“The one thing I would change is adding more regulation to the insurance industry, specifically pertaining to the sale of index life or index annuity products,” says Brenden Barkate, senior vice president of Exclusive Insurance Brokerage.
Why would anyone want more regulation? For starters, it could improve the industry’s reputation and public image.
According to Barkate, that’s just one of the opportunities within the industry. He also told LifeHealthPro about how his generation — millennials — should be more involved in the industry because most of those who are already part of it are aging or retiring.
We sat down with Barkate to find out what he is doing to improve the industry’s reputation, what opportunities he sees ahead, and what millennials really want in an advisor.
LHP: Why did you choose a career in insurance or financial services?
BB: I was playing football at the University of Redlands and my head coach brought me into his office. I wasn’t exactly sure what the circumstances were and, quite frankly, assumed I was in trouble.
He told me that a successful alumni was starting an insurance brokerage and that he specifically asked for me. I asked my dad, who has been in the financial planning business for 30+ years, and he said it would be a great start to learn the business inside and out. I knew my father was very successful in what he did, and I wanted to pursue that same level of success.
LHP: Describe what you do.
BB: I help financial planners, CPAs and attorneys brainstorm and find solutions to financial concerns they are facing with either their personal needs, estates, or businesses. Whether it is creating an estate plan, a tax-mitigation technique for a business owner, or simply implementing some insurance solutions for an individual; every day can be a little bit different.
LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
BB: I came into the business with nothing. I was given a computer, phone, and a desk in a bullpen. I was one of two people who started the company. Today, I am a Senior VP at one of the largest insurance brokerage and consulting firms in the United States. Two years ago, I assisted an advisor in closing one of the largest life insurance policies ever sold. I thought that was pretty neat.
LHP: What is the biggest challenge that you see in the industry or what is the one thing you would change?
BB: The one thing I would change is adding more regulation to the insurance industry, specifically pertaining to the sale of index life or index annuity products. I oftentimes come across advisors who have a life license they obtained in 52 hours. The following week, they are persuading clients into products they know relatively nothing about. These insurance products are phenomenal solutions for certain clients and I hate to see them sold incorrectly or abused, as it gives a black eye to our industry.
LHP: What is the biggest opportunity that you see in the industry?
BB: I go to insurance conferences, meetings, product panels, etc. and oftentimes I am the youngest person in the room by 20+ years. The average financial planner is aging and there is plenty of room for young professionals to come into the insurance industry and make a difference in people’s lives. The insurance industry has been around for 100+ years and is not going anywhere soon.
LHP: What do you think millennials are looking for in an insurance advisor? How can advisors best serve this market?
BB: With access to Google, I think millennials are looking for transparency in a financial advisor. With information readily available at your fingertips, no longer can financial advisors dance around the facts. Advisors need to approach millennials as extremely bright, and present solutions with all the facts — even if some are not what the client wants to hear.
LHP: What is the No. 1 piece of advice you would give to a young person looking to enter this industry?
BB: While there is plenty of opportunity inside this industry to start your own business, there is no shortcut for hard work. There is no “manual” for starting an insurance practice, per se. You need to find a part of this industry that you care about and devote yourself to that cause. If you can do that and aren’t afraid to fail, then you won’t be anything but successful.
Editor’s Note: This interview originally published in September 2015 as part of LifeHealthPro’s list, 30 under 30: Meet the millennials who are transforming the industry. Dates and other data points have remained unchanged from the original piece.