The average age of an insurance industry professional is 54, according to a study by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, as bringing in younger talent has proven to be difficult.
While brokerages struggle to recruit youthful brokers, family-run firms are enlisting their children and grandchildren to rise through the ranks to eventually take over the business.
Jeff Hackmeier, president of Jeff D. Hackmeier & Associates in Miami, says millennials are struggling to enter into the business because the field of employee benefits does not deliver instant gratification that the generation is often used to receiving.
“The insurance industry is a very slow business with a tremendous amount of rejection,” Hackmeier says. “It takes years to build your commission up and that’s where a lot of people fail because they don’t have the willpower to stay in the business for about three to five years in order to make a living.”
Hackmeier recruited his own son, Jordan Hackmeier, as a managing partner and eventual successor to his business. At 25 years old, Hackmeier says his son has a lot of potential to make it in this industry, but he needs more experience under his belt.
“He picks up things very quickly and is adapting to the benefits industry really well,” Hackmeier says. “Jordan just needs more experience, product knowledge and just getting beat up more.”
Matt and Will Lowe, twin brothers and vice presidents of Lowe-Tillson Insurance & Associates out of Rockville, Md., were recruited by their father to assist in the family business in 2011 and 2012.
Today, having reached that crucial five-year mark Hackmeier describes, the brothers agree young talent who remain in the industry will begin to see a return on their hard work.
“Younger people come into this industry expecting selling to be a lot easier than what it really is,” Will Lowe says. “They should not get discouraged in the beginning because it takes a few years to build that book of business.”
One of the benefits of working in the insurance space the Lowes found appealing was not working in an office setting every single day, a fact promoted by their father.
“We always had an idea that we were going to go into the business,” Matt Lowe says. “The way our father handled his clients was appealing to us because every day was not the same.”
Matt says the fact that they have the opportunity to constantly be on the move and in new places keeps the job from feeling stagnant and boring. “We saw an opportunity where we could basically work for ourselves, have a little bit more flexibility in our schedules and make our own way in the business,” he adds.
Entering the field in the age of the Affordable Care Act, the Lowe brothers have done more than just take over the business from their father. Initially Lowe-Tillson Insurance & Associates was a P&C company with section of the business dealing with financial advising. The Lowes have since moved the business into the employee benefit space because of the changes occurring in the health insurance industry as a result of the ACA.
“The cost of health insurance was going up dramatically, so we wanted to find a way to help lower costs for our clients that we already have while also attempting to assist new prospects in the same endeavor,” Will Lowe says.
Taylor Lindsey, partner at Employee Benefit Consultants in Richlands, Va., joined his grandfather’s agency for the same reason the Lowes entered into the benefits industry. “I saw the ACA as a major issue that could sink the industry if we didn’t get a hold on it,” Lindsey says.
Because of the possible threat the ACA had on his family’s business, Lindsey says it became his calling and a personal challenge he intended to answer. “This was an opportunity to revamp the agency and become an industry leader in the law and compliance of the ACA,” Lindsey says.
Similar to the Lowes and the Hackmeiers, Lindsey says he felt the need to join the business because it ran in the family, but quickly realized there is much more opportunity within the industry than just selling insurance.
“There is no cap for what you can do within this industry,” Lindsey says. “There is consulting, technology, compliance, employee education and communication. I really have enjoyed what I have learned through every level.”
For those young prospects leaving college and entering into the workforce, particularly in the insurance space, Will Lowe says their age can be both an advantage as well as a handicap in the benefits space.
“A lot people who have been in this industry for a long time get set in their ways instead of learning the new techniques or the new technology that is out there on the market,” Lowe says. “It’s hard to get clients to trust you because of your age, but you also bring in youth and new ways to strategies as technology changes.”