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InVEST broadens its reach

Collaboration with NAAIA opens new doors

By Dennis H. Pillsbury

With apologies to Dickens: Insurance is the best of businesses; it is the worst of businesses. It is the best of businesses because it is needed by nearly every person and business. And it is the worst for the same reason.

All we have to do is remember our first brush with insurance, which for most of us was when we had the opportunity to own our first car. We scrimped and saved, working whatever after-school job was available, until we had enough money to purchase that clunker that only a teenager could love. And then, when we proudly announced that we had enough, our parents reminded us of the additional costs involved in owning a car—the most significant being auto insurance. In some parts of the country, auto insurance might actually cost more than the aforementioned clunker.

At first, we believed this was a plot by our parents to keep us from enjoying the freedom that driving represented, but after talking to smarter people, (i.e., friends of the same age as ourselves), we realized this was a plot of an industry that was controlled by older people who just didn't want young people on the road, forcing them to accelerate up to the speed limit.

No wonder insurance wasn't at the top of our list of favorite things!

Fast forward to adulthood, when we are older and wiser (although my wife would happily dispute that in my case), we still don't feel jolly when we have to pay our insurance premiums. After all, who wants to pay for something that you don't ever want to use?

And despite agents' efforts to educate consumers about the need for proper coverage, evidence suggests that people still don't understand the ins and outs of insurance.

That lack of understanding affects the future of the independent agency system at its foundation. While there are opportunities for employment that run the gamut of skill sets, very few young people view insurance as an industry in which they want to work. When one considers the fact that the industry employs millions of people in the United States and half of them will need to be replaced over the next decade as the Baby Boomers leave the workforce, it is a sad oversight.

But that's changing

Imagine now if there was a way to reach young people and educate them about the opportunities in insurance and also explain how important insurance is to our society. Just imagine if young people started to see, as they did in New Orleans, that "insurance is a great industry," as Parke Ellis noted in our March issue. He added: "After the storm, New Orleans enjoyed its own stimulus that was fueled by insurance. Being part of that attracted a large number of young people into our business."

But does it have to take a major tragedy for young people to see how effective the insurance business can be?

For more than 40 years, InVEST has been reaching and teaching young people one classroom at a time. And its impact has been felt as it has expanded into classrooms in 40 states. (InVEST was founded by the IIABA in 1970 as a grassroots program that teams high school and college educators with representatives from the insurance industry to provide insurance instruction, exposure to an insurance environment, and insurance career opportunities to students.) Thirty-six percent of students who completed an InVEST program said the course increased their interest in working in the insurance industry, and the rest certainly represented better-informed consumers of the insurance product.

The Detroit project

Last summer, the city of Detroit, which has been suffering through a manmade economic tragedy, was looking for a way to reach inner city youth with job prospects. Through its Detroit Workforce Development Department, the city coupled the resources of InVEST and the National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) to offer a six-week summer insurance course for Detroit students ages 17 to 21.

With jobs opening every day in insurance, the goal of the collaboration was to familiarize the students with various aspects of insurance. This was a "prime opportunity to build careers for inner city youth," Charles Briggs, senior vice president of Marsh Risk Consulting in Detroit, says. Several independent agents from the area supported the program financially and with their time. Students went on to internships with insurance agencies affiliated with NAAIA.

In October, NAAIA announced a formal collaboration with InVEST partially based on the success of this effort and also because "NAAIA's commitment to our youth mirrors InVEST's goals of bringing young people into the insurance industry," notes Don Davis, NAAIA chairman and territory sales manager for Allied Insurance.

"This cornerstone collaboration reflects our shared commitment to impact industry diversity at its very talent source," adds Charles Hilson, NAAIA board liaison and CEO of GBG, Inc., an insurance agency in South Holland, Illinois.

Heather Minkler, InVEST chair and CEO of the Clark-Mortenson Agency, Keene, New Hampshire, says: "This collaboration supports InVEST's strategic goal to broaden the volunteer efforts to further fulfill our mission. NAAIA opens up new possibilities for more insurance professionals to become involved with InVEST schools."

The collaboration is in its infancy, with many of the details still to be worked out. But what is clear is that even greater numbers of young people will be finding out that the insurance industry can be a great place to work.

One of the characteristics of the younger generation that is just starting to enter the workforce is that they want to do something useful that will help people. What could be better than a career in an industry that helps people and businesses recover from a loss that without insurance would be completely devastating?

It's really not a question of whether insurance is the greatest of businesses but how we convey that to the next generation so we can attract the best and the brightest. InVEST offers the opportunity to get involved in that effort. If you don't have a program in your area, contact the Big "I" or NAAIA and they'll help you start one.

For more information:


Web site:

National African American

Insurance Association

Web site:


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