No disabled veteran left behind
The industry rallies to support the goals of Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers
By Elisabeth Boone, CPCU
In every branch of the U.S. military, a mission is accomplished by teamwork, coordination, and accountability for the competent execution of assigned tasks. Discipline and focus are key elements of the process, as is a keen awareness of the common tendency toward "mission creep," when a mission expands beyond its original parameters.
That model is wholeheartedly embraced by an industry-sponsored organization that is dedicated to providing an insurance career path for physically disabled veterans. (See "Hope for Heroes" in the December 2011 issue of Rough Notes.) Established in 2011 by two respected principals of an independent agency based in Fort Myers, Florida, Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers (DVIC) has made impressive progress toward its objectives while resisting an understandable impulse to enlarge its mission.
DVIC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. Its mission is "to educate, train, and provide meaningful employment opportunities for physically disabled veterans who will excel at cross-selling personal lines insurance to an existing client base on behalf of leading independent insurance agencies."
DVIC was formed by Gary Trippe and Jim Pender, who with Gary's wife, Gay, co-founded Oswald Trippe and Company, a leading independent agency in southwestern Florida that is now owned by BB&T. Pender was honorary chairman of BB&T-Oswald Trippe, and Trippe retired last December as managing director. Both men now devote themselves full time to their families, personal interests, and the work of DVIC.
That work is producing noteworthy results on a number of fronts, from fundraising and a key educational partnership to the naming of a president and the selection of an agency to serve as the pilot for the first group of veterans who complete DVIC's training program. For the veterans' convenience and comfort, training will be provided in their homes by means of a virtual classroom, and once trained they will work from home in a virtual office environment.
DVIC has both an operating board and a strategic board, and the members of both boards play a vital role in helping the organization achieve its aims. "In 2012 we expanded our strategic board, and that's a significant step," Trippe says. "This board provides invaluable guidance as we move forward in our efforts to help disabled veterans prepare for and achieve career success." The strategic board is composed of industry leaders like insurance company and independent agency executives; among the founding members is Walt Gdowski, president and CEO of The Rough Notes Company. DVIC also has expanded its operating board, which in addition to Pender and the Trippes includes retired military officers, and local social service agencies.
Other key developments Trippe cites are DVIC's relationship with the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service, a division of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs; its partnership with The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research; the announcement of HUB International in Chicago as the pilot agency; the appointment of Lieutenant Colonel Gary L. Bryant (U.S. Army-Ret.) as president and chief executive officer of DVIC; and a groundswell of financial support from insurers, reinsurers, agencies and brokerages, wholesalers, industry consultants, and trade associations. DVIC continues to receive generous contributions from individuals and also is the recipient of several grants and in-kind donations. In February of this year, the organization moved its headquarters to a new location in Fort Myers that is home base for Lieutenant Colonel Bryant, Trippe, and their staff.
Speaking of generous contributions, when Trippe retired from BB&T-Oswald Trippe last December, a highlight of the celebration was a gift that will keep on giving: a check from the agency and Trippe's colleagues made out to DVIC in the amount of $75,860.
Doing the right thing
DVIC co-founder Jim Pender also is pleased with the organization's achievements over the past 18 months. Every initiative DVIC pursues, he says, has one vital objective: "This is an effort to do the right thing for heroes and heroines who have risked everything for our nation."
DVIC's strategic board, Pender notes, represents a wealth of industry talent from top agencies, carriers, consulting firms, and trade groups. "I think we have a unique opportunity to leverage our knowledge and experience in this business to accomplish what we believe in," he says.
Financial support is essential to accomplishing DVIC's goals, and its founders and board members are keenly focused on raising funds to educate and train veterans for insurance careers. Since DVIC was established in 2011, Pender reports, "We have raised approximately $750,000 in cash and in-kind donations. Much of that has come from the industry, and we also have received generous contributions from individuals and sources outside the industry."
In particular, Pender cites a grant from the Foundation for Agency Management Excellence (FAME), the charitable and educational arm of The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers (CIAB). "In addition, the early support of Rough Notes was pivotal in getting us off the starting blocks, as was support from the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation and contributions from individual agents, brokers, and carriers," he says.
To help guide DVIC and advance its fundraising initiative, DVIC has appointed regional directors throughout the country. They are William D. Knepper, The Knepper Company, Tallahassee, Florida; Robert N. Kretzmer, insurance agency executive, Bethesda, Maryland; Kevin McPoyle, KMRD Partners, Inc., Limerick, Pennsylvania; Josh Morgan, sales consultant, MarshBerry, Willoughby, Ohio; Paul T. Murphy, Paul Murphy Insurance Agency, Malden, Massachusetts; Walter Page, Semans Insurance Group, Winter Haven, Florida; Chris Paradiso, Paradiso Insurance, Stafford Springs, Connecticut; Nick San Filippo, American Insurance Services Agency, Clark, New Jersey, and Steven J. White, retired insurance agency executive, Seattle.
