Since 1752 – Bob Whitlock, President & CEO and Chris Oehrle, VP Marketing – The Philadelphia Contributionship
We have two guests today on Real-World Branding from The Philadelphia Contributionship – Bob Whitlock, President & CEO, and Chris Oehrle, VP of Marketing. We discuss their career paths in insurance and the strength of The Philadelphia Contributionship brand that was started by Ben Franklin in 1752 and what it looks like today. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!
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Bill Gullan: Greetings, one and all. This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, president of Finch Brands, a premier boutique brand consultancy. A treat today, I always say that. I gotta find some new words, but I’m just so proud of every one of our guests and episodes here, and today very much. We have two guests today. Bob Whitlock, who’s the President and CEO and Chris Oehrle who’s the lead marketing person at The Philadelphia Contributionship, which as you will hear is the oldest continuously operating insurance company in America, founded by Ben Franklin, among others in 1752.
Bill: So a lot of history obviously, but fairly recently, a desire to in part react to changes in the marketplace, but in part also to lean into strengths that have been evident for this company for hundreds of years. They approached a process of thinking about the brand and evolving it in material ways, and as Bob will discuss, very much building on strength. So this is a category in the marketplace that is undergoing as they will detail some meaningful shifts just as the consumer shifts. But at the same time, there has been a winning formula for this company that they certainly wanted to not toss aside. So enjoy Bob Whitlock and Chris Oehrle.
Bill: We have in Finch Brands HQ, some special guests today. Bob Whitlock who’s the president and CEO and Chris Oehrle who’s the Vice President of Marketing for The Philadelphia Contributionship. Fascinating company, great stories. Thanks for coming, guys.
Chris Oehrle: Thanks Bill. Appreciate it.
Bob Whitlock: Thanks for having us.
Bill: Now it’s a pleasure. Let’s start where we normally do and this is yet another innovation on Real-World Branding, having a couple of guests and just one host. So I know you both come from financial services and from the insurance business, but from different parts of it perhaps, at least initially. Bob, why don’t you start? Take us through a little bit of your career journey and sort of what’s led us up to this point. And then Chris, we’d love to hear from you as well.
Bob: Sure. So 2019 will mark actually 40 years that I’ve been in the workforce and 100% of that time has been in the insurance industry. I think if you ask most people within the industry why they got there, most of them would tell you that they didn’t plan on getting in insurance.
Bob: I’m an exception to that. I actually planned and intended to work in the insurance business after graduation.
Bill: Actuary, right? Originally?
Bob: That’s correct. I’m an actuary by training and that makes me officially an insurance geek. So I can’t say that I had insurance in my sights early in my childhood, but I did zero in on that in my college years. In fact, in my junior year at Lafayette College as a major in mathematics trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life with a math degree. I actually found a poster in the math department bulletin board that said, “Be an actuary.” And frankly, that’s the first time I ever saw or heard the word.
Bob: So I started to do some research on what that was all about. And what I found was that the actuarial field was a career path that allowed me to use mathematics in a business setting. And although I was a math major, I also had a bunch of business and economics courses as well. So it was a great place to apply all of those skills. And so that’s where I set out to enter the insurance world. My career path though was maybe a little atypical for an actuary along the way.
Bob: And then I was very fortunate in having the opportunity to have a lot of different varied experiences within the actuarial discipline, but also with other areas of the insurance business that prepared me for my current role. And that started very early in my career. My first employer was Prudential Property and Casualty Insurance Company, which doesn’t exist anymore thanks to Hurricane Andrew back in the day.
Bill: Yeah. I’m sure they’re not alone in that.
Bob: A lot of people got hurt. So as part of an actuarial training program that required me to have a rotational program, actually every 12 to 18 months I would leave my role and go into something new. And so in the first three years in the business, I worked in the actuarial department but also had two positions, one in a field underwriting position in one in a home office underwriting position.
Bob: And so from the very start, I was able to get a very broad view of the insurance business. That pattern continued over the years and throughout my career I’ve had lots of actuarial assignments but also had large account pricing and product management experience leading to 10 years in a role as chief actuary in three years as chief underwriting officer.
