Posted by: yacmichigan | March 28, 2014

Travelers, InVEST Team Up to Develop Young Professionals

Travelers, InVEST Team Up to Develop Young Professionals

Written by Young Ha, Published by Insurance Journal March 7, 2014

The Travelers Cos., in partnership with InVEST, a nationwide school-to-career nonprofit program, is helping to improve insurance and financial literacy in students and attract young talent for the insurance industry.

Founded in 1970, InVEST works with more than 500 high schools and colleges to introduce useful insurance curriculum to students. With the help of insurance professionals who serve as InVEST liaisons, students also get opportunities for job shadow events, internships or even careers. For many, InVEST programs serve as their first chance to learn about the insurance industry and discover the breadth of opportunities and careers available.

At Travelers, the partnership with InVEST is overseen by Neal Montgomery, director of field management at Travelers and an InVEST board member. “I am fortunate that Travelers has asked me to be their representative to the InVEST national board,” Montgomery said. “I have been involved with InVEST program locally, working with our local schools for about 13 years now. I have been on InVEST board for seven.”

And every year, Travelers hosts an InVEST job shadow day in Hartford, Conn., called “Travelers Employees for a Day,” which this year was held on Jan. 31. Travelers also provides InVEST internships to high school students in Connecticut.

“I’ve had a chance to have a dozen different interns work with me. We have had interns in numerous other departments. We probably had 30 interns total in the last dozen years,” Montgomery said.

Among the students who took part in InVEST programs, seven have since become full-time Travelers employees. Some joined Travelers after college while some have pursued their college degree while working at Travelers. “It’s been tremendously successful for us,” he said.

Taking Advantage of the Opportunity

One of the Travelers employees who helped in this year’s job shadow day is Brandon Dombroski, an agency portfolio consultant. An InVEST alumnus who participated in the job shadow and the InVEST internship at Travelers, Dombroski understands firsthand how helpful the program can be.

“I try to really take the students through with what they want to do for a career,” he said. “A lot of students, when they think of insurance, they think of underwriters or salespersons. They don’t really see the behind-the-scenes functions.”

Travelers 2.jpg

A Travelers employee in the market research department shows students around the building during the job shadow event.

“They can relate to the fact that I went to the same school and am from the same area. I went through the program,” Dombroski said, adding that the InVEST program helped him get into college and start his career at Travelers. “I think it really shows what exactly they can do if they take advantage of the opportunity.”

“I would definitely recommend the program to students,” said Dombroski. “It really opens their eyes. It helps them get a better understanding of the functions that they don’t necessarily see. There are a lot of newer functions within insurance that they would find interesting. It also shows them the opportunities that are there.”

While working full-time at Travelers, Dombroski has also been attending University of Hartford full-time. He will be graduating this May. “My plans for after graduation are just to continue working. Eventually I want to go back for my MBA but I am going to take some time off from doing both full time and really focus on work,” he said.

Alissa Parlante, a high school senior and an InVEST intern at Travelers, is another InVEST alumnus who helped with this year’s job shadow event. She had job-shadowed a Travelers employee a year ago and is now working as an intern, working from 2:30 until 5:30 weekdays after school.

“The internship started in July and it’s going for about a year, throughout my senior year, which is great,” Parlante said. “My next step is going to college next year. Hopefully as I start my college career, another opportunity will arise with Travelers.”

For this year’s job shadow program, Travelers had personnel from 27 different departments hosting 62 students and 12 educators from four local schools. Students spent the day shadowing professionals from a variety of Travelers business units, including personal lines, risk control and field management.

“We provided the students with a sense of what those departments do. The students make first and second choice selections of who they would like to shadow, and we do absolutely everything we can to give the students their first or second choice, or something close to what their choice was,” Travelers’ Montgomery said.

“For just about anything you want to do, we have a career for it,” Montgomery said in describing the broad career opportunities available in the insurance industry and at Travelers. “But,” he added, “high school students don’t have that concept.”

“They don’t understand that we’ve got a forensics laboratory to investigate the claims; that we’ve got a claims training center where they can climb on construction equipment and watch us flood buildings to see what happens from flood damage; those that are literary-minded come into our creative services and our marketing department.”

Montgomery said there were also a number of students in this year’s event who were interested in actuarial careers, and they were able to job-shadow Travelers’ actuaries. There were also students interested in sailing and they got to learn from an InVEST alumnus who now works as a yacht underwriter at Travelers.

“We also had students who were interested in the agricultural business,” Montgomery said. “Well, we’ve got an entire department devoted to insuring farms, agribusinesses and livestock. They were amazed that a company 15 miles away from their hometown specializes in this.”

“One of the teachers came up to me,” Montgomery recalled, “and said this is absolutely the highlight of their class year.”

Reposted from IIABA InVEST Program,

Article is from Gair Maxwells blog at 

Branding With Distinction

Some people use Dells, HP’s and Acers, but other people are Apple.

Have you ever wondered why that is?

And how a similar approach to branding can be applied to your own business category?

Think about it this way.

Dell, Acer, Samsung, HP, Toshiba and others represent no more than a “badge of ownership” in the product category known as personal computers. “Badges of ownership” are common, non-distinct, ‘same old-same old’ products or services. A “brand of distinction”, however, is that rare, precious jewel that stands apart.

Suppose you walk in on a person who is working with a Dell, and you offer to replace it with a Toshiba, Acer, HP or any other number of models. Assuming that their files are transferred and the technical specs of the machine are comparable; do you think the other person would throw a hissy fit? Not likely. However, the same cannot be said when you attempt this experiment on an Apple user. Try and swap a Dell or an Acer even-up for a Mac and prepare to be subjected to varying degrees of bodily harm!

A badge of ownership does nothing more than distinguish one company’s products or services from a competitor across the street or across the web, making potential assets such as company name, storefront signage, slogan or logo virtually irrelevant. While “badges of ownership” are easily interchangeable, Apple serves as a great example of a “brand of distinction” that commands a level of emotional attachment transcending price, products and the purchase itself. Over time (and we’re talking years/decades), that emotional connection grows deeper, generating respect, honor and (are you paying attention CEO’s?) category-killing financial results. On the other hand, “badges of ownership” might have a few early wins, but often find it difficult to draw on the hearts and purse strings of customer loyalty for any sustainable length of time.

Look around and you will notice the same emotionally-charged dynamic surfaces in a wide range of what we refer to as “brands of distinction”.

From upscale luxury brands such as Rolex, Louis Vuitton and Ferrari, to otherwise ordinary products and services such as Dove soap, Jack Daniels whiskey, Starbucks coffee, Tilley hats, Nike footwear and Dos Equis beer. A wide range of similarities surface when comparing extremely different ‘brands of distinction’ from a Harvard degree to yoga wear from LuLu Lemon; from a Harley-Davidson chopper to IKEA home furnishings; from American Girl to Zappos and 1-800-GOT-JUNK?.

What allows these “brands of distinction” to emerge as category leaders, enjoying unparalleled business success fuelled by legions of loyal customers? And how can this approach be applied to your business?

Like Apple and other “brands of distinctions”, the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers command an unusually high level of loyalty, respect and profitability, due in no small part to having an unusual grasp of understanding “who” they are and the market they serve. While rival teams throw big money at pricey, showboating free-agents, the Steelers build quietly through the draft, refusing to go “Hollywood”. People in Pittsburgh aren’t flashy, don’t want to be flashy and don’t particularly like players who are flashy. As a result, you don’t see many Steelers in the tabloids or dating starlets or supermodels. The Steelers don’t employ cheerleaders and unlike any other team in professional sports have only employed three head coaches since 1969. By rejecting the cult of personality (which may help sell more souvenirs), the Steelers create a culture of success, where they believe it really counts.


Pittsburgh has won more Super Bowl titles than any other team.  By knowing “who they are” in terms of core identity, purpose and how they measure success, Apple and the Pittsburgh Steelers are great examples of how a “brand of distinction” can serve as a guide to decision-making. This becomes so ingrained in leading organizations that they consciously ask themselves, “How will this decision impact upon the brand?” or “Are we on-brand?”

According to Shelly Lazarus, chairman of Ogilvy & Mather:
“Once you understand what the brand is all about, it gives direction to the whole enterprise. You know what products you’re supposed to make and not make. You know how you’re supposed to answer your telephone. You know how you’re going to package things. It gives a set of principles to an entire enterprise.”

In other words, you can’t just “copy and paste” the Apple story and culture and pretend it’s your own brand. The brutal truth is that Apple, the Pittsburgh Steelers and other “brands of distinction” have something no other marketer will be able to emulate, because it comes from something deep inside.

You’ve either got it, or you’re committed to working on it.

A reason for existing.

Not just a reason for selling.

A “reason for existing” translates into a crusade or story where the brand either plays or supports the role of protagonist or hero. The best examples are rooted in fundamental human truths; Virgin believes ordinary people are often abused by big, faceless corporations and becomes a modern-day Robin Hood with irreverent pokes at the “establishment”. Apple believes the power of individuality should always triumph and people should be free to create what they want. Disney believes we should hold on to our childhood imagination and just be kids for a day. The Steelers believe you should take your hard hat to work and focus on fundamentals like running the football and playing great defence.

Forward-thinking CEO’s recognize their companies need to differentiate themselves in ways that can’t be copied. Whether it is a differentiated strategy, product, service, technology or process, a “brand of distinction” won’t bet the house on “the latest, greatest technology/widget” or rely on bromides like “we just do it better.” Instead, they have a clear grasp of who they are, what they stand against, and how to live out those values over time. Branding at this level is not a cosmetic applied to make an organization look pretty. Rather it’s your DNA; a true reflection of who you are, what you do and how you serve.

While “badges of ownership” coax, cajole and sometimes beg for business, a “brand of distinction” is confident in what it’s doing to attract the right kind of people in the first place. While transactional-based badges scream “Trust us!”, great brands quietly go about their business to keep relational promises.

