The insurance industry is about more than insurance
Coming from a writer who specializes in insurance industry content, this may be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. The insurance industry is chock full of career paths that actually have little to do with “insurance” in the most literal sense.
We’ve covered this before, but given the industry’s most experienced professionals are in the midst of a mass retirement, and many carriers and agencies have trouble attracting enough new talent, it bears repeating: The insurance industry can open doors to exciting and fulfilling careers spanning from sales and customer service to actuarial sciences, to creative fields like writing, video, and design.
Recently, I got the chance to explore more of these “non-insurance jobs in insurance” when I attended the National Association of Mutual Insurers (NAMIC) Communication and Marketing Workshop.
While there, I took the opportunity to meet and interview others with unique insurance careers in hopes of creating a blog series highlighting some of the diverse ways to work in insurance. My first spotlight is on Spencer Breidenbach, Manager of Strategic Partnerships at BrightFire.
BrightFire is a website development and digital marketing agency that’s specialized in helping independent insurance agencies create a best-in-class online presence since 2000. While the industry BrightFire serves is insurance, its day-to-day operations are much like any other web design and digital marketing firm. This leaves a lot of room for creative, strategic, and technical roles that benefit from the longevity and stability the industry offers, even while not focusing on the sale or servicing of insurance policies.
Read on for my Q&A with Spencer Breidenbach and stay tuned for more (non-insurance) insurance career spotlights coming soon!
AgentSync: Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. To start off, will you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from?
Breidenbach: I live in Atlanta, though I’m originally from San Diego. I came to Atlanta for college and it turned out to be an incredible city that I could see myself settling down in. And here I am 10 years later!
AgentSync: So, how long have you been in the insurance industry, and how’d you find yourself here?
Breidenbach: BrightFire was my introduction to the insurance industry! Back in 2018 I was looking for the opportunity to move from B2C sales more towards B2B. I knew I needed to find the right fit with a company that emphasized a consultative approach and a product that I could really believe in and get behind. During the interview process, it became clear that BrightFire was a perfect fit, so I joined the sales team. At that point in time I focused on consulting with new and existing clients to triage their digital marketing situation and ensure we identified the specific services that would be the correct fit for them. I later transitioned into my current role where I focus on our strategic partnerships, like those with insurance industry organizations and technologies.
AgentSync: So, BrightFire was your first foray into insurance, but how long have you been doing digital marketing?
Breidenbach: Actually, that was also with BrightFire. I’ve always been interested in and curious about digital marketing, but I hadn’t worked in it prior to joining BrightFire. Back in high school, I loved seeing Google adding more and more functionality and info for local searches and businesses. It blew my mind when they launched Universal Search and began adding images, video, and news tabs to the traditional search results. But in terms of working in digital marketing, I hadn’t done that until I got here. BrightFire did a wonderful job of filling in any gaps in my knowledge and giving me a good understanding of the goals, challenges, and concerns of our independent agency clients.
AgentSync: What does a typical day look like for you at BrightFire?
Breidenbach: In my day-to-day, I typically have several external meetings with organizations we’re exploring partnerships with or with existing partners to make sure we’re delivering value and helping them move toward their goals.
I also attend conferences, which is a large part of being an active partner in the industry. For example, we sponsored the NAMIC Communications and Marketing Workshop, and we either attend or sponsor several conferences each year to make sure carriers and agencies know we’re here to serve them.
In between conferences, a lot of time goes into preparing for a conference and then following up on all of the conversations and activity at that conference. I also work closely with our marketing team to coordinate on things like educational webinars for networks and associations and supporting mutual clients of our vendor partners.
AgentSync: You’ve definitely got a full plate! What would you say is the most exciting part of your job?
Breidenbach: I can only narrow it down to my top two! I love hearing that our work has helped someone, whether it’s an agent at a conference introducing themselves as a long-time client and sharing how many leads have come through their website or a marketer at a carrier partner sharing how much time we’ve helped them free up.
The second is talking to people and learning about new niches in the industry and how they fit into the larger whole. Just when you start to think you know the industry, someone brings up “wind deductible buybacks” or something similarly specific, and you realize there’s no bottom to the rabbit hole!
AgentSync: We get that! We’re really familiar with the endless rabbit hole, especially as it relates to producer compliance. But the average person doesn’t know a whole lot about insurance if they don’t work with it in some way. What was your knowledge of the industry like before you were involved in it?
Breidenbach: As a consumer, I knew very little about the nuts and bolts of the industry and how many factors play into rates. That gave me a tremendous appreciation for the independent agents I worked with as a young adult. Prior to being involved in the industry, it was easy to perceive insurance companies as old-fashioned and monolithic. The agents I worked with felt like a guiding light to help me cut through the fog and hone in on which kinds of products would best suit my needs.
AgentSync: What’s different now that you’ve been working closely with independent insurance agents for more than five years?
Breidenbach: I feel like every week I learn about another nuance that goes into underwriting and rating! I have a much greater appreciation for carriers and the difficulty of navigating the hard market we’re in right now. It feels like consumers have the misconception that increasing rates are based on greed rather than the product of unprecedented weather events and the way inflation and supply chain shortages have impacted everything.
It’s also been really interesting to learn how forward-thinking carriers actually are. There’s a lot of buzz around insurtech startups, but even the so-called traditional carriers are always looking for new distribution models and ways to modernize their policyholders’ customer experience. I think it’s great to see how many of them view digital as another tool for their brand and their agent network to attract, engage with, and delight consumers rather than as something that’s going to replace the human touch of the independent channel.
AgentSync: What’s the most surprising or unexpected thing about the insurance industry to you?
Breidenbach: I’ve been shocked by what a small world insurance can be despite its tremendous size. At conferences, it feels like anytime I meet someone, we quickly discover a mutual connection or relationship to one of their past roles. It’s uncanny.
AgentSync: Where do you see your career headed? Do you expect you’ll stay in insurance for the long haul, or do you want to pursue digital marketing in another industry?
Breidenbach: I can definitely see myself staying in insurance. I want to be constantly learning and constantly challenged. There is so much depth to insurance that I can’t foresee a day when I’m no longer growing and gaining knowledge. I know we’re in a tense environment with this hard market, but insurance seems to be in a much better space than many other industries and it’s nice to know that when the next recession emerges, insurance is a need rather than a want.
AgentSync: Finally, and maybe most importantly, what advice would you give to someone who’s interested in digital marketing but isn’t aware of the opportunities to pursue that career within insurance?
Breidenbach: I’d definitely keep an open mind on insurance or other industries that don’t get hype from the media or your LinkedIn algorithm. If you’re just starting in your career or looking to make a transition, I really believe that you’re going to be much more satisfied if your priority is finding a company that has the culture, philosophy, and product-market fit vs. drilling down to a couple specific industries or sectors from the start.
For anyone who wants to work in digital marketing, consider that COVID-19 really accelerated digital adoption at the individual agency level and I think it’s inevitable that labor demand for digital marketers at carriers and vendors is going to continue to grow.
The future of insurance is tech-savvy and tech-enabled
It’s a drum we at AgentSync have been beating for a while now, and it only becomes more true by the day. The insurance professionals of tomorrow are coming from the digital native generation and won’t be impressed with employers or distribution partners that require repetitive and manual paperwork for onboarding, licensing, carrier appointments, background checks, continuing education, or anything else. This will be even more true when you’re talking about attracting the “non-insurance” talent needed to run a carrier, agency, or MGA/MGU in modern times.
Don’t be left behind! Show your current and prospective staff and partners that you’re willing to invest in solutions that make their jobs easier and empower them to do more for the business. Contact Us to see how AgentSync can help get you there.