Managing Partner Kerry Loudenslager on Climbing the Ranks and Making a Difference Within His Community
In 2005, after more than 27 years of uniformed military service, Kerry Loudenslager, M.A., CLTC, Colonel, U. S. Army retired
and Managing Partner of New York Life's Oklahoma City General Office, felt the need to settle down and transition into his second career. After serving his country for so many years, however, he knew he didn’t want just any career. Instead, Loudenslager wanted to embark on something that would really matter to people within his community.
We spoke to him about the army, his transition into civilian life, and his tremendous success at New York Life.
Why did you join the army and what did you do there?
I enlisted in the South Dakota Army National Guard in September of 1977. My father was in the military, and he had a big influence on me, really inspired me to join. I went to college and became a commissioned officer. After completing my degree in 1984, I entered active duty and was assigned in Germany for four years served in various staff and command assignments and worked my way through the ranks. Field Artillery was my branch specialty, so we spent quite a bit of time at Fort Sill, OK. Prior to retirement, my last duty assignment was J3, Director of Operations for a Joint Task Force in Virginia.
Why did you decide to leave the service?
I could have continued my career, but felt it was time to start my second career while I was still fairly young and marketable. Additionally, it appeared we were destined for more frequent moves and with our children being in school; it was time to make that transition.
After relocating 11 times throughout our career, my wife, Doreen and I wanted to go back home to South Dakota and slow things down a bit. I really liked the idea of managing my own schedule with potential for upward mobility in my second career. I retired from the U. S. Army on April 30th, 2005.
Why did you choose to go into the insurance industry?
I loved serving my country in uniform and having a part in defending our national security. So when I retired, I wanted to do something that was relevant in the community. Shortly before retirement, Doreen ran into a good college buddy of mine back in South Dakota. After college, he started with New York Life while I went into the army. She told him I was looking at career options and he suggested that I look into this industry. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from the managing partner of the Great Plains General Office and we initiated the interview process; the rest is history.
Did you choose to go with New York Life right away?
No. Early on, I was entertaining offers from government contractors to leverage my experience and relationships. However, there isn’t much security in government contracts as they can disappear in no time. After deciding on this industry, I researched several companies. I took my time and looked at various options. However, with everything I was looking for: longevity, company strength, capital surplus, Fortune 100 status, training programs, mutuality, product selection, etc., New York Life kept emerging at the top of my list.
Mutuality was big for me. I wanted the best for my clients, while mitigating the risk of failure or having the company be bought out. There were other solid mutual companies, but, for me, New York Life stood head and shoulders above the rest.
How were the early years when you were just starting out?
I started out as an agent in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The new environment was very exciting, but it was new territory for me. I actually felt like I was a brand new private again, and just as determined to succeed. I learned a lot about myself during the process – definitely a “self-test.”
I left a very large, well-furnished office as a colonel for a small cubicle. Some folks might have let their egos get in the way. But you know what? That wasn’t an issue for me. I went into this with the attitude that I have to earn my stripes again. I love a challenge. Working alongside younger agents in the bullpen was fun since they sought me out for advice, as well as provided advice. We rallied together and it was a lot of fun.
Was the transition difficult?
New York Life gave me everything I needed to get started. I just kept thinking, “OK, here’s an operation that’s been around for more than160 years — a Fortune 100 company.”
This was my common sense approach: If I just do what they teach me, things should work out. And that’s all I did as an agent: I worked at it. I simply focused on doing what they taught me, with the confidence that this company knows what it’s doing.
For me, I wanted to be part of the best, the biggest, the strongest. I had confidence in the training. This company never shoots from the hip. I knew it was a proven model and if I just followed it, I would succeed.
What was the first thing you learned on the job?
