Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Management

12 Best Young Agents for 2013

As millennials enter the insurance industry, they bring new methods, talents and skills that are unique to their generation. Through their innovative thinking and modern outlook, these 12 agents have firmly established themselves as a valuable assets to agencies, even among the most experienced and respected agency veterans. Read what young agents have to say about recruiting and retaining young talent, experiences as a millennial in the industry, pertinent legislative issues and more.

Jocelyn M. Horton

Account executive, ISU Insurance Services of Colorado Inc

Years at company: 1.5 years
College: University of Colorado at Devner, December 2011
Organizations: BNI, PIIAC Young Insurance Professionals Chiar

Read Jocelyn's Q&A from AA&B's January issue

What advice do you have for millennials struggling in a professional environment?
One of the biggest struggles is learning to escape technology and have that human interaction. Technology is so present in our day-to-day lives that we have been accustomed to texting and emailing instead of calling someone or having face-to-face dialogue. In this business it is all about the human connection and the relationships you build with your clients, carriers and competitors. It is pretty hard to establish a human connection when we are using technology as our only means of communication.

I strongly advise new young agents to learn to balance technology and human interaction and to find a mentor who can teach them how to establish that face-to-face relationship.

How do you balance work and personal life?
I am a former college athlete and find my free time filled with slow-pitch softball, ski racing and other activities. Work has been fun thus far and I really don’t have to balance much because I enjoy waking up and going to work every day.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a young agent, and how did you handle it?
I am a recent college graduate, and transitioning into the corporate world challenged me. Email etiquette, formal attire every day and organization/time management have been the hard lessons to learn. I am lucky to have great mentors and have been blessed with people who want me to succeed; that is how I’ve managed to overcome those challenges.

Andy Barclay, CLCS, ACSR

Producer, The John A. Barclay Agency Inc.
Years at company: 8 years
College: Texas Tech University, 2004
Organizations: Rotary International, Leadership Austin, Young Men’s Business League of Austin

Read Andy's Q&A from AA&B's February issue

Who is your mentor?
My father. I started in the insurance business almost 8 years ago and he had me obtain my licenses and immediately start on gaining knowledge and designations. There is much to be learned about the industry that you can only gain understanding of by real-world experience. Having a mentor who can advise you on how to handle a difficult claim or which insurance company to call regarding a certain risk is a great thing. Eventually, the training wheels come off and if you have a good mentor, you have a good idea how to handle anything that comes at you.

How does your office reflect how you work?
I am an avid fly fisherman, waterfowler and Texan. My office has a framed copy of the first flag of the Texas Republic hanging on the wall. If you visit, you also will see a number of artistic duck decoys, fishing pictures and pictures of my wife. I like reminding myself that there is more to life than just work. Work is important, but so are the things that also bring you joy in life. Creating a relaxed environment keeps me relaxed and focused at work.

What’s your mantra for success?
I believe it is important to get back to people quickly. Clients love knowing that when they need to reach you, they can. I have my cell phone listed on my business card and am able to access my email from anywhere using a smartphone. I always try and respond to people within the hour.

Kim Cahoon, CISR, CLCS

Agent/Producer, Luhn-McCain Insurance Agency
Years at company: 
3.5 years
Organizations: San Antonio Manufacturing Assn., San Antonio R.O.C.K.S. nonprofit animal rescue organization

Read Kim's Q&A from AA&B's March issue

What are your main priorities as a young agent?
I enjoy working in the insurance field because I have the freedom and flexibility to dedicate time to both my career and my non-profit organization, which rescues animals from kill shelters and successfully rehabilitates, fosters and adopts them into loving homes.

How can employers retain young talent?
Offer a structured training program with continuing education and development, and provide a good mentor to give advice and support. Have advancement opportunities within the company and lucrative, attainable incentive programs.

How did you determine that insurance was a viable career choice?
From an early age, I have been exposed to many aspects of the insurance industry. My grandmother owns the agency and serves as president, my mother, Niki, is the CEO and my aunt, Donna, serves as executive vice president. Insurance has always been a vital part of my life.

Whitney Simonetti

Senior corporate marketing specialist, American Safety Insurance
Years at company: 
5 years
College: Auburn University, 2005
Organizations: Treasurer for NAPSLO Next Generation

Read Whitney's Q&A from AA&B's April issue

What sales strategies worked for you this past year?
Upfront honesty. I went on a sales call with one of our veteran underwriters and absolutely loved his presentation. He went in with one product sheet to leave with producers, started with his "sweet spot" and followed with the coverages he won’t write, answered questions and was done in 20 minutes. No glitzy 30-slide PowerPoint or sales talk. Producers appreciate you not taking up half of their mornings, and you will end up saving yourself time if you tell people exactly what you will and won’t write. Otherwise, you risk producers flooding you with submissions of all the things you don’t want.

What legislative issues are you interested in?
The Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA) implementation, through major NAPSLO efforts, has been a dramatic improvement for compliance issues plaguing our industry. My department is involved with producer compliance, and anyone involved in regulatory or compliance knows what a headache it is for surplus lines.

