Wisconsin agent wins PIA National Young Insurance Professional of the Year award
When your grandfather starts an independent agency in 1953 and your mother takes it over for 40 years before retiring, it appears that fate will bring you to the insurance industry as well. We might tack on the fact that your father has been the executive vice president of the Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) of Wisconsin since 1994 and formerly served as CEO of the national PIA association.
“I really wanted nothing to do with insurance when I was a kid,” says Ryan Von Haden, CIC, AIS, partner and vice president of business accounts for TRICOR Insurance in Madison, Wisconsin. “When I was growing up I wanted to be a college baseball coach, even in college when I was playing. I don’t really know what happened or when I decided to turn away from that and go into insurance. I eventually realized insurance wasn’t sitting behind a desk and pushing papers as much as I thought when I was a kid.”
A pitcher and outfielder during his days at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Ryan adapted the skill sets developed through sports to the insurance world. “The competitiveness, among other things from my athletic background, has been huge in helping me in the industry,” notes Ryan. “Not wanting to lose, time management, being part of a team.”
His love of sports even led to one of his clients, Big Top Baseball. “Big Top Baseball is part of the Northwoods Baseball League,” Ryan explains. “Big Top owns teams in Madison, Wisconsin Rapids, Green Bay and Kenosha. The Madison Mallards have the highest average attendance per game in the country for collegiate summer baseball leagues. I manage their risk management program for liability, workers comp, property—everything from the players and coaches themselves to mascots riding a zipline to deliver the first pitch ball.”
“I have had the pleasure of working with Ryan since January of 2010,” says Conor Caloia, COO of Big Top Baseball. “Ryan has been with us every step of the way and is always eager to help us with our unique questions and needs.”
The competitive nature developed from his love of sports helped Ryan move ahead quickly. Starting with TRICOR in 2006 in commercial account sales, Ryan was promoted to vice president of business accounts in 2014 and was also named a partner of the firm, the first non-family member partner in the agency’s history. TRICOR, which in 2010 merged with Von Haden Insurance (established in 1953 by Ryan’s grandfather), employs over 200 people with 75% of its business in commercial lines and employee benefits and 25% in personal lines. Upon starting with the agency, Ryan was not given a book of business and has since built one from scratch to over $800,000 in annual commission revenue (over $8 million in gross premium). In Business magazine named him to its 2016 list of Top 40 Under 40 business leaders in the Madison, Wisconsin, area.
With these accomplishments alone, it’s no surprise that Ryan was nominated for and won the 2016 National Young Insurance Professional of the Year award. But we’re just getting started.
PIA and community involvement
Following in his father’s footsteps, Ryan has actively participated with the PIA of Wisconsin. He’s been a member of the Young Professionals Club since 2004 and has served as its chair for six years, starting in 2008. Even back in college, Ryan worked on marketing campaigns for the PIA during the summer, spreading the positives about the insurance field to young professionals.
“Our state’s Young Professionals Club Committee is full of active and energetic individuals, many because of the recruitment and encouragement of Ryan,” says Bart Straka, CIC, vice president and commercial sales manager at TRICOR.
Service to the community is also top of mind for Ryan. He serves on the board of directors for the Bishops Bay Country Club’s golf committee. Ryan is also a member of the fundraising committee for Independent Living, Inc., and is a volunteer coach for Sauk-Prairie youth basketball and baseball, for which his sons, 6-year-old Chris and 4-year-old Blake, play.
An impressive contribution to up-and-coming insurance students and professionals was Ryan’s campaign to increase PIA scholarship awards. “When I first got on the committee in 2004, we were giving away one $500 scholarship,” says Ryan. “We had a golf outing, which started out as something to do prior to the PIA Wisconsin convention. We wanted to give away some money to kids interested in going into the insurance industry.
“Our Young Professionals Club was trying to do college fairs and events around the state, and we realized pretty quickly that the best thing we could do was focus on scholarships. We went from $500 to $1,000 and then quickly to $5,000. It ultimately reached $25,000 that we give away every year to high school and college students.”
The scholarship money is divided into $2,500 increments and shared among ten individuals—five high school students looking to pursue an insurance-related field of study in college and five college graduates preparing to start their careers.
“All the money we raise for the scholarships is from a one-day golf outing,” says Ryan. “A majority of it is from company sponsorship of the event. Wisconsin Mutual is the lead sponsor, and we couldn’t do it without them.
“The golf outing is really a year-round event for us now with all the preparation involved,” Ryan adds. “We have around 80 applicants every year; administering the application process and choosing the winners is a process all in its own.”
“Ryan administered the recruitment of sponsors, assigned duties to committee members, managed all aspects of the outings and emceed the ‘after golf’ awards and auctions,” says his father, Ron Von Haden, executive vice president of PIA of Wisconsin. “He even stood in line for hours on a cold Wisconsin Black Friday to purchase TVs and electronics for prizes and auction items for the outing.”
A fourth generation?
With his community involvement, his crusade to increase the amounts of scholarships and his strong work ethic, it’s no surprise that Ryan Von Haden is highly praised by his colleagues.
“Ryan grew up in an insurance family,” says Ron, “so he saw the positive and ‘not always so positive’ aspects of life as an agency owner in a small Wisconsin town. A career path as a commercial producer in a larger city was much more appealing to him. His insurance production, service to the association, service to his community and commitment to his family are a tremendous example for all young agents, and all older agents as well.
“His willingness to cultivate relationships with clients rather than simply try to sell them something has resulted in thousands of additional revenue to the agency from personal lines business (which he does not write) and other niche commercial products such as trucking and aviation business, which he does not write either but hands off to other specialists in the agency. His successes as a collegiate baseball player have transferred over to the competitive insurance sales profession and have helped him coach others to successful careers.”
Adds Straka, “Ryan provides his clients outstanding service. He is well educated and never seems content to sit back. Ryan is always looking to learn more, provide more and do more than he has done in the past. He expects a lot out of those who work on his team, but never more than he is willing to do himself.”
“Ryan’s ability to quickly develop relationships with others and his competitive spirit have allowed him to have success that others his age rarely have,” says David H. Fritz, CIC, CPCU, president and CEO of TRICOR Insurance. “He recently become a partner in our company. This has been earned not because of his ability to grow his book of business, but because of his willingness to mentor others, support our recruitment effort, support and deepen the relationships with our company partners and be an active part of his community.”
Married to his wife Jolene since 2007 and with two kids of his own, Ryan is the third generation of his family to become involved in the insurance business. One can only wonder if the Von Haden insurance tradition will continue when Chris and Blake come of age.
“Ryan always finds time to spend with his family and makes sure he is there for their activities the way his parents were there to support him,” says Fritz. “I recently spent a day with Ryan working on a new account, and when I dropped him off, his sons were at the door to greet him. My guess is that in the future we will see the fourth generation of Von Hadens in the insurance industry.”
“I think it’d be great if they did,” Ryan says. “It’d be a rewarding career for them, and they’d be the fourth generation for our family. I’m not going to pressure them. I’ll be happy with whatever makes them happy.”
Rough Notes congratulates Ryan Von Haden, the 2016 PIA National Young Insurance Professional of the Year.
By Christopher W. Cook