In the beginning I was a bit naïve. I thought most people had a pretty good handle on their finances. It certainly didn’t take long as an agent to figure out how much people really do need our help to secure their financial futures. That made me realize how relevant I could be in this industry, both as an agent and future leader. I understand there are a lot of hard-working people out there with families that simply do not have the time nor desire to learn about how to best manage their finances. That really inspired me to get involved in helping families, business owners, and retirees so they can live a better life, while planning for both the expected and the unexpected. I receive a great deal of satisfaction in helping others and being a part of their success.
How was the climb from agent to management at New York Life
I wanted early success as an agent and achieved Executive Council in the first year and President’s Council in the second. I wanted credibility for my clients, thus set a goal and obtained Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT)* status in my first two years.
That’s about the time my Managing Partner started talking to me about management. I was happy as an agent, but after about a year, I was ready. I felt the “need to lead” again. I became Partner in the Great Plains Office in May, 2008. I continued to succeed as a Partner until I was offered the Managing Partner Position in the Oklahoma City General Office this past July. We didn’t hesitate. Military people know how to move. It’s been a very smooth transition to Oklahoma City and we are looking forward to planting some roots here.
Is your military experience at all useful to you in your current role
The position I’m in now actually reminds me a lot of being a military commander again. All the weight is on my shoulders, which I like. I’m responsible for everything that happens here relating to strategic planning, mission accomplishment, administration, training, personnel, operations, logistics, etc. We’re all in it together and I really enjoy having a part in the success of my team (agents, partners, staff and management). I love my role in training and process implementation. The training is actually very similar to military training — very structured and curriculum-based. At New York Life, the structure is tried and true in everything we do.
Additionally, trust is a huge factor with our clients and potential agents. I go out of my way to inform both about my military background because, in general, I have learned that the public holds a genuine level of trust for veterans. I believe they feel they can put their trust in me.
What would you say to people in the military considering a new career in this industry?
At first, I wasn’t convinced that I wanted this career. I asked myself, “Wow, do I really want to do this?” In my mind, there was something about the image of a life insurance agent. I didn’t know if I wanted to be “one of them." Frankly speaking, I envisioned someone with a briefcase knocking on doors, big belly, stained tie and a “comb-over.” That image didn’t sit well with me. However, it didn’t take long for me to figure out how wrongfully skewed that vision was. In fact, it is nothing like I initially envisioned. We are so much more than that.
Bottom line is that our work is vital to those we serve — we protect the lifestyles in millions of households; we make it possible for business owners to establish a succession plan; we help children go to college; we assist hard-working people in planning for and enjoying retirement — it’s so much more than insurance. We can explore wide spectrum of financial strategies. When the financial crisis occurred in 2008, New York Life followed with record years in 2009 and 2010. Six years after my military retirement, I have to tell you I feel absolutely, 100 percent blessed that I chose this company, especially in these economic times.
I really feel that I am in my zone here at New York Life while leveraging my experience and talents from the military. I’m surrounded by great people and a phenomenal platform — just wearing a different uniform.
Finally, for anyone feeling self-doubt or hesitating about entering the financial services/life insurance industry, I certainly understand that. Believe me, it is still very fresh in my mind when I made that decision. I chose to have faith and trust in a company that knows how to help me succeed. These types of decisions require courage and there is always risk involved.
It’s been an honor learning your story. You’re a big inspiration to anyone looking to make a career change into this industry.
I enjoyed sharing my story. On a side note, I have three sons who have all served overseas. I’m so proud of them for their service as well as anyone else in uniform, both present and past. Again, I feel absolutely blessed and honored to be part of New York Life and time has flashed by from starting in the bull pen in September 2005 to Managing Partner in July of 2011 — in less than 6 years. If I can experience that, than anyone can. It certainly illustrates the career potential! You can probably sense that I am passionate about my career.
If anyone in the military wants to use me as a resource to inquire about the career transition, as well as the career paths available, please have them call me
*MDRT is recognized throughout the industry as the standard of excellence in life insurance sales performance.
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|From U.S. Army Colonel to “Private” in a Brand New Industry|