Bob: So that background and a broad view of the insurance business, it prepared me well for my current role as president CEO of the oldest insurance company in American.
Bill: Yes, which we’ll definitely get to. Chris, you’ve been in the insurance business too and from sales originally? Was that your direction?
Chris: Well, Bob and I are probably the polar opposite, certainly when it comes to our career start. I got into the insurance business in 1987 so I’m a mere baby with only 31 years of experience.
Chris: Yeah, still wet behind the ears. I started also on the company side with Chubb Insurance Company back in 1987. And then after about seven or eight years working on the underwriting side, so for the audience, underwriting is these are the folks that make the decisions to say yes or no to a particular risk when a new applicant is submitting their business.
Chris: So I spent about seven or eight years on the underwriting side and Chubb bought an agency, a national brokerage firm, what’s referred to as A&A at the time, Alexander and Alexander, renamed to another name, PLI Brokerage. So that was my first foray into the distribution side of the business. And I spent the next 20 years as an insurance broker on the brokerage side.
Chris: In fact, my introduction to the Philadelphia Contributionship and the first time I met Bob was when I was working for an agency principal for still one of our current largest agents. We represented the company. So joining Philadelphia Contributionship eight, nine years later, when I made the decision, a career move, I was looking for a change going one direction. Either go the direction of continuing the brokerage side or consider coming back over to the carrier side.
Chris: And my relationship with Bob and with this company was really strong and I felt was the type of firm that I wanted to be with. So I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to join about four and a half years ago or three and a half years ago. And it’s been an exciting ride ever since.
Bill: Terrific. And we’ll definitely get to that in a minute. But before we leave this, what is it about insurance and about property casualty in particular kind of lights you guys up? I mean obviously Bob, you have the general management responsibility across functions from your actuarial training, the underwriting side, being responsible at least for production at a high level. And Chris, you’ve touched on a number of sides as well.
Bill: What is it that’s compelling? You always knew, you fell into it, but either way, you all have stayed. What’s so fun about insurance?
Bob: Well, it’s interesting because most people on the street, you talk about insurance and they’re going to yawn. But from my perspective, particularly in the mutual insurance world, which is where the policy holders essentially own the company, we exist to provide service to them. So if you think about what the insurance industry really provides, not only to policy policyholders, but to society in general, nothing happens without insurance.
Bob: You can’t own a home, you can’t own a car, you can’t own a business. So insurance is really kind of the engine of capitalism. But more on the personal side, when our policy holders have a bad thing happen to them, their house burns down, they’ve got a loss, we’re there to help pick up the pieces. And so there’s definitely a social aspect to the benefits that we provide to our policy holders.
Bill: Yeah, I can see that if there’s a lot of redeeming … When they need it most, you talked about the challenges of hurricanes and disasters. It’s powerful stuff. The insurance category, to your point Bob, some folks may yawn, but at least my sense, and you guys can speak better to this, is that it’s also an industry that’s changing and growing and shape shifting as the world has changed.
Bill: What are some of the dynamics that are affecting the insurance category as well as how the Philadelphia Contributionship stays relevant, keeps growing? What are some sort of major things that you’re leaning into?
Bob: Yeah, so let me address that in two ways. One is looking back and one is looking forward. I think the direction of the company has really been partly driven by our internal needs and partly driven by the dynamics of the marketplace. And I’ll tell you what I mean by that. For two and a half centuries, the Contributionship has been, by design, very much a niche player with very narrow market.
Bob: We’re personal property only, which means we specifically enjoy residential property, homes and rental properties. And so from our beginnings back in 1752, we focused those lines of business in urban settings. And so that means writing older construction, row homes, we’re not afraid of those sorts of things, flat roof, multifamily dwellings, those sorts of things.
Bob: And historically, we’ve liked that market for a couple of reasons. One is that over two and a half centuries, we’ve built up some expertise in how to evaluate those risks. But it’s also a market that not many mainstream insurance companies love. They don’t understand those risks as well. And so as a result of that, our marketplace is perhaps a little less crowded competitively than some of the other markets that might be out there.
Bob: In theory at least, that means that over time you would think you had better margins in those types of businesses. So there’s concentration around that, a very small market. And to add to that concentration, up until 2011, we did all of that business primarily in Philadelphia and in the counties around it and in New Jersey along the New Jersey turnpike corridor. So that’s where the urban markets were.
Bob: The problem we faced with that is that with that comes concentrations. And so we are more than average subject to localized weather events that that would have an impact for us. And so we set out on a strategy to diversify our exposure geographically, get a better spread of business. And that involved making some tough decisions around reducing our presence in places where we’ve traditionally done very well while we grew other areas.
Bob: And so that growth included territories in our traditional states where we didn’t have a great market penetration, specifically northwestern New Jersey and central and western Pennsylvania, but it also involved expanding into new states. And over that time we’ve increased our footprint from two states to five, adding Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia into the mix.
Bob: And so as a result, we’ve created a much more balanced risk profile geographically that from an enterprise risk management point of view, makes us less vulnerable to localized weather events. So that’s the internal piece. Externally, I think the direction is going to be shaped in the future less by what’s happening within the industry and more by what’s happening with the changing expectations of the insurance buyer.
Bob: Insurance buyers of the future we think are going to want a different experience than what our industry has traditionally provided. Historically, insurance companies experience are defined by really three transactions, the purchase of the policy, the billing process, and when a claim happens. And so none of those are really particularly positive experiences for the person who is on the other end of that transaction.
Bob: So I think that the challenge we face as an industry and also as a company is, how can we enhance that customer’s experience both within those three transactions and beyond those transactions to allow customers to think about their homeowners insurer more than just someone they call when something bad happens? So what services can we provide that will give a much more positive experience and more touch points along the way to make that a better experience?
Bob: In a digital world, technology is going to play a part in that. So whether it’s artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, internet of things, all those opportunities to use technology to provide a better experience will be part of it. With all of that said, one of our competitive advantages in the marketplace is that we are still the company that, particularly for our primary distribution for us independent agents, that we still have a very strong human element.
Bob: Our agents love that they can, if they so choose, pick up the phone and have a conversation with an underwriter or anyone in the company about a risk-
Chris: Or the president.
Bob: That’s right. They call me directly.
Bill: I’ll be standing by.
Bob: And so what I think we have to do is be able to find that balance of maintaining that competitive strength we have with the human element, but also enhancing the experience through technology and innovation.
Bill: Sure. To that end, when we were doing some research and we’ll get into the branding process, but it was striking when we talked to folks about agents and that interaction, how those who had experienced a loss were so passionate about the strength and need for that relationship. Whereas you obviously see many of your competitors and others could across auto and other sort of parts of the industry, do it yourself, click here, call here.
Bill: The human element seemed to be so critical for those who really needed to rely on the coverage that they had bought, not as a nuisance within a mortgage process or whatever, but as an actual lifeline to rebuild their lives or deal with any sort of loss. It’s powerful stuff. Particularly today, we certainly see brands that are in some ways bridging past and future is those that in many ways are really well positioned in today’s market. Yes, technology, but also authenticity and connection.
Bob: Yeah, so the question I think is going to be whether the buyers of the future are going to want that same experience. And so we as an industry and we as a company have to adapt to what the customers want.
Bill: No doubt, no doubt.
Chris: And we as an industry I think are also kind of framing the mindset of the potential customer, unfortunately, not necessarily in a positive way. There’s a ton of money spent. Every fourth or fifth commercial on TV or radio is about trying to save price. And so the commoditization of our business really does a disservice to not only the clients, but all of us that are on the other end of the transaction and there for the client when the house is burning down or the car is driven into the swimming pool or whatever the case may case may be.
Chris: Because when the rubber hits the road, it really is that claims experience that makes a difference, not whether or not you’ve got a great spokesmodel or a lizard or something like that that’s out there promoting saving whatever, 15% in 15 minutes. So the commoditization of this business is distressing because it really devalues at the end of the day what’s important and what’s important to us.
Chris: I didn’t respond to that to your earlier question about what excites me about this business, but it’s putting people back to where they were before. It’s making that experience of a catastrophic event one that is as less catastrophic as it possibly can be. And we play an enormous role in putting people back to where they were before. That’s exceptionally rewarding for all of us that work in this business and it gets frustrating when you hear this proliferation of it’s all about the cheap price.
Chris: Everyone wants value for their dollar but the idea that insurance is all about getting a cheap price really does a disservice to our industry. That part of it I think is a dynamic that is continuing and we’re just kind of swimming upstream against that a bit because we’re not the billion dollar company with the multimillion dollar ad budget. We’re the guys that are putting people back to where they were before and that continues to be our goal.
Bill: Given the agent channel as being sort of primary, it would seem like that almost creates two customers then for you all.
Bill: …process but love to hear your thoughts on it. You need to keep your agent base engaged to be passing along to their end customer the policy holder all they need to know about this company and those are competitive situations. And then obviously, there’s the end customer, the homeowner or whomever. Talk about a little bit either organizationally or perceptually, how that channel shapes the way you all go to market.
Chris: Want me to take this?
Bob: Yeah, go ahead.
Chris: So my role in marketing has me agent facing most of the time along with I’ve got seven great teammates that are out around our five state footprint. But it’s that partnership with the agent that really makes the huge difference. We talk about technology and the speed of some of the things that tools like technological tools can do for us to deliver information and facilitate communication quickly.
Chris: But at the end of the day, the difference I think we sometimes really rely on is those relationships we have with the agents to the extent that we can understand what agent needs are and be responsive to that. We’re the kind of company that is big enough to do stuff and be there and you’ve got tremendous financial strength and 267 plus years of great financial history. So we can pay our claims.
Chris: But being there and understanding what the agent is, they’re liaising with the customer, what they need from us and being responsive to those needs, whether it’s a coverage change or a claims issue that needs to be addressed quickly. Bob talked about having personal contact with us. It’s not 1-800 whoever you get. You talk to a life body, you talk to somebody who walks you through the process.
Chris: So as we work with our agents and deliver that personal experience, they are in turn helping us deliver that, what we call our uniquely personal service experience to our customers and that’s the lifeblood of our business. You know, 99.99% of our business is done through our great 700 plus independent agency partners. So your point earlier is very true. We have two customers, the independent agent and the insurers that we’re privileged enough to insure through that distribution channel.
Bob: I’ll just add to that a little bit and the question you asked, Bill, is one that was asked on my very first day in 1979. That question hasn’t gone away. Who is your customer? My whole career has been with companies that use independent agents as the distribution system. And so what Chris said is absolutely true. I think that there is a growing market of insurance buyers that don’t necessarily today see the value of an agent experience.
Bob: That’s not unique to us, that’s an industry thing. So I think there’s a challenge to figure out for this industry, is how are the industry that’s largely based on distribution system that Chris described, how are we going to deal with that buyer that wants to do everything on a smart phone?
Bill: Yeah, sure.
Bob: Decisions have to be made around that in terms of, do you want to jump into that or not? Some companies are going directly into that business and bypassing the independent agent entirely. We will not be one of those companies.
Bill: Right, right. Okay. Makes sense. So with all that as backdrop, it’s not every day that we collectively approach a branding assessment or evolution for the oldest continuously operating insurance company in the new world as they say. If you wouldn’t mind reflecting on that process, why it was important, what led the organization to feel like the branding that you looked at, and then some of the twists and turns within those choices around the name, around the logo, around message. Talk about rebranding, how you approached it, and what went into it.
Bob: Yeah. So let me start and you can jump in. I’m sure you have a lot of thoughts on this as the vice president of marketing. I’m going to start out by saying that I don’t really necessarily think about our process as rebranding at all. So if you think about brand is more like how you’re viewed in the marketplace and what’s your value proposition to your customers rather than what the logo, tagline, and color scheme looks like on your visual identity, then I would make the argument that our brand hasn’t really changed at all through this process.
Bob: I think one of the most important steps along the way of our process was the research that was done around, what is our existing brand? So interviews with our end customers, with employees, with agents were critical to that. And what we learned by that was very gratifying for me because all of the components that we believe we bring to the market were confirmed in that research.
Bob: So things like top shelf service, strong relationships, our history, integrity, financial strength, and of course our affiliation with Ben Franklin all came through as what people think about us or thought about us in the marketplace.
Bill: And he was the founder.
Bob: He was one of the founders. Yes.
Chris: Our most famous founder.
Bob: Our most famous one, right.
Bill: He has the habit of crowding out some others who may have been a part of it.
Bob: Exactly, right. So that was our brand and I would argue that remains our brand. So for me, the process was a more of a brand refresh than a rebranding. I think what we came out of that with is, how do we take those attributes that are our strengths and convey them to customers to expand our public profile, modernize the look and feel of the company, and take advantage of the things that are truly unique to us?
Bob: You mentioned it. Our storied history, no one else can say they’re the oldest insurance company in America, and of course our affiliation with our most famous founder, Ben Franklin.
Bill: Right. Definitely. I know Chris, you’ve got some things to say, but to your point, you’re right. I’m perhaps too casually calling this rebranding. What we always try to tell our audience as well as our clients and colleagues is that brand is not just name, logo, and how you-
Chris: We got that from you, by the way.
Bill: I know, right. Brand is about difference and about setting expectations, it’s a series of experiences. Oftentimes when we’re called upon to help bring the presentation of an organization up to the level of how it actually operates, I wouldn’t say that’s easy, but it’s simple. It’s about elevating. So no, thank you for underlining that because it’s a terrific point to make.
Chris: Well and in the process, it was important in this process, and again, this is not a Finch commercial, but I can’t miss the opportunity to make a few points on this. We went through a pretty extensive RFP process, right? You guys ultimately were the winners of that.
Bill: Charm and looks.
Chris: In spite of the lack of charm and looks, you still won, your capabilities shone through.
Bill: Thank you.
Chris: This is indicative of what we try to do with our agents and ultimately to the extent that we can our customers. It’s really kind of understand. You wanted to understand us. Instead of saying, “Oh, oldest insurance company in the nation, we had an idea.” We went through this process so that you could learn about and know our history, our roots, which we talked about a lot throughout the process, our culture, who our targeted audience was and our distribution partners being a huge part of that.
Chris: So that experience to me was really important. When it came down to it, we came up with mission statements and vision statements and the branding elements and the extensive process we went through with focus groups and all of that to kind of come to the point where we eventually landed, which was our branding elements, the colors, the logos, the taglines, the image, bringing our famous founder much more in the forefront.
Chris: As an independent agent was something that I had said to Bob and my predecessor a number of times, so I was happy to see that my intuition seemed to be affirmed by some of the research you guys did. But that whole experience as we try to look at our agents and our customers to have that positive experience and be educated and get value, that really made the difference.
Chris: And as a result of the refresh of our look and some of our branding elements, we’re now out there using those, obviously promoting those. And we’re starting to see a difference. So I thought the process was really important and the way you guys went about that process, even even more important.
Bill: Well, thank you. You were starting to talking about the difference. One of the questions that’s often asked within a process like this, considering that branding can be considered the soft stuff in some cases, is what’s the impact? How do you assess it? It hasn’t been in the market for that long, but any at least early thoughts on-
Chris: How’d you do?
Bill: How we did, but it’s-
Chris: The impact?
Bill: …it’s doing today.
Chris: I’ll give you one little factoid that kind of illustrates this point. We’re not the Geicos and the State Farms and the Allstates so we don’t have the budgets to do those types of things. But a follow to the next step in our evolution in the refresh of the brand was we also launched a new website. And if you don’t have a website, you don’t exist in today’s world. So we launched our website, which with a recommendation from you guys in terms of who we would use.
Chris: So we’ve done some brand awareness campaigns over the last two years and some of it is very little, what you would consider traditional advertising, on air radio. We’ve gone into some streaming, some things that are traditional type of stuff. And then we also do some grassroots stuff and we’re involved in local community events and festivals and those types of things. So again, not a ton of money, not even a blip on the radar for some of those that you see on TV all the time.
