Look at Lance Spence’s resume and nowhere does it suggest that the 39-year-old father of two was destined for the insurance business, much less the presidency of an insurance brokerage.
Spence was officially named president of CIG Insurance this month, after joining the company in 2006. He succeeds Chock Chapple, who founded CIG with his wife, Heather, in 2003 and remains its owner and a producer, or agent.
Spence has lived in Wichita since 1981. That’s when his father went to work for Koch Industries and moved Spence to Wichita.
Though he’s spent 30 years here, Spence retains a distinctive Louisiana accent.
He’s also taken a career path that strays far from its beginnings.
He started his education at the University of Kansas as an architectural engineer. But a couple of years into that degree, he switched his major to journalism because he learned that maybe engineering wasn’t for him.
“I was always a very artistic person,” he said. “Rather than pursing a career in art I thought I could use that creativity in architecture. The shift to journalism was on the creative side of marketing and advertising. At the end of the day it was the right fit.”
Spence used that journalism degree for his first job out of college as an advertising representative at the Wichita Business Journal. That job led to a position as marketing director at Howard and Helmer Architecture, at which point his transition to insurance began.
How did you get into the insurance business?
“In 2002 I was approached to consider the life insurance industry. I considered that and talked to one of the local life insurance companies. Before that final decision was made I ran into a friend of mine who was at IMA and he recommended I talk to them. I’d known Kurt Watson (IMA’s chief operating officer) basically since I moved to Wichita. He was my parents’ neighbor growing up.”
Who are CIG’s customers?
“Eighty percent of our business is commercial property and casualty (insurance) lines, 10 percent is personal lines and 10 percent or so is small business property and casualty.”
What do your new duties entail?
“Really it’s all day-to-day operations. It’s oversight of … basically all departments: human resources, accounting, production, strategic planning and revenue. I still am a producer and will continue to handle my book of business.”
And what area is your book of business in?
“It’s pretty heavily weighted in the construction-related industries, 65-70 (percent).”
How are you managing your time between operations and working as a producer?
“It’s something I’m kind of working through right now. I have a pretty strong account executive working my book of business … and I’m letting him take more control of those accounts.”
What is it about the insurance business that interests you, keeps you engaged?
“Kind of going back to my education … I still have somewhat of an engineer’s mind. I like the nuts and bolts, technical side (of figuring out clients’ policies). I’m a relationship guy. I thrive working with small- to medium-sized businesses, being a trusted adviser. It’s a combination of being in the trenches with my customers and providing that technical expertise.”
How are things going for CIG this year, and what does 2012 look like for the company?
“2011 has been another good year for us. We experienced double-digit growth again … and it’s still a very soft insurance marketplace. Our plan … is to continue to reach double-digit growth, year-over-year, again in 2012. We are looking at new potential areas of revenue generation. We’ve actually just hired a new producer and have another who will be starting in January. Strategically, we’re always looking for opportunities to purchase another agency or another book of business.”
What’s the biggest issue right now for your commercial clients?
“We’ve been experiencing a very soft insurance market. We are definitely seeing signs of a hardened market, which is going to mean clients seeing a restriction in carrier’s appetites of what they want to write. We’re seeing deductibles raised and we’re definitely starting to see (insurance) carriers push rates up. I think that’s going to be our biggest hurdle … keeping the price point in check.”
What keeps you up at night?
“At this point it’s still the split role and my time management, making sure I’m doing both roles as effectively as I possibly can … making sure we’re not missing something.”
What’s on your to-do list?
The biggest thing we’ve realized we need to address is our internal efficiencies and work flows, starting at the very foundation of our company. We’ve got very good resources and people here. Where I think we’ve missed the mark is utilization of the system and people’s time.”