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PIA Young Insurance Professional award
goes to Scott Harwood

Innovation is the watchword for this Virginia agent

By Elaine Tolen

Scott M. Harwood Jr., CIC, CISR, never intended to be the family’s fifth generation to work in the insurance industry. “I wanted to be a rock star,” he admits. In fact, Scott, now 40, quit college to pursue his dream. The Virginia native worked in restaurants to supplement his rock band wages and found that he liked to cook. He even served as an apprentice chef and managed a restaurant for a time.

Eventually, “I realized that I wasn’t going to be Led Zeppelin,” Scott laughs, so he went back to college while working part time in two restaurants and at his father’s agency, Harwood & Son Insurance in Farmville, Virginia. After graduating from college in 1997, Scott became an agency partner and began managing the personal lines department. Since then, he has worked in every area of the five-person firm and is now agency president.

His ascent to leadership in the agency ranks paralleled his activities in the Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) of Virginia & D.C. (VA/DC) and more recently in the PIA National, which recently recognized Scott as their 2009 Young Insurance Professional of the Year.

Scott’s involvement in the PIA VA/DC began in 1996 when he served on the state association’s convention committee. Scott Sr. had long been active on the state and national levels of PIA, including serving as association president. Following in his father’s footsteps, Scott Jr. became involved and soon took on bigger challenges.

Around that same time, Scott, his wife Kim, who also works at Harwood & Son, and several others recognized the need to bring young agents together for networking and association perpetuation. “There wasn’t a formal Young Professionals Council (YPC) at the time,” Scott remembers, so Kim, along with two other young insurance professionals started the PIA VA/DC Young Professionals Council in 2000. Scott points out that the name includes the word professionals because young company reps, not just young insurance agents, are encouraged to join.

The YPC functions as a separate committee within the PIA VA/DC, “which helps prepare younger agents to become involved in all aspects of the association,” Scott says. This method must be successful, because while some states struggle with perpetuation in the association as well as in their agencies, Scott reports that 70% of the PIA VA/DC board is under 45 years old.

For his work on behalf of the state association and YPC, Scott was named PIA VA/DC Young Professional Agent of the Year in 2008, a segue to the national award he just received.

Advancing the association

After serving on nearly all of the association’s committees, in 2004 Scott became the PIA VA/DC board president. That same year, the association hired a new executive director, Dennis Yokum. This new working relationship created a synergy that paved the way for changes in the PIA VA/DC. “Dennis and I shared a lot of the same goals and visions about where the association could be,” Scott says.

“We started revamping different areas, exploring new education methods, streamlining meetings, utilizing technology to be more efficient,” Scott says. According to a fellow young insurance professional, Scott’s quiet and diplomatic leadership skills, sense of humor and his forward-looking attitude (he is a devotee of Walt Disney’s management philosophy) resulted in the creation of a sales boot camp, new in-house seminars offered statewide, and the ISR (Insurance Services Representative) Training Academy.

According to Scott, the ISR Training Academy is a three-week training program, held at the PIA VA/DC’s Richmond, Virginia, headquarters. It is geared towards those with little or no insurance experience who want to learn more about the industry and start in a customer service function. Curriculum includes coverage and processing training as well as preparation for the Virginia state licensing exam.

“We want to attract people to this industry who are outside the family agency circle and don’t know about the many opportunities that it affords,” Scott explains.

While serving as association president, Scott applied another area of strength to improve the association—his love and knowledge of technology. “We stopped virtually all snail-mail,” he says, “and started having more conference calls and online discussions. I was driving 75 miles each way to attend meetings at the association office; other board members were driving between one and six hours one way so these alternatives saved time and money.

“But it’s important not to rely solely on these different communication methods,” Scott cautions. “You must have that face-to-face time to build relationships. The best part about being active in the PIA is getting to interact in person with other members.”

When Scott stepped down from the PIA VA/DC board in 2006 at the ripe old age of 36, he didn’t put away his gavel and head for the fishin’ hole. He chaired the board’s nominating committee as well as the strategic planning committee. He also continues to serve on the board of the PIA VA/DC’s for-profit company, PIA Insurance Services (PIAIS), chairing its products committee.

Advancing the agency

Scott’s emphasis on innovation extends to his own agency. “We made a big investment in education and technology to improve our workflow, which, in turn, improves our sales and service. Agencies have to harness technology to their advantage,” he says. “You can’t sit back and continue the same old methods of marketing, communication and operation. You have to be creative.”

For instance, Scott explains, when he had to hire a new employee in January, he took a cue from Walt Disney’s techniques and decided not to look for someone already working in the insurance industry. “In fact, I didn’t require any insurance experience or level of education.

“What I wanted was the right personality because I can help them gain experience and education—without the baggage. And with our new hire, Amy, the strategy paid off,” he says. “My point is that it’s important to be creative, to think of new ways to do things, and to never take your eyes off of the generation that will be buying insurance tomorrow.”

