Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Technology

As Older Agents Try to Adapt, Younger Agents Want to Be Heard

NU Online News Service, April 27, 11:33 a.m. EST

WASHINGTON—The aging ranks of producers dealing with perpetuation and reengineering their sales tools in the face of technology’s progress remains a top concern among the agent and broker community, says the chairman of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.

Meanwhile, younger agents are demanding a voice in the profession's future and are reaching out to one another in greater numbers to share ideas and coax an older generation into thinking anew about how business gets done, say officials of the National Young Agents Committee of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.

Interviewed yesterday, Mike Donohoe, chairman of IIABA and owner of James R. Weir Insurance Agency in Mankato, Minn., gave a peek into some of the concerns he plans to address today in his state of the association address before the IIABA’s Convention General Session.

He told the story of his son who, after one of Donohoe’s stump speeches, said his “shtick was too old” and all the business models Donohoe and his peers are using are antiquated.

Technology, Donohoe says, is making those business models obsolete.

“Agents are being made, for the first time, to lead in areas where they are not comfortable, and that is scary to most agents,” Donohoe says. “Technology is coming fast and we have young people coming to us in our agencies saying, ‘What are we going to do and how are we going to do it?’ And we’re not so sure.”

The challenge, he says, is agencies need to transition from relying on referrals and the Yellow Pages to doing business the way consumers want to do business, which is over the Internet.

Another concern is the aging population of agents and the lack of young people to follow in their footsteps.

Donohoe compares the future of independent agents to what happened to travel agents. After a stormy transition from the traditional way of doing business, people are returning to travel agents seeking advice in navigating the myriad of selections they face. Independent agents, he says, will face a similar fate because people need and want a trusted advisor to help make decisions.

To that end, Project CAP (Consumer Agent Portal) is getting closer to launch and has received enthusiastic support from over 1,000 agents, says Donohoe.

The search-optimization program that will connect agents with customers researching personal-lines coverage over the Internet underscores the fact that agents know they need help with technology. CAP, along with Trusted Choice and the launch of an app, will push agents toward doing business the way customers want, says Donohoe.

“This is not a threat, but an opportunity for us to learn to market digitally,” he says.

Young agents are already thinking about and addressing these issues, and they're starting to communicate with each other on how they can make their ideas a reality. “There’s a revolution going on in the way that we communicate, in the way we raise our agencies and basically in the way we market and brand our agencies and use our agencies for the future,” says Jason D. Cass, chairman of the National Young Agents Committee.

The owner of JDC Insurance Group in Centralia, Ill., says as recently as six years ago, young agents were being ignored by the older generation, but Cass credits a few visionary, experienced agents with realizing the younger generation needed an organization to turn to aimed at helping them share ideas to grow their business.

Today, there is growing involvement in the IIABA’s Young Agent Associations throughout the country, Cass said at the annual IIABA Legislative Conference and Convention being held in Washington, D.C.

During this year’s Young Agents and InsurPac State Chairpersons Legislative Luncheon on Wednesday, an event that has drawn up to 60 attendees in the past, drew well over 100 people.

Cass credits the technology revolution for the growth in participation. He says social media has played a large part in informing young agents that there are other people out there like themselves who want to take an innovative approach to marketing their businesses, but have met resistance from their older principals.

“We don’t want to go around the principals; we want the principals to succeed,” Cass says. “These VIPS have left us one of the best industries we can have and we want to help them move it forward. But they don’t want to give us the tools to succeed. Their tools are from the 70s and 80s and they don’t work anymore.”

The Young Agents association is giving members the tools that will help their businesses prosper. “And what do we do?” asks Cass. “We give them results.”

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