Here are two things that separate winners and losers in the insurance industry

Here are two things that separate winners and losers in the insurance industry | Insurance Business America

Here are two things that separate winners and losers in the insurance industry
For 29-year-old Ian Bell of the Socius Insurance Services, only two things separate successful insurance professionals from those who are barely getting by: knowledge and hard work

Long before being named as the youngest senior vice president in Socius’s history, Bell spent most of his summers in Honolulu, where he had his first exposure to the insurance business. His aunt started her own brokerage on the island and Bell devoted his time to learning the ins and outs of the business.

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Shortly before college, his aunt managed to book him a trip to the United Kingdom for an internship at Lloyd’s of London, where he worked for BMS Group.

Flash forward to today, Bell is one of the many successful insurance professionals at Socius where not only he serves as senior vice president but also as co-chair of the firm’s professional liability practice.

Insurance Business reached out to Bell to find out more about his work philosophy and his insights about the insurance industry. He also discussed his hopes for the industry, particularly in terms of technology incorporation. Additionally, Bell shared how his aunt’s grit and persistence motivated him to chart his own course in the industry.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your work as an insurance professional? What are your current achievements?

Without a doubt, the most fulfilling aspect of my work is that I get to help retail brokers offer the best possible product to their insureds so they can compete and win. I truly believe that retail brokers are some of the hardest working people in this country and having the opportunity to contribute to their success using my product expertise and market knowledge gets me excited enough to be in the office every morning by 5:30am.

Some of my recent achievements include being named as the youngest senior vice president in our company’s history and also being asked to co-chair our professional liability practice. In addition, I also was asked to join our company’s innovation committee which looks for ways that we can operate more efficiently.

What or who do you think has been the secret to your professional success? How do they motivate you?

I’d say that product knowledge and hard work are really what have given me the most success. When I first started in insurance, I wanted to learn everything I could as fast as I could and was able to complete my RPLU, CPCU and ARM in three years. Once I had that knowledge, I realized that a surprising number of the people who had been in the industry much longer than I had actually knew less about insurance than I did. They hadn’t ever tried to learn the ins and outs of the coverages and instead just learned enough to get by – it was the first time I realized that age and experience aren’t necessarily indicators of product knowledge.

My other big contributor to success was simply working hard. There are obvious benefits to working hard such as getting more done, but I think a lot of people don’t see all the fringe benefits that come along with it.

For instance, if you’re a broker that works hard and makes sure you’re always on top of your accounts, underwriters recognize that and pay better attention to your submissions or are more willing to work with you on tough accounts. Nobody gets excited to work with somebody who’s lazy and not passionate about what they do. 

In terms of the person who motivates me the most, I’d have to say it’s the person who got me in the industry to begin with, my late aunt. Before she started her own agency, she worked at a top five national insurance brokerage - but after rising through the ranks she was told that women simply don’t become brokers; she’d hit the glass ceiling. Rather than accept it she took on an even greater challenge and started her own agency.

Watching how hard she worked and how she was able to make her own success is what drives me to work hard every day. This might sound corny but I actually still carry her business card in my wallet as a reminder to keep working hard.

Tell us briefly about your company and its role in the insurance industry. What makes it different from other companies in the same space?

As a wholesaler, we offer assistance and expertise to retail brokers in placing certain lines of coverage.
Sometimes the accounts we handle might be outside of the admitted markets appetite but many times our retailers also ask us to handle their submissions that do fit the admitted markets. In that case the retailer utilizes our services to make sure their insured is getting the absolute best price in the market with the broadest coverage.

Our company is different for two reasons, the first is our ability to collaborate and the second is our employee satisfaction and retention. I often hear stories about how other wholesalers will negotiate a suite of enhancement endorsements with carriers on an individual producer basis and will even ask that the carrier not share their requested enhancements with their fellow producers because they don’t want to give their co-workers any advantage. To me, that’s a bad side-effect of what happens when a culture becomes too sales-driven. In our organization the product heads negotiate a long list of enhancements that we ask the carrier to provide to every Socius broker on every quote.

From there individual producers negotiate some additional enhancements based on the specific risk but the bulk of the work was already finished by the product head. We’ll also team up on more complicated accounts to ensure that we’re providing the best possible product and services to our retailer and insured.

With some of our competitors the retailer is really only getting the knowledge of that one wholesale broker they work with, with Socius we’re able to offer the collective knowledge of our company. The second reason we’re different is our employee satisfaction - we have a long list of perks for all of our service staff with the goal of keeping them happy. If people aren’t happy they’re going to leave and a high turnover rate always leads to service issues for the retail broker. Being able to maintain an outstanding retention rate means that we can provide the best service possible.

I believe you previously worked for Swett & Crawford. What did you learn from that experience?

Swett is probably one of the best places you could start a career in wholesale insurance. Their 100-year legacy speaks for itself and I was lucky enough to be on a team that handled a diverse book of business which gave me the ability to learn a lot in a short amount of time. Ultimately, the culture and product focus on professional/management liability at Socius is what drew me over. 

What are your hopes for the insurance industry moving forward?

I’m not saying anything new here but technology needs to become better incorporated into the industry. With all of the advances in tech there are a lot of opportunities that people can utilize to operate more efficiently and get more done. Too often, people seem concerned that technology is looking to replace their job rather than viewing it as a tool they can use to accomplish more at their job.

I’d also like to see E&S carriers be less afraid to go after E&S business. With the legalization of marijuana, creation of online currencies and details of industries with toxic work environments filling up the media, there’s more of a need for E&S carriers than ever before.

If you were not working in the insurance space, what would you be doing now?

I’d probably have gone into investment banking. My father did investment banking for most of his career and when I was in college it seemed to be the career everyone wanted to get into. I was lucky enough to have people show me that in insurance you can really achieve whatever level of success you’re after as long as you work hard and know what you’re doing - that same ability is rare in most finance jobs.

What are your passions or hobbies outside insurance?

This is a tough one - admittedly I’m still working on developing a hobby but I have an odd obsession with personal finance. I’m constantly reading books and listening to podcasts on how people save and spend their money. 

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