I am wearing a mask, doing my part in blunting the attack of the coronavirus, writing the words in this essay that I had expected to be saying at a party. It was almost to the day, 50 years ago, that I entered the insurance business, and I was planning a big party …
In the spring of 1970, I was scheduled to graduate from UC Santa Barbara, but, like this year, graduation was in jeopardy. Not from a health pandemic, but because of national student anti-Vietnam War unrest and local disruptions such as three off-campus riots and the burning of the Bank of America in Isla Vista.
It was a very anti-establishment time among young people, and UCSB was one of the most rebellious colleges in the nation.
Nonetheless, graduation ceremonies took place that year, and I, fresh with a BA degree in Environmental Biology, started a career in the financial services industry, initially selling life insurance to college seniors at UCSB! Seems a counter-intuitive move, to enter a very “establishment” industry during an “anti-establishment” time, but it made sense to me.
My dad died in July 1965, just after my high school graduation. I delayed going away to school and went to junior college for one year to be sure my mom and younger brother would be OK.
During that time, I also obtained my real estate license, which eventually served me well during my years at UCSB. Selling a little real estate and benefitting from some government benefits for dependents of deceased veterans, I was able to put myself through college. To be fair, it was a lot less expensive to go to college in the late 1960s.
Mom struggled financially for several years following my dad’s death and, during my first senior year at UCSB, in 1969, I was approached by an organization that marketed life insurance to college seniors.
I bought my first life insurance policy from Phil Kirkpatrick, a man who eventually became a mentor and who is still a good friend today. I realized I had a need for life insurance to protect my mother in case of the unthinkable, and also that it was a pretty good financial move for me, assuming the unthinkable didn’t happen for a long time …
That summer of 1969 I sold Phil a home, in which he still lives today, and in my second senior year, Phil approached me to consider joining him in the life insurance business. Although I was a science major, I didn’t plan on a science career. I probably would have continued selling real estate except, in 1970, residential mortgage interest rates had risen to 9 perceny and, as you can imagine, it was quite difficult to make sales with the cost of mortgages so high.
So I said “yes” to joining Phil and the College Master organization, and shortly after graduation in June 1970, headed off to Irving, Texas, to attend Wild Briar Academy and learn the how and why of selling life insurance.
I was modestly successful those first few years and learned the foundations of how to, and even more important the why, I was in the insurance business. I delivered my first death claim in the very first year. It was on the life of a friend who had drowned, and I’ll never forget delivering that claim.
No amount of money can replace a human life, nor bring back someone’s child, and I recognized a calling when the family said, “This check will mean that our son’s younger brother will be able to go to college.” It’s not about the person who died, it’s about the ones who survive.
I stayed with that College Master program until 1975, and as my clients’ insurance needs changed, I needed to change. At the recommendation of Frank Stoltze, I left to join with Jack Timmons at Alexander & Alexander, an independent, primarily property and casualty insurance office in downtown Santa Barbara.
Thanks to Frank and Jack, two more invaluable mentors, I became the life insurance man at A&A, and in the process learned the health insurance business. And in addition to suddenly being in the business market, I began to work in retirement planning with the invention of 401(k) plans and IRAs.
Jack retired, and I stayed until 1981, when I had the chance to go out on my own, imaginatively naming my company, Brent R. Anderson & Associates. My health and life insurance business prospered, I hired a few people, obtained a couple of financial education degrees, I learned more about the securities business with additional licensing, renamed my company Anderson Financial Solutions & Insurance Services and today, this summer, I celebrate 50 years in this great financial industry.
The changing needs of my clients and the growth of my industry has kept me interested and “young” as I constantly learn new ways to serve. I have no desire to retire. I love what I do, the clients and friends I serve, and the stimulating rate of change in the financial world.
Change, indeed. When I first started, life insurance premiums were calculated with a rate book, and by hand. I remember the first calculator, the first car phone, the miracle of the fax machine, and my first personal computer. Today, I can enter data into my cell phone and open an investment account in minutes, and sometimes have approval for a life policy in 24 to 48 hours.
Today my business mix is still life and health insurance, and investment services, although it’s been a long time since I sold life insurance to a college senior.
Along the way, I’ve been so fortunate to have astounding experiences. I’ve always been a rather good producer and that has allowed me to benefit from attendance at many great conferences, both educational and incentive-based.
Related to the business, I’ve traveled to major cities all over the United States, to Europe and South Africa. I’ve been asked to speak at insurance conferences, both for regional insurance associations and for national insurance company conferences. I even got to speak twice at the major insurance industry conference in South Africa.
I’m a 40-year Life and Qualifying member of the Million Dollar Round Table, a many times qualifier for the Court and the Top of the Table, a past president of the local Life and Health Insurance Association, and the Santa Barbara Estate Planning Council.
The independence of the industry as well as the possibility of financial rewards has meant a lot to my family. I’ve been able to provide a good life for my wife and four children and to be of help to my 10 grandchildren, and my three great-grandchildren. I have another grandchild due in late summer and another great-grandchild in the fall.
I’m proud and grateful to my family, for my family, and to my hundreds of clients and friends over the years and around the world.
So, for now, I’ll open that bottle of champagne in the safety of my home, with the family who live with me, and I’ll still raise a toast to the many blessings this life has given me.
— Brent Anderson is the founder and CEO of Anderson Financial Solutions & Insurance Services in Santa Barbara. Although becoming quite adept at Zoom meetings, more and more you can find him and his collection of masks, in his downtown office. Contact him at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.