On Saturday, August 25, 2018, Joe Leahy, a well-known and well-respected Springfield independent agent became the chairman of The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokersof America (IIABA or the Big “I”) for a one-year term. The installation ceremony took place at a well-attended luncheon at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts where the Big “I” Fall Leadership Conference was being held.
Mr. Leahy is co-owner with his wife of Leahy & Brown Insurance + Realty, Inc., in Springfield, an agency he founded with his wife, Fran, in 1989 after serving as chief of staff to Massachusetts State Sen. Martin T. Reilly (D-Springfield).
Service at national and state level
Mr. Leahy was first elected to the Big “I” executive committee in April 2013. Since that time, Mr. Leahy has served on numerous Big “I” committees and task forces including the Government Affairs Committee, the Tax Task Force and the InsurPac board of Trustees.
Before his involvement with the Big “I,” Mr. Leahy served at the state association level on the executive committee of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA) in 2001 and served as chairman in 2005 and Massachusetts director on the Big “I” national board from 2008 to 2013.
Mr. Leahy has also been active in serving on the board for numerous other professional and civic organizations in Massachusetts. Mr. Leahy and Fran who live in Northampton have si
x children and seven grandchildren.
Installation luncheon attended by over four hundred
The Big “I” held Mr. Leahy’s formal installation in the massive MassMutual Conference Center. The luncheon event had well over four hundred attendees including Mr. Leahy’s family, Big “I” officers, state delegates, insurance agency principals, and insurance company executives.
Much of the credit for the successful luncheon and its related functions go to the Massachusetts Insurance Agent Association, its President and CEO, Nick Fyntrilakis, and its Vice President and COO, Heather Kramer.
Mr. Fyntrilakis spoke and told the attendees of his growing up in Springfield and working for his father ’s restaurant where he came to know Mr. Leahy’s father. He said of Mr. Leahy who he has known since childhood:
He’s my independent insurance agent. He does a great job of it. He’s a great family man, a great husband, a great father and I’m pleased to call him my friend.”
Also speaking from personal knowledge was Mr. Dennis Murphy, a former member of the Massachusetts House of Representative, the current president of Ventry Associates, the MAIA’s lobbying firm, and Mr. Leahy’s brother in law.
Mr. Murphy recounted in an entertaining talk the sincerity, ability, and accomplishments of Mr. Leahy, and of his wife, Frances Brown Leahy, who in Mr. Murphy’s opinion was the “real boss” and “the star of the show.”
Video of the Leahy & Brown Agency’s work following the 2011 Springfield tornado
Following Mr. Murphy’s talk, the audience watched a video highlighting Mr. Leahy’s career and the monumental effort of Mr. Leahy and his wife, Fran, and their agency’s carrier-partners mounted to provide financial support to their insured following the 2011 EF-3 Springfield tornado.
The Mayor of Springfield, Domenic Sarno, and United States Representative, Richard Neal, spoke on the video of how Mr. Leahy, his agency, his company partners and other independent agents and their company partners rushed in to aid people who had lost their homes.
Mr. Leahy’s initiatives for his chairmanship of the Big “I”
After the former President and CEO of the MAIA, Frank Mancini, administered Mr. Leahy his oath of office, Mr. Leahy laid out for the attendees his agenda and thoughts for his chairmanship of the Big “I” stating first:
I am humbled to have been elected by my peers to serve as you chairman while those of us who represent our states’ IIABA boards come to these positions with ideas, energy, and the will to accomplish important deeds…What makes IIABA what it is, and what makes the American Agency System what it is, are the thousands of insurance professionals who on a daily basis serve the insurance needs of mainstream America.”
Among the points, Mr. Leahy said he would focus on during the coming year are:
- Recognizing the “independent insurance agents have always faced the challenges of an evolving marketplace and succeeded by being aggressive and embracing the tools necessary to survive” and the IIABA providing its members with the ways and means to make their agencies the best they can be; whether it be in market development, employee training, advertising assistance along with other tools.
- As mergers and acquisitions continue to affect the agent community, association membership growth is a challenge. Under Mr. Leahy, the IIABA will be working with state associations to provide incentives to increase their memberships.
- The association will focus on the need to bring the next generation of insurance professionals into the American Agency System, and the board will address a program at the present meeting to do a better “job of preparing itself for the future.”
- The IIABA will continue its task force’s commitment to include diversity as a priority that has already resulted in ten additional women, four African Americans, two Hispanics, and three young agents obtaining membership on Also, a program on diversity will also take place at the January meeting for board members and state executives.
Mr. Leahy ended his first speech as chairman reminding the attending agency members:
…you have to member one thing, one bad piece of legislation will do more damage to our members than all the competitors combined. The 2017 tax legislation and subsequent regulations are the latest examples of how the experience of IIABA’s Capitol Hill team led to revisions in the law advantageous to our members. IIABA’s political advocacy will always remain the premier priority of this association.”
About Mr. Leahy’s hometown, Springfield and the Big “I’s” impact
Since 2011, when an EF3 tornado swirled through downtown Springfield and its surrounding residential suburbs leaving five hundred people homeless and killing three, injuring five hundred, and causing $200 million in property damage, the city has come back. With more than $3 billion in new development projects either underway or in the planning stage, the City of Springfield is attracting renewed interest as a travel and convention destination. The Big “I” conference coincided the Grand Opening of the $960 million MGM Springfield resort casino project. The city’s historic Union Station transportation hub has also recently completed a $75 million renovation project. The two projects will serve as the south and north anchors for a reinvigorated Main Street corridor.
The Big “I” Fall Leadership Conference took place between August 22-26, 2018 at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place and MassMutual Center. Over the course of the week, more than five hundred independent insurance agents, brokers and insurance industry company representatives from across the country participated in the event, which the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated generated approximately $1 million in local economic activity.
About the Big “I”
Founded in 1896, The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”) is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of approximately a quarter of a million agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life, health, employee benefit plans and retirement products.