At the 2022 Big “I” Legislative conference last week, Bob Fee, Big “I” chairman, highlighted how, despite challenges, independent agents and brokers—with the help of the Big “I”—continue to shine bright.
During the General Session Breakfast at the Big “I" Legislative Conference, Bob Fee, Big “I" chairman, reported to hundreds of Big “I" member agents and brokers that “the state of our association is very strong."
Today, the Big “I" represents nearly 250,000 member agents in approximately 27,000 locations across the U.S. With 50 active state associations, plus Washington, D.C., and hundreds of local boards that represents a combined employment of over 500 people all serving the needs of independent agents, “our tentacles in the industry extend well beyond where we think they do," Fee said.
Since the last State of the Association address, independent agents have continued to grapple with an uncertain economic environment, increasingly hard market, evolving consumer expectations and a difficult job market. However, despite the challenges, Fee made clear that independent agents and brokers—with the help of the Big “I"—shone bright.
“We are fond of saying insurance is a noble profession, but the last two years have shown we're also a resilient one," Fee said. “We have fared better than most, proving again to the world what we already all knew: In troubled times, through any kind of disaster—we shine."
“Independent agents and brokers can be counted on to steer through any kind of turbulence," he said, adding that “the Big 'I' has had our back through it all, cranking along with new initiatives, resources and programs to support us in this pandemic and now in the post-COVID-19 world."
Fee noted that amid the rapid adoption of InsurTech during the pandemic, the Big “I" Agents Council for Technology (ACT) brought decades of industry leadership and innovation to haul independent agencies into the future. Chris Cline, incoming ACT executive director, will oversee ACT's evolutionary plan and “raise everything ACT does several levels," Fee said.
Similarly, The Big “I" Virtual University (VU) is “an indispensable resource in the ever-changing times we have faced recently, helping us make sense of the host of new and confusing coverage questions brought on by COVID-19," Fee said. He went on to highlight that the VU now offers 27 hours of continuing education classes, 68 hours of on-demand learning and 80 hours of training through partnerships with Agents and Brokers Education Network (ABEN) and IRMI (International Risk Management Institute)—in addition to over 18,000 pages of educational content.
Meanwhile, as the Great Resignation and the fight for talent ensues, Fee praised Big “I" Hires, a relatively new Big “I" program, for its utility in addressing the “universal problem" of finding and retaining the right talent at independent agencies through job postings and placements, as well as personality and knowledge tests.
But while Big “I" Hires can address those short-term needs, “I can't talk about the talent pipeline challenge without mentioning Invest™, our classroom-to-career educational program, which has announced that 2022 is the Year of the Agent," he said, referencing the program's long-term goals. “Invest is working to promote insurance careers, broaden its donor base and attract more diverse students to insurance careers."
The COVID-19 pandemic also changed the way consumers shop for insurance, leading agents to change the way they sell. During his address, Fee encouraged every Big “I" member to have “a complete and professional agency profile on TrustedChoice.com, ensuring that your agency is being properly showcased on the nation's most important independent agency marketing website," which “recently welcomed its 36 millionth insurance shopper," he said.
Fee also reserved praise for Trusted Choice®, which is now 20 years old and “scored a home run this last year, reaching over 70 million consumers with the MLB Home Field Advantage advertising campaign featuring Hall of Fame Pitcher Jon Smoltz," he said. “As we look ahead, Trusted Choice will further directly support agents across the country by evolving its marketing reimbursement program and its important free digital review program that many, many agents have taken advantage of."
In recapping the year, Fee quoted Confucius. “'Study the past if you will define the future,' and we have spent a wonderful year studying our past. This last year we marked our 125th anniversary in 2021," he said. “We held a great celebration of our founding in 1896, including an anniversary gala dinner in Kansas City, video tributes and special award-winning supplemental to our September magazine."
However, Fee called on Big “I" members for “renewed commitment—we all must work together, states and national, to increase our membership, share the values that we bring, and have an even bigger impact on our industry and customers," he said. “Too many are riding in the wagon and not pulling the wagon."
“It is an honor and privilege to serve as your chairman and I am enjoying my time traveling to meet with so many of you in person and speak to many more virtually over these last seven months," Fee said. “As your chairman, I want to thank you for the trust you have placed in me and I assure you that I will do my part to continue to serve you the best way I can—and to make sure the Big 'I' always has your back."
Will Jones is IA editor-in-chief.