How an interest in cars drove one man’s passion in insurance

How an interest in cars drove one man’s passion in insurance | Insurance Business America

How an interest in cars drove one man’s passion in insurance
Who would have imagined that an interest in cars and racing would ultimately lead someone to pursue a career in insurance?

Thirty-five-year-old Greg Deems started his journey in the insurance space at a car dealership, where he worked as a service advisor. After years of working in the dealership and eventually heading a start-up’s sales program, Deems found an opportunity to join Massachusetts-based Rogers & Gray Insurance Agency, where he now serves as vice president and business insurance sales executive.

Insurance Business got in touch with Deems to get his thoughts on the most challenging issues facing the construction insurance space and his hopes for the industry. He also talked about how his volunteer work for the Plymouth Area Coalition for the Homeless has kept him grounded.

Tell us how you got into the insurance industry. What led you to this career?

It was an interest in cars that ultimately led me to the insurance industry.  Before college and during summers I worked for a Nissan dealership, helping them with tasks such as service and parts deliveries. After graduating from UMass Amherst I took a job as a service advisor at the same dealership. During that time, I started helping a friend of a friend, who was racing Nissans at the time, get parts for the cars they had.

That eventually grew into me spending time at the shop and track with them and getting into racing a Nissan myself.  After several years of being an advisor, there was an opportunity to join a start-up company and help run their sales program.

The company, In Control Crash Prevention Training, teaches hands-on crash prevention training and one of my main sales avenues was through insurance agents.  Over time the board switched from those looking to cash in on a start-up to one or more angel investors.

The company started transitioning to a non-profit and it made sense for some of us to move on at that time. I had been talking with Rogers & Gray already about being a personal lines producer on the side and thought insurance would be a logical next step. I interviewed with a few agencies but I ultimately decided Rogers & Gray was the right place for me, and that started my insurance career.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your work in the insurance space?

The most fulfilling part for me is working with clients that allow you to become a trusted part of their team, someone that they can confide in. When you start to develop a book of business with clients that work with and trust you it makes everything a lot more enjoyable.

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

Rogers & Gray is a tremendous organization. The level of long-term planning and commitment to organic growth makes it very different from many other agencies I have been around. The agency offers property and casualty, benefits, and bonding. We are always working on bringing in carriers that can help us develop new programs and invest in producers rather than acquisition.

Most of our sales team are in their 30s and 40s. Our staff is actually very young for the insurance industry. We are working with local colleges and other groups to help backfill against the impending knowledge loss that is coming with a large segment of the industry looking to retire in the next five to 10 years.

I think the long-term planning and strategy with a proactive approach to dealing with the limitations and issues of the industry are what help us to experience double-digit organic growth each year. 

We carry that same proactive approach to our dealings with clients as well. We try to identify what is out there for our clients and work on potential strategies to combat it rather than waiting for something bad to happen and then doing a scramble to figure out how to fix it.

What do you think are the most challenging issues facing the construction insurance today?

I think there are several. I think that abuse of the workers’ compensation system will always be an issue. I see dealing with technology and the pace at which it changes to be a real issue. This year we are spending a lot of time on cyber and data breach to make sure our construction clients understand the risks they face there. 

There is also a lot of movement among carriers in the space. They will be in one year for a class and out the next. This makes it hard to establish a long-term strategy. With companies that bid on multiyear public projects on a razor-thin margin, this can become a real bottom line issue for them if things move drastically.

What are your hopes for the construction insurance industry and the overall insurance industry moving forward?

I hope the current boom has a lot of life left in it. It can’t go on forever, but I hope it can be sustained for the foreseeable future. This will lead to new ideas on how to deal with the changing environment and new aspects of construction.

I am also hoping for others to pursue a career in construction and insurance spaces. The potential in both industries is tremendous, but both require a large knowledge base. We are in need of another generation of professionals to keep the industry running.

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

If I was not in insurance, I am sure I would still be doing something sales related. Likely I would have found something within the racing industry.

Tell us about your volunteer work for the Plymouth Area Coalition for the Homeless. What made you pursue this venture?

Rogers & Gray spends a lot of time working with the community and non-profits as an organization.  It is expected and encouraged that our sales staff find a way to be a part of and give back to the communities in which our offices and clients are in. 

When I started here, I got involved with a couple of organizations, at one point chairing both the South Shore Young Professionals and the Plymouth Area Coalition for the Homeless (PACH). I think in the world of sales it is easy to get caught up in the race and “keep up with the Jones’s”. Because of that, I think working with some of these groups and helping others will keep your perspective on what is important in life. 

My wife works as an NP and runs a clinic at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island. Her patients are largely involved in the foster care system in Rhode Island and she becomes their primary carer as they navigate through the system and the needs associated with that population. The difference in our days helped determine what group I thought I might want to be involved with. 

PACH is a 13-room shelter for families with kids servicing many of the communities on the South Shore of Massachusetts. We have a food pantry. We run the Children’s Holiday Fund which allows people to adopt a child and help provide presents for them for the holidays. It is a small organization that has their hands on many different things. 

When I joined the board there had been some large shake-ups in the shelter community. The board was a small group of people that had been with the organization for a decade or more. We needed some new energy in the room. 

There was a desire to do as much as the organization could, but with just a few hands, it was difficult. I took over as Chair a couple of years ago and I started tapping other young professionals to join the board with me. Over time, that has allowed some of the long-time members to retire and take a break while some new energy joined the room.

It is very rewarding to see the organization grow and develop. We want to be a more active part of the community working on long-term solutions to help decrease the homeless population in our areas, as well as to give people access to the tools and resources needed to make it on their own.   

What are your passions or hobbies outside insurance?

Now that I have been married for almost six years, leisure time is something my wife and I are spending time trying to figure out.

In the past year, we have taken up boating and my wife has started to join me on some rounds of golf. We like to take a few long weekends a year to unwind, whether that is skiing, a Formula One race, or just to get away and recharge. We have a large extended family with a bunch of nieces who always provide us with options to fill the downtime in new ways.

I would love to get back into racing but that is still quite a few years away at this point. 

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