Also vital to the achievement of DVIC's mission is its relationship with the military, Pender remarks. "Bringing in retired Lieutenant Colonel Gary Bryant as our president and CEO is a huge step forward. He understands our insurance world very well, and he has greatly advanced our understanding of the military world."
Thanks largely to the efforts of Lieutenant Colonel Bryant, DVIC has established a productive relationship with the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service (VR&E), a division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that has offices throughout the country that help veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare for and find suitable employment.
"We've been fortunate to develop a strong relationship with the VR&E office in Chicago, where our pilot agency, HUB International, is located," Bryant says. "Their people are fully committed to helping us get this project off the ground and helping it succeed. We've also developed relationships with veterans we met at a Swett Warriors event in Las Vegas. We've committed ourselves fully to the promise that no disabled veteran will be left behind. We're going to give as many of these men and women as possible the opportunity to have a meaningful professional career and support themselves and their families with dignity and respect."
Bryant also acknowledges the support DVIC has received from the local Fort Myers community. A grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation provided seed money to hire Bryant as DVIC's first president and chief executive officer. "We have local support, regional support, and national support, and we're moving forward," Bryant says.
A major step forward is a strategic partnership between DVIC and The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research, under the leadership of co-founder and president Dr. William T. Hold. The National Alliance, a pioneer in online insurance education, will provide technical training materials and instruction in the areas of personal lines insurance, agency management operations, and risk management, leading to the Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) or Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR) designation or both. The instruction will emphasize cross-selling, up-selling, and personal lines account review.
"Organizations like DVIC provide an opportunity to those who have given of themselves, defending our country and our freedom, to build a career outside of the military," Hold said in commenting on the partnership. "These individuals who have made the choice to be part of the insurance industry will now serve to protect the assets and liabilities of their clients. Training offered through DVIC and The National Alliance will help these veterans build meaningful careers."
HUB is pilot agency
The first group of veterans who receive DVIC training will become employees of HUB International Ltd., a leading insurance brokerage and consulting firm with corporate headquarters in Chicago.
Martin Hughes, chairman and chief executive officer of HUB International, learned about DVIC through his service on the board of The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers. "At a CIAB board meeting, my friend Jim Pender told me about DVIC and its vision, and he said that in order to get it off the ground, they needed a pilot agency to take on this initiative."
Among the reasons that DVIC chose HUB, Hughes explains, is that a significant proportion of the firm's business is in the personal lines arena. "Not many major brokerages derive around 20% of their revenue from personal lines," he comments. "We do, and that makes us a good fit with DVIC's mission."
For the executives of HUB International, being the DVIC pilot agency goes way beyond an act of philanthropy, says HUB's chief operating officer, Kirk James. "We want this to be a sustainable model to help create meaningful career opportunities for disabled veterans, and we want the model to be scalable and transportable to other agencies," he explains.
"We're striving to create a virtual agency where the veterans can work independently in their homes as employees of DVIC. We'll provide them a list of our clients to whom they can up-sell personal lines products. We have tens of thousands of clients across the country who have one personal lines policy with us, such as a homeowners or auto policy. This eliminates the need for cold-calling, as these people are established clients of our company," James says. "We will train the veterans to use outbound calling to reach out to these clients and try to round out their accounts."
The Chicago office of the VA's Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Service will help HUB recruit suitable candidates and also will assist in modifying their homes so they can conduct their outbound calling assignments in a virtual office environment.
Vital partners in the pilot agency project, James points out, are the many carriers whose products HUB offers. "We've already secured financial support from some of our carriers, and we're reaching out to others. To create a business model that can be replicated in other agencies, we value the contributions of carriers as we launch our project," he asserts.
Clearly the HUB International executives are honored to play a key role in advancing the mission of Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers. Hughes sums up a conviction that is shared by everyone who supports DVIC: "We're doing this because it's the right thing to do."
For more information:
Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers
Web site: www.dvic.us
ourselves fully to
the promise that no
disabled veteran will be
—Lt. Col. Gary Bryant
President and CEO
Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers
"DVIC's strategic board provides invaluable guidance as we move forward in our efforts to help disabled veterans prepare for and achieve career success."
—Gary Trippe, Co-founder,
Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers
"This an effort to do the right thing for heroes and heroines who have risked everything for our nation."
Co-founder, Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers