Brian Hunter founded Hunter Insurance in the Manville section of Lincoln in 1989. He started the agency with two employees. Through the years, it has grown to employ more than a dozen agents offering auto, home and life insurance to more than 6,000 customers in southeastern New England.
Prior to forming Hunter Insurance, he served as vice president of the George H. Roberts Agency, also in Manville, from 1984 to 1989. He also worked as a commercial underwriter for Aetna Casualty & Surety in Providence in 1982 and 1983.
A Lincoln resident, Hunter holds a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree, both in business administration from Bryant University.
PBN: How did you start your business?
HUNTER: Growing up, my father owned the local pharmacy in town. I always remember how proud he was for owning his own company. He worked hard but was also pleased with the path his career had taken. He became very active in the local community and was well-respected among our friends and neighbors. As I got older, I learned to appreciate his entrepreneurial spirit and hoped to someday emulate his success.
I began to gain initial experience in the industry as an insurance underwriter and from there worked for a local agent. It was always my dream to open my own independent insurance agency. My wife and I took a risk, and my sister-in-law was my first employee. Today, 30 years later, we have grown into a successful agency that continues the tradition my father began of providing quality service and support to our community.
PBN: How were you able to grow your company?
HUNTER: When we first opened, referrals and networking were key to building our business, and we have continued to grow because of those components. From the outset, we worked to establish a positive presence in the local community. We always treated customers well, which is why they continue to send referrals our way. Thanks to the reputation we have built over time, we now represent 25 insurance companies that have allowed us to provide even more insurance products to our customers.
The community partnerships that we have formed in this close-knit community have also helped us grow. We initially began by supporting local Little League teams and our volunteer firefighters. Today, we are proud to have supported dozens of charities throughout the years and will continue to do so for many years to come.
PBN: In the age of the internet, insurance agents are challenged like never before. How have you adapted?
HUNTER: The internet has certainly kept us on our toes, but it has been very beneficial to us as well. We are constantly working to keep pace with changes in technology, whether that means making updates to our internal software, developing a new website, or coming up with an enhanced social media strategy.
Thanks to the latest technology, we are now able to generate multiple quotes for our customers instantaneously with just one entry. This has eliminated numerous steps that our agents previously had to perform. Additionally, technology allows us to interact with customers like never before, and we are able to quickly address their questions or concerns.
We also strive to regularly update our website and social media since we have found that it drives many customers to contact us or stop by our office. It also provides an outlet for us to disseminate important information regarding policy changes, industry trends, as well as useful tips to help protect families and businesses from hardship or loss.
PBN: Are customers buying more or less insurance than they did in your early years in the business?
HUNTER: I honestly cannot say that people are buying less or more personal insurance, but people have definitely become more conscious of the importance of insurance and, specifically, of having higher limits on their policies.
I believe this is partly because of the litigious society we live in. People are constantly bombarded by nonstop, in-your-face ads encouraging people to pursue legal action whenever possible. We have seen a big uptick in people purchasing umbrella insurance to protect themselves from a devastating lawsuit. Additionally, life insurance has also seen more activity – especially among young families that may have children or are just beginning to plant their roots in Rhode Island.
As far as quantity is concerned on the commercial side, new policies that never existed are beginning to emerge. Coverages such as cyber insurance coverage and employment practice liability insurance have gained popularity as a result of new laws and the evolving internet landscape.
Our office stays current on all industry trends to make certain we offer the latest insurance products that people need to safeguard their financial future.
PBN: What changes do you see coming in the insurance industry of the future?
HUNTER: So much has changed since we opened our doors 30 years ago. I strongly believe that the insurance industry soon will shift gears to accommodate a pressing shortage of professionals entering our industry. The average age of insurance agency owners has increased, and I believe this is simply because it is difficult to educate young people on the rewarding aspect of working in insurance. I truly believe that there is no greater reward than helping people and advocating on their behalf when they need it the most.
Through the years, we have met with families who have lost their homes to fires and we work to get them back on their feet. I have delivered life insurance checks after a family suffers a tragic loss. Making a positive difference in someone else’s life is what I wish we could better convey to job seekers.
For those concerned about securing a stable and secure future, many people are unaware that you do not need to go to college to become an insurance agent. If you are a motivated and driven individual, you can truly create your own financial destiny.
Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@PBN.com.