Independent Agencies are Vital to the Brantley Centers Success

Independent insurance agencies stand out as being a model for developing and educating students on all aspects of the insurance industry. In the past 3 years, 21% of our graduates have started working in an agency setting. Additionally in the past 3 years, 19 students have interned in agencies across North Carolina. 

Two specific agencies are active Strategic Partners and board members of the Brantley Risk and Insurance Center: ECM Solutions and Granite Insurance. In addition to speaking in classes, meeting with the GIS-Rho chapter, and assisting students in competitions, ECM and Granite have a large group of App State alums working in their offices. Both companies have 18 alums currently working in their offices! ECM President and Brantley Board Chair, Jeff Haney had this to say about hiring App interns and graduates “We find the students from App State come with a good basic understanding of insurance, they have very good soft skills that have been taught in the RMI program, they are eager and want to learn, and we can train them the right way to fit our needs without having to break habits they learned from another job.” Granite CEO, Cameron Annas, added , “[App State students] are cut from a different cloth. I’m not talking about intellectually, but rather how they interact professionally. App State students bring a strong work ethic, community focus, and a fresh perspective to Granite Insurance, making them a seamless fit with our culture and values. We value creativity and passion more than anything at Granite, and students from App State continually embody these desired skills and talents.”  

In addition to these active partners, the Independent Insurance Agencies of North Carolina (IIANC) has been a long term supporter of the Brantley Risk and Insurance Center. Their partnership provides guidance, research, and financial support to ensure students are getting the most up-to-date information about the insurance industry in North Carolina and finances to overcome barriers to exceptional experiential education. 

To learn more about what draws students to these types of organizations, the Brantley Center reached out to a handful of current and former students to discuss their career paths and what stood out to them about the world of independent insurance agencies. 

Bailey Siner 21’ and Gilberto Ramirez 21’, both work with ECM in Charlotte, NC. Both Bailey and Gilberto were heavily involved with the Brantley Center and Gamma Iota Sigma-Rho Chapter. In speaking with Bailey, from early in her college career, she was intrigued with working with an independent agent. She had researched other areas of the insurance market but was drawn to working with an agency due to the freedom, innovation, and endless learning opportunities it provided. Now that she is in her career, she enjoys the option to look at vast client opportunities and different avenues of business. She has the availability to grow and move around the organization as her knowledge and interest grows, and that continues to keep her excited about her career. In speaking with Bailey and Gilberto, there were similarities as they spoke about their career. 

Gilberto mentioned that he enjoys being able to work with many different companies and clients from excess and surplus brokers, MGA’s, and carriers. He also values the culture that has been created at ECM. Being able to learn from and interact with the President Jeff Haney is something that Gilberto values and has had the opportunity to do since he was an intern. Gilberto mentions that Jeff spends time with each intern and helps them learn about their career prospects and offers to connect them to other industry professionals. Gilberto plans to stay with ECM long-term because of the career growth opportunities he has available.

Luke Moore held an internship last summer with Granite Insurance in Granite Falls, NC. Luke was excited to speak about the culture at Granite and how he was able to rely on his colleagues to help him understand the processes of working with clients of varying sizes and industries. He appreciated the time he was able to spend with the CEO Cameron Annas and President Chase Keller, and how approachable they were when discussing work and career related questions. Luke went into this internship to learn more about his goals and what he wanted to experience, and being with an independent agent allowed him to take in all sides of an organization. He was also able to work with other companies such as ECM during shadowing opportunities, allowing him to expand his network. Luke walked away from his internship with a clearer picture of his goals and an appreciation for Granite and other independent agents. 

In speaking with Raigan Fort, a Hospitality and Tourism major who discovered her interest in the insurance field later in her senior year, she discussed her decision to join George Chadwick Insurance in Wilmington, NC. Raigan discussed that she is a “people-person” and was excited for the opportunity to interact with many of the business-owners in Wilmington. She appreciates the flexibility working in an agency will provide her as she tries to find the best option for her clients. When interviewing with George Chadwick Insurance, she discussed the close-knit relationships within the office and the “hometown feel” it provided. Since she’s just getting her start, she was looking for a place that would allow her to grow and learn more about the industry. Being surrounded by a team that is welcoming and supportive, really cemented her interest in accepting her offer to join George Chadwick Insurance. 

Similar to Raigan’s story, we spoke with Ethan Cagle, a rising senior studying Risk Management & Insurance and Employee Benefits. This upcoming summer Ethan will be interning in his hometown of Hendersonville, NC with Morrow Insurance. While Ethan was interviewing for internships, he realized that many of his target companies were independent agents. He selected Morrow Insurance due to the ability to learn a variety of different functional areas within the agency. Over 8 weeks, Ethan will work with 6 departments so he can learn all sides of the insurance business. Morrow is also including a research project into his internship so he can explore different markets and clients that he may want to work with. Ethan has a passion for working with summer camps, and plans to learn how Morrow could start working with those types of clients in the future. Ethan said in addition to the one-on-one experience he felt with Morrow, he’s excited for the ability to innovate during his internship. 

These discussions highlight a couple noticeable trends from both students about to start their career and those who have been in the industry for a couple years: a tight knit team, endless learning opportunities, innovation, and access to leadership. The Brantley Center wants to recognize and thank our Strategic Partners, such as the IIANC, Granite Insurance, and ECM for making these opportunities possible for students. 

About Brantley Risk and Insurance Center

Appalachian State University maintains the sixth largest insurance program nationally and has been ranked second in the nation by AM Best, the world’s largest credit rating agency specializing in the insurance industry.

The Brantley Center enhances the academic experience by providing space and staff to assist students interested in the RMI program with networking, job placement, and faculty engagement. It provides students with opportunities for scholarships, international and domestic travel, and professional designation and licensing programs. The center brings industry leaders to classrooms, fosters research and faculty development, assists the insurance industry with continuing education programs, and helps educate the public about the insurance industry.

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Published: May 17, 2024 12:15pm