Learn what these millennials and Gen Zers have to say about where the industry is headed—and how they fit into it.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, many business owners chose to batten down the hatches and ride out the uncertainty. Not millennial insurance agent Patience Noah. Instead, she saw the perfect opportunity to escape the captive insurance world and start her own independent agency.
“I'm not going to lie—it was scary," Noah says. “I was leaving a consistent income. But I realized now was the best time to make the jump. I told myself that if it didn't work out, at least I had the experience."
“Of course, I'm one of those people who if I start something, it has to work," she adds. “It doesn't get a choice."
After graduating college in 2013, Noah struggled to find a job she liked. “I was talking to someone about how I wanted a job that will give me freedom with my schedule and eventually the ability to work for myself, and he recommended I look into the insurance industry," she says.
Noah did her research and quickly amassed experience in roles from sales to agency consulting. After spending time with agency owners asking questions and learning the business, Noah realized she was ready to become an agency owner.
“I gave up everything and started off as a captive agent," she says. “But very early on, I realized it wasn't the best model for me. And then the pandemic hit, and the captive business model wasn't working well. I decided now was the perfect time for a pivot."
Noah chose to focus on the opportunity amid the upheaval of COVID-19. “I told myself now is the best time to start slow, because everything's slow, and I can use the time to build my brand right and get my name out there," she says.
She's not stopping there. “Within the next five to 10 years, I would like to position myself to provide opportunities for younger agents who are looking to be agency owners," Noah says. “The goal is to be a national broker. Maybe even an international broker. But I mainly came into this business to let millennials know it's not an old person's industry."
“It's hard work, but it's rewarding," she adds. “And the industry can only survive if more millennials come in and help revolutionize it." And with its oldest members turning 24 this year, Generation Z is also ready to join the revolution.
Every day, young agents like Noah are making their mark on the insurance industry. What brought them here? What makes them tick? And why are they sticking around? Learn what these millennials and Gen Zers have to say about where the industry is headed—and how they fit into it.
Currently streaming: Real Housewives of Atlanta
In your earbuds: Bishop T.D. Jakes
Preferred social media: TikTok
Best thing about being an independent agent?
I love being an independent agent because I can make decisions for my clients and my agency. It puts me in the power position and gives me the ability to decide if a certain company matches my business model, my mission statement, and my clients' needs.
One stereotype I'd love to get rid of is that millennials don't know the business. But if you meet a millennial like myself that is really interested in the industry and wants to uncover the mystery behind insurance, they can bring a lot of innovation.
I would love for even more of the older generation to help bring more millennials into the industry. If you're a baby boomer, my advice is to take a millennial under your wing and help them bring innovation into the industry for the better.
The multi-generational workplace?
Younger people grasp onto things really fast. We know how customers shop now, which is through a smartphone. Older generations may prefer newsletters and door-to-door, which I don't think should go away, but having both generations at a workplace means you can learn from one another and implement all these valuable tools in your agency. We all have something to learn from one another. It's all about having an open mind.
Biggest industry challenge?
That mystery that comes with insurance. We need to help younger generations become interested, because let's be honest, we need to prepare the next generation. I tell people all the time that sales is literally 2% of insurance. Don't want to do sales? Customer service, actuary, claims adjuster, paralegal—there's so many things you can do. It's definitely given me the opportunity to be an educator.
Gamma Iota Sigma Alumna
Currently streaming: Anything on Food Network
In your earbuds: Jimmy Buffet
Preferred social media: LinkedIn and Instagram
Growing up with my dad in the claims industry, I was immersed in the insurance world from a young age and saw what a truly great industry insurance is and all the different opportunities it can provide. When it came time for me to decide my career path, it really was an easy decision. Now I can't see myself in any other career and I truly look forward to going to work every day.
I gained my property-casualty license during my freshman year of college. I interned with a local personal lines agency throughout my four years in college. That all gave me a great foundation to build on.
Leadership in Gamma Iota Sigma?
