NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 21—Insurance industry leaders provided insight on critical issues affecting the future of the independent agency system during the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America’s (IIABA) 27th Annual Young Agent Leadership Conference held in conjunction with the New Orleans InfoXchange.
“Continue your education and don’t be afraid to challenge yourselves,” IIABA President Thomas B. Ahart, CPCU, AAI, told young agents during the President’s Panel discussion. “Trust your own instincts and know how you would want something sold to you, and share that with your customers.”
Joining Ahart on the President’s Panel were:
· Dan Carmichael, CPCU, president & CEO, Ohio Casualty Insurance
· Clyde Fitch, CPCU, president of agency operations, personal lines, Travelers
· Ray Thomas, CEO of small business, Zurich North America
The session was moderated by Dennis Hilton, vice president and owner of Cheney Insurance Agency in Damariscotta, Maine.
Among the topics addressed were IIABA’s 2002 Agency Universe Study, the post-9/11 state of the industry, and young agents’ increased use of technology to better serve their clients.
Zurich’s Thomas told young agents: “What we are doing today after 9/11 is probably our finest hour. We will have paid out somewhere between 50 and 90 billion dollars and got the U.S. economy back [on track] again with the greatest disaster in the history of this country on our shoulders. [You can tell your customers,] ‘Guess what, we did a pretty good job of serving your needs during a time of strife like that.’” Thomas later added, “The horizon is as bright and incredibly powerful as it has ever been. I think that this is an incredibly exciting business.”
Thomas also said, “What has really been amazing to me is the work that you have done your personal lines during the past five to six years. You have recaptured the market share in that area—it is an incredible, incredible result.” One of the reasons for that, he said, is “the technical solutions you have that serve the customer in an expedient way on their terms and conditions. What better group than a Young Agents group across the United States to do that?”
Ohio Casualty’s Carmichael told the gathering, “It is important to be smarter than the competition. Continue to educate yourself with your business.” The message that Travelers’ Fitch most wanted to convey to Young Agents was to take the time to develop a specialty. “I don’t care if it is yacht or commercial, find a specialty because people like to do business with experts,” Fitch said. “And whenever possible, and it almost always is, do business with friends. There is enough diversity out there in the friends you will pick … and life is too short to do business with jerks.”
The Young Agent Leadership Conference is the industry's premier event designed to promote the importance of building leadership skills and establishing networking contacts with young agents who comprise the future of the independent agency system. Nearly 150 young agents from across the country are gathering for three days of educational training designed to mold the leaders of tomorrow’s independent agency system.
The leadership conference precedes the New Orleans InfoXchange—IIABA’s showcase meeting featuring an exclusive reception and lunch for Trusted ChoiceSM agencies and company/strategic partners; a compelling company CEO panel; a wide variety of innovative continuing-education (CE) classes offering 19 CE credits; several prominent guest speakers; one of the largest exhibit halls in the insurance industry; numerous networking opportunities; and many other exciting events. The event runs through Tuesday.
Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 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: www.independentagent.com.