How do you balance work and personal life?
Oddly enough, the more involved I’ve become, the more my work and personal life have grown into one. I count some of my coworkers as close friends and now find myself planning trips to visit friends in the industry.Who would have thought people in insurance could be so fun?

Antonio Canas, CPCU, ARM

Financial Leadership Rotation Program (FLRP) Associate, Nationwide
Years at company: 
2.5 years
College: Iowa State University, BS ’06, MBA ’11.
Organizations:  National CPCU Society, CPCU Society New Designee Committee, Columbus CPCU Society Director of Good Works, Nationwide’s Gen Y Associate ­Resource Group Communications Chair.

Read Antonio's Q&A from AA&B's May issue

What skills do young agents need next year?
A strong technical knowledge will become more important as personal lines become more standardized and largely written without an agent. Commercial lines is where the agents will likely remain in demand, and for that you need to have a lot of technical education to serve your more sophisticated customers. CPCU and CLU will become even more important. Networking skills are also absolutely vital.

What’s your mantra for success?
If you’re going to work 40 years of your life, commit to giving it your all from the start. This allows you more flexibility in the later stages of your career. Manage your personal brand because it precedes you and will open or close doors. Finally, be a lifelong learner; the day you stop learning your skills, you start decaying.

How can employers retain young talent?
This is where the real problem lies. Understand that Gen Y wants to work hard, but they need a combination of challenging work and constant feedback. A yearly review is not enough for a generation that grew up under intense guidance from parents, teachers and coaches. Companies should consider mentoring programs and rotation programs, along with really pushing their young employees to further their education with programs such as CPCU and CLU. Once a young professional has made such an investment in the industry, he or she will be much less likely to leave.

Bryan Fontenot, AAI, CRIS

Corporate Account Executive, Brown & Brown of Louisiana
Years at company:
2 years
College: University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2007
Organizations: Big I, CACRC (Capital Area Corporate Recycling Council), Forum35 (Baton Rouge young professional society), Maxwell Football Club, That Man is You!

Read Bryan's Q&A from AA&B's June issue

How did you determine that insurance was a viable career choice?
A childhood friend’s mom encouraged me to consider pursuing a career in insurance, as it was both a challenging and rewarding career path for her. When I was preparing to find a job after college, she thought that a position as a catastrophe claims adjuster would be a great start for me, as I had a deep desire to travel and also learn the technical aspects of the business. I was fortunate enough to get a position doing exactly that, and after almost 3 years, she reached out to me again as she thought that I was ready to make the transition into the agency side. Fast forward to now, and I’m forever thankful to her for helping me get started in such a great industry.

What sales strategies work for you?
I have focused more this year on taking a consultative approach with any prospective clients. When I first became an agent, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to quote for someone. After having limited success with, my mentors taught me a much more sophisticated and successful process. It allowed me to do a better job of identifying a true opportunity. It also reminded me that my time was most important to my existing clients, and that I could not properly service them if I was exhausting my time “practice quoting.”

What’s your mantra for success?
I live by the mantra “fortune favors the bold.” In life, we’re faced with many challenges and obstacles. We’re reluctant at times to step outside of our comfort zones, as we fear failure or rejection. Perhaps in sales, this is most evident. I constantly try and remind myself that by stepping out of my comfort zone, I can unlock doors to opportunities and experiences that my irrational fears once prevented me from enjoying. I post the expression in my phone, on my wall, and in my truck to serve as a constant reminder.

Erin Atkins, CISR

Principal Agent, Hanby Ramey King Insurance
Years at company:
4 years
College: University of Texas at Dallas, ’02
Organizations: Soroptimist International of Rockwall, Helping Hands Community Circle, Relay for Life of Rockwall County, Community Heart of Mesquite, Promenade Harbor, HOA

Read Erin's Q&A from AA&B's July issue

What do you see as your biggest strength?
My youth. I am open-minded to new ideas and technology. I grew up using computers and so it is easier for me to adapt to new software and company changes online.

How did you handle the biggest challenge you faced as a young agent?
The most challenging thing about being a young agent was gaining the respect of my potential clients and community. I was 28 when I started my agency; to most people I was still a kid. I began to work on my Web presence and getting more involved in the community. I had to gain my customers’ trust and show them I was serious about my business and the insurance industry.

What’s an important lesson you learned when joining a professional working environment?
Just because you own a business doesn’t mean you will be successful. You have to step out of your comfort zone in order to grow. You constantly have to learn and nurture your business to achieve long-term success.

Joey Giangola

Broker, Giangola Insurance Agency 
Years at company:
4 years
College: Walsh University, ’06
Organizations: NAFIA

Read Joey's Q&A from AA&B's August issue

What skills do you think young agents need?
Care about every person you insure as if that person is your own mother. But if you want something more tactical, every agent needs passable writing skills. Not “writing business,” but pen-to-paper or fingers-to-keyboard writing. That drives forward everything you do. Good writing is at the core of emails, blog posts, social media updates, video scripts, website copy and much more.