Gamma Iota Sigma really gave me the opportunity to meet people and explore various parts of the industry and what it all has to offer—I ultimately found that the brokerage side is where my passion is. Now that I'm serving as the regional director for the Dallas-Fort Worth alumni chapter, I'm able to continue to build those industry relationships — just now it's in the real world instead of college.
Gen Z stereotypes?
Our generation has unfortunately developed some negative stereotypes. I think as a whole we're seen as being lazy, technology obsessed, and prone to push back on the more traditional ways of doing things. But I do believe the vast majority of us are really eager to start our careers and just want to bring new, innovative ideas to the table.
Gamma Iota Sigma Alumnus
Currently streaming: Peaky Blinders
In your earbuds: Dr. Dre
Preferred social media: Facebook
Best thing about being an independent agent?
Serving the community. Independent agents are able to have flexible schedules and that gives us the opportunity to be involved and give back to the community we serve. We can just use a couple hours of free time a week to volunteer. We recently organized a toiletry drive for homeless single mothers and children in our county, and we adopted a family for Christmas. There are lots of opportunities to help out even in COVID-19. I'm also a volunteer wrestling coach at the local high school.
My two agency principals. I chose to work at this agency because my two principals are highly respected in the community. They lean on me to bring in new ideas and different ways we can better serve our customers, and we collaborate on the newest ways to help our community.
College insurance experience?
The college experience of networking in Gamma Iota Sigma was a huge benefit. And GIS creates a good culture as well. The organization gives the blueprint and foundation for students and staff to create a great culture within risk management programs.
Personal Lines Agent
Currently streaming: Falcon and the Winter Soldier
In your earbuds: Kids See Ghosts
Preferred social media: Facebook and Instagram
During my last semester in college, I was looking at internships. GEICO was an opportunity I could have jumped on, but a buddy of mine recommended that if I was looking to get into insurance I should reach out to an independent agency he used to work at. He got me in touch with Morgan Hege and Seth Arruda at what is now Alta Vista Insurance Agency. After I talked with them, I did more research and found there was a lot of opportunity being an independent agent.
Industry role models?
Morgan and Seth. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am today. The opportunity that they have given me has been really great. When I started, I was a white belt. I haven't done sales before, I haven't done insurance, I haven't really done anything. They taught me a whole lot and showed me the ropes.
Multiple generations in the workplace?
One of the pros of having different generations in the workplace is experience. What the older generations have gone through is nothing you can replace. You do need to be able to work together and collaborate as a group to find the best ideas. You can bump heads sometimes, but as soon as you're able to get on the same page and move forward, it's the best thing for your agency.
Marketing Assistant—Energy and Construction
McGriff Insurance Services, previously known as McGriff, Seibels & Williams Inc.
Gamma Iota Sigma Alumna
Currently streaming: Nothing—I am working on my pilot's license
In your earbuds: “Back to Being Broke" by Justin Holt
Preferred social media: Instagram
I'm the fifth-generation insurance geek in my family. It all started with my great-great grandfather in Michigan in the early 1900s. My great-grandfather worked at his agency as well, as did my grandfather before moving to Alabama and working at a different agency for 44 years. My mother is the vice president at Marsh McLennan Agency Southeast Region, and my uncle, Bill Jacka Jr., is the executive vice president at the Alabama Independent Insurance Agents. So you could say it runs in my blood.
My grandfather, Bill Jacka Sr., had the opportunity in the 1970s to create and write the athletic insurance program for the University of Alabama. He worked very closely with Coach Paul “Bear" Bryant, who recommended him to all the other Southeastern Conference schools and major universities. He always has sports memorabilia and signed letters from coaches all throughout his house. I always thought that was pretty cool. He taught me that you don't pick the specialty, the specialty picks you.
I built so many relationships through Gamma Iota Sigma, both while in college and after college. I was fortunate to attend the GIS conventions, where I've met and built long-lasting relationships with my peers.
My mom. She's taught me the value of relationships and being authentic. She taught my sister and I to value everyone and make them feel welcome, no matter what their occupation is. She also taught me to work hard and be passionate about all the goals I've set, and if I fail to try again and never give up.
AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor.