Gene Knippers is new to The Iroquois Group (hired in 2021) but is far from new to the insurance industry. With over 25 years of experience, Gene has strengths in operations, sales and strong carrier connections. Tune in to connect with Gene and hear more about where he works and who he is looking to work with.
Edwin K. Morris (7s):
Welcome to the trusted adviser podcast brought to you by Iroquois Group. Iroquois is your trusted advisor in all things insurance. I am Edwin K Morris. In 1997 Gene Knippers began his insurance career was CNA and has served world-class companies such as Progressive AIG and Kemper. Gene was the president and CEO of a high volume agency in Phoenix, Arizona, and comes to Iroquois from a boutique regional carrier based out of the Bay Area, where he served in various roles, including distribution, marketing, finance, and claims Gene earned his bachelor’s degree from Buschnell university and a Juris doctor from Concord law school at Purdue University Global.
Edwin K. Morris (57s):
So Gene, I hear there’s a construct of your background that constantly puts you at the same place in different geographies, always in the Southeast corner. Can you tell me something about that?
Gene Knippers (1m 10s):
Every state that I’ve been in, whether it’s Oklahoma, Colorado, or Arizona, I seem to be in the south east corner of wherever everything’s happening in the big town in Oklahoma. I lived at Broken Arrow, which is just kind of Southeast of Tulsa in Colorado. I lived in Parker, which is Southeast of Denver. And now I live in Gilbert, which is Southeast of Phoenix.
Edwin K. Morris (1m 34s):
So how are things in Gilbert? How was the insurance business going in Gilbert?
Gene Knippers (1m 41s):
Gilbert is kind of a thriving growing community. It’s kind of a bedroom community of Phoenix and just a good, they call it a family town. So a lot of home and auto packages, a lot of personal lines, lot of businesses opening up everything is kinda moving east. So we kinda divide Phoenix into the west valley and the east valley. And so the east valley seems to be kind of where everything is, is happening in terms of business and personal lines. And so things are really good. A lot of people are familiar with Scottsdale. Scottsdale has this restaurant bar concept in old town Scottsdale, right?
Gene Knippers (2m 24s):
A couple of years ago, Gilbert, probably an attempt to duplicate that did a master planned restaurant bar explosion in downtown Gilbert. And so we have all of these brand new restaurants and bars. It really all went in at the same time. It’s been pretty good. And then Chandler is a town just next to us. And so we’re starting to do the same thing as well. Not quite to the extent of Gilbert, but they’re trying to expand their downtown with new restaurants so its thriving.
Edwin K. Morris (2m 56s):
Has all this new progressive efforts to bring a mixed use and a designed downtown in your local area. Has that created a niche for you?
Gene Knippers (3m 7s):
It’s created a kind of a niche for myself and in our members. Historically people would go to work in Phoenix and maybe reside in a bedroom community. And so I think what it’s allowing. There’s a lot of condos, a lot of apartments, a lot of new houses, lots of new construction going on in the east valley. So it’s really allowing people to kind of live where they work.
Edwin K. Morris (3m 30s):
How did you get connected to Iroquois?
Gene Knippers (3m 32s):
I’ve been on the carrier side of the business for most of my career, and I got connected to Iroquois about six years ago and just really built a great relationship, both personally and professionally with Bob Stallings, who is the managing partner here in Arizona, Iroquois Southwest and built a good partnership and relationship with the team as well. When an opportunity became available, I jumped on it. Iroquois is in my mind is, is always been kind of like the Lakers of our business. You know, I mean enjoys a great reputation with the carriers.
Gene Knippers (4m 14s):
It’s a world-class organization and the values and everything that Iroquois stands for. It just aligned with me personally, and it’s been the best decision I’ve made in my career.
Edwin K. Morris (4m 25s):
So a lot of your initial contact with Iroquois was while you were working in the carriers side.
Gene Knippers (4m 32s):
That’s correct. So I got a chance to, you know, get to know some of the members. I was mostly working on the personal line side, so I didn’t know all of our members, but I, I knew some of them and then just really built a good rapport with them. Then I think they relayed that to Bob. I had a great relationship with Bob and, and even outside of work, we would connect for golf or coffee or dinner. I just enjoyed the people. You know, it was really just a great bunch of people.
Edwin K. Morris (5m 4s):
Fairly easy to do business with.
Gene Knippers (5m 7s):
Edwin K. Morris (5m 7s):
So how does that translate now to your members?
Gene Knippers (5m 10s):
You know, I’ve always been kind of a work hard play, hard kind of person, even on the, on the carrier side. I, I, I try to put myself in the member’s shoes or the agent’s shoes. If somebody called me after hours, it was usually it was an emergency, you know, and they, they needed something right then and there. So I’ve always tried to be available. And, you know, I always consider myself as competing with other marketing reps or other folks in distribution. And so I can’t control sometimes what my company does. I can’t control the rates. I can’t control claims, but I can’t control how responsive I am and how I enter and engage with the members.
Gene Knippers (5m 53s):
I think coming on board with Iroquois, I bring that same passion for like, I’m here for you. I want you to feel like we add value. I think that makes our members feel more comfortable. I think they feel like they have an advocate and an advisor, and I think it reflects positive on Iroquois as a whole.
Edwin K. Morris (6m 13s):
Oh, what’s the biggest challenge right now, as far as the state of Arizona goes,
Gene Knippers (6m 17s):
I would say in Arizona, keeping things profitable. There’s a lot of things going on. We’re coming out of COVID. There were people that obviously we weren’t driving as much and now not only are people driving, but they seem to be driving worse than they were before. I think, you know, just keeping up with trends, making sure the carriers are keeping up with trends. We’ve seen more vehicles being pulled over for a hundred mile an hour than, than we’ve ever seen. You know? So, so we’ve got some of that going on and then prices are going up or we’re kind of entering a hard market on the commercial side. And so it’s going to be incumbent on our members and agents in general, just to really not put their dancin’ and shoes on, but really parlay to the customer, the coverages, what they’re buying, maybe not just shopping everything every time it goes up, but really advising the customer on, Hey, this is what you bought and this is what it covers.
Gene Knippers (7m 17s):
And it’s good. And it’s going to go up a little bit.
Edwin K. Morris (7m 19s):
So if we had to list off things that prospective clients should know about you. What would they be?
Gene Knippers (7m 27s):
I take my role seriously. I truly want our members to feel like, you know, Jean adds value. He helps me with my business, whether that’s exploring new carriers, consolidating carriers, being on top of things. One of the value props that we bring is our members get the profit share. One of our key objectives is to help agents increase their revenues, profits, and agency value. And so I think making sure that we’re on top of kind of where they’re at and how they’re performing, there’s nothing worse than missing a bonus by a thousand dollars or a couple thousand dollars or a risk or a policy.
Gene Knippers (8m 8s):
That’s my objective is to really, you know, kind of look out for our members, make sure that they are maximizing whatever we have brought them in terms of value. And then just knowing that there’s kind of a business advocate, you know, that’s one of the challenges I think of being a small business owner, I did run a, a fairly large agency for a couple of years. And, and sometimes when you are with the business owner or one of the key executives, you almost wonder sometimes am I making the right decision? God bless the carriers, but you know, they’ll direct you where they want you to go. And so you don’t always know, like am I making the right decision, is this just what brand X wants me to do?
Gene Knippers (8m 50s):
So I think that’s one of the value adds that Iroquois brings and the regional managers bring to our members. It’s kind of an objective of perspective of, Hey, you’re doing the right thing in this area. Or maybe you should focus on another area. We want you to maximize opportunities with each carrier, but you can’t be so heavy over here to the exclusion over here, let’s balance this out so that you can still maximize benefits and all of the markets, but not be so top heavy.
Edwin K. Morris (9m 21s):
And in and of itself. That’s a risk to have all your eggs in one basket is, is not really playing the field. So to speak.
Gene Knippers (9m 29s):
There’s just too many variables in our business. And especially right now, I think companies are going to be very quick to react, especially post COVID. If they feel like there’s a line of business that may be tricky, they might slow down in that area. And so if you’re super heavy in a, in a particular market, for example, if they take rate that’s time away from new business that you’ve got to spend trying to save that worst case scenario. What if you lose a market that can set you back a couple years, just trying to remarket accounts. So it really takes, I think, kind of an object of advocate to help, you know, almost like a business coach.
Edwin K. Morris (10m 10s):
And that’s got to be a wonderful place to be right. I mean, it’s, it is very much an unbiased. There’s nothing backhanded. It’s just extremely customer oriented. What’s the best fit period.
Gene Knippers (10m 23s):
It really is. I can look at their book of business and say, Hey, you know, it’s up to you. Okay. Now my recommendation is feed these buckets, but, but ultimately the choice is yours.
Edwin K. Morris (10m 37s):
Well, how can folks reach out to get ahold of you to get more,
Gene Knippers (10m 40s):
The best way to get ahold of me is they can reach me on LinkedIn Gene Knippers. My phone number is (602) 653-5104 or just an email, you know, email@example.com
Edwin K. Morris (10m 58s):
Spell that name please.
Gene Knippers (10m 60s):
So it’s a G K N I P as in Paul, P as in Paul, E R S at Iroquois Group, I R O Q U O I S Group.
Edwin K. Morris (11m 16s):
Well, awesome gene. That is exciting. I hope that the winds don’t blow you away in the spring in the deserts of Arizona.
Gene Knippers (11m 24s):
Absolutely. No, it’s going to be a great year. I’m looking forward to finishing out this year 2022 is going to be exciting. So we’ve got big plans for our division down here in the Southwest. I’m excited.
Edwin K. Morris (11m 40s):
Excellent. Well welcome aboard Gene. Thanks for listening to this edition of the Trusted Advisor podcast brought to you by Iroquois Group. Iroquois is your trusted advisor for all things, insurance, and remember get out of the office and sell. I am Edwin K Morris, and I invite you to join me for the next edition of the Trusted Advisor podcast.