The was the MAIA YAC’s first event of this kind, but plans to hold similar ones in the future
The Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents Young Agents Committee held its inaugural Legends Speaker Series this week at Gillette Stadium. The event, which drew insurance professionals from around the Commonwealth, featured a panel discussion on “What Successful Agents are Doing Today & Tomorrow”. Ryan McMahon, CIC, the Business Development Manager for sponsor Plymouth Rock Assurance served as event moderator.
The panel featured five seasoned insurance professionals hailing from various sectors of the Massachusetts insurance industry. They included independent agents Ray Gallant, of the Gallant Insurance Agency and Ben Cavallo of the C&S Insurance Agency spoke about their experiences in running a successful independent insurance agency. Glen Davis of the Renaissance Alliance, talked about his perspectives during his 21 years at an independent agency as well as his experiences in his current position with the Wellesley-based insurance alliance.
On the technology front, Allan Egbert, Jr., co-Founder of Mass.-based insurtech start-up Ask Kodiak spoke about the intersection of insurtech and independent insurance agencies, while Steven Gilmore of ServiceMaster by Gilmore gave some great advice on how to create a loyal team based upon his experiences running one of the largest disaster restoration and recovery management firms in the country.
An engaging Q&A format keeps things moving
Using a direct Q&A format which kept the momentum going, the hour and half discussion panel was able to discuss a number of issues that independent agents and their agencies are dealing with on a daily basis.
From the importance of understanding insurtech, to how much money should be allocated to a marketing budget, to the consolidation of the independent agency marketplace.
Words of wisdom heard during the discussion
Insurtech was the opening issue presented to the panel. Allan Egbert of Ask Kodiak noted that he doesn’t remember a time when so much money and entrepreneurs were entering the insurance sphere—making it a very exciting time.
One of the trends he thought agents should be aware of was what he called the rise of the so-called “high-tech” broker like Embroker or Coverwallet. “What’s sort of interesting, is although they are trying to build platforms to become more efficient”, he said, ” I have been to some of these offices and they are not any different than you in terms of what they do day-to-day—they are agencies for all intents and purposes.”
But, he adds, ” …What I think is happening is that I think that rather than waiting for insurers to provide them with channels to be able to write more business or your traditional vendor landscape…you have people trying to put capital into some agency plays where they are actually creating technology to take control of their own destiny.
Adding to that Glen Davis of the Renaissance Alliance added that, “I think it is really important for all of us to be aware of the money going [into insurtech] because it is going to change our competitive landscape for all of us,” said Mr. Davis, noting that while keep track agents should not discount all insurtech companies in general. “Keep in mind, some of these insurtech ventures are actually products that could help you and your client. There are products that can help you and your client, there are products we are washing over that could help your clients.”
On the issue of how carriers can help agencies with technology, agent Ray Gallant said that agents have to utilize their [insurers’s] tools and that no matter how hard it is you have to “embrace technology.” Mr. Gallant also noted that it is important to hire young people to help maximize technology in those agencies were it is needed.
Concurring with that, agent Ben Cavallo said often times technology is looked at one dimensionally. “It is not just for organizing, it is not just for our clients files, there is a little more to it,” he said. As more agencies get away from selling insurance as a simple transaction to a more risk advisor approach, technology will be increasingly important, in his opinion.
Since every agency is different, added Mr. Davis, so is their technology needs. “You always have to be thinking about the client experience. You want to have a streamlined process for your client,” emphasized Mr. Davis.
For example, he cited the implementation of software that allows data from a client call to be pulled up quickly rather, giving you a “15 second advantage” against other agencies that would have to rehash the conversation a potential client just had with the receptionist. “those are the kinds of things that drive clients…the ease of process.” In the end, Mr. Davis said, streamlining processes to better serve your client is paramount because “…it is not about you, it is about the client.”
After discussing technology, the discussion turned to other issues in the proper amount of a marketing budget. In Mr. Gallant’s case, he said there is no set budget for his agency although the agency does have some cost certainty each year.
In contrast, Mr. Cavallo says that since his agency’s growth has been organic for the past few years due to high agency valuations which have dissuaded them from acquiring, his marketing budget is high in order to drive organic growth.
As for the issue of the ever-increasing consolidation of the agency marketplace, everyone was in agreement that this was happening, although not all thought it a bad thing.
In terms of how to retain and keep a loyal team, Mr. Gilmore of “ServiceMaster by Gilmore” had perhaps the most inspirational advice. After admitting that his company had little to no turnover, Mr. Gilmore said that was because he made sure to make all of his employees feel appreciated and a part of the team, in addition to making it a priority to promote from within.
Mr. Gilmore also gave some sound advice on how to look for a good employee telling agents not to overlook a smart person simply because of the present circumstance in which you may find them. A case in point, he says he has found some of his best employees while buying coffee from the Dunkin Donuts he frequents as well as having hired three bank tellers from his local bank.
As for his experience dealing with his agencies for over 35 years Mr. Gilmore, said “I think it is the service end of your industry that will lead you to the finish line of success.” I see it time and time again,” he added, emphasizing that those agencies that service their customers, are successful with a tight loss ratio, while those that don’t, have a loss ratio that is sky high.
What one of the attendees had to say about the event
Independent agent Scott Collins is a second generation co-owner of Mohawk Insurance in Dorchester, who was very happy having attended the event. “I really enjoyed listening to the diverse panel of speakers from the younger agent, to the 40-year veteran. I also thought it was interesting to include other voices from the insurance industry such as the gentlemen from the tech start-up and the ServiceMaster by Gilmore companies,” said Mr. Collins.
“Each had their own unique perspectives and opinions on the future of the independent insurance agents and what our role may be in the future. We all know our industry is changing, just not to what degree, so it was helpful to hear from others in the industry and their advice on how to face this change head on.”
More fun at the “After Hours” Event
After the conclusion of the panel discussion, the majority of attendees moved on from the suites at Gillette Stadium to the After Hours Event at Patriot Place. Held at the Howl at the Moon restaurant, and sponsored by ServiceMaster by Gilmore, the “After Hours” event allowed all of the attendees to chat and talk shop.
After the success of this event, the MAIA YAC says that it will likely hold future events around the Commonwealth, to give more young agents the opportunity to learn from other “Legends” in the industry.
Slide show courtesy of the MAIA YAC
A big thank you to the MAIA YAC for sharing their event photos with us. For those interested in attending the next Legends Speaker Series, please contact the MAIA’s YAC via their home page here.