April 16, 2018
EXECUTIVE PROFILE

Third-generation Keating brings Millennial perspective to insurance agency

HBJ Photo | John Stearns
HBJ Photo | John Stearns
Ryan Keating, who joined his father's insurance agency in West Hartford Center in 2016 and is expected to help run it someday, sees big growth potential for the business his grandfather started 49 years ago.

VIEW: Executive Profile: Ryan M. Keating

Ryan M. Keating

Vice president at Michael J. Keating Agency, also known as Keating Agency Insurance, West Hartford.

Highest education: Graduated Conard High School, West Hartford, 2005; completed one-year, postgraduate college-prep program at Kents Hill School, Kents Hill, Maine, 2006; followed by one year of studies at University of Tampa (Fla.).

Executive insights: "I've always told myself: One foot in front of the other … always going forward and moving up."

Ryan Keating isn't surprised he ended up at the West Hartford insurance agency that bears his family's name — he just took a longer route getting there.

"I think I've always known I'd end up working here, it's just I had to go get the experiences," said Keating, 30, vice president at Michael J. Keating Agency, also known as Keating Agency Insurance, where he works for his father and agency president/owner, Michael F. Keating, 59.

Michael's father, Michael J. Keating, started the agency 49 years ago and died in 2009. Michael F. Keating bought the business from his father in 1999 after working 18 years for him. He has grown the independent agency, focused on personal and commercial property and casualty insurance, and wealth management, to $4 million in annual written premiums. Ryan's goal: $10 million to $15 million by about 2022.

Perhaps a decade from now, Michael expects to pass the baton to Ryan and his sister, Maura, who has a master's in management and a current retail career, but plays an administrative role about once a week and has a property-casualty license. Michael calls her more administratively oriented and Ryan more sales oriented, good future complements to each other.

For now, Michael is teaching Ryan some of the "blocking and tackling" of the industry and nuances of business.

"There's an art to running a business, which he still has to learn," Michael said. "I was 40 when I took over, to put it in perspective."

But with Ryan's continued education, Michael is confident his son will perpetuate and grow the family business.

"I told him if he positions himself properly, people will then seek him out and come to him because he would be a trusted adviser," Michael said. "You're not selling on price, you're selling on trust and value."

Michael, though, also can learn something from Ryan, whom he calls the face of a modern agency — an agency already employing technology and automation important to its success — but which Ryan hopes to take even further.

Ryan, treasurer on the board of Connecticut's Young Insurance Professionals (CTYIP), an affiliate of the Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut Inc., is helping a CTYIP colleague, Nick Khamarji Jr., of Bridgeport, promote a new insurance app called Ronoco.

Khamarji, who sold an agency in Bridgeport last April to focus on developing Ronoco, sees technology playing a growing role in insurance.

Ronoco is a digital agency or broker, aimed at mid- to high-net worth clients with numerous insurance policies to manage. Ronoco stores them all in one place, providing one dashboard for policy renewal alerts, rate-reduction opportunities, ensuring proper coverages, advising ways to increase one's insurance score and reduce premiums, and more. It doesn't replace human agents, but gives customers more control and insight into insurance options and, for agents who use it, provides opportunities to cross-sell, up-sell and retain customers, Khamarji said.

Khamarji calls Ryan a close friend and colleague and says he's helped make contacts for Ronoco, including investors.

The Keating agency could be among the first to attach its name to Ronoco.

"If it provides access for new business and customer engagement, which it does, it seems like a no-brainer," Ryan said.

Entrepreneurial roots

Technology and the drive to grow business excite Ryan, who can relate to entrepreneurs and their needs.

His myriad business experiences after high school took him from Connecticut to Maine, Florida, Utah, Montana, California, Texas and back, sometimes partnering in businesses — an entrepreneurial streak born with a landscaping business in high school that earned him about $1,000 to $2,000 weekly — and sometimes working for others, from cooking at a ski lodge to working in employee benefits. He learned, sometimes the hard way, about life, business and, as he says, putting one foot in front of the other.

"I think the entrepreneurial side of me is being able to take those experiences, too, and use those to my advantage," said Ryan, who joined his father in summer 2016.

While he didn't finish college, Keating values education and wants to get an executive MBA some day. He brings rich learning experiences, a Millennial perspective, passion for Hartford and determined focus on the future, including technology enhancement coupled with good customer service and advice. That's key in an industry he says gets commoditized by TV ads focusing on price.

Michael said he hopes to steer Ryan into more commercial lines. The agency is about 75 percent personal, 25 percent commercial, but most are about 60-40, he said.

Ryan speaks businesses' language.

"I enjoy the consultative side of being more than just the insurance agent — the entrepreneurial side," he said of talking with owners about what they want to do with their company and offering thoughts through younger eyes.

Outside the office, Ryan enjoys cooking, fishing, golfing, playing in a men's hockey league (he'd love to see the Whalers return) and volunteering. He's on the Playhouse on Park advisory board, The Hartford Club board, was founding president of Future Leaders of West Hartford, and is part of the 2018 Leadership Greater Hartford Quest program.

At the theater, he's taking an improv class, where he's learning communication skills and other "self-development" tools that also can help him in business. It's something different, forcing him to "step out of my comfort zone a bit."

Check out a video clip of Ryan M. Keating's interview at hartfordbusiness.com.

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