He’s just turned 34 and he has already been an agency CEO for seven years. Perhaps, then, it’s unsurprising that Matt Banaszynski was last week named the Young Gun of the Year at the inaugural Insurance Business America Awards in Chicago.
A former staffer in the US Congress and the Wisconsin Legislature – working largely on insurance and healthcare public policy – Banaszynski made the move to Independent Insurance Agents of Wisconsin in 2010 as a VP, before taking the reins a year later.
“My board of directors, and the people involved in the organization, put a lot of faith in a young guy to come in and take over and change the organization, to make a lot of reforms to it, so to speak.”
As a “young guy”, Banaszynski sees one of his roles in the industry as helping to change the public perception around insurance, especially for the next generation, he said.
“Our industry is a phenomenal industry, but the perception out there regarding careers in the insurance industry – and just the perception of the industry as a whole – isn’t necessarily the most positive among younger generations. So, I’ve really wanted to go out and change that perception and put a younger face and a younger voice [to it] and bring a different perspective to what the industry has to offer.
“I’ve always tried to be an advocate and a resource for the independent agency channel, but I’ve also seen myself as an advocate for careers in the insurance industry, for financial literacy, helping people get a better understanding of the importance of insurance and why they need it – to just give back to the industry in a variety of capacities, while being that voice and champion for the industry.”
One of the secrets to his success, Banaszynski said, was surrounding himself at an early stage with people he could lean on for advice and guidance, he said.
It’s a novel approach, but one that showed drive and ambition, and certainly seems to have paid off.
“When I was young and in a leadership position, I went out created a personal ‘board of directors’, and that involved CEOs from brokers, CEOs from insurance companies, and [people] from outside the industry, to help provide personal and professional guidance. Having that personal board of directors to bounce ideas off and go to … that was an incredible resource and continues to be so.”
But as much as he has accomplished already, there is still a long way to go in Banaszynski’s career. So, what does he see the future holding?
“As somebody who has, you know, 30 years left in the insurance industry, personally, all the insurtech and innovation and disruption that is occurring, that excites and enthuses me.
“I know there are a lot of people out there who believe this innovation and disruption will spur disintermediation, but I don’t necessarily see that,” he said.
“There are going to some challenges, and there are some profound changes that are definitely going to take place – but I’m excited about it. There will be new opportunities and I think the agent-broker channel … will have to redefine their value proposition to the consumer and they’ll have to change their businesses models to stay relevant and competitive.”
REVEALED: Winners at the Insurance Business America Awards 2017
‘Constantly chasing success’ – an award finalist’s story