Incoming insurance trade group CEO prepares to replace longtime leader
Jason Ernest will assume the role of president and CEO of Upper Allen Township-based Insurance Agents & Brokers in January after longtime leader Rick Russell's retirement.
Ernest, 42, has been with the organization for 12 years and currently oversees its legal, government and industry affairs, as well as its marketing and communications efforts.
He has a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Pennsylvania State University and a law degree from Widener University School of Law.
He lives in Hershey with his wife, Lisa, and son, Brayden.
Q: You're succeeding Rick Russell, who has 38 years with IA&B, but you have a long tenure there as well. Will this make the transition easier or will there be some challenges to it?
A: I absolutely think it will make it easier. Rick and I and the board of directors for IA&B had decided on a transition plan and I’ve had the luxury of working closely with Rick for the last six years, knowing that this was coming. That allowed me to pick his brain and tap into his experience, and not really have to hit the job new to it.
A well-thought-out transition plan is best for everybody involved. This is certainly a testament to it. There is obviously some trepidation, as there always will be, but I think it’s been lessened to a great degree because of the plan that was in place.
What are IA&B's most important services to its members?
We’re solution providers for our members. What we offer a small agency is drastically different from a large agency in the value we provide. But as long as we can be a solution provider and address any problem for any member, that’s our greatest asset. Our members are small-business owners, so while they’re insurance salespeople, at the end of the day they’re still small-business owners in Pennsylvania, trying to succeed just like any small-business owners. Where IA&B can solve a problem for a member, save them time, save them money, that’s our greatest asset.
How do you help IA&B members become better agents?
Training is by far our priority. We keep them up to date on the changing industry, the changing laws. We let them know what they have to know. They’re experts in selling insurance, but they may not know HR implications or other legal implications. We give them competitive advantages. We help them be recognized by the community as insurance advisers, we give them tools to do that. Independent agents are counselors when it comes to purchasing insurance and we tell that story for them. And we generally advocate on their behalf in Harrisburg and in Washington, D.C. We’re protecting their interests to make sure they’re not burdened by bad laws but they’re also protected by good laws.
What is the most valuable thing you've learned as a youth sports coach?
Patience. When you’re managing 12 young kids running around trying to get their energy out, you have to have patience, you have have to pretty clear directives with them, and most importantly you have to have fun. That’s going to be my goal taking on this new role. If you can do that with a bunch of kids, you can correlate that into some business management. Keep things simple and have fun with it, and at the end of the day, just trust things. I think that leads to success.