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Why Good Soldiers Make Good Agents and Managers

Tony Pao

Why Good Soldiers Make Good Agents and Managers
by Tony Pao, New York Life Partner

"If you were a good soldier or airman, you'll make a good life insurance agent," says Tony Pao, a partner in New York Life Insurance Company's Northern Virginia Office. Here, Pao explains why he seeks out former military to become New York Life agents and managers.

Now, I Get To Go Serve Drinks

I entered the United States Air Force in 1997, and left in 2001. During that time I was stationed in Osan Air Base in South Korea, among other places. After defending my country for four years, the only job I could find was bartending and waiting tables. I remember thinking, “Great.  I just put down my rifle and uniform, and now I get to go serve drinks.” You could say I was a bit frustrated.

How I Landed at New York Life

I went from job to job for several years — I managed a restaurant for a while, then landed a gig at America Online (AOL) in Reston, Virginia. In 2003, I got married, and my wife suggested we buy some life insurance. I was familiar with New York Life, so I went to their website. An agent contacted me and said, “Look, you seem like a smart guy, why don’t you come in for an interview?”

I didn’t think there was anything in my past that would make me a successful life insurance agent and financial professional, but apparently I was wrong. When Scott Della Penna, the managing partner of the Northern Virginia Office, interviewed me, he talked about the management opportunity at New York Life.  

I was a supervisor in the military, and had managed a restaurant, so it made sense to both of us that I strongly consider management. I was impressed that there was a clearly defined management path. If you achieve certain milestones as an agent, you can become a manager at New York Life. It’s not just some random thing that someone decides. You have goals, and if you achieve them, you get the opportunity — it’s that black and white.

In January 2005, I left AOL and took my life and health insurance license exam. In March 2005, I become a full-time New York Life agent. In August 2008, I was officially named a partner. I made the decision to become a partner from day one, and I encourage former military leaders to follow the same path.

Why Good Soldiers Make Good Agents

Discipline. It’s the discipline. I’m not saying all  former military will make good agents, but the ones who did well in the military — who progressed through the ranks, who made a career out of it and left because they did their time or were discharged for medical reasons — those are the types with the mentality to succeed in this kind of business.

In the military, we’re given a set of marching orders. We know what our objectives are, and we know we have to accomplish them no matter what. It’s very similar at New York Life. We know what we’ve got to do, we go after it, and we get it done — no ifs, ands or buts. It’s kind of a lead, follow or get out of my way kind of thing.

That’s why I believe certain military personnel do well, especially senior non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and company-grade officers. They’re used to managing a group of people, running their own shop and doing a lot themselves. A major who has commanded 200 or 300 people can command a group of 30 agents and run a General Office.

That’s why today, as a partner for New York Life, I seek out and recruit former military personnel, because I know, if you were a good soldier or airman, chances are you will make a good life insurance agent and financial professional, and hopefully a manager.

A Final Word to Former Military

This is how I see it: If you were active duty military and you were a good soldier, you got great reviews, you were dedicated, you’ve got discipline and you’re driven — then being a New York Life agent is very similar.  You’re given your marching orders, you need to get them done and report back. There’s really no difference between the military and New York Life, except in the military, you’re protecting our country. At New York Life, you’re providing security and protecting the financial safety of the community you serve.

An Outstanding Opportunity

Are you looking for a second career that can build upon the training and experience you received during your time on active duty? Consider serving your community as a life insurance agent.  You don’t need previous sales experience or a college degree — just the commitment and courage to succeed.

To find out more about life insurance career opportunities in your area, visit New York Life online at or call your local New York Life office.

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Why Good Soldiers Make Good Agents and Managers

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