Sometimes a young college graduate’s need for a job leads into a field that’s exactly the right fit. That was the case with Chris Boone when he graduated from Mississippi State University in 1986 with a degree in business administration.
He and his wife, Beth, married right after graduation. She had a job and he didn’t. When an opportunity came about in the insurance industry, he quickly accepted.
“My dad said ‘just work hard and stick with it’ and that’s what I did,” Boone recalls. “I really have enjoyed it. I have cherished my job and it has suited me well.”
Currently, he’s chief marketing officer for BancorpSouth Insurance Services with responsibility for all marketing, placement and insurance carrier relationships of the company’s holdings in Mississippi and seven other states. That follows a career as an underwriter and a commercial insurance producer. Even now he maintains his own book of business rather than pass it off to someone else.
“That keeps my head in it,” he says. “My main duties are in industry relations with responsibility to build and maintain relationships with the companies with whom we do business.”
A Jackson native, Boone is the son of Howard and Bethany Boone and a graduate of Murrah High School. He says he’s always had good advice and guidance from his parents. When he thinks back on major influences in his life, he puts his dad at the top of the list. Others include two scoutmasters who had a great impact on his judgment and willingness to serve. Then there was his first boss, Art Inkster of Jackson. The job was unloading forestry supplies from 18-wheelers, a task that was done even with a cast on his leg one summer.
“There was also a man I knew from church who was very strong spiritually with a good, straight head on his shoulders — much like my dad,” he said. “I’ve had the privilege of working for people with strong convictions about business ethics. They believed in ethics first and profits second. Those ideals molded what I think is important in life, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I hope it shows to young people and people I work with.”
Boone, 45, defines his role as that of serving the needs of agents, brokers and clients. That’s what he finds most satisfying. “My worth is measured by how much I help these people. I have to be available,” he said.
He believes the age of technology is bringing challenges for the industry to maintain first-hand customer relations. “We can transact business without personal contact, but it’s the personal contact that makes it enjoyable to me,” he says. “How do we maintain that? We’re pushed to do more volume and do it more efficiently. We must police ourselves and operate the industry in a way that makes it unnecessary for government to get involved.”
Noting that clients’ losses are personal and emotional in addition to financial, he says it’s important for the industry to help people make good decisions on the front end, then be ready to help when losses occur.
The incoming president of the Mississippi Association of Independent Agents, Boone also serves on the board of directors of the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association, the Mississippi Surplus Lines Association, Mississippi Insurance Managers and the MSU Peter K. Lutken Chair of Insurance.
“I have to make time to serve in this way and commit to it,” he says. “I’m a big time management freak. I don’t believe in meeting just for the sake of meeting.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.