IBA: How did you get started in the insurance business, and what led you to found your own agency?
Camille Hicks: The average person doesn’t grow up saying they want to be in insurance, so I fell into the industry. I was working in the environmental services industry, and I had a lot of experience in different roles within different companies, from environmental consulting to sales to the building industry, and then I got laid off from my job and was looking for work.
Somebody told me that they thought I would be good at insurance because people can buy insurance from anywhere, so when people buy insurance from you, it’s because of you as a person, and [this individual] felt like I could really be an asset in the industry. That made me look into insurance, and I stumbled across Farmers Insurance and started a Farmers agency as a captive agent. I started my own brokerage a couple of years later, and I’ve been a brokerage agency ever since.
IBA: What challenges and opportunities did you experience when starting your own agency?
CH: The challenges were definitely the lack of knowledge. I think for the general public, when it comes to insurance, we all know what insurance is and we know that we need it, but the intricate details and the way policies work, that was a challenge coming in for me. Then, being young in the industry, working in an agency or for a company is something that is easy to get into, but owning an agency, and especially a brokerage, is definitely a challenge, so age was a factor.
Also, I’m an African American, so when I started to reach out to people to ask about mentorship, I really didn’t know who to go to. I saw a couple people in the industry who seemed like they were young and were women and minorities, but there weren’t a whole lot of us.
I used those challenges as opportunities because I feel that people who are just like me – who are young and female – we’re more into technology, and we don’t have the same concerns as our parents when it comes to insurance and finances. I thought that would be an opportunity for me to learn, learn, learn everything about the industry and then teach other people about it.
IBA: Why is it critical for the insurance industry to bring more diverse talent into its ranks, especially on the agency side?
CH: You have to have professionals representing all people in an industry like this, because at the end of the day, we are a service-based industry. While you have insurance products to offer, people still have to be serviced. Our world is diverse, our nation is diverse, so we have to have people who represent the people we’re servicing. It makes everything work better because people relate to people they understand.
IBA: What sets your agency apart?
CH: I thought about what I needed as a young professional, and I looked at what I didn’t know about insurance, and I utilized those things to set myself apart. For instance, while there are big companies out there offering online insurance services, there’s not always the personal touch to back it up. I figured if I could find some way to incorporate technology into my brokerage agency, then I could not only compete with the companies who are offering it, but I could also add the personal touch.
I’m a smaller brokerage firm, so I utilize technology to set myself apart, meaning people can get an online quote, and they don’t have to call or come into the office to get insurance. They can text us, and we can have a full review or meeting through a text message or through a virtual call.
IBA: How have you seen the value of insurance agents evolve during the coronavirus pandemic?
CH: Our business has definitely increased during COVID. We all move really fast – we’re doing a lot of things, and we’re trying to accomplish all of these different goals; we run businesses and have families. I think that the COVID climate has slowed people down and has made people really think about all of their business matters: What insurance policies do they have, and are they covered by their health insurance or their life insurance? That has caused a spike in business as people sit down, do some planning and review their insurance.