The Big I held its annual Young Agents conference at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans last week. In the midst of the event, Louisiana Comp Blog sat down with Big I officers to ask about what they think the future will look like for today’s young agents.
Lee Schilling, IIABL National Director and head of Schilling & Reid Insurance advised young agents to network as much as possible.
Comp Blog: Where are you from and what is your educational background?
Schilling: I’m from Amite, born and raised there, been there all my life. I went to Southeastern on a golf scholarship and then went to work at my Dad’s agency in Amite. I took over the agency in 1981, I went to work there in 1977. I merged with another agency in 1990 and now it’s Schilling & Reid Insurance.
Comp Blog: We currently have a talent crisis in the insurance industry generally. Do you have any thoughts about that or anything to say to a young person that might be considering a career in insurance?
Schilling: I’m Louisiana’s National Director and I sit on the Big I National Board, so this is something I’ve thought about a lot. Both in Louisiana and nationally, we’re seeing a decrease in the number of agencies. I don’t know if that’s so much a manpower issue, or if agencies are being forced to merge or sell to larger agencies. I’m not sure why millennials aren’t attracted to the industry, but I can tell you that the young agents I know seem to like their jobs and are doing well. We’re trying at the IIABL to do more with that. Northeast and ULL have programs in risk management and IIABL is attempting to get those students into the network so that they can be successful. Parke Ellis also has a program at Delgado that is producing 10 or 12 great students every year.
Comp Blog: Do you think insurtechs and online direct writing are going to be a significant threat to the traditional agency model in the next decade?
Schilling: I don’t think so. I think there’s always going to be a place for the independent agent. With personal lines, there’s quite a bit of that that can be done online. But for commercial, it’s really a lot harder because there’s a lot more you’ve got to ask.
Comp Blog: What’s the best advice you can give to young agents starting out in the business?
Schilling: I would advise going to events and networking. I’ve been in this business 41 years and I still get stumped all the time. I’ll shoot an email over to someone that might have an answer and problems get solved that way. I hear occasionally that agency principals don’t want their young agents going to events, because they’re afraid of poaching talent. However, it’s best to nurture talent through networking. We started the Young Agents conference the year before I was IIABL President, in 2004. It’s grown ever since and especially because it’s both a Louisiana and a Mississippi event, I think it provides real opportunities.