Young Agents Stand at the Threshold as Industries Collide

June 14, 2001

They were young, they were hungry and they didn’t mind the heat. More than 290 young agents converged on Rancho Mirage for the 26th Annual Young Brokers and Agents Conference June 7-10.

The hard work of YBA staff and the support of sponsors paid off, as attendees gained connections and CE credits, plus a little golf practice in the sun-baked arena of the Westin Mission Hills Resort.

At Friday’s Sponsors Luncheon, Chairman Rick Dinger took the podium to introduce keynote speaker Don Way, president of IBA West.

Way stressed the importance of taking advantage of financial services reform. “We are at the threshold when two major industries collide-this can create an opportunity or a threat to young agents,” Way said. “More and more non-independent insurance companies are creating opportunities for young independent agents and brokers-it’s a huge chance for us.”

Way pointed out that agents and brokers who run their business efficiently will find many financial institutions who are eager to invest in them. “Financial institutions want to get involved in your business-not by running it but by investing in it. The companies that have a product to sell will invest in a distribution system to ensure the success of their enterprise. Companies are willing to pay for your expertise. They will invest in you.”

Growth and specialization seem to be the keys to success, Way said, acknowledging that it can be difficult to stay small and succeed. “It seems like we must get bigger to do well…and there’s a need for young brokers and agents to specialize,” Way said, but he cautioned young agents “don’t get yourself into too small a niche.”

Regarding the role of technology, Way said, “Technology gave us a whole new set of options-a way to interact with your insurance companies to better serve your clients faster, better, cheaper. This is really the primary function of technology in our business…The dot-com companies that have survived have changed their business strategies to help agents better service their clients.”

Virtually everything IBA West does now is on the web, according to Way. Agents can issue their own insurance certificates online, and the newsletters now all electronic, creating a savings for IBA West of close to $75,000 a year.

Way wrapped up by saying, “For many years, we did a poor job of getting young people into our business. Now, the 21-year-olds won’t listen to me, but they’ll listen to you…I envy you the opportunity of your youth-make the most of it.”

Steve Young, IBA West general counsel, stepped up to discuss the looming specter of Gramm-Leach-Bliley. First, he asked for a show of hands of those who had received privacy notices in the mail-hands went up all over the room. Then he asked who had sent out their own privacy notices as required by GLBA-only one hand went up and it belonged to IIAA’s Bill Hoffman, to which Young replied, “You don’t count, you’re the association president.”

Young promoted the privacy workshops offered by IBA West: “We will be blanketing the West Coast like a swarm of locusts. We have sample notices, privacy policies-we are trying to give you the tools to comply.

“In all my years in the industry, I have never encountered a regulatory block of requirements that is more complicated than these. The bad news is, this is just the beginning-the legislature is considering increasing these requirements further.”

At Saturday’s Luncheon, agents welcomed a surprise visitor, Assemblyman Thomas Calderon, who addressed the group and made the informal announcement that he will be seeking the office of insurance commissioner.

Calderon, who described himself as a “pro-business Democrat,” believes that making a profit is a good thing and that “we should hug children, not trees.” He followed up with the fact that the more we make, the more we pay in taxes “to pay for schools, highways, law enforcement and fire fighters.”

Calderon has worked closely with lobbyist John Norwood on several insurance-related issues, and is also chairing an ongoing series of Workers’ Compensation hearings.

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