When it comes to building “brands of distinction”, fancy logos, eye-catching design or cute, funny and clever ads, don’t do much of anything if your message lacks depth and authenticity. Pretty pictures or the latest buzz words won’t make you cooler. They don’t make your products better, your people more friendly and knowledgeable or inspire customers to line up and camp overnight for a new product release.

The best brands in the world transcend their actual product or service and create an emotional bond by knowing at the deepest level why they exist in the first place.

Starbucks sells the spirit of community through a “third place” between work and home; Pike’s Place Fish Market in Seattle is selling “goofiness on the job”, not fish. Las Vegas is selling “sin” not tourism; Mont Blanc sells “prestige” not pens; Harley-Davidson sells “rebellion” not motorcycles; Rolex sells “achievement” not watches; Dove sells “self-esteem” not soap; 1-800-GOT JUNK? sells “clean & hip, not trash removal . In other words, they know what the customer is really buying and how it connects to what they already believe.

A “brand of distinction” is not something you buy off the shelf. It’s what you know and feel deep in your bones in terms of who you already are, why your business exists (beyond the making of money) and who you are determined to become for the whole world to see. Anyone can serve a cup of coffee. Anyone can toss fish or haul junk. But, precious few can create a brand of distinction around those business models. The difference? Brands of distinction adopt guiding principles that speak to a bigger purpose, then stick to them.

A “brand of distinction” resonates with customers because its “story” comes from a very real place. Dig into your own history, rediscover why your company was created in the first place, find out its reason for being and determine the greater purpose it serves. With enough introspection, patience and hard work, you will find an Apple-worthy branding gem that’s just as relevant today as it ever was.

What is the one thing you want your company to be known for?

- See more at:

Posted by: yacmichigan | January 23, 2014

Third Oldest Agency in the Nation Thrives by Embracing Technology

Third Oldest Agency in the Nation Thrives by Embracing Technology
Not out with the OLD, but Definitely Embrace the NEW.
It was once said that “experience is the key to success.” As Alabama’s oldest insurance agency and the nation’s third oldest agency (est. 1858), we at Talladega Insurance Agency have never forgotten the old tools to success but have always embraced newer ideas to gain the extra advantage. But, once again, “times are different now,” and “change is upon us.” We work, live, and socialize in a society where we want things done quickly, and we thrive on having the devices that help us to do these tasks, especially when our friends and colleagues do not. Simply put, whether business or personal we thrive on “the new.” Today, many are proud of having the newest/first: Droid, iPhone, Tablets, software updates, and the list goes on. Years ago, they called this “beta testing,” and it was said that most sat back and waited till the kinks were worked out.
My father was one of the first agents to purchase the Red Shaw system in or around 1978 and then Applied Systems in 1984. Our agency went paperless around 1991. It was a time when the baby boomers were becoming the decision makers, and they wanted technology. Older agents asked my father, “What are you doing playing with that computer- that’s for the CSR’s?” His response, “I don’t want any person in this office to know how to do something I cannot do myself. And this computer is about to be our most valued employee.” How true then and how true now? Our websites, Facebook pages, Linked In, and Agency Managers are ALL working for us when we have left for the day. They are a 24-hour employee. Shouldn’t we, as agents/owners, know what our employee is capable of?
I find myself, as well as young agents as a whole, on that same “bubble” that those baby boomers, like my father, were on in the late 80’s. Technology has moved so fast over the past 10 years, and the insurance industry is finally catching up with it. We are now learning that a website can become a money-maker and service our clients. For years, most agencies just had a website but had no idea what to do with it. We now know that Facebook can be used as a tool to drive home personal lines better than any radio or TV ad ever could. And technology is in place for us to randomly stop in on a prospect, bring up an industry-specific questionnaire on a tablet, complete it, upload it to an Acord form, and submit it before ever leaving the prospects place of business.

Boyd McGehee is 2013-14 a Big “I” national Young Agents Committee member, and Vice President Producer of the family agency, Talladega Insurance, Alabama.

I am not saying that my agency is the best, but I do think that businesses that have been around for long periods of time all share one thing in common, they embrace the new. Young agents in this country are now becoming owners and principals, and, if they are not, at the very least, most have become the decision makers on all things related to technology. The torch is being past. Software and capability is now catching up to technology in insurance. Let’s embrace it. This is our chance as independent agents to gain the competitive advantage. It is our chance to meet with our carriers and tell them our needs and ideas. Don’t miss that boat!
Posted by: yacmichigan | December 13, 2013

Adam Rekerdres Continues Young Agent Discussion

Adam Rekerdres Continues Young Agent Discussion – nGI

Vice President, Rekerdres & Sons Insurance Agency Inc.


December 12, 2013 • Reprints


Years at company: 9 years College: University of Dallas, 2001 Organizations: Independent Insurance Agents, International Standards Organization

Read Adam’s previous nGI Q&A

How can employers recruit young talent?  We have experienced more success recruiting young people who are only a year or two out of college. Even better, we make space for summer interns. If they are a good fit, we offer them a full time position immediately after graduation.

How did you determine that insurance was a viable career choice?  Coming from a family agency, I always thought it was a possibility and something that I would enjoy.  I would say I truly determined it was a viable career choice once I figured out that I was good at it! And it took a long time to get there!

