10 Millennials Who Are Transforming Insurance: Kevin Fukuyama

Fukuyama
Kevin Fukuyama

Vice President of Commercial Underwriting
The J. Morey Company, Inc.
Los Angeles

Age: 28
Guilty pleasure TV show: Suits
Favorite beer: Franziskaner Weissbier
Preferred social media: Facebook

Why insurance?

I got into insurance by total chance. I started very young, 19. I was a sophomore in college and I finally had a free summer coming up. My options were either to work for my dad for free, or try to find something to get into part time. My dad’s an optician—he makes glasses and he has a lab. It’s a lot more hands-on type of work, and I did that when I was much younger as a kid.

Coincidentally, my father had just spoken to an old family friend who happened to be one of the principals of the company I work at now. They were talking and my dad asked, “Are there any young people getting in the industry?” And the guy said, “Nope. Not at all.” My dad was pretty intuitive to think, “OK, if that’s the case, then it’s a good industry and maybe something you should try to look into.”

So I met with the family friend. He explained what the industry was as far as the retail side, and I said, “That sounds pretty interesting—I’ll give it a try.” I went part time and graduated college in 2010 when job prospects were very limited. It was either find something or go back to school, and I had had enough of school. So I decided to try the insurance industry full time.

As boring as some outsiders might think insurance is—and it can be at times—I think the day-to-day challenges and differences have kept me interested. I’ve always liked learning and being challenged.

Motivator?

When we’re dealing with people’s livelihoods, I can go to sleep at night and know I did the best job anyone could have done. When your job deals with people’s homes, cars, businesses, the thing they’ve worked their whole lives to try and build up—doing that kind of job and knowing no one else could have done it better, that’s really gratifying to me. I want to just to continue to learn so I can better educate the client and find problems that maybe some other previous agent overlooked or just didn’t bring up. I think that’s something that gets really overlooked a lot of times, but at the time of need, it’s something where clients can’t really put a quantitative amount on it—it’s just a reassuring feeling for them. And I like to have that trusted feeling.

Work/life balance?

I am married and that’s probably the biggest balance I have to work with right now. I have calls on the weekend or after hours, or emails that just can’t wait until Monday. I think keeping my wife informed about certain things I’m doing and projects I’m working on gives her a better understanding because she isn’t left in the dark. If I let her in on those day-to-day challenges I face, it won’t seem like I’m just like, “Hold on, I need to make a call.” Instead it’s, “Oh, this is that guy I was talking to you about.” It makes her feel more involved. That’s probably the best way I’ve been able to do it—being open and communicating about what I’m going through.

Biggest role model?

The principals started this agency from nothing. It’s nice to be able to talk to and bend someone’s ear who’s really done it from the ground up. It definitely it doesn’t take the weak of heart to start an agency from nothing. I am relatively young for the responsibilities I have, but it’s only been possible because of the support I’ve gotten from both ends: the people I oversee and the people above me.

Most annoying millennial stereotype?

The misunderstanding of where we’re coming from. A lot of the older people in the industry have had a mentality that you work as hard as you can, if you need to stay late you need to stay late, that’s just too bad, suck it up. And then this millennial generation has a lot more of a work/life balance. It’s not just about how much you get paid—it’s about doing something meaningful, surrounding yourself with a good work environment, the people, your colleagues you work with, working for a cause or something you believe in.

That’s what I think the older generation doesn’t really understand about millennials—we have no problem working hard, as long as we feel like it’s for something. As I’ve had to grow and manage younger people, it’s been extremely helpful to take that extra step and let them know why they’re doing it and how it’s contributing toward the greater good. Just doing that has been a huge plus in improving their attitude toward what they’re doing, even if it may be something menial.

Industry’s biggest challenge?

Getting youth excited and involved in the industry is going to be one of the toughest things. The perception is that it’s an older, more vanilla-type industry. I think it’s going to have to take a core group of people to be able to change the mind of the general populous. Agencies are looking at social media as the thing to show young people they’re with it, but it’s going to take more than that. It’s going to take young people getting out there, going to campuses or doing something above and beyond punching in and punching out. They have to talk to their friends and family so they can discern what’s unique about the insurance world and understand the opportunity available in an aging industry.

This article is the sixth in a series that profiles 10 millennials in independent insurance, based on IA’s July cover story. Keep an eye on IAmagazine.com and upcoming editions of the News & Views e-newsletter for more insights into how young people are working to secure the future of your industry.

Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.