What does 2015 hold for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA)?

This is the question we asked IIABA Chairman, David Walker, president of Hartland Insurance Agency, during the 2015 IIABA Winter Meeting in Rancho Mirage, CA.

As a 35-year veteran of the insurance industry, there are few insurance professionals as versed in the trials and opportunity facing the independent agent as David.

Agency Nation’s Chief Instigator, Marty Agather, sat down with David to find out:

  • What are David’s goals for 2015 as Chairman of the Board?
  • How does IIABA support young independent insurance agents?
  • How can independent agents get involved in IIABA?
  • What can agents do to support the political advocacy of the independent insurance industry?

To get the answers to these questions, watch our interview with David Walker below:

Transcript:

Download this transcript

Marty: Howdy. Marty Agather, TrustedChoice.com and I’m here at lovely Rancho Mirage California at the winter meeting for the IIABA. And with me today is a special guest. I’ve got David Walker, the Chairman.

Marty: Dave, why don’t you introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about your agency?

Dave: Sure, thanks, Marty. I’m Dave Walker. I live in Fenton, Michigan. Our offices are in Heartland, Michigan, Highland, Hamburg, and Flushing, Michigan. And I’ve been in the insurance business as an independent agent for 34 years now. So I’ve earned my stripes and I, my real passion right now is serving as the chairman of the IIABA for this year.

Marty: So I understand that the economic conditions are really perking up in your neck of Michigan. You want to tell us a little bit about that?

Dave: Well actually, in Michigan they are getting better. We’re starting to see more construction. We’re starting to see more growth. The auto industry is turning around a little bit. And it’s actually more positive now than it’s been in years. Detroit’s now gone through its bankruptcy process and now it’s about trying to rebuild the communities. And they’re actually, we’re very positive. It’s a good attitude right now in Michigan, so very happy with that.

Marty: Excellent. And how’s the insurance climate?

Dave: Insurance climate’s good. As a result of the economy turning around, obviously we’re building more. Contractors are back in business. Auto industry’s still cruising along. And so by virtue of that, yeah our business is good right now.

Marty: Excellent.

Dave: We’re happy with that.

Marty: Excellent. So one of the things as chairman obviously you are maybe not ultimately responsible, you certainly oversee many many aspects of what the big-I is doing for the agents out there. What sort of . . . each chairman might bring a little slightly different focus to that. What’s sort of one of your big passions about what the association is doing on behalf of agents . . .

Dave: Yeah, sure. And I . . .

Marty: . . . and our company partly?

Dave: Yeah, you know, for that year, you’re the chairman you’re really more of a traffic cop. And you’ve got a lot of other moving pieces that you’re really overseeing. But you’re essentially a traffic cop and there’s a lot of very qualified, dedicated people, at both the state staff level, volunteers, and at the IIABA staff level that are actually making all those parts move together. Our biggest challenge right now is we’ve got a long range plan that we’re putting in place and seeing that through to fruition. I think the second thing, if we were to put them in order, I think the next thing is the challenge for us is membership. How do we maintain the relevancy for our members nationwide? How do we demonstrate it? And what can we do to make them absolutely think that they’ve got to be a member of the national association? And how do we keep providing that relevance to them?

Marty: Perfect. Let’s talk a little bit about one of the things that I know is a key initiative all the time, but even more so now as our industry ages. Let’s talk about what the big-I is doing to help bring young professionals into this great career.

Dave: Oh sure. We’ve got a couple things. One of those obviously is the young agents committee. These are very bright young people that are very excited. The things they’re doing with invest in terms of raising money for invest at our meetings, what they’re doing with assistance and all the other subcommittees that we’ve got running around, these folks are the future and we get the fact that they’re the future of the association. They’re the future of the industry. And we want to encourage them and provide them with as many tools and as many resources as we can. The other thing, quite frankly, is we know that we’ve got an aging leadership of independent agent principals. And so because of that, one of the task forces that came out of the planning committee was about talent recruitment. How do we recruit young, vibrant talent into this industry and make this industry attractive to all of them?

