Back in the mid ’70s, Gail Murrell, Dennis Kristan and Fred Baumgarden-after an initial introduction via the telephone-met at Baumgarden’s house to kick around the idea of forming a Young Agents Committee (YAC).
The three men concluded that young agents didn’t have much input in the “old boy” network and that a unified voice for all young agents was needed. “We came to an agreement that if it wasn’t going to be organized and active, none of us wanted to be part of it,” Murrell said. “We weren’t interested in being figuratively pointed at as ‘some reps for the young agents.’ We decided we needed to make our presence known.”
As reluctant as they were to approve a “Young Agents” conference, the Board of the Independent Insurance Agents Association of California (IIAAC) eventually allowed YAC to test the waters with what they called an “organizational convention.” “They wouldn’t approve future conventions, which was fine with us. We just wanted to get it rolling,” Murrell said.
Although Morey-the agent who wrote the letter to IIAAC-has never been a YAC chairman, he has always backed the Young Agents. In fact, as a past president of IBA West, the senior vice president of J. Morey Company Inc. Insurance Agents and Brokers, has been a strong supporter of the entire independent agency system.
Morey recalled that getting YAC established was no easy task. “The older generation at that time really wasn’t into the younger generation doing this,” he said. “And look what happened…it took off. That’s the exciting part about it.”
YAC’s first convention was held April 23-25, 1976, in the Host International Hotel at the Sacramento Airport. There were roughly 100 agents in attendance, according to Murrell. “It was a tremendous success. In fact, we had some dignitaries that once they saw how many people were coming, they wanted to be part of it,” he said. “They wanted to jump on the bandwagon while it was hot.”
On the final day of the convention, Murrell explained to the attendees that YAC was not a separate producers association. Simply put, it was a way for the younger agents to meet and obtain answers to problems that the smaller or younger agents-whether principals or solicitors-have in common.
“The only way to fully understand YAC is by getting involved,” Murrell told the group. “Make a personal commitment now that you will attend next year.” His words obviously caught on, because the Young Brokers & Agents Conference (YBAC) has been a huge success over the years.
“Getting it started and where it went is kind of mind boggling,” Murrell said.
Just as it was 25 years ago, the fundamental purpose of the IBA West Young Brokers & Agents Conference today is to nurture the careers of independent insurance professionals who are under age 40 by: promoting and representing common business interests, improving communication skills, augmenting technical knowledge, refining marketing and sales abilities, and affording opportunities to foster professional interpersonal relationships.
Of the past 18 chairs of the YBAC Committee (formerly YAC), all are still working in the industry, according to Teresa Todd, last year’s chairwoman.
“It’s been interesting over the years to see some of the people who were my liaisons who now have children chairing the event,” Murrell added.
The fact is, the young agents were accepted by the “old boy” network after all. “And the convention became bigger and bigger,” Murrell said. “In fact, our convention has probably rivaled other full state conventions.”
“Last year topped any other convention we’ve ever had,” Todd said. “We raised so much money that we all went to the
national convention.” The YBAC Committee invites all young agents to see why YBAC has won the “IIAA Best Conference” for three years in a row.
“Being there at the first one and remembering those days and how the business was…it’s really wonderful to see how the young agents have really become an important factor-not only in IBA West, but in our industry in general,” Morey said. “The point is, over the last 25 years, we have seen growth in younger agents. They’re excited, they’re aggressive, they’re learning a lot and they’re becoming wonderful insurance people. Kudos to them for continuing it on.”
This year, the 25th Annual Young Brokers & Agents Conference is taking place June 1-3 at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara.
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