A career change and an introduction by a friend to the Independent Insurance Agents of Houston brought Jason Nybakken up the ladder of the association’s offices to become president of IIAH just nine years into his insurance career. Nybakken’s term began on Sept. 1; his official installation luncheon is scheduled for Sept. 29 at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant.
Nybakken came to Texas from Canada through a teacher recruitment effort at the University of Alberta by the Houston Region Four Schools. He arrived in 2002 on a three-year work visa to teach world history at Galena Park ISD. After marrying, he and his wife Michelle, also a teacher recruited from Canada, remained in the U.S. as permanent residents. The two have just begun the naturalization process to become U.S. citizens, a process that takes at least a year and a half. Nybakken expects to do well on the final citizenship test as he taught U.S. history at the high school level for six years.
Nybakken left teaching after 11 years, even though he pursued a master’s degree in education administration and became leadership certified to qualify for a school principal position. He became “frustrated by the politics of education and looked to do something else.” About a year shy of leaving teaching, he worked part time for CCS Commercial Cleaning Solutions, picking up some sales training and experience matching services to client needs. Once someone explained the commercial side of an insurance career to him, he made the move. In December 2013, he joined IBC Insurance Agency as a commercial insurance agent.
The career change has not caused Nybakken to abandon his teaching skills or his enthusiasm for learning. He has earned professional designations of CIC, CISR and TIIA. Matching an insurance product to his customers’ needs, said Nybakken, is a lot like teaching. He said he knows that people tend to be distrustful of what they don’t understand, so he educates his clients about insurance coverages so they can be confident of making good insurance decisions. He said he truly enjoys developing this kind of relationship with his customers, especially in a hard market where it’s important for insureds’ to understand coverage restrictions, sometimes with choices that change pricing. His teacher outlook, he said, is a primary component of his sales technique.
Nybakken staffs IBC’s one-person Houston office, which is located in IBC (International Bancshares Corporation) Bank. He joined IIAH at a friend’s invitation just two years into his insurance career. His counterparts in IBC bank agencies across the state are active in independent insurance agents associations in San Antonio and Coastal Bend, as well as in the state association, Independent Insurance Agents of Texas. Nybakken served IIAH three years as a director, then ascended through the offices of treasurer, vice-president, president-elect, and now president.
Nybakken said he is grateful to have found the association as it has made him keenly aware of how large the industry is and how many varied career opportunities it offers. “There is a job in the insurance industry for every type of person with any career interest,” he said, noting that job stability is a real plus.
During his term, Nybakken hopes to see attendance and participation at IIAH events reach their pre-pandemic levels. “We had a decent year (in 2021-22),” he said. Some member agencies and affiliate companies still have travel and large group restrictions that continue to affect attendance and committee participation.
IIAH is focused on refining services to members, said Nybakken. IIAH staff and board members look for ways to develop services that help members achieve success, he added. IIAH members include many small to mid-sized agencies that depend on the continuing education and other networking opportunities IIAH offers.
IIAH holds several key events annually, some for C.E., some for community giving, and others for networking. Quarterly luncheons feature speakers, generally holding an hour or more continuing education prior to a noon lunch. Next up for C.E. is a webinar in October on environmental risk. Two fundraising events in October, the third annual Fishin’ with a Mission and YIPS Cornhole Tournament, will support IIAH’s community beneficiaries of Brookwood Community, Mission K-9 Foundation, and First Responders Foundation.
On. Nov. 10, IIAH will host its networking Industry Luncheon, then on Dec. 1, will host a holiday party for members at Kirby Ice House, which serves as an opportunity to collect nonperishable food items for a local food pantry. Next year’s first luncheon meeting will be preceded by a class on additional insureds on Jan. 26.
Then, on Feb. 22, IIAH will host its annual trade show, which has come to be recognized as one of the leading single-day trade shows in the southwest, attracting agents from across Texas. The evening before the trade show is the YIPS reception in honor of the trade show exhibitors.
Also assuming office at IIAH for the 2022-2023 term are President-elect, Adam Harris, Insurance Solutions of Texas; Vice-President Jason Knecht, Carroll Insurance Agency, and Treasurer Susan Zipperer, EFG Insurance Agency. Newly installed on the board of directors for a three-year term are Ryan Beavers, Brown and Brown; John Collado, USI Southwest; Kevin Comiskey, Brady Chapman Holland and Associates, and Matt Leicht, Craig and Leicht.
Returning board members include Jesse Sanchez, Hub International, executive member; Immediate Past President Jim Drew, Bowen, Miclette and Britt Insurance Agency; Sara Beck, First Insurance Funding; Laurie Dempsey, Pathfinder/LLD Insurance Group; Tom Fitzpatrick, Chubb; Tony May, The May Group; William Peachey, Imperial PFS, and Wes Weatherred, Hotchkiss Insurance Agency. IIAH Executive Director David Wuthrich serves as board secretary.