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Bryant Rousseau speaks with Mike Davidson, State Farm’s recently retired vice chairman and chief marketing and agency officer, and SVP Rand Harbert, who succeeded Davidson as leader of the company’s nearly 18,000 agents.

The issue of attracting the next generation of agent talent into the business is a core issue for the industry, with some saying we’re approaching a succession crisis as baby boomers start to retire. How is this event going to help State Farm address this issue of finding the most effective way to attract the Millennial generation into insurance?

Mike Davidson: For years, there was thinking that to be successful in the insurance business you need to get seven or eight years of experience somewhere else, breaking yourself into the business world. Then, once you get some maturity, you can become an agent. We’ve got reams of data back home that will show there’s actually no difference whether a person starts as an agent at 21 or at 41 in terms of his or her overall long-term performance. And this event reinforces to us what kind of high-quality young adults are out there, and it helps us as the leadership of the organization to go back to the people who are actually recruiting agents and say, “Don’t overlook this generation! They’ve got skills and competencies that far surpass people in prior generations.”

How is the skill-set profile of an agent going to be different five years, 10 years down the road? An agent used to have to be good at sitting down at a kitchen table with clients and closing a deal: What are they going to need to be good at over the next decade?

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