Insurance rarely starts out as a career choice for most people, it's simply a job.
It takes several years before it's true value and mission are revealed.
However, once you're able to see it, there's a good chance you won't want to leave.
If you combined that with truly unmatched earning potential, it's hard to figure out why it's a tough sell in the first place.
Tony Cañas, Client Advisor at the Jacobson Group, talks about what it takes to help people come in and move up in this industry.
Full Episode Transcript
Joey Giangola: Mr. Tony Canas, how are you doing today sir?
Tony Canas: I am doing fantastic. Good job on the last name. The 10 minutes we spent with your research practicing it helped.
Joey Giangola: I try. I try. I try. But Tony, I have to know this before we do anything else and that is, is it harder to write a song that becomes a modern Christmas classic or recruit somebody into insurance?
Tony Canas: I haven't tried the first one although I did write two insurance themed parodies one of which has recorded, one of which has not. And they're not hits by any means but I have found that recruiting somebody to come into insurance is a lot harder is what I would expect.
Joey Giangola: All right. Fair enough. If I had to give your take on your favorite modern Christmas classic tune what is it?
Tony Canas: My favorite modern Christmas tune, so you do know that the majority of Christmas music that keeps playing year after year is baby boomer music and in fact there's a meme that from [inaudible] that maps it out. And then the majority of the popular Christmas music is from that era. We just keep playing it every year. We can pretending that they're still kids every year. That's what happens when you are the largest generation around. But I would say All I Want For Christmas Is You. And I fell in love with it in a weird way, basically my girlfriend and I took a six week sabbatical through Eastern Europe and this wasn't long ago. The song wasn't new, this was five years ago and it played everywhere everywhere. Everywhere we were they just kept playing it. I don't know why. So I connected it my brain with that great trip.
Joey Giangola: Yeah. I mean it's definitely I would say the biggest, I mean it's maybe even one of the biggest Christmas songs ever potentially. That might be a little bit hyperbole but anyways I definitely support that and it is very hard. I don't know where the cutoff on it.... We probably could spend a whole 30 minutes just talking about what's the cutoff or what's the qualifications for this. But going back to insurance and getting somebody interested and maybe it is on the level of recreating that, I mean let's go with the boomer theme, this was an industry that was maybe more appealing to that generation. How do you remix it and reimagine it for somebody today? What has that challenge been like and have you found any secrets?
Tony Canas: The industry wasn't particularly attractive for the boomers to begin with. They fell into it by accident like every generation prior and like every generation after. And then the overall business world today is built for the boomers. The reason that it is built for the boomers is because they were such a large generation. And so, the X'ers were never big enough in numbers to force changes. And when the millennials came around now we have the combination of the millennials are just as many in number as the boomers. And number two, that taboo in changing jobs has died and even within our very conservative industry so the millennials vote with their feet and so will the gen Z'ers. So if you don't make them happy they'll leave and go elsewhere.
So, the industry wasn't particularly boomer friendly it was just the boomers were raised in a world and worked most of the career in a world where once you signed up with a company you never left. It looked really bad on your resume to change companies. So, and they were raised to put up with whatever crap they have to put up with. For the boomers the quality of the job didn't matter, what mattered was their ability to provide for their families. Work is work. For the millennials work is supposed to not only pay the bills but bring meaning to my life and allow me to make a difference in the world.
So, that's the big thing is we need to learn to sell that aspect of insurance to the new employees, through the hiring process, through the orientation process, and even through their first three or four years in the company and in the industry, really hammer how insurance does good for the world. The disadvantage is that we have a bad reputation. Most people when they think of insurance they think of paying every six months and never getting anything out of it because they've never had a claim. And then of course my insurance increases every six months even though I haven't had a claim so why is that?. So, we have a bad reputation out there.
And the reality of the matter, once you get to know the insurance industry is what we're doing is good for the economy, it's good for the world. We're helping people get back on their feet ultimately. Commercial lines, personal lines, we're helping people get back on their feet. But it takes a few years for a new employee to realize that so we need to explicitly help them see that. I think that is the biggest thing we can do is help them see the mission of what our industry does. And if you can differentiate your company within that mission, for example when I started in Farm Bureau of Iowa they did a fantastic job not only teaching me what insurance is, how it works, why it's important for the world, why we're doing something good for the world and the economy and how Farm Bureau is different from Progressive, from Geico and from any other carrier.
