Navigating the insurance world can be a challenge.
The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. At SELCO Insurance Services, we enjoy sharing our knowledge and experience to make your path forward easier. In this issue, we talked to Personal Lines Specialist Bryan Thomson about his “broad balancing act” of a professional career, adjustments he’s had to make as an insurance agent during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how he prefers digital photography over film-and-darkrooms.
- When did you join SELCO Insurance Services, and what does your role entail?
Bryan: I joined SELCO Insurance Services in June 2021. I would describe my role as being a “risk advisor” to our customers. Much like a financial advisor looks at investments, I look at what options customers have to not only reduce the risk of something catastrophic happening to their home or auto, but also finding the best price for insurance to protect them when they need help with either a small accident or large fire that destroyed their home.
- The COVID-19 pandemic remains top of mind for a lot of people. Seemingly everyone has had to adjust in one way or another. As an insurance agent, have you had to change your approach when it comes to helping your clients feel protected and empowered?
Bryan:I think COVID-19 has made everyone more nervous, and therefore they want to feel like they're getting honest answers. I would say the most common phone conversation I have now is whether someone’s home is insured properly given how much home prices have gone up in Oregon since 2019, especially in Bend. This is a very worthy question to spend time either making my clients feel better about their current coverage or quickly recommending that they increase their coverage to better match the cost of construction for their area. The pandemic has caused me to be a better listener during conversations. Listening may have been #2 in terms of skills before COVID, but now it’s #1 by a wide margin.
Your career has had a few twists and turns, from owning a wedding photography business to teaching people with disabilities how to ski and snowboard to becoming an insurance agent. How did you ultimately land on insurance for a profession?
Bryan: I’ve wondered about that same question so many times. When I think about my path to now, I’ve come to realize that I love helping people. I started doing wedding photography as a side job while going to college in Santa Barbara, California. But I quickly developed a kind of protective style in which, throughout a wedding day, I would intentionally give the brides and grooms space to walk and enjoy the moment while I took photos from a distance and without other distractions. One of my photographer mentors used to say, “there is no such thing as a perfect image, only perfect moments.” I was also big on letting my students with disabilities just enjoy skiing or snowboarding and not filling the entire lesson time with things to do. Maybe one-third to two-thirds of the lesson would involve actual instruction and then I'd let them just ski in a safe setting or play games with them to really let the lesson, or just being outside, sink in. I do feel most fulfilled when a client says, “thank you for spending the time to help me.”
You remain an avid photographer. Are you old-school film cameras with a darkroom? Or have you gone fully digital?
Bryan: I’ve been digital all the way. I still have some FujiChrome 35mm slide film that goes from one refrigerator to another as I’ve moved over the years and gets used occasionally in an old mechanical camera. But I’ve been digital since I really got into photography in 2004 and still have my two FujiS5 camera bodies and Nikon lenses from my wedding photo days. Now I just use them to take pictures of my family and during hikes. I try to tell myself to take a camera more often when I go mountain biking or skiing, but my iPhone works just fine for that.
- Finally, tell us something that people may not know about you.
Bryan:I love stand-up paddleboarding in river rapids. After going back to college at Humboldt State around 2008, I started whitewater kayaking and very quickly was paddling very advanced Class V rapids and waterfalls. But after I dislocated my shoulder—and put it back myself—after a waterfall drop, I thought I was paddling in too dangerous of rapids. Then I saw a few YouTube videos of other people using inflatable paddleboards on much less risky Class III or lower rapids. It looked like so much fun. I tried it on a few river runs that I had become bored with in a kayak and have been stand-up paddleboarding in mellow to Class III rapids since.