What do you see as your biggest strength in this industry?
My biggest strength is the ability to translate the “traditional” insurance sales process online. My experience with online media prior to joining the business offers giant shortcuts in creating and producing quality, educational content for people to consume. This is a concept some agents and companies are slowly getting around to, yet others have yet to even acknowledge its existence.

What is an important lesson you learned when joining a professional working environment? Having limited experience working in a “professional” environment, most of my observations and lessons have come from afar. However, what I would say is don’t get caught up in the “nickel and diming” of who’s who and what’s what. You’re there to do a job, not talk about the way your job is done. Don’t waste your time complaining about what’s wrong. Instead, find a way to fix it or work around it.

Michael Charles-Hilson

Vice President, GBG Inc.
Years at company: 
12 years
College: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Read Michael's Q&A from AA&B's September issue

What advice do you have for millennials struggling in a professional environment?
I observe the millennial generation struggling with staying confident in a professional environment. The best part about being young is that you are not required to know everything during this time in your career. My advice is to stay confident that you belong in a professional environment and take extra steps when completing a task or learning a project. A young employee with passion and a hard work ethic will produce a positive outcome for your career.

What advice do you have when working with family?
To be candid, working with my family is the greatest challenge I face at my office but it is the most rewarding. It’s not easy to live up to the expectations and demands that you will have to encounter every day. I know that by meeting those expectations I am a better insurance agent and have the opportunity to bring value to a relationship where I was the only party receiving the benefits. Enjoy the rare opportunity that you have to spend time with your family and making a living.

What legislative issues are you interested in?
The National Assn. of Registered and Broker Agents Reform Act (NARAB). It’s a wonderful idea that any licensed agent can have access to an independent non-profit corporation that provides non-resident licensing reciprocity. This legislation eliminates the long process of applying to each individual state and provides a solution to agents that would like to operate in multiple states

Anthony Pomerson, UACRM, AINS

Resident Agent/Producer, Laginess Insurance Agency Inc.
Years at company:
4 years
College: Olivet College ’12  

Read Anthony's Q&A from AA&B's October issue

What advice do you have for millennials struggling in this industry?
Learn to deal with rejection. We are the first wave of people entering the workforce who grew up receiving a participation medal and the idea that no one loses, everyone is a winner. The result is that later in life, when we are not selected for a job or promotion, or lose a big account, we don't know how to deal with the rejection. I quickly learned that it can really slow you down and prevent you from reaching your goals. My advice to other Gen Ys: Don't let rejection or losing slow you down. Instead, use the experience as a learning tool that fuels you to become better, because you will have another opportunity that you’ll need to be prepared for.

How does social marketing make you a more productive employee?
Social marketing makes me a productive employee because I’m the only one in the office who uses it to bring in new business and retain current customers. It's something where my age is a strength for the agency.

What are some of your career highlights?
Landing my first big account. It wasn't an easy-to-place risk. Throw in high-liability limits required, and I was placing multiple lines of coverage with multiple carriers. In the end I was able to get the whole account placed with great carriers with great coverage at a good price.

Eric Tedmus, CIC, CLCS

Founder and CEO, Tedmus Insurance Services
Years at company: 
3 years in business, 8 years in industry
College:  Cal Poly State University San Luis Obispo, 2006 
Organizations: Board Secretary for Community Violence Solutions; Referral Pros President 

Read Eric's Q&A from AA&B's November issue

What are your main priorities as a young agent?
Having your own insurance practice is always challenging, but I have always believed in keeping a good work/life balance. You have to spend time outside the office. With that said, I love spending time with my amazing wife. She pushes me to become a better person. I also value the outdoors and making sure to get plenty of exercise when I can.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a young agent, and how did you handle it?
My biggest challenge was facing my clients directly when I made the mistake in the insurance buying process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve apologized to my clients for something that I did incorrectly and tried to fix—mostly underwriting issues.

How did you determine that insurance was a viable career choice?
In college, I interned at an independent brokerage and became licensed at that time. After helping one of my initial clients with his portfolio and receiving positive feedback from him, I was hooked. I knew I had found what I truly wanted to do.


Adam Rekerdres, CIC, ACI

Vice President, Rekerdres & Sons Insurance Agency Inc.
Years at company:
9 years
College: University of Dallas, 2001
Organizations: Independent Insurance Agents, International Standards Organization 

Read Adam's Q&A from AA&B's December issue

How can employers retain young talent? 
We make great effort to show that there is more value for the employees than just the digits on their paychecks. This includes typical benefits such as healthcare, but also benefits that might not be at the top of their minds, such as professional education and unique experiences that will advance their career. We even offer covered parking!

What are some of your career highlights? 
I arranged for a shipping container to be delivered to the parking lot at an industry convention. I gave a presentation inside the container on container shipping best practices. It was well attended!

How does your office reflect how you work? 
Our office is a very open space. We have no cubicles. Our agents are arranged in teams with CSRs. It may get a little loud sometimes, but the exchange of information that occurs is worth it. I also have a desk that can move from a sitting position to a standing position. When standing I can easily walk to another desk to discuss an issue—or run for a cup of coffee.


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