Joey Giangola: Yeah tat meaning that you speak of I do think it's one that is I don't want to say poorly communicated but poorly communicated. Anybody that I've ever had a conversation with that you just, you spend literally four minutes, five minutes explaining the sheer basics of insurance and how it works and how it functions. Most rational people would be like, "Oh, that makes sense. I feel a lot better about this paying my premiums and not really getting anything out of it." Is that value exchange, is that communication something that you think we finally have momentum and numbers on to where people are going to see it? [crosstalk]
Tony Canas: Not really. No. Not really. One place where we do have momentum is InsureTech. InsureTech is forcing insurance to reevaluate its role and to reevaluate its brand as an employer. And it's forcing every company within our industry to reevaluate its employer brand which is something that they might never have thought about. So I do think that that is giving us momentum. Another thing that is giving us momentum is the, there's no nice way to put this, the politically correct, academically correct, term is generational turnover. Which when you look it up ultimately means some of the older people retiring or passing away and getting replaced by younger people.
So in our industry, the way that it's working out is the boomers, the older boomers are retiring, in leadership are retiring. They're being replaced by gen X'ers who are a lot more open-minded and who are a lot more willing to try new things and who have a lot longer left to work. Because there's times where the leader realizes changes have to happen good luck to you guys three years from now when I retire but I'm not going to do it while I'm still well here. So, and by the way earlier you talked about the how, how do we recruit new talent into insurance. I think that that on the agency side which I know is who your listenership probably is, I'm more of a carrier side guy but on the agency side you have to help them see how the longterm career path. The early agency side, especially the early broker job or the early producer job is a very hard job. Chances are your base salary which isn't that high to begin with the clients over time, chances are there might not be a great training program depending on the agency.
It's a tough road but in the very long-term if you make it you'll have pay and flexibility or freedom unequal to any other area of the industry. All you have to do is go to an in-person CIC class or any other in-person CE class and look at the cars parked outside. And you'll see that the agency space is a really great career if you make it. So, if we can paint that picture of, "Hey, we'll teach you how to do this. We'll mentor you on how to do this. It will be hard for the first 10 years. You'll be putting in maybe more hours than the friends who work in the carrier space. Then again, you probably don't have any friends that work in the carrier space. But if you succeed, the payoff for the rest of your career is unrivaled anywhere else in the economy basically because of the beauty of compounding renewals."
Joey Giangola: Tony I think I want to create an app that just matches insurance carrier people with insurance agency people like a friend matching site. I think maybe that'd be a benefit. You said [inaudible] But I think the other thing too on the agency side of things is that and maybe why it's disproportionately family driven is because it is a hard thing to take an investment on somebody that you're not sure is going to be around. And it starts to make a lot more sense when you do have those conversations. I guess whether it's agency side or carrier side of things just talent that thinks about things differently and reinvigorates the industry is important. But let's just say in your conversations with people that are looking to get into the business is there something that when it comes to appealing that meaning of what they're doing or just things that pop up to you that other people can use to help bring into their agencies, is there something that you notice over and over again that tends to click?
Tony Canas: Sadly, the number one thing that they have to understand is that this person that you're interviewing if they don't have a significant insurance background, they've never been in insurance, or they only have a year or two at a different agency, they're not committed to insurance. So until they commit to insurance this is a job. This is a way to pay the bills this month. They're thinking this is a temporary get me through this year, get me through the next couple of years job. They're not thinking long-term career and they might still be flirting with other careers. They might still be thinking about their psychology degree that they've never put to use and wanting to go back to a different area.
So, I think the biggest thing is is that helping them fall in love with what we do and helping them fall in love with how what do we do can be a great match for them long-term for a great career. And not only that, helping them fall in love with the fact that in the carrier side pretty much from the beginning and on the broker side once you build your own book, your insurance career can be a secondary passion. I hate putting it that way but what I mean is is once you're established you can put in 35 hours a week and dedicate the rest of your time to whatever your real passion is and that's fine. In fact, there's a very good chance that over time you can find a way to join those two things.
