Meet Hal Soden, Immediate Past Chairman
Hal W. Soden, Jr. has been a member of Big I New Jersey since 2005. His family agency, however, has been a member for much longer. This Hal attributes to old Big I artifacts that are hanging in the offices of Oliver L.E. Soden Agency where works as a Principal/Advisor.
Hal has been an active member of the Big I NJ board of directors since 2010 and is currently serving as the Immediate Past President. He has also been an active member of the association’s Young Agents Council (YAC) as well as a past YAC officer. Find out how Hal was ‘tricked’ into joining his family’s agency 18 years ago, and why he’s concerned for the “software dinosaurs” of the industry.
Why did you choose a career in insurance? What initially brought you to the industry?
I usually say I was tricked into joining the industry, which is sort of true, but mostly a joke. After I graduated college, I was about to take a job elsewhere when my father brought up the prospect of joining the agency. This is something he’d never done previously and is also something I had never thought about before. After discussing it, he sold me on a lot of things, particularly the freedom and earning potential. Then he told me to get out of the office and go find some clients.
How has being a member of the association impacted your career?
I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but my participation in the Big I, and on the Big I board of directors, is the single biggest contributor to my success as a producer and an agency owner. It has opened a lot of doors during my career and created many opportunities that would not have existed without my involvement.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity for our industry over the next 5 years?
We live in exciting times as the public and, more specifically, younger buyers look for an advisor to help them. I think a combination of embracing technology and providing good old-fashioned human advice and expertise is going to win over the next few years.
Independent agents are going to expand our dominance of the commercial market and take we’re going to back a lot of the personal market. That said, it’s not going to be distributed equally. And, it’s not going to come to those who wait. It’s going to be the agents who are willing to learn, adapt and invest who win.
What technological breakthrough, device, or innovation, do you think will have the greatest impact on insurance over the next 5+ years?
I think AI and RPA (Robotic Process Automation) will drive a lot of innovation. That said, I don’t necessarily think it will happen the way most people imagine. For example, everyone buying their insurance via an AI chatbot. While that will exist, I don’t see that as the best use of AI.
AI will be used to enhance an agent’s ability to do their job. Within a year or two, we’ll see agents being able to “copy and paste” information from one form into multiple quoting software platforms, bypassing the comparative rater altogether, via an AI tool. I also think a lot of the software dinosaurs in our industry are going to be in more danger than they realize if they continue their current modus operandi.
What advice would you share with individuals just starting out in the industry?
Get involved with the association and learn from fellow agents. While we’re technically competitors, we help each other a lot more than anyone else can.
What are you most looking forward to accomplishing during your time on the board?
I really would like to see the Big I Invest program be as successful in New Jersey as it is in other states. And, as a result, start seeing the independent agency system winning out over other industries when it comes to attracting new talent.
What one hidden gem – as it relates to benefits/resources - do you think more Big I NJ members need to be taking advantage of?
Big I Hires. My agency has hired 12 of our last 13 new employees using this service. It has saved us a ton of time by allowing the best candidates to stand out amongst the rest.
I also think Catalyit is quickly becoming an extremely valuable resource.
Who is your mentor?
Without a doubt, my father.
What is your greatest motivator?
What is the best professional advice you have received?
Do what you say you’re going to do.
What's something that most people are surprised to learn about you?
I completed an Ironman Triathlon. I should also add that this was before kids.