Technology Adviser of the Year Q&A: Bret Brummitt of A.G. Insurance Agencies

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Employee Benefit Adviser’s Technology Adviser of the Year is Bret Brummitt, the 42 year-old senior partner/advisor of A.G. Insurance Agencies of Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. EBA editors asked Brummitt what he looks for in a possible merger, why new advisers need to ask questions and how learning about unintended consequences has been a powerful journey.

Employee Benefit Adviser: How many clients do you have? What is your client size?
Bret Brummitt: Overall we manage 564 inside of our team. Small to modestly large. Each broker has a different average size due to personality and preference. I am hands-on with our team on 141 of those accounts. The groups I personally brought in are actually on the smaller size, as I’ve always gravitated to healthcare practices, non-profits, technology and food service.

EBA: How would you describe your client base, by industry type? Where is your area of focus?
Brummitt: I really don’t look for industry, more about employers that desire to have a higher degree of feedback and engagement. As a firm, the industry typically aligns to the producer’s interests or industry knowledge points. For me, I gravitate to medical practices and non-profits. My partners at AG may gravitate more toward manufacturing, construction, legal firms and more — but we are pretty collaborative group so we all get a broad experience and viewpoint.

EBA: What was your biggest work accomplishment this past year?
Brummitt: It has been a larger deployment of our technology partner integrations. Being able to connect the HR, benefits administration and payroll providers has been fun as we’ve gone from beta testing in to full deployment and helping work out the bugs and glitches. Also learning about the employer experience and gathering the most impactful problems we’ve solved or learning about unintended consequences has been a powerful journey. As with any development or technology undertaking, nothing works perfectly 100% of the time. Learning how to not only identify but make process and product improvement is just not in the DNA of a sales organization — so being able to undertake that role, survive and then come out an thrive has been amazing for our team. I’m really happy with the API integrations between these outside partnerships and the future that we’ve helped craft a better experience for our clients and even our peers.

EBA: What was your biggest personal accomplishment this past year?
Brummitt: My goal this year was to make sure I could communicate better about the why behind what we do. More talking out loud about some of the reasoning that I put into our decision making process. I still feel like I’ve fallen short of my standard I set for myself, but of course I’m making progress.

EBA: What’s the best thing about your job?
Brummitt: Watching one of my team take the next step to owning the client relationship. Watching someone else take the confidence to be bold and become a trusted resource is really the most gratifying part of the job. It also hasn’t always been internal to our firm. Over the past few years, as we’ve worked in the technology side and implementation/support fields, I’ve seen our clients flourish in their confidence and move from just doers to problem solvers. This next phase of using similar technology and transparency tools to walk with our clients into more empowered relationship with their medical plan data and to work alongside that development with our self-funded accounts is going to be a real powerful moment for me.

EBA: Are you looking to acquire or merge with another brokerage?
Brummitt: We have floated the idea of recruiting a small shop or solo firm to learn the ropes of expansion. When contemplating bringing on a firm or even a single person, I’ve been most focused on a culture fit and vision alignment much more than the pure revenue. I do think we have a good foundation and the potential for someone to come flourish in our group, especially with the investments we’ve made internally to continually improve.

EBA: What makes you stand out as an adviser?
Brummitt: I have a way of thinking and problem solving similar to an engineer. I like to not only solve a problem, but create a brand new system or plan that can withstand the future.

EBA: What takeaways would you give to new advisers? Would you want your child to go into your profession?
Brummitt: Never feel foolish for asking questions or like you are slowing anyone else around you down. I’ve been victim of pretending I knew words I didn’t, pretending to understand concepts that I didn’t just so I wouldn’t stand out as a lesser adviser or peer. I could have grown professionally much faster and been a better steward to my clients if I had asked the meaning of all those words or asked someone to explain their product one more time.

If my daughters would grace our profession with their time and attention, they could revolutionize our industry. But it would be selfish of me to steer either of them here, as I believe they are the world leaders we need to restore society for the greater good of all mankind.

EBA: What advice can you give to new advisers?
Brummitt: You are so much more than an adviser or broker. You are the collection of failures, learning experiences and successes from each person you meet and each project you undertake. It is an great privilege to share that knowledge with your prospects, peers and clients. If you can understand how vital a role that is, keep your eyes and ears open during each meeting, you will never feel inferior or incompetent.

EBA: What is the biggest trend to watch in benefit advising for 2019?
Brummitt: Data reporting and decision-making tools for both employers and employees. There is a huge wave of development as more products saturate this market.

EBA: What’s your favorite line from a movie?
Brummitt: I can’t ever remember lines from movies — it’s just not a gift of mine.

EBA: Who is your personal hero?
Brummitt: Charlie Hough. I practiced to be Nolan Ryan, but Charlie Hough always amazed me.

EBA: What is your favorite current or past Saturday Night Live character?
Brummitt: Dieter

EBA: What person, alive or dead, would you want to meet and why?
Brummitt: James Brown. So many stories about performance and art and perseverance I’d love to listen to.

EBA: What is your morning beverage of choice?
Brummitt: Black coffee from a quality bean.

EBA: What is your evening beverage of choice?
Brummitt: Black coffee from a quality bean.

EBA: What is the most awesome place you traveled to outside your home state?
Brummitt: Rome. This job, the work of my partners, the work of the team I’ve been blessed with have afforded me the great privilege to travel and immerse myself in that experience of the world and other cultures. I’ve never been able to get away and work remotely now for several years, but the one place I’m just in awe of was Rome.

EBA: What is the most notable book you read this year?
Brummitt: I’m lame, I haven’t read a non-industry/non-healthcare book this year.

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