Described by a peer as “a techie,” Scott has been asked to write articles for a technology-related publication. He plans to explain in one of the articles how an agency with a modest budget can streamline operations using technology.

All employees of Harwood & Son, regardless of position, are required to be licensed and working towards or maintaining at least one designation, such as CIC or CISR. “A big part of our budget goes to education,” Scott says. “We go over and above what the state requires.”

With a mix of 40% personal and 60% commercial, the agency has fared pretty well during the soft market. To be successful in the current market, “timing is everything,” Scott says. “We’ve been extremely fortunate to have encountered unexpected opportunities. For example, there is a beautiful, new 18-hole links-style golf course nearby that is expanding to become a planned community with fine dining, hotel, convention center, spa, homes and so on. Our agency has been on this account from day one, back when it was still a 1,100-acre farm.”

Another significant opportunity for Harwood & Son was in being admitted into the Keystone Insurance Group. “We are now able to combine our books of business with other agents’ books; these are innovative, like-minded agents who have also been able to grow in the soft market, who are also financially sound. So now, when I call Travelers, for example, I’m no longer their $400,000 agent; rather, I’m now their $100 million agent and am able to offer my clients more than a typical small shop can offer.”

The agency serves a variety of client types, including contractors, schools and restaurants. “Of course, I enjoy handling the restaurant accounts because I love to cook,” he admits. “But in the small-town environment, it’s difficult to niche-market, so you have to be somewhat knowledgeable about everything!”

Life and work balance

When Scott and Kim go home after working all day together, he acknowledges that it’s hard to leave work at the office. But kayaking, cooking, playing with their dogs, and traveling together help them maintain a balanced family life.

Another interest of Scott’s that provides a diversion from the workplace is his love of history. “I have been tracing my family tree since I was nine years old,” he explains. “I’ve managed to follow some lines back to the 800s. I traced one line back to Charlemagne and another line back to King John of England (the Magna Carta). But the real excitement comes in being able to find ancestors who are just four, five or six generations back, in our local cemetery.

“In fact, my great-great-grandfather, Col. Charles McKinney Walker, started the Farmville Fire Insurance Company during the Reconstruction in 1866. Following him, my great-grandfather, grandfather and father have all worked in the insurance industry.”

Being involved in the community also keeps life in perspective for Scott. He has served on the board of directors for, and is a past president of, the Randolph-Macon Academy Alumni Association, his military college prep school. He was also a member of the Lions Club for 15 years, was active with the Farmville Jaycees for a number of years and is a member of the Masonic Lodge. In addition, he and Kim have educated local Habitat for Humanity home owners about insurance.

Rock ‘n roll still runs in Scott’s veins, and he has been able to use his love of music for some charitable causes. One such cause is the Summer Games for the Virginia Special Olympics—which is also PIA VA/DC’s main charity—at which he and his former bandmate, Nick Capuano, occasionally provide lunchtime music.

Active in their church, Scott and Kim participated on a medical mission to Honduras in May 2007. They went with physicians, nurses and other nonmedical volunteers into mountain villages, setting up triage stations, deworming stations, pharmacies and eye clinics. After the people were treated in the eye clinic, where Scott was assigned, “it was wonderful when they could see clearly for the first time—you just can’t describe the feeling,” Scott remembers. He and Kim are returning on another medical mission in 2010 as well as a possible trip to the Holy Land in 2012.

Scott’s long-term life goal is to be able to do missions work full time. “The people we met in Honduras had nothing—and they were the happiest people we’ve ever seen,” he says.

Regardless of where in the world Scott Harwood Jr. happens to be—whether sitting on the dirt floor of a hut in a remote village or addressing his fellow insurance colleagues—this PIA National Young Insurance Professional of the Year looks forward to many more years of making a difference in others’ lives.



Scott M. Harwood Jr., CIC, CISR, President of Harwood & Son Insurance (front left), with his team (from left): Kim Harwood, CISR, Amy Land, Scott M. Harwood Sr., CIC, and Juanita Grant, CIC.


Samuel W. Berman, Executive Vice President/COO of The Rough Notes Company (left) and PIA National President Kenneth R. Auerbach, Esq. (right) congratulate Scott Harwood for being named PIA National Young Insurance Professional of the Year. The Rough Notes Company sponsors the annual award which recognizes the outstanding achievement by a young insurance professional within PIA National.


Scott Harwood Sr. (left) and Scott Harwood Jr. (right) discuss plans with John Prengaman, General Manager of Recreation/Director of Golf for The Manor Resort, a client that is building a 1,100-acre planned community.


Besides working side by side every day in the office, Kim Harwood (left) and Scott share a variety of non-insurance interests, such as kayaking. Here, they maintain one of their kayaks.







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