Chris: So we’re doing some analytics now with our new website. We’ve changed some functionality. What reinforces the value of this to me is you wouldn’t be surprised to know that Google is the number one place where people go and that’s the launch point to get to our website. You know what number two is? 1752.com.
Chris: Not Bing, not Yahoo, not any of those other search engines. They came right to us. That says something to me. You don’t have to spend a billion dollars on advertising to get people to know who you are. And we’re just starting this process. In the evolution of a multi-century company, we’re just at the start of this process. But that really rang true with me and it was kind of a validation, if you will, that I guess we’re doing some things right.
Bill: No, that’s good. And anecdotally, you have these 700 agents out there and to the point, they are one of the customers that you serve and they have, in many cases at least, the authority to write whoever they want when it comes to relationships they create. Have you noticed at this point …
Bill: I think one of the goals we had setting out was, let’s substantiate to that group that there’s energy here, things are happening, there’s motion forward, that however old it is, this is a vibrant current sort of high energy, high service company. What has been at least the feel from the channel in terms of how this has been accepted and whether it’s resulted in sort of reasserting ourselves within some of those conversations?
Chris: Well, the agents love our new brand as evidenced by the fact … We’ve developed this campaign with t-shirts. So if you liked us on Facebook or something that we’d send you … Man, we got so many likes we had to reorder so many t-shirts because the agents just really embraced it and loved it. We can’t get enough Ben pens in people’s hands or notepads on their desk and those types of things.
Chris: And for the agents, we’re giving them a very valuable weapon, I guess, because they compete with the State Farms and the Geicos and the Allstates of the world, right? So we’ve given them something now that allows them to get the public to say, “Oh, I know that guy.” Or, “Gosh, 1752? Been there that long? They must be doing something right.” So those types of things, the agents really responded exceptionally positive to that.
Bob: I think also, it’s hard to draw a solid line between one event and the results from that because a lot of things happening at the same time.
Bill: No question.
Bob: So in addition to the brand refresh, we have really changed our posture in the marketplace in terms of rolling out new product features. And so you talk about forward momentum, that is a change in how the marketplace views the Philadelphia Contributionship. We’ve seen more as a fast follower, an early adopter of new types of coverage. So you put all those things together and I can’t resist the numbers because I’m an actuary. At the end of the day, we now have record number of policyholders and our top line revenue is higher than it’s ever been.
Bob: And so, again, hard to draw a solid line between one event and the other.
Chris: I do, but-
Bill: We’ll take full credit.
Chris: Of course.
Bill: The good things and the bad stuff with someone else.
Bill: Bad weather, whatever.
Bob: I appear to have had an impact.
Bill: No, that’s terrific. To your point, Chris, if an agent is in a situation with someone they’ve met and they’re trying to sell into a relationship, to be able to have an offer, a brand that’s compelling that people feel like they’ve seen that speaks to them probably is a leg up. It’s wonderful to hear how so many things are popping and falling in the right direction for this company.
Chris: We’ve also had a record number of independent agents that don’t represent us approach us and want to represent us. And that wasn’t really happening in that kind of volume prior to our refreshing the brand and kind of getting things out there a little bit more in the public space. So I draw a direct correlation, even if it’s not a one to one correlation between what we’ve done and the attraction.
Bill: It’s probably challenging out there for them, I would imagine, these days given-
Chris: They’re fighting uphill. Commoditization of our business is-
Bill: Digital consumers, big brands that are imploring folks to find the best prices and do it themselves. But thinking back to the research among those folks who really got it, once they have us, inevitably you’re going to somewhere along the line and something. So it’s really great to hear that all the pistons are firing and so much is happening, to your point about the website.
Bill: One of the things that at least was a priority for us on the front end design side of it was this is a new world and you’re right, the model’s not changing. We’re doubling down on what has worked for us, but making it even stronger. But at the same time, it needs to be a place that when people arrive there, they’re able to find what they need and they’re able to kind of get the vibe and the spirit and the energy of this place.
Bill: Wonderful. So as you all reflect on this process or about sort of your own career path that you took us through, are there words of wisdom? I would imagine the agent channel probably, it’s probably some young folks there and some folks who have been doing it for a long period of time. I know there’s teammates since you’ve built the business who are just starting out or doing different things.