Yesterday I was having a career chat, chatwithtony.com, with a guy out in California who is currently an underwriting assistant and his real passion is basketball. He's a basketball coach and he didn't make the NBA. I think he played college but not even division A but he's a basketball coach and he loves doing that. Basketball is what he really loves, the insurance pays the bills. That's perfectly fine. There are jobs in this industry that are perfect for him, the [inaudible] brokerage that specializes in entertainment. He could be an underwriter for Berkeley Sports. There are places in this industry where his passion for basketball would be a huge asset but he has no idea those jobs exist. So he's thinking, "How do I grow my career without getting too far away from what I really love doing?" Because everything requires insurance for most people there is a job in this industry that's perfect for them.
So during the interview, I'll try to bring it back to okay so we're recruiting right now for a CSR or for an account manager or for a producer. I don't specialize in, their passion is aviation and I don't happen to specialize in aviation. Well, can you make a good case for how the experience here can over time five years from now get them to the place where there'll be a perfect match for them? Do a great job for me for the next five years and we'll teach you everything you need to know and all the experience you need to get to the job that would really be a dream match for you five years from now. I think that that's a great way to do it.
Also, I should be careful just to specify that I wear two hats. With the Jacobson Group people think that I'm a recruiter, I'm actually not. I'm in sales for Jacobson. I sell our staffing services to insurance companies and brokerages. On the insurance [inaudible] side, I serve as a guidance counselor and on this side I do it for free. So people [inaudible] chatwithtony.com and I give them career advice for free. And so, I learn a lot from both sides to answer the questions that you're asking but I'm not a recruiter.
And also on the Jacobson side we are the type of recruiting firm that you bring in when you need somebody experienced. We don't do entry-level stuff. So in my day job, I really don't recruit entry level people but on this side I chat with a lot of entry level people whether in their first insurance jobs or in non-insurance jobs who want to get into insurance. Why do they want to get into insurance? Because they're either running into Insurance Nerds, insurancenerds.com by random accident or one of their friends is working in insurance and doing well and that's why they want to make the move into insurance.
Joey Giangola: So what does high level recruiting or I mean not necessarily recruiting but what does it look like to be placing talent at a high level in different places? That might be something that would be somewhat unfamiliar, uncommon to some agencies I would imagine.
Tony Canas: What does it look like? It's very interesting. It's very, very interesting. Basically we start with a conversation with a client whether that's a brokerage or a for us most commonly a carrier and the client is usually looking for an absolute purple squirrel. That is the terminology in staffing for the absolute perfect candidate that would fit everything in your job description and would be within budget and dying to move to your area of the country or [inaudible] next door and somehow you didn't know about them. And helping educate them to the fact that in our industry there are no purple squirrels because talent is so tight. The insurance [inaudible] market is so tight. And also if they're a small carrier that doesn't hire very often educating them on how expensive this might get.
And then once we get them to the right place where they have proper expectations on the kind of candidates that are out there and once we understand whether it's a permanent need or a temporary need. I myself I'm on the temporary side but I work hand-in-hand with the permanent side people. And once we get them to understand what we can find then my recruiters hit the phones, hit LinkedIn, hit our internal database and every other channel we've built over the last 50 years doing this and find somebody with the right skillset, interview them, vet them. They talked to 50, 100 people and they come back to me with a single resume and say, "Here's your closest to perfect person." And I go to the client with that and say, "Here, do you want to interview them?" And I get to look like a rockstar.
My teammates in the permanent staffing side of the house they usually come back with three to five resumes and a big difference is the timeframe. We can find you somebody for a temporary need in five to 10 business days. On the permanent side it might take four to six weeks. And on the executive search side which is the biggest department, the executive search side it might take three to six months. So they're very different processes but that's what they look like.
Joey Giangola: So, I don't know if this is going to make sense or not or if there's even an answer but do you notice any similarities between the type of people you're looking at the resumes, you're looking at the conversations you're having on that side of the house versus the people that are coming to you from the Insurance Nerds way? Is there anything that if you had to boil it down to a common thread that you can see at the core of everybody that is looking for something in insurance?