How does technology fit into your work strategy?  We use technology to improve our work flows. We have identified the most important work procedures in our office and we use a proprietary system to monitor the performance of those procedures. The performance of any third party provider (including carriers) is also monitored and measured.

What’s your mantra for success? I follow the wisdom of the Oracle at Delphi: “Know thyself.”

Who do you look toward as a mentor in this industry?  My father Ted Rekerdres is a mentor to me.

What legislative issues are you interested in? I am interested in the development of captive insurance law in Texas. 

What are your main priorities as a young agent? My main priority is work/life balance. In particula,r I struggle with limiting the amount of travel. Travel takes time from the family and it is also takes a toll on the body.

How do you balance work and personal life?  I set realistic goals and boundaries at the beginning of the year. It is really difficult to uphold the boundaries.

What is an important lesson you learned when joining a professional working environment? I learned early on the importance of being punctual and paying attention to details. Those were two qualities which do not come naturally to me and I have had to focus on.

What do you see Gen Y/Millennials struggle with in a professional environment? What advice do you have? I see young people unable to immediately see the benefit in staying with an employer long term verses chasing the next highest paycheck. I think young people today struggle with seeing the value in the work environment that may go beyond the paycheck.

Where do you hope to take your career? What direction would you like your career to go?  Very simple – reputation is gold for me. If I can be a good steward of my family business and maintain the rock-solid reputation, then I will consider that success.

Many young agents enter this industry because other family members work in insurance. What advice do you have when working with family? Communication and boundaries are key when working with family members. People think that working with family member is easy, but many times basic aspects of business, such as communication, are complicated and strained. Because there is a very personal relationship and history involved, you have to be really brave and set clear boundaries.

What skills do you think young agents will need next year?  Young agents need to learn how to present well, speak well and write well.  I look for young agents who can think outside of the box and get concepts across to clients.

What do you see young agents struggle with in their first years in this industry? What advice do you have?  Young agents may see insurance as a boring desk job in their first years. My advice would be to get out there and get some experience! If there is a big claim, then go see it first hand!

What are some of your career highlights? A recent highlight was arranging 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!

Have you won any awards in your field? If so, how have you used that award to further yourself in this industry? My agency has won the Export “E” Star award.  We are also the first retail agency in the US to be ISO 9000 certified. The ISO certification is important to us. It means an independent person audits our procedures and customer service every year.

Adam Rekerdres was featured in the December 2013 Issue of AA&B. He is the vice president of Rekerdres & Sons Insurance Agency Inc.

Posted by: yacmichigan | November 19, 2013

Anthony Pomerson Continues Young Agent Discussion

Years at company: 4 years College: Olivet College, ’12

Read Anthony’s previous nGI Q&A

How can employers recruit young talent? Recruit young talent from colleges and universities. Talk to the advisors about what kind of person you are looking to hire. There are a lot of young people in their junior or senior year that are hungry to have a good job lined up before graduation.

How does technology fit into your work strategy? I try to incorporate technology whenever it makes processes more efficient, adds value to myself or the agency and when it is a possible selling point to a customer.

What’s your mantra for success? I’m constantly trying to improve myself and my community. It kind of stems from Olivet College’s vision “Education for Individual and Social Responsibility.”

What are your future goals in this industry? I want to become an insurance agency owner.

What legislative issues are you interested in? I’m interested in the Michigan No-Fault reform.

What are your main priorities as a young agent? I just got married on June 1, 2013, so I’m definitely committed to having a work/life balance.  It’s not easy being a new agent and trying to balance work, home life and the multiple charities I’m involved with, but I thank God every day for the great opportunities He has given me.

How do you balance work and personal life? Setting priorities is key. I put the tasks and people I value most at the top of my priority list.  Keeping that balance is a persistent struggle.

What is an important lesson you learned when joining a professional working environment? Keep your projects and calendar organized. Also, communication with co-workers, customers and prospects are vital for success.

Many young agents enter this industry because other family members work in insurance. What advice do you have when working with family? I don’t have any family in the insurance industry, but I do work for a family-run agency.  They do a very good job of keeping work life and family life separate.  It’s not easy to do, but can be vital to the success of your business.

What skills do you think young agents will need next year? Not just next year, but for the foreseeable future, young agents will need to be good at adapting to change.

What do you see young agents struggle with in their first years in this industry? What advice do you have? Gaining enough knowledge to compete with others that have been in the industry for 10+ years is important.  Working on and achieving designations will help you gain that knowledge and make you stand out from your peers in a positive way.

What sales strategies worked for you this past year? Not one strategy will be enough for obtaining prospects and making the sale.  I used multiple sales strategies and most of them produced results.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a young agent, and how did you handle it? Getting over the rejection of not landing a big account after spending a lot of time and effort on it.  It hurt, but keeping the big picture in mind, along with encouraging stories from experienced coworkers, helped me get over it and move on to the next exciting project.

What do you see as your biggest strength in this industry? My age.

What is your biggest weakness? How have you addressed that weakness? My age… and procrastination.  I can do nothing but wait for my age to increase, but the procrastination I can and have addressed. Keeping a calendar with scheduled reminders helps keep me focused on what needs to get done. Having deadlines really helps too.

Anthony Pomerson was featured in the October 2013 Issue of AA&B. He is a resident agent and producer at Laginess Insurance Agency Inc.

Posted by: yacmichigan | November 8, 2013

Earn Respect in the Workplace, from the Florida YAC Chairman

Earn Respect in the Workplace, from the Florida YAC Chairman

Managing your mom’s friends.

By Jason Levine, MSM-RMI
Vice President, Operations
Harry Levine Insurance

Perhaps the biggest challenge for a young agent in a management position or a young producer who relies upon support staff is gaining and maintaining their co-workers’ respect. Office dynamics can often be tricky, but they become even more complex when the holder of greater responsibility may be only half the age of those they’re relying on for results. It makes sense too. First glance logic says that an elder will be wiser as the result of their tenure and years of experience. Deeper study disproves this. The critical importance of these relationships is evidenced by the most forward question I was asked very early in my career when interviewing for a fast-track captive agency program: “How are you going manage a staff that may be 30–40 years your senior in some cases? How and why will they have any respect and/or loyalty to one who they see as their children’s peer?”

The answer to this challenge is actually quite simple. It’s consistently implementing and maintaining the characteristics and styles necessary that can be challenging. First, you always need to be learning. Note that I did not say that you need to know more/better than anyone else. However, if you can establish yourself as a bank of knowledge regarding product, the regulatory environment, and the practical implications of the seemingly mundane every day procedural tasks, you will set yourself apart as engaged, smart, and deserving of your station. Second, you must be firm, fair, and unflinchingly confident. Confidence exudes competence. The former traits simply follow the Golden Rule coupled with sound management technique. Treat others how you would want to be treated, though remember that you are the lead and results depend upon your adherence to sound company policy. Third, and most importantly, make sure to stay sharp on how to successfully do all of the jobs for which you are responsible for managing. I have more than once overcome the direct challenges of skeptical staff by being consistently able to perform every task over which I manage to the highest of standards. Finally, maintain congenial relationships, but really understand that your staff cannot be your friends. They may be your office family and it’s crucial to support them in their times of need and in their day to day dealings, but do not blur the business/home line with your subordinates.

Sure, it’s easier said than done to manage a staff that mirrors the generation of your parents, but it can be done effectively and successfully. Just keep your head high, think before you act, and make sure you are the most learned and best performing professional that you can be. Such traits make teams want to work together and leaders want to be followed.

Published from a series of blogs by the FAIA Young Agents Council Leadership on issues affecting young agents in the workplace.

Posted by: yacmichigan | October 15, 2013

Study: Michigan no-fault insurance raises auto costs

Lansing— A new Citizens Research Council of Michigan report says the state’s no-fault auto coverage leads to medical costs and insurance premiums that are higher than in other states.

While taking no position on proposed changes, the report gives additional ammunition to Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican lawmakers wanting to revamp Michigan’s 40-year-old vehicle insurance law.

“Michigan auto insurance provides very generous and comprehensive health benefits,” Research Council research associate Nicole Bradshaw said regarding the report. “However, these benefits are costly.”

Bradshaw said there may be ways to reduce costs “while still preserving most or all of the current benefits.”

This state is one of a dozen that allow or require motorists to buy no-fault insurance, under which each drivers’ insurer pays for his or her injuries and auto damage no matter which of them caused the crash.

Michigan is unique in mandating unlimited medical care coverage for accident victims. Its Catastrophic Claims Association adds a $175 annual assessment to each vehicle insurance policy and reimburses auto insurers for crash injury treatment claims exceeding $530,000.

But The Citizens Research Council says a main reason Michigan auto insurers pay higher medical costs is a dictate that they pay customary rates charged by hospitals and doctors. Health insurers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Medicare, in contrast, pay considerably less than the amounts hospitals and doctors bill, according to the report.

Crash injury treatment claims in Michigan cost auto insurers 57 percent more than claims for similar injuries in other states, according to the report.

Those claims, which make up 30 percent of insurers’ costs to provide vehicle coverage, result in premiums that, on average, are 17 percent higher than in other states, CRC says.

Legislation containing proposed reforms has stalled in the Michigan House of Representatives, but House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshal, wants to get it moving again.

It would limit coverage for such things as attendant care for the injured and allow for a rate table to set costs for common injury treatments.

“Speaker Bolger wants to address no-fault reforms because he wants to save no-fault while protecting Michigan’s drivers from exorbitant prices,” said spokesman Ari Adler. “How we do that is still up for discussion, but we need to take action and solve this problem.”

Adler added that the CRC report “does provide a number of interesting options on how to lower those costs and we’ll be looking at them closely.”

Among the options, each with its pluses and minuses:

Make health insurance, rather and auto insurance, provide the primary coverage for crash injuries.

Have fee schedules for auto insurers, similar to those for workers’ compensation claims.

Give auto insurers the same option as health insurers to negotiate discounted hospital and doctor rates.

Let drivers choose among several levels of injury protection rather than requiring unlimited coverage.

These and other options have been debated among lawmakers in recent years. The medical community has resisted efforts to set fee schedules.

“We are waiting for a compromise to come out of the legislative leadership,” said Tom Shields, spokesman for the industry-related Michigan Insurance Coalition.

He said the coalition hopes there still will be action this fall.
(517) 371-3660

From The Detroit News:

Posted by: yacmichigan | September 11, 2013

Big “I” Praises House Action on NARAB II



  Press Release from IIABA September 10, 2013                   




Big “I” Praises House Action on NARAB II

Legislation reforms and streamlines agent licensing process.


WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 10, 2013 – The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”) today praised the U.S. House of Representatives for overwhelmingly approving the bipartisan insurance agent licensing reform bill, H.R. 1155, the “National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers Reform Act of 2013” (NARAB II) by a 397-6 vote.

The bipartisan bill was introduced by House Insurance Subcommittee Chairman Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) and Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) in March with 42 original cosponsors. The bill currently boasts the support of 86 bipartisan sponsors.

NARAB II would build upon regulatory experience at the state level, promote consistency in agent and agency licensing and improve marketplace responsiveness. The legislation would provide for streamlined non-resident insurance agent and broker licensing while preserving state insurance regulation and consumer protections. This pragmatic bill would achieve much needed reciprocity in producer licensing and help policyholders by permitting greater competition among agents and brokers and giving consumers greater choices. 

“NARAB II is vitally important for tens of thousands of Big ‘I’ members who operate on a multi-state basis,” says Robert A. Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO. “We would like to particularly thank Reps. Neugebauer and Scott and their incredible staff for their tireless work on this important legislation that will ease consumer access to insurance markets while also leaving important consumer protections in the capable hands of state insurance regulators.”

NARAB II passed the full House in two previous Congresses by voice vote. It also received strong bipartisan and bicameral support in the 112th Congress. The Senate companion bill, S. 534 by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) was also introduced in March, currently has 24 bipartisan sponsors, and passed the Senate Banking Committee by voice vote in July.  

“The Big ‘I’ is very encouraged by today’s bipartisan action on NARAB II and would also like to thank House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) for their support on this issue,” says Charles E. Symington, Big “I” senior vice president for external and government affairs. “We hope the Senate will take up this legislation in the near future and we look forward to working with Senate leadership to move the bill to the Senate floor as soon as possible.”

Founded in 1896, the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of American (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 and health—as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address:




Posted by: yacmichigan | August 16, 2013

My Very First Sales Appointment: A Worthwhile Disaster

My Very First Sales Appointment: A Worthwhile Disaster

By Brent Kelly, The Insurance Coach,


Don’t let bad experiences slow you down.


Artist interpretation of my first sales appointment

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a confident 22 year-old guy who was ready to take on the world. I had all of one month of training and now it was finally happening. My first sales call.

As I made the drive to the prospect’s business, my youthful confidence started turning into anxiousness. I could feel my body temperature rising and perspiration forming. I was scared to death.

I had no idea what I was doing. I was clueless on how business worked, I didn’t understand the details of insurance, and I had no idea how to make a good first impression.

As I opened the door to ask for the prospect a fake smile broke out. Under the smile was pure fear.

  • What would I say?
  • How should I say it?
  • Should I compliment the business?
  • Should I talk about the weather?

As the prospect walked towards me I muttered, “Hi, I’m Brent.” It wasn’t pretty, but at least I didn’t throw up on him.

As we walked back to his office I remember thinking to myself, “you can do this.”

Then the daggers started coming.

“You look awfully young, how long have you been in the business?” Uh oh. “One month, I replied.”

The look on his face said it all. I don’t know what he was thinking, but I am guessing it was something like, “who the heck does this guy think he is walking in my office wasting my precious time.” ”This guy is a joke.”

I tried to play it cool, but I was muttering, stuttering, stammering, and making a complete fool of myself.

I asked stupid questions like, “What do you guys do.” It was a printing company, what did I think they did?

I tried to use the sales approach that I learned in my first month on the job by building rapport, finding pains, looking for value, etc. All I really did was destroy any sliver of rapport, cause my own pains, and destroy value.

I will put it bluntly. It wasn’t pretty. It was a blood bath.

With my hands shaking, I thanked the annoyed prospect and walked out. I remember thinking, “I can’t do this.”

  • It was humiliating.
  • It was frustrating
  • It was humbling.

Looking back at this experience 13 years ago, I realize how far I have come. I also realize how far I still have to come.

I have had hundreds of appointments since that first one. Some have gone great, some were terrible.

One thing is for certain. I have learned something from every appointment.

There were days I wanted to quit and days I was on top of the world. Guess what? That is sales.

If you are new in sales, I have some amazing news.

Although you can’t control the final outcome of sales appointments, you can control your response.

Will you take every opportunity as a learning experience?
Will you pick yourself up after you get knocked down?
Will you grow from your success and failures?
How will you respond?

You control the answers to these questions. No one else has that power.