Bill: I think a sizable portion of our listeners are either just starting out or thinking about what’s next, but what have you all learned along the way that you’d like to share that might compel some folks who’ve been inspired by learning about what you guys have been through?
Bob: Chris, you want to start?
Chris: Is this the words of wisdom question?
Bill: Words of wisdom question, right.
Chris: Well, what I’d say to anyone who’s interested in an exciting and dynamic career where you can make a pretty nice living, you don’t have to work in a startup IT company or private banking. Insurance business is a great place to work. As Bob referenced earlier, things don’t happen in this world without insurance. So we provide an essential financial support system that’s vital to our global economy.
Chris: There are a wide variety of jobs in our industry. As Bob talked about, him being a math guy and an actuary by trade, I was a philosophy and political science major in college. So there’s everything from the technical side of our business to the marketing and sales side of our business. The other reality in our industry is that some of the senior talent in this business is starting to age out.
Bill: Present company excluded, of course.
Chris: Present company included. We’re both on the back nine of our careers. So many of the most experienced people in this business are going to be out of this business the next five to 15 years. And the unemployment rate in the insurance business right now is less than 2%. So to me, that spells opportunity for the listeners that may be considering, what do I do next with my career?
Bill: It’s not going away. To your point-
Chris: Not going away. It’s integral to the financial global economy at all levels, not just the personal insurance world that we live in, but right up on to major corporations and governments across the world. So it’s actually one of the reasons why both of my sons are in the business. My oldest son works for the company I started with and my younger son is an insurance broker because both of them saw it as an opportunity. Very different kids, but they see the insurance business as a great career opportunity and I would certainly echo that.
Bill: Cool. What about you, Bob? Words of wisdom.
Bob: Wow, that’s pretty weighty.
Chris: How much time do we have?
Bob: So I guess I have a couple of thoughts. The first one is for someone who is maybe a quant or a technical person as I was coming into the business, and that is this. Make sure you get and stay connected with people or your bias is going to be to crunch numbers and create technology. But the human part of the business is very important.
Bob: And so as much as numbers and technology are going to lead you down a path and perhaps have what seems like an obvious solution to a problem, it’s the people who are going to have to deal with the implications of that solution that are going to give you insights about whether that’s going to work or not. So staying connected with those people, I think will give you a big dose of reality that the numbers aren’t going to necessarily tell you.
Bill: Probably goes for engineering and other sort of technical fields as well.
Bob: Absolutely. That’s absolutely true. The second is, and this is really played out in my career, and that is being open to opportunities that are going to present themselves. They take you outside of your comfort zone. It clearly involves taking some risk, but I know it’s true in my career, those experience that are going to broaden your perspective and could open doors that may never open for you if you stay single threaded in your career path.
Bob: So take a broad view of that. And the last one is kind of a personal view. I think it’s important to make every effort for everybody to take a healthy work life balance. And I think that’s going to keep you focused on what’s really important in your life. And while those priorities are going to change and ebb and flow throughout, throughout your career at different points in time, my opinion is if you consistently lean to one side of that equation, it’s going to be to the detriment of the other.
Bob: So I believe balance is very important in a career.
Bill: Sure. No doubt. Gentlemen, Bob Whitlock, President, CEO, Chris Oehrle VP Marketing the Philadelphia Contributionship is a tremendous institution that remains and persists in its relevance day in and day out. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to be a small part of what’s an amazing story that’s still unfolding. We thank you guys for your time.
Chris: Thank you.
Bob: Thanks for having us.
Bill: Alright. Thanks to Bob and to Chris for their partnership, friendship, time, and insight today. Interesting to hear how two gentleman have come to the property and casualty insurance business from sort of different directions and the degree of comfort and energy that they feel from the way that they serve the interests and protect the interests of their policy holders.
Bill: It’s very easy in a space that is sort of dizzying with numbers of course and a business that everyone is trying to grow to be focused on that and not adequately understand that what drives that is policy holder satisfaction, and new product development, and new market penetration, and all the things that, as they’ve detailed, they’re central to how they’re operating this business and growing this company.
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