Despite his father being the vice president for marketing of a local insurance company, Jeffrey McIntosh‘s entry to the insurance industry was not handed on a silver platter — he was only able to secure a position at a small surety agency after taking 13 interviews with different groups.
With that in mind, McIntosh believes one needs patience and persistence to thrive in the industry. He believes it is important for professionals in the field to prioritise learning policies and knowing them like the back of their hands. As he says, “Price is always important, but only as a component of value.”
Currently, McIntosh works as a commercial insurance producer at Energy Insurance Agency. Insurance Business caught up with McIntosh to learn more about his organization.
IB: What do you like the most about your current organization? What makes it different from other firms in the same space?
The people, my support staff, make all the difference. I spend more of my waking hours in a day at my office than I do with my family. A huge chunk of my life is spent with the people I work with. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by talented people whom I like and work well with. Since I’ve spent the last 29 years with the same agency, I really don’t know what other firms are like.
IB: What do you think are the most challenging issues facing the insurance industry and your line of work today?
Two things, first I think our industry needs to move forward. We seem to cling to policy forms and ideas that are just out-of-date. Most insurance companies have spent a lot of money on technology, but still cling to old underwriting ideas. It seems carriers are afraid to present new policy form ideas unless they come from ISO.
Second, technology has made rating and policy issuance faster, but at the same time has handcuffed underwriters - they can’t do one thing or another that makes sense because their system won’t let them. The industry has gone too far with technology; a blessing is turning into a curse. People rely too much on tech and forget how to do their job. It seems they can only do what the computer lets them do. Don’t get me wrong, I love the abilities the internet gives me, but it’s a tool and only a tool, it doesn’t replace good judgment.
I have seen insurance companies basically held hostage by their technology. They were not able to react and change their business plan until they first updated their operating systems which can take years and millions of dollars. The biggest challenge I see is for insurance companies to rein in their tech - it should be a tool to aid their employees not an inflexible master that dictates their ability. It’s never a good idea to let someone or something else do your thinking for you.
IB: What are some of the most important qualities for someone to thrive in the insurance industry?
Patience and persistence. It takes time to understand insurance policies. The agent’s job is to protect their clients and you can’t do that if you don’t know what the policies say and mean. An agent must always be learning, reading and asking questions. At times, it seems an almost impossible task to not only understand the policies, but then have the client give you the time to explain it to them. That takes a lot of patience and persistence, but that’s the job.
IB: How do you think your background in psychology and sociology helps you in your career?
It helped me to understand people. I like people and I like to talk to people. Mostly I learned to be patient with others, to consider them and their needs. Basically, we are all pretty much the same, just sometimes we have a bad day and need a minute. Also, after a day at the office I need to have a group session with myself some days, so I don’t lose my mind.
IB: What are some effective solutions you’ve seen in getting young people to enter and stay in insurance?
I really haven’t, not as agents. This is a big struggle on the agent side. Being an agent is demanding. Far too many young people seem to be trained to sell, sell, sell when they need to learn, learn, learn first. As I said before, you can’t take care of your customer if you don’t know what the policy says or does. Price is always important, but only as a component of value. Things that don’t cost much or are free in the insurance world don’t have any value.
When I work with a customer the first thing I try to do is get their coverages correct, then find the best price. It seems most young people entering the agent field are trained to get the low price and nothing else. It’s just a flash in the pan. The pressure is on young producers to write numbers and they just aren’t given the time to develop into competent agents.
On the insurance company side I have defiantly seen rays of hope. But there are two major differences - new underwriters are not put under the same pressure as new agents and insurance carriers seem to do a better job training. I know many people today think young people have no attention span. That’s just not true, the problem is we don’t train them, we aren’t teaching them, we perhaps don’t have the patience of our older generation. Yes, they seem to always have their phones in their faces, but give them something better to do… and hide their phone during work hours.
IB: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?
I was told by my dad when I first started, price is not everything, it’s what you have to offer at that price, value. Dad taught me to give true value to my clients, to do more than my competitors and value my clients. Thanks Dad, you were right.
IB: If you were not working in the insurance space, what would you be doing now?
I don’t know, I feel like a fish in water as an agent, I like helping people with hard confusing things.
IB: What are your passions or hobbies outside insurance?
I like to play golf. I’m not sure what it says about me - I like to do something for fun that drives me crazy, but there it is. I like to be challenged, golf, at least for me is something I can never master, but that doesn’t keep me from trying! Maybe that’s why I like insurance so much, I think maybe I just like being aggravated.