My first sales appointment was an absolute disaster. It was also the beginning of a amazing journey.

Do you have a bad sales experience? I would love to hear about it. Please share.


Posted by: yacmichigan | July 25, 2013

Marketing to the Connected Generation


Marketing to the Connected Generation

How independent insurance agencies build relationships, deliver value and generate new business revenue through content, email and social media marketing

About this article: Ryan Hanley has achieved great success using social media and other digital tools. He focuses on consistently delivering meaningful content that demonstrates the value his agency provides to clients and his community, as a mentor and guide in the insurance buying process and after the sale is made. He urges agents to get over their fear of using social media, because it is not difficult to learn and use, and because it represents a huge opportunity for agencies to employ to level the playing field with the direct writers.

By Ryan Hanley, The Murray Group

Our world has changed. The independent agent and broker faces unprecedented competition. Our competitors are at our borders – gaining market share in auto insurance – by spray-painting the walls of our fair town with their message of insurance commoditization and online sales without the benefit of an insurance advisor.

They sell on price, on ease of business and on speed of business, using marketing tactics and slogans that often do not give consumers the full picture of the risks they face and the coverage options they could be buying to fully protect themselves. Unfortunately these methods work.

Independent insurance agents will often admit that they are less than adequate marketers. Many lack an understanding of marketing and even question its value. Certainly, we hate spending money on marketing. Therein lies the rub. If we, as an industry, have any intention of fighting back against those who would undermine our message of value, it is imperative to change the way we market our business.

Connected consumers – belonging to multiple generations – are rapidly becoming prime prospects for us. Sales and marketing techniques once thought to be the crux of growing an independent agency, have become stale. Not only has the new consumer culture diminished the return on our bread and butter tools such as cold calling, but we’re in the battle of our lives against direct writers who are often content to sell a “state minimum” auto policy.

Independent agent as guide and mentor

The truth is that direct writers have traditionally been the better marketers. Yet, we now have access to social and digital tools that will enable us to change that. The widespread acceptance of “social media” tools has placed the responsibility upon us to amplify our customer centric message of value. Success will manifest, once we begin to embrace the undeniable truth that our value is not as gatekeepers of insurance knowledge and expertise, but rather as guides and mentors for our clients through the insurance buying process and then after the sale is made.

This isn’t my first call-to-action. Two years ago I wrote this article: If You Work in Insurance, This is the Only Article You Need Read About the Future of Social Media.

The premise was simple: as an industry we need to look at the value we add to the lives of insurance consumers as the primary driver of every decision we make regarding both traditional and social media marketing. And though I am still an advocate for traditional marketing in certain instances, it is social media that provides the greatest promise and opportunity in today’s economy. I know that’s a big ask, but the strategy is working for my agency.

Here’s a truth about social media marketing that most “Gurus” aren’t going to tell you… Tactics are easy. It’s the consistently creating value part that’s hard.

Give me two days and I can teach you every vital tactic in marketing your business online. Two days and you’ll be a rockstar of digital marketing, a master of social media. You’ll know every trick, tactic and best practice as if you were born with the knowledge. But if you can’t conceptualize the value you add to the insurance consumers you serve – and effectively convey it to them – you’re certain to fail.

Tell a Story that demonstrates your value

For example, you can know everything there is to know about Facebook marketing, but posting the same tired message about the account credit associated with coupling home and auto insurance will never yield a return on investment. Instead, try telling a story about a family you helped apply that discount and how the extra money they saved that year on their insurance paid for their child to go to summer camp.

Effective digital marketing takes time

I know how difficult this is. I’ve been marketing my insurance agency online for three years now. The entire first year I fell victim to the trap of trying to “sell” with every article. Subsequently, I failed a lot. I failed many more times than I was successful.

It wasn’t till the third year when I let go of my lust for Return on Investment, and focused on delivering content with immense value to insurance consumers, that we started to generate legitimate revenue. This effort strengthened our brand message and identity. Our community now understood who we were and what we valued.

Now the clients who call us for a quote are often already “sold” when we pick up the phone.

In a recent article published by the Harvard Business Review, Marketing is Dead, author Bill Lee makes the case that interruption marketing and advertising as we know it are dead. Interruption marketing (most traditional forms of marketing) is based on the belief that if we separate enough people, enough times from what they are doing and interject our latest discount, a few people will realize they need our product at that moment and purchase.

For a long time, interruption marketing worked well. Interruption marketing worked so well and was so celebrated that AMC was able to create the hit TV show Mad Men based on the mass marketing era. But our world has changed from the days of Mad Men. Don Draper’s tactics would fail if he targeted today’s Connected Generation.

Marketing to the connected generation

Today, there is a new generation, different from any generation before, and membership to this generation has nothing to do with age. There are only two generations that matter to your business in today’s digital world: the Connected Generation and the Unconnected Generation.

The Connected Generation is defined as consumers who communicate, build relationships and ultimately make buying decisions based on Web 2.0 technology. The Unconnected Generation is everyone else.

