Mentorship is the key in recruiting the next generation of Black advisors, and in helping them build their careers and eventually take over existing practices when the older generation of advisors is ready to retire.
That was the word from the panelists who spoke during a recent online roundtable, “The Legacy And Future Of The Black Agent,” held by the National African-American Insurance Association.
The panelists each had their own stories of how they came into the business and what they are doing to help others consider insurance and financial services as a career, and eventually own an agency.
Too often, agency owners don’t give much thought to who will take over their practice until they are ready to retire, said Eileen Frank of JP West. “We have to plan for our legacy,” she said.
Agency owners can’t count on their children to carry on the family business, said Amir Ali, an insurance consulting executive who calls himself “The Insurance Samurai.”
“I’ve seen it from both sides,” he said. “The kids either want to be like their parents or they want to be nothing like their parents.”
The industry tends to attract those who are “rugged individualists,” said Kenneth Royster of First Genesis of Virginia, and that means they want to do everything on their own. “But if you don’t have a game plan, your business will die with you. We wouldn’t advise that to our clients. We need to get away from the rugged individualist thing and start partnering with others.”
Another obstacle many face in becoming agency owners, he said, is that what makes someone a great salesperson does not always make them a great agency owner. “You start as a sales rep and see that you can grow your business through transactions, but then you see how you can grow your business through connections, and that’s where the magic happens.”
Royster said he and Ali are working with several colleges and universities to expose students to the industry and pay for them to take their Securities Industry Exams.
Tamara Gatson Brown of The Gatson Agency said that those who are looking at buying an agency and those who are looking at selling their agency need to help each other connect. In addition, she said, the agency owners of the future need to find their niche – whether it’s life insurance, employee benefits or property/casualty – and consider whether they want to be captive agents or independent agents. Brown also said that she teaches prelicensing courses and has helped license more than 4,000 agents in the state of Georgia.
Sandra Moody Gresham of Dehan Enterprises said she has had three Black women work for her and eventually buy their own agencies. “The key thing is planning. You need to plan 3-5 years prior to your exit to start working on enhancing your agency’s value prior to the sale.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at Susan.Rupe@innfeedback.com. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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