Tony Canas: I think that there's a ton of commonalities but the biggest thing is just about most people that I'm chatting with have by now figured out that insurance is a fantastic career. They're not looking to leave the industry. Sometimes on the Insurance Nerds side it's a, "Hey, I'm not making any progress. Should I leave the industry?" And 99.9% of the time, no you shouldn't. You should just go to somewhere that's a better fit for you. But they've all committed to insurance which I think is a big thing that we could really share with our new hires or with somebody that we're interviewing that is entry level is if you stayed in insurance for five years you're never going to leave and that's a good thing. You're never going to leave because you're going to fall in love with it. That's what we see over, and over, and over, and over and over again.
What I was going to say is people are not, I never run into anybody either at conferences or in Chat With Tony or anything that is insurance because they feel trapped. People are here because they fell in love with it and figured out how to make a great career out of it. Go ahead.
Joey Giangola: Well yeah, I mean you'd said earlier that there was this trial period that people felt like they might've been in and we need to get them to love the industry and you'd mentioned it seems like there's a five-year threshold. I was curious if there was anything else that if it's just the extended time that you're spending in the industry, if there was another moment or milestone that helped accelerate or just make the lights go on for that feeling.
Tony Canas: If you are a carrier, so most of your listeners are not, if you are a carrier if you can give all of your employees a chance whether they are in claims or not, whether they're in office or not, a chance to go and help out during a catastrophe that is going to cause a come to Jesus moment, no not a come to Jesus moment, that is going to help them come to a realization of how awesome what we do is. That's what they did for me. I was an insights claims manager, or not manager I was on an inside claims adjuster like level one claims adjuster. And after the Joplin tornadoes in 2011 I got to go out for 10 days on catastrophe duty to help out and it was an amazing experience to see the effect of what we do.
Now, if you're an agency or a brokerage can you replicate that some way? Part of it is community activities. You probably sponsor the local football team, all that stuff. If you can grab your younger employees and [inaudible] and take them to that so they can see the effect that you have on the community that'd be big. If you can partner with one of your carriers, with your number one carrier, if you can partner to get your employees a tour through real claims I think that that is where the rubber hits the road for our industry. And that is where people fall in love with it is being there when the promise is delivered, at least seeing it a couple of times.
Joey Giangola: Hey Tony, I've got three more questions for you. First one is, what's one thing that you hope you never forget?
Tony Canas: One thing that I hope I never forget is how this is a people industry ultimately, with [inaudible] that's coming in and all the technology and all the changes and all the radical changes we've seen in the last few years and we'll see in the next several years this will always continue to be a people industry. The day that I forget that my network will start to die and so that's the number one thing I don't want to forget. That ultimately, regardless of what I am personally doing within the industry, even if I ended up selling technology for an InsureTech this is a people industry and will always be. I don't see a way around that.
Joey Giangola: All right. And on the other side of that Tony, what's one thing you still have yet to learn?
Tony Canas: I am technically much, I'm an inch deep and a mile wide which is funny because I've got my CPCU and a ton of designations, I am not an expert in anything when it comes to technical insurance. I'm the exact opposite of Bill Wilson who is probably familiar to a lot of your listeners. We're perpendicular to each other. He is a mile deep in policy language, I'm not. I know a little bit about everything within insurance. So there's a ton that I still have to learn and I learn more every day. That's one thing I love about my job at Jacobson is that everyday I am chatting with business leaders of different carriers doing different things and I'm learning about details about insurance that I didn't know. You will never run out of things to learn within the insurance space, it is incredible, never. So yeah, I'm not afraid of that, there's so much more to learn.
Joey Giangola: All right Tony, last question. If I were to hand you a magic wand of sorts to reshape, change, alter really the course of insurance in any way that you see fit what is that thing, what's it doing, and where is it going?
Tony Canas: That's a really hard one. So I've got my magic wand, my Apple pencil. So, my Harry Potter knowledge isn't good enough to remember any of the spell words but basically the biggest thing I would change is I would convince, immediately convince every current and prior and future insurance professional to never apologize for working insurance. From now on every time that in a cocktail party or whatever the topic comes up what do you do don't be like, "I just work in insurance," and then move on immediately. Be excited. "I work in insurance and it's awesome and let me tell you why. Let me tell you why you or your kids might love it." That's the number one thing I would change.
Joey Giangola: Tony, this has been fantastic. I'm going to leave it right there sir.
Tony Canas: Thank you. Anytime.