As independent agents, we’re masters at building relationships and marketing to the Unconnected Generation. We ask for referrals, we attend local chamber events, we cold call, we drop in on businesses, we harass our family, we sponsor charity events, we buy radio spots and we buy ads in the newspaper. These are all classic and effective methods of marketing to the Unconnected Generation.

Unfortunately, these methods don’t work (or at minimum are less productive) on the Connected Generation. The Connected Generation is less likely to allow friends to give their name as a referral, is completely adverse to a cold call, doesn’t listen to the radio and doesn’t read the newspaper.

How do we market our business to the Connected Generation? Until recently, most of us have simply pretended the Connected Generation didn’t exist. By choosing not to market our businesses to the Connected Generation, we significantly reduce the size of our potential client pool. We even make excuses that somehow these individuals are predisposed to GEICO or Esurance.

Get engaged with social & digital tools

I’d like to advance this proposition instead. Let’s all take a deep breath, overcome our fear of transparency, vulnerability and technology, and then begin to spread our message of value through the social and digitals tools of today’s Connected Generation.

Think of it this way: social media is just our current medium for communication. Sixty years ago, we communicated through the United States Postal Service. Forty years ago, it was the telephone. Twenty years ago, it was the fax machine. Ten years ago, we embraced email, and today we use social media. The message of value that attracts clients to us as people, to our agency and to the product we sell, has never changed.

Social media, blogging, email marketing and the various other digital methods of communicating are not as scary as they may seem. If you can send an email, you can publish a blog or post to Facebook. Far too often these tools are made out to be more difficult than they truly are.

Simply put, if you’re smart enough to understand the exclusions in a homeowners policy, you’re more than capable of creating a value-driven online presence that generates revenue for your agency.

Build your community by communicating value

Every piece of content we create, whether it’s for our blog, social media or email marketing should be created with the intention of building community and ultimately generating revenue. When done correctly, the results are undeniable, as indicated by my YouTube campaign results.

If you consistently create content with the purpose of adding immense value to the personal and professional lives of the community members you serve, revenue generation is the result.

So the question really is, “How do we add immense value?” There was a day when the value we provided to our clients was the expertise we accumulated through experience, mentorship, training and networking with colleagues. Insurance is a complex, yet delicate product, easily confused and contaminated with misconceptions.

It has been our job for over a century, as independent agents, to stand as the gatekeepers of that expertise. If our clients had a question, concern or problem, they needed us to find the solution. Unfortunately, that value proposition no longer exists.

We are no longer the gatekeepers of our expertise… The Internet has reversed the flow of value and consumers can now find a lot of information on the Internet. To survive, we must adapt.

Independent agents more important than ever

Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying to mean that independent agents are no longer necessary. In fact, independent agents are more necessary than ever in our history. Insurance consumers who choose to travel these roads alone, without the guidance of an independent agent, fall victim to the predators silently waiting to sell cheap policies with inadequate coverage.

The critical value we provide insurance consumers is NOT our product knowledge but rather our experience and guidance throughout the buying process and after the sale.

Consumers of the Connected Generation want to know everything there is to know about a product or service before they purchase. By embracing digital and social media marketing, our agencies will become both the information source and the guide for these connected consumers. This is working for our agency today and we are consistently generating new business revenue from online leads.

Personally, I’m sick of consumers being led through the insurance buying process by funny commercials and cartoon characters. But we have left a void for these marketers to fill. To quote Michael J. Fox in The American President:

“People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone.”

Digital tools offer the opportunity to level the playing field

Direct writers are the only ones with a voice online. It’s time that we as a group step up to the microphone. Never has there been a time in history when it was so quick, easy and inexpensive to deliver our message to insurance consumers. Social media is a gift. It levels the playing field. With amplifiers like blogs, social media, email marketing and customer relationship management tools such as Infusionsoft, we can take back the airways.

Focus on your content

So what am I asking you to do? Create content with reckless abandon. Create content that tells your story over and over again, till every single client knows exactly who you are, why you’re in business and the value you provide.

Simon Sinek, the author of Start With Why, said in his now famous TED Talk, The Golden Circle: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” It’s the “Why” of what we do that spreads our message.

Our task now is refocusing our effort from“What” (we sell insurance) to “Why” (we believe in a world where accidents shouldn’t ruin lives), because “Why” makes the phone ring.

We are no longer the gatekeepers of our expertise. We didn’t choose for this transformation to happen, but it’s happened nonetheless. Now it’s time for all of us, the entire independent agency industry – from the one-person shop to the mega-regional, to the carriers and the vendors we partner with, to the associations and organizations that support us – to tell our story of “Why.”

Using the communication mediums of today, we can deliver our value-driven marketing message to the Connected Generation and ensure the success of a distribution system we all love so dearly.

Ryan Hanley is the Director of Marketing for The Murray Group Insurance Services, Inc. and his mission is to help every insurance professional and organization who so desires to create a value-driven, revenue generating online presence. If you want to learn more or discuss how you can work with Ryan, visit his blog. You can also listen to Ryan’s marketing podcast. Ryan produced this article for ACT and it reflects his views and should not be construed as an official statement of ACT

Reprinted from the Agents Council for Technology,

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