5% 29.6% 18.4% 12.6%

Career Choice

Despite the many opportunities in the agency world and insurance overall, many young professionals still shy away from it as a career to enter, but after they do, they end up staying.

Flexibility, freedom and work/life balance are key benefits that young agents cite every year in IJ’s Young Agent Survey. According to the 2018 survey, a large majority of respondents rate their own agency’s telecommuting, flexibility and work/life balance as either “excellent” (39.5 percent) or “good” (29.6 percent).

Dreams of becoming a business owner is partly why Locke Baskind joined her father’s agency, but that’s not the only reason, she said. The demanding work schedule she faced working as an attorney in a global law firm helped her understand what makes a career as an independent agent a good choice.

“The work/life balance that insurance provides, the ability to make more money, to have more control over the money that I can make, and the ability to know that my weekends, my holidays and my vacations … to know that this is a place, and an industry, that values your personal time was very appealing for me,” she said.

The stability of the insurance industry is also a key factor in why young agents choose a career in insurance. Some 78.5 percent of survey respondents view the future of the independent agency system as “very optimistic” or “optimistic” while the clear majority (92.1 percent) view the outlook for the future of their own agency as either “excellent” or “good.”

What Young Agents Think About the P/C Industry Excellent Good Fair Poor
Customer service 20.4% 63.8% 15.2% 0.6%
Public image 11.6% 38.2% 36.1% 14.1%
Treatment of employees 20.4% 58.0% 20.2% 1.4%
Professionalism 28.9% 54.3% 16.0% 0.8%
Ethics 26.4% 49.5% 20.6% 3.5%
Career attractiveness to young professionals 8.3% 23.7% 38.0% 30.1%
Use of technology 10.3% 40.8% 36.9% 12.0%
Marketing and advertising 11.8% 48.2% 30.0% 10.1%

Other young agents cite the challenge that insurance delivers as a reason they like being an insurance agent.

What 23-year old Adriana Solomon, associate account manager with global client services at Lockton, likes the most about her job is how dynamic her day-to-day job duties are. “No day is the same, no client’s the same, so it’s constantly challenging and really encourages me to grow,” she said.

Adriana Solomon – Lockton

As a native Spanish speaker and an international business major in college, Solomon fit right into Lockton’s global business culture. “I’m given opportunities that probably most 23-year-olds don’t get. I get to travel, I’ve been to Canada, I’m going to Mexico to visit a client next month … I get to go to client meetings and sit at the big kid’s table,” she said. “I’m sitting with the CFOs of major, multi-national companies and CEOs of Lockton offices.”

The graying of the current agency workforce is another reason young professionals should consider insurance, says TJ Simmons, a producer at Shield Insurance Agency based in Hudsonville, Mich.

A third-generation insurance agent, Simmons decided to accept a position at his father’s agency while still in his junior year at college. Now, at 20 years old, this young professional says insurance is “not a bad gig at all.” There is plenty of money to be made and he’s ready for the challenge.

He says other young people looking for a career should take note. “Sometimes the industry doesn’t do a good job at attracting young people because it seems boring, but I think that young people need to realize that it’s a young game.” The aging of the industry is opening huge opportunities ahead for young agents.

TJ Simmons – Shield Insurance Agency

“All of those older agents are going to retire someday soon and so there will be a lot of policies and customers that are going to need a new agent,” Simmons said. “That’s where us young guys can come in.”

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