Planning ahead pays off

Only 27 percent of insurance professionals are under the age of 35, according to research from the Jacobsen Group. Not so at Prophetstown Farmers Mutual Insurance Company.

“Our oldest employee is 40,” said Jeremy Weaks, secretary-treasurer at the company, based in Prophetstown, Ill. The company’s commitment to succession planning — and the relationships they have with agents and policyholders — has helped them meet the challenge of preparing the next generation of insurance professionals.

After Weaks had worked two years as an adjuster, his predecessor created a new role at Prophetstown Farmers Mutual: assistant manager.

“The former manager said, ‘If you’re going to take over, you need to get acclimated before you take the reins,’” Said Weaks.

As a result, Weaks had access to more training and development to prepare him for serving as the leader of his farm mutual.

Credibility and trust

One of the lessons Weaks learned during his time as assistant manager is the value in meeting with his agents face-to-face and what a difference it makes in earning their trust. Trust with agents and customers is especially critical during leadership changes.

“Getting out and chatting with them more often establishes the credibility between us. They need to trust me just like I need to trust them; it’s a two-way street,” said Weaks. “Without them we don’t succeed.”

It’s important for Weaks and his staff to build trust with policyholders, too.

“You’re constantly looking out for your insureds, first and foremost,” said Weaks. “It’s a different dynamic to get them to trust you and have them actually believe that you’re looking out for their best interest.”

But Weaks is finding that Prophetstown’s commitment to building relationships is a good step toward convincing them that the company will be there for them no matter who’s at the helm.

“People are surprised that Prophetstown has an insurance company, and that they can walk into my office at any time and talk to me. Usually you can’t walk into an insurance company and talk to the person who makes the decisions.”