Director of production
Downey Insurance Agency, Inc.
Guilty pleasure TV show: “The Blacklist” and “The Office”
The app you can’t live without: Zillow
Spotify or Apple Music: YouTube
Netflix or Hulu: Netflix
I was born in Brazil, and my mom brought me here at a very young age. When we arrived in America, we had a hard time finding a place to live. My soccer coach, Mark Taylor, offered to take me in. My mom ended up going back to Brazil, and I stayed living with Mark, who also had a son my age. He pretty much took me in as a second child.
Mark was a very successful insurance agent—he had his own agency in Connecticut. We could see him making tons of money just working on the phone from his house. I saw the lifestyle he had, and I thought, “Hey, this doesn’t seem like a bad career.” That’s what got me interested in insurance—watching him be so successful. As a child, it was kind of an inspiration.
For me, what’s exciting about insurance is sales. I’ve always worked as a producer, so I never had a salary—just straight commission. I have all the flexibility I want, but I’m paid based on performance, so the more I sell, the more I make. That means I am pretty much working 24/7, even on vacations. I try to do a little bit at a time, just to build up that clientele.
But not everybody has the sales gene. A lot of people will run away from sales. Early on, not having any connections, it was hard. I always had two or three different jobs at the same time. I’ve been here at Downey since the beginning, but it was years after I had built up a book of clients when I decided to drop my salaried position at my other job and just focus on insurance and real estate.
I have a wife and a three-year-old daughter, and we have another baby on the way. When my daughter was born, that’s when I decided to take the risk to leave my salaried position as the environmental manager at a nursing home and be a producer full-time. If you think about it, it wasn’t very smart—my wife wasn’t going to work, and here I was leaving my salaried job. But I pretty much took a leap of faith. I wanted to be a producer and real estate agent full-time so I could sell more houses and command that extra income, and I wanted the flexibility to spend more time with my family.
Before I took that leap of faith, with insurance, it was like I had a faucet that was leaking a little bit of water at a time, here and there. But the minute I went full-time, it was like the faucet fully opened. Everything just came together with God ahead of it all. It worked out. It was worth the risk. I now have great people around me who offer very strong support. My dad, Natan Da Silva, is my assistant, and without his outstanding help, I would not be where I am today.
Personal auto is my strongest line. I have very good relationships with different dealers. When someone comes in and buys a car, they need insurance, and the dealer will say, “Call this guy.” I don’t pay for those leads at all—they just love us because we’re right on the ball. They send us the customer’s information; we get them a quote. The turnaround is real, real fast, and that’s what they want, too. We’re really good at that. I’m writing on average 50 new policies a month. Last month I hit 65. These are brand-new policies, no rewrites, no restatements.
The reason I’m so successful at it is that Charlie Downey, the agency principal, has built up a great system here at the agency. I wouldn’t be able to sell all these policies if I had to service all the accounts, too. A lot of producers out there, they have to sell and service their accounts. Here, somebody wants to add a driver, change an address, endorse a policy, I shoot out an email to the CSR and they get it done.
I get quote referrals all the time just via text on my cell phone. I think some of the older agents don’t like to release their personal contact information, but if you want to compete against the big guys, you’ve got to go the extra step and be a little more personal.
Perpetuating the channel?
As a young agent, I don’t want to just work here for two or three years and then go somewhere else, because I really love what I do. If I had an opportunity to buy an agency, I would in a heartbeat.
Advice for a fellow young agent?
Never give up. Never quit. It does take time, but if you hang around, it’ll start to come automatically.
Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.
This interview is the fifth in a series that profiles 10 millennials in the independent insurance industry, based on IA’s July cover story.