Marty: So what is one thing that any agent could do that would get them involved that would help the association, help make us more relevant, in our local communities and help this association grow and really create all that opportunity for those young folks?

Dave: Sure. Well we did it last year when we hit a million dollars in our PAC and each year, each cycle, keeping that InsurPac at a million dollars is a huge issue for us in DC. Our relevancy, good, bad, or otherwise, is measured based upon our activity with our lobbyists and based upon the size of our PAC and our ability to help support people that support the issues that we need assistance on. And so by virtue of that, you know, if you want to help the association out in a big way, every InsurPac dollar we can get that goes towards helping that and maintaining that one million dollar-plus InsurPac would help us greatly.

Marty: So that PAC, that’s the political action committee that actually makes sure that the legislators understand our issues and are willing to support positions that makes sense for our industry.

Dave: That’s right. Candidly, we are financially supporting people that support our issues. And without that support, it doesn’t buy votes but it gains us access to have conversations with those people so that they understand what our position is when they’re trying to formulate their position and their vote in the Senate and the House.

Marty: And that money flows to both sides of the aisle.

Dave: Absolutely. We’re fairly agnostic in terms that we support both democrats and republicans.

Marty: And one of the most critical things I heard from one of our lobbyists is I think we were successful in 90+ percent of the races where we picked a player.

Dave: Yeah, our handicapping was very good. We were 90%-plus in terms of who we supported and their successfulness in getting elected. And on both sides of the aisle, republicans and democrats, both.

Marty: I couldn’t help but notice when you walked up, that you’ve got a nice little carry bag there from a company that I’m very familiar with, Orvis.

Dave: Yeah, sure. Yeah.

Marty: So I know you’re a little bit of an outdoorsman, so let’s talk a little bit about that.

Dave: I do. I’m kind of an anomaly in this business. I’m not really a big, and forever who’s ever golfed with me, I’m not a very good golfer. I do golf occasionally, but usually it’s not by choice. My real weakness or passion is I love old side-by-side shotguns. I shoot them all. I love shooting sporting clays, and I like to hunt. The other thing that I really like to do is fly fish. Both of those are real . . . those are my hobbies if you were to ask me what my hobbies were.

Marty: So let’s talk fly fishing because I’m a big fisherman too and actually my neighbor just gave me a nice little fly rod.

Dave: Oh, okay.

Marty: So I’m ready to go after it.

Dave: Okay.

Marty: Let’s talk about, give me one great spot where you’ve actually gone out and . . .

Dave: Oh sure. Well, so in Michigan, so I’m not a purist like I am about old side-by-side shotguns. I’m, you know, fiberglass rods I’m okay. They don’t have to be split cane, those kind of things. My favorite place to fish in Michigan is the Au Sable River. There’s a wonderful stretch that’s a flies-only section, and it’s not dry flies it’s just, you can use any flies. But my favorite thing to do is I can burn a whole evening there. I’ve got a really nice little Loomis three-way and you can catch brook trout until your arm is tired. And I don’t keep anything. It’s catch and release only on that section of the Au Sable River up in Michigan. But I can burn a whole evening just catching little brook trout on a three-way fly rod.

Marty: There is nothing better than being out in nature.

Dave: Oh yeah. They’re beautiful. When you catch a little brook trout they’re like looking at a little picture. Their color is so vibrant and they’re just so pretty. It’s like catching a small picture.

Marty: Excellent. All right, Dave, well I know you’re busy and you’ve got another meeting that you’ve got to get to, so I appreciate you spending some time with us here.

Dave: Oh, thank you.

Marty: And we’d love to talk to you again at some point.

Dave: It was my pleasure. I’m available any time so thank you very much.

Marty: Thank you very much, and thank you for joining us for another episode here at Agency Nation.

Conclusion

As a platform, Agency Nation is designed for the benefit of all insurance professionals, not just independent agents or members of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America. However, as an industry, we all face the same challenges: growth, perpetuation, political advocacy just to name a few.

We thank Chairman Walker for his time and support of our great industry.

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