A former college and professional basketball player and coach is the most recent recipient of Insurance Journal’s Matt Wells Scholarship to the National Alliance Producer School.
The scholarship honors Matt Wells, son of Wells Media Group Chairman Mark Wells. Wells Media Group is the parent company of Insurance Journal.
Winston Bennett, a producer with Van Zandt, Emrich & Cary Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., was awarded the scholarship to the Producer School held by the National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research in early November in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas-area.
Bennett, who has been in the insurance business for just seven months, spent the bulk of his professional career on and around a basketball court.
“I spent most of my life in athletics either as a basketball player at Kentucky, the NBA, and coaching for the Boston Celtics. I was an assistant coach for Rick Pitino at the University of Kentucky, and a head coach for Kentucky State University and Mid-Continent University,” Bennett told Insurance Journal.
After uprooting his family every three or four years as his coaching jobs changed, Bennett said he was ready for a career with stability, one in which he could capitalize on the name recognition he built through basketball, and especially, one through which he could “live my mission, which is to help people.”
While talking with fans at a University of Louisville basketball game, he was approached by Van Zandt, Emrich & Cary CEO and President Mike Arnold, who encouraged Bennett to give the insurance business a try.
Through many conversations with Arnold, “I eventually became comfortable with the idea of selling insurance although I knew nothing about it,” Bennett said.
Arnold had assured Bennett that “if I were to get into the business he would make sure I was armed with the best education in the business. After much research and deliberation, he and his staff decided that the National Alliance Producer School was just what the doctor ordered.”
The Matt Wells Scholarship covers the $2,500 tuition to the school, which is held three times a year — in Southern California, Florida and Texas, said Darrelle White, senior academic director for the National Alliance.
There are other costs associated with attending the schools — accommodations, dinner and weekend meals, and travel costs — that the scholarship does not cover, White said. Those costs may factor into the selection of the scholarship recipient.
The scholarship applications are accessed through the Producer School link on the National Alliance website. Once the scholarship applications are received and assessed, “we … come up with three or four that are the top candidates,” White said. “From that I actually make a phone call and do an interview with them.”
In addition to reviewing information included on the application, White asks about the ability of the candidate to cover additional expenses and about the level of support, monetary and otherwise, the producer’s employer will offer.
“We make sure that the candidate’s office environment, the business environment that they’re working in is conducive to them to attend the school,” White said.
While each student’s situation is unique, the National Alliance Producer School is targeted toward individuals who have some experience in the industry and are ready to bolster their knowledge and skills.
Such was the case with Bennett.
“I knew 40 years of basketball and just a few months of insurance would not make me an all-star insurance producer,” Bennett said in an email to Insurance Journal. “I spent close to two weeks at the producer school with 60 classmates, who all had the same goal of becoming the best insurance producer possible.”
The classes were challenging and enlightening, he said. The teaching staff “did an excellent job of mixing practical everyday insurance jargon with the dynamics of selling. In other words they not only taught us the fundamentals they also threw in a few behind-the-back passes and through-the-legs dribbles.”
Instructors at the school have been in the business for many years and are “committed and passionate” about insurance, Bennett said.
These “all-stars,” as Bennett put it, “are the professionals that we all strive to be,” he said.
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