You are here:HomeNews CenterNews About PIA2005Raising Up the Next Generation of PIA Members

Raising Up the Next Generation of PIA Members

Throughout my involvement in business, politics and PIA, one thing I have noticed is that there are few issues upon which almost everybody can...
September 1, 2005

It Is Our Responsibility to Ensure the Future of Our Industry and PIA

By Lewis L. Wilson
PIA National Director, New York

Throughout my involvement in business, politics and PIA, one thing I have noticed is that there are few issues upon which almost everybody can agree.

In the agency business, there is one thing almost everyone believes: we need to do more to attract young people into our industry.

Those of us who have spent many years as independent insurance agents might like to think that we will be around forever - but we know better. As business owners, we know that no enterprise can achieve long-term success without attracting a steady stream of new talent that will one day be in charge.

Many of us who chose to work in the insurance industry made that decision because a family member was also in insurance. Involvement in the insurance industry is often something that gets handed down from one generation to the next.  But in today's world, perpetuation by tradition isn't enough.

If we want the American Agency System to continue to flourish, we need to do more to reach out to young people with the message that one of the most exciting, challenging and lucrative career choices they can make is to become a Professional Insurance Agent.

Now, I realize that, for many Americans, "exciting" and "insurance agent" are terms that seldom get used in the same sentence. It can be a daunting task for a person more mature in years (which some people have suggested describes me) to convince a young person just starting out that insurance is a great career choice.

In 2002, this issue was discussed during a CEO Conference hosted by PIA of New York, the New York Insurance Association and the New York Young Insurance Professionals (NY-YIP). What came out of those discussions was that we, as an industry, have to attract college-aged men and women who want to learn about all that the industry has to offer. We must develop more insurance-based programs for these students to test the waters in order to ensure that their entrance into the industry will be long term - and not serve as a r©sum© builder. We need to reach out to young people before they make their career choices. We must go to them; they will not come to us.

In several states, PIA associations have sponsored organizations to encourage the young professionals who already work in our industry and attract others to join us. The New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Young Insurance Professionals associations are thriving groups comprised of dedicated young insurance people who gather to network, enable education, engage in charitable works and have fun. There are also similar YIP organizations, councils or committees in Virginia, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Arkansas and other PIA affiliates.

For years, I have been working hard to help our Young Insurance Professionals gain the recognition they deserve by our national association. That's why I am pleased that beginning in 2006 our national association will inaugurate the PIA National Young Agent of the Year Award. It is especially fitting that the first of these awards will be presented during PIA's 75th Anniversary year. After all, what better way to celebrate the fact that PIA has been in existence for many generations than to give recognition to PIA's upcoming leaders.

As all of us move through our lives and our careers, we try to give back. For many of us, service to PIA is not only in the best interest of our businesses, it is also a chance to contribute something back to the industry that we cherish, that has helped us achieve the best for ourselves and our families.

For many years, the members of PIA have been steadfast in their shared belief in the future of professional insurance agents. In every decade, so-called "industry experts" have tried to sound the death knell for independent agents. And every time they try to count us out, we come back stronger than ever.

Despite my many years of involvement in PIA, I still consider myself to be a Young Insurance Professional, because I have so much more to give. As PIA celebrates its 75th Anniversary, I will dedicate myself to helping our association raise up that next generation of leaders who will help PIA celebrate its 100th Anniversary in 2031.

We need to ensure that when the time comes to pass the torch of the agency system - and of PIA - to the next generation, there will be no shortage of leaders to carry that torch forward.  It is our responsibility.

Lewis L. Wilson is PIA National Director from New York.

PIA Connection

This article originally appeared in the September 2005 PIA Connection.

Filed under: