Len Boselovic’s Heard off the Street: In firm’s shakeup, young blood embraced

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Most people would agree with Brian Long when he says that after doing something for 24 years, “You get a little dull. You need something different.”

But most would not respond the way the 49-year-old president of Seubert & Associates did.

Last month, Mr. Long resigned as president. Georgi Concannon, 59, the head of the Bellevue insurance brokerage firm’s biggest revenue generating unit, relinquished her position.

As part of a succession plan conceived more than a decade ago, they were replaced by two former summer interns, Brandon Mueller, 32, and Kristie Lulich, 30.

Mr. Long and Ms. Concannon, who between them have more than 55 years of experience managing a firm that bills more than $17 million annually, will remain with Seubert. They will work on special projects and provide more personal customer service to the brokerage’s largest clients. For Mr. Long, that will mean taking an occasional order from the new brass, and he’s all right with that.

“I still own a significant amount of stock, so I hope they’ll be gentle with me,” Mr. Long said.

Seubert’s new leaders are not much younger than Mr. Long and Ms. Concannon were when they hatched the succession plan. It was inspired by the way Mr. Long was thrust into the leadership role in 1990 after the sudden death of Thomas Seubert, the firm’s founder.

The importance of having a succession plan sunk in at a meeting of the firm’s top managers about 15 years ago, when Ms. Concannon looked around the table and realized that “next to Brian, I was one of the younger ones.”

“It had become a concern to Brian and me that there were no young people coming into the insurance industry,” she said.

Mr. Long hit upon the idea of evaluating the potential of the handful of interns the firm hired each summer, then placing promising candidates with insurance carriers for up to two years after they graduated. In exchange for the carrier teaching the candidates the insurance business, Seubert picked up half of their salary and benefits.

Mr. Long estimated that cost at about $50,000 per candidate for 18 months. He said the price tag is more than affordable given the quality of the on-the-job training, something Seubert cannot not provide. Seubert’s 92 employees include seven former interns, including three who are partners, he said.

Mr. Mueller interned at Seubert in 2004. A standout football player at Mars High School and Princeton University, his plans included playing in the National Football League, not hooking up businesses that need insurance with companies that provide it. “That’s not something you say you want to grow up and do,” Mr. Mueller said.

When an injury ended his NFL dreams, he faced a choice between working for a hedge fund in Hawaii or for Seubert. He chose Seubert because the company’s policy of awarding employees $10,000 stock after 10 years of service was something other potential employers did not offer.

“I also believed in Brian’s passion and vision for Seubert’s future,” he said.

Mr. Mueller was sent to the Lancaster, Pa., office of Eastern Alliance Insurance Group, which provides workers’ compensation insurance. He returned to Seubert as a salesman in 2006. Two years later, he had sold so much insurance that he was given stock, making him the youngest owner at the firm.

Ms. Lulich interned the summer after Mr. Mueller, between her junior and senior year at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. After graduating, she had job opportunities in financial planning, the focus of her studies, but chose Seubert because of its culture and the opportunities it provided.

She went to work in Richmond, Va., for Berkley Mid-Atlantic Group, a commercial property and casualty insurer. Ms. Lulich returned to Seubert in 2007, performing data entry and other duties. She later was given responsibilities for customer service. Over the last year, she worked with Ms. Concannon to improve training and boost efficiency.

The degree to which technology is transforming the insurance industry was one of the reasons for making the transition now. Mr. Long started as a door-to-door salesman, serving businesses that were looking for theft and fire coverage. Today, business is conducted by cell phone or the Internet, and companies want insurance for things like cybercrime and identify theft.

“Computers still scare me,” Mr. Long said with a self-deprecating smile. “When you’re feeling like a dinosaur, you probably are one.”

That’s not to say there’s no place at Seubert for older workers. Mr. Long said the firm still has one employee in their 80s and several in their 70s. Mr. Mueller, his successor, said the trick is making sure everyone, regardless of age, is willing to adapt.

“No company is going to stay physically young. Our goal is to stay mentally young,” he said.

Len Boselovic: 412-263-1941 or lboselovic@post-gazette.com

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