Insurance never, now it’s forever
There’s probably no better way to get someone to eschew insurance as a career than to expose that person to the “wonderful?” world of debit insurance. Quincy Branch, RHU, EHBA, still remembers his father Aubrey’s debit route in Louisiana. After seeing what that involved, he vowed he “would never go into insurance.”
Today, Quincy heads up Branch Benefits Consultants in Las Vegas, Nevada, which includes a thriving and growing property/casualty business. After only six years in business, his agency has grown from a two-person operation to one that employs 14 people and generates some $2 million in revenue, broken down like this: 80% benefits, 20% commercial property/casualty insurance, and the beginnings of a personal lines practice, because “we’re leaving too much on the table and we’re convinced that it’s important to diversify our income stream,” he notes.
“We want our clients and prospects to think Branch Benefits Consultants when they think of insurance,” he adds. “That means we need to be able to provide solutions in all areas of insurance.” The agency just moved into a new building that Quincy says “will give us more space to grow.”
So how did this insurance denier—someone who today admits “I have no ‘Plan B;’ insurance is my future”—wind up as head of his own agency?
Over 20 years ago, Aubrey started his own personal lines agency in Las Vegas. Quincy went off to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) to get a degree in business management, still convinced that he would go into any business other than insurance. But Aubrey had other plans. He convinced Quincy to help him out by doing some accounting work for the personal lines business while finishing his degree.
Because Quincy was great at taking tests, it wasn’t hard for Aubrey to convince him to get his property/casualty insurance license as a fallback, just in case things didn’t work out elsewhere. “I was used to taking tests, so why not?” Quincy remembers. Then dad suggested he get his life and health license, so he would be well-rounded. “It was just another test, so I took it,” he adds.
It didn’t take long for Quincy to learn that insurance was not the monolithic entity he had vowed to never enter. Instead, it was a business that offered great variety. So when, in 2008, his dad asked him to start a life/health division at the agency from scratch, he was ready. As Whistler expressed in the classic finale to season two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “The big moments are gonna’ come. You can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.”
This was Quincy’s big moment, and what he did afterwards was dive in head first. “I concentrated on employee benefits,” he explains. “It was a baptism by fire. I immersed myself in the field and fell in love with it. I enjoyed working with employers and employees, putting together plans that would work for them.”
It was an especially difficult time to try to build a business in Las Vegas. The city was “ground zero” for the economic downturn, as foreclosures hit record levels. But that only fueled Quincy’s desire to succeed even further.
“I guess this isn’t new,” Quincy admits, “but I found out that the real secret to success in insurance and probably in any business is the relationships you develop. And that’s definitely the case in Las Vegas. The relationships my father and I had developed over the years presented me with a great opportunity, when the city of North Las Vegas came to me for help with its employee benefits program. It was a terrific break that had me smiling—and losing sleep, as I examined their needs from every aspect. We landed them as a client and built on that.
“The good work we did for the city led to other opportunities. At the same time, Washington was hashing out the ACA, and we decided to embrace it as the then-future of healthcare in the country. We put together a summer series of free seminars every month as it was being refined, providing information about the particulars of the law and the changes that were being made as it went through the halls of Congress. People were grateful for the help we gave them, and that led to more business and our relationships and referral base grew.”
The agency took a multiple-platform approach to maintain and expand its relationships. “We’re big on social media and education,” Quincy says. “We have continued to provide regular seminars on insurance issues, as well as having a risk and business magazine.”
At the same time, Branch Benefits Consultants has regular outreach to the community that it serves. “We participate in quarterly events for local charities,” Quincy notes, pointing out that “as an independent agency we value being active in our community and, thankfully, that has also helped us develop and strengthen our relationships.
“The key to making this work is consistency,” he adds. “Just as you need to keep the new business pipeline full, you also need to keep the relationship pipeline filled to capacity, by regular communication at all levels.”
Coming full circle
In 2011, Aubrey and his partner started to implement their perpetuation plan by offering Quincy the opportunity to incorporate their book of commercial property/casualty insurance into his operation. By 2014, Quincy completed the transition, using the time to meet with the clients in order to affect a smooth transition.
“Even though we’re only six years old,” he says with a grin, “we have a mature book that stretches back 20 years, and I’ve known a lot of those clients for some time. They were friends of my father who I met growing up. They’re very pleased with the continuity that we offer by ‘keeping it in the family.’”
Equally important to success is the relationship the agency has with its carriers. “The carrier partnerships are crucial to growth,” Quincy points out. “We’re in a high-growth mode and our carriers appreciate the business we are bringing their way. We are members of the Westbridge Insurance Network (WIN) for our commercial lines. Each year, we provide our carriers with our strategic plan to make certain that we are on the same page. It has to work for them to create the win-win scenario.”
Strength in diversity
“Our staff is diverse, coming from several different ethnic backgrounds,” Quincy says proudly. “I am a 40-year-old African-American male, one of our agents is a Syrian female, and four other agents are Hispanic. Because a great number of people in the Las Vegas area are Spanish speakers, we have a staff who can communicate with them in their language of choice.
“This diversity has created a dynamic culture that I like to think has been helped by the fact that I am not a micro manager,” Quincy continues. “Our team is comprised of adults serving adults, and that’s the way they are treated. We agree on a strategic plan for the agency, and then they go out and implement it in the manner that best fits the way they relate to our clients.
“I see myself as just a resource for our agency, and that’s key, because another important part of the relationship development for me has been my involvement with industry organizations,” he adds. “I could never take the time to do this if I didn’t have a stellar staff.”
Like his father before him, who helped in the early formation of the National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA), Quincy is active in the association and currently serves as chair. Aubrey is a past chairman. Quincy also is active in the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, where he chaired the national Young Agents Committee for two years.
He also is involved in the National Association of Health Underwriters and earlier this year was named to serve on the Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance, a committee composed of various state government officials, insurance professionals, and consumer advocates that advises the Federal Insurance Office (FIO).
Through industry involvement, “I have friends and colleagues from California to New York, and I’m impressed with how willing they are to share,” Quincy says. “They’ve been invaluable in helping me find ways to grow. I appreciate the advocacy and resources that the associations, their staffs, and their members bring to the table.
“As I said earlier, I have no Plan B, so why not be involved with organizations that are there to keep this business going? My membership with these associations has helped with carrier contacts and has given me the opportunity to bring insurance concerns to my congress people during the Big ‘I’ Legislative Conference. I can honestly say that I get more out of these relationships than I give. It’s really been very gratifying to be involved and, I’m convinced, it has helped my bottom line as well.”
The agency staff meets every Monday morning to discuss, among other things, the strategic direction of the agency. “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘You can’t expect to be in business tomorrow and still use today’s methods,’ so we focus on what we need to do to remain ahead of the curve. Change is inevitable; just look at what’s happening in the healthcare arena.
“And we have to stay abreast of all that is happening so we can help our clients find the best way to deal with their future risk transfer needs. What isn’t inevitable is growth,” he concludes. “That is a choice. And we must evolve and change with the times if we want to continue to grow and prosper. And we do!”
Rough Notes is proud to recognize Branch Benefits Consultants and the industry leader who heads it up. The agency deserves to be our Agency of the Month for its adherence to the importance of relationships and referrals at a time when so many competitors are looking to remove the personal touch from the insurance transaction. It is this commitment that assures us that the independent agency system will remain the leading marketing arm of the insurance industry.
By Dennis H. Pillsbury