Young Agents Survey: Why Agents Stand By Their Career Choice

By | March 15, 2010

Most enter the insurance business by accident but for young independent insurance agents, the decision to stick with insurance as a permanent career is a matter of choice.

A healthy 84 percent of young insurance agents say they consider insurance to be their permanent career, according to Insurance Journal’s 2010 Young Agents Survey.

The reasons young agents — those 40 years old and younger — enter insurance vary significantly. Of the 631 young agents who responded to this year’s survey, some came to work in the independent agency ranks after testing the waters with a captive agency. Others found their way because their families worked in insurance. Others became agents after taking educational courses or majoring in risk management. Still others came to the industry after leaving careers in another industry — ranging from arena football to financial services to hospitality.

Some became agents because they were customers in the right place at the right time. “Someone approached me from the agency while I was in making a payment for the local fire company that I was treasurer for,” one young agent wrote.

Why or how young professionals got into the insurance agency business is not necessarily what keeps them in it. Most in the industry agree that the desirability of an agency career is not well known to those outside the industry. But their brief tenure in the industry has opened young agents’ eyes to the advantages they might not have appreciated when they first walked through their agency’s door.

Their overall experience has been so positive that 70 percent would recommend a career as an independent insurance agent to another young person. But today’s young agents also realize — or 43 percent do — that other young people may be where they were several years ago and not recognize insurance as a career of choice.

Now, these young professionals say they have been convinced to stay in the business by, among other factors, the professionalism of their peers and the way the industry treats its employees. Young agents are encouraged by how the industry treats its employees, with 60 percent rating the treatment as good. Also, 61 percent say the level of professionalism in the property/casualty industry is also good, affirming their career choice.

Donna Chiapperino, 39, director of marketing for Montvale, N.J.-based Jimcor Agencies, an excess and surplus lines wholesale agency, senses a youth movement in the industry.

“I’m seeing more, younger agency principals, more [young professionals] in producer roles or owning start-ups. These are people who are 35 and younger. They are going out there and trying it,” Chiapperino says.

Chiapperino, who is active with the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents’ young agents group, says she has even seen young owners stay in the industry after their own start-up venture fizzles.

One start-up that has worked is Bryan Insurance Agency based in New Windsor, N.Y. Owner Amy Bryan founded the agency from scratch when she was only 22 years old. Now at the age of 28, Bryan employs two full-time service staff and two full-time producers and operates two locations.

Bryan grew up in the insurance business, but on the captive agency side of the distribution system. Her grandfather started a State Farm agency, and her dad, uncle and aunt also work as State Farm agents. But Bryan’s father suggested she become an independent agent. “He thought I’d be able to offer clients a lot,” she said. “It is creative and I have the ability to find the best fit.”

In 2004, after a short stint in the graphic design industry, Bryan opened her doors with no customers and no insurance companies. She developed a business plan that addressed how to market and where her competition was. “I was able to show that to the companies so they knew where I was going and what the objectives are,” Bryan says.

Bryan believes the insurance industry offers opportunities not just for her but for just about everyone. “A lot of people think that it is more sales-oriented but you can be an extrovert or introvert,” she says. “If you like helping people, I think it’s definitely a good industry.”

This is an excerpt from an article in the Feb. 22, 2010, issue of Insurance Journal magazine. To read the full article click here.

To purchase the raw data from Insurance Journal’s 2010 Young Agents Survey, click here.

NOTE: Listen to the Bryan interview as a podcast.

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