About eight years ago, Mallie Grider graduated from Marion High and embarked on her college career at Ball State University. While at BSU she studied secondary education and history, intending to become a history teacher. Then, in her first summer back home, she was returning to her high school job preparing tacos and quesadillas at Moe’s Southwest Grill. A perfectly normal job for a freshman college student, perhaps even as noble as her interest in teaching. A chance family connection, however, changed her trajectory.
“My cousin owns Insurance Management Group,” says Grider. IMG is based in Marion, Indiana. “I saw him at Christmas and he asked if I wanted to work at Moe’s again that summer.” As she was no doubt learning from her professors: the rest is history.
While continuing her studies during the academic year at BSU, Grider stepped into annual summer internships at IMG filing paperwork and helping with accounting duties. “At first I thought, ‘I do not want to do this.’ It’s your first nine-to-five job, you know?” she recalls. But she stuck with it, and over a few summers her work expanded into additional responsibilities around the office. She got to know everyone personally. The team gelled.
Four years ago, fresh out of college, Grider began working full-time at IMG. “I never dreamt of having this career, per se, but I love it,” she says with a smile and unmistakably upbeat tone. “I started on the service team, and count it as a blessing to know what their life is like, and understand what I am asking of them, as we work hand-in-hand together every day,” she recalls. Today, Grider specializes in life and health, particularly the Medicare market and life insurance. An occasional property and casualty policy is bound once in a while for family or close friends. “I just love life and health,” she says again.
The route from a high school history teacher to an insurance agent sounds like opposites, but Grider sees a lot of overlap. “I latched on to the Medicare products and life insurance precisely because I wanted to become a teacher,” she says.
“Agents are really educators at their core. Helping people understand the products and to make educated decisions at a time in their lives when they’re going through a lot of overwhelming change, is really important,” she says. “Having to make the transition to retirement is a lot to handle. I get to help them relieve some of that enormous stress and it scratches that teaching itch that I have. The skills overlap perfectly,” she says.
In the last four years of her full-time work at IMG, Grider chuckles at the notion of “dreaming” to be an agent. “As a child I didn’t wish to be an insurance agent someday, but I’m so glad that happened for me. I feel like I am in the swing of things now, but I know I have a long career ahead of me, and I am excited for the opportunities to come.”
Two years ago Grider joined Health Underwriters and immediately became one of the youngest people in the room. She didn’t seem to notice that, though. Nor did she ever assume her clients three or four times her age much noticed or cared. “I’m sure there could be some ageism somewhere. It’s hard for me to say that ‘I get it’ or ‘I understand’ to someone who is retiring because I am just beginning my career, but I really don’t have a problem relating to them,” she says. She credits her large family, including its sixteen aunts and uncles on both sides as a catalyst for fitting into a crowd and respecting elders. “My mom and aunt took me to visit my family and other elders constantly while I was growing up. The stars aligned in that way and now I think it’s one of my strengths.”
Through Health Underwriters, Grider has been able to hook into a talent pool of other agents who have been working longer than she’s been alive. Being an hour away from Fort Wayne, Mallie doesn’t attend every event, but she enjoys the golf outings and educational seminars when she does. “I’d be a professional student if you let me,” she laughs. “At one educational event, I met Bill Hartman and his daughter Brietta [Williams],” she recalls. “I spoke with them separately and each has helped me with bigger themes like long-term implications of carrier rate increases, and diabetic recommendations for Medicare clients and how to navigate that world.”
Mallie was invited to join Health Underwriters by a coworker at her Marion agency. “Michelle [Bunker] from my office invited me to join the association. Michelle has mentored me and guided me throughout my entire insurance career. Her input is invaluable to me, so I knew it was important for me to pursue” she says. “We’re in a small town, sure, but at IMG we bring big-town solutions to our community, and Health Underwriters helps us do that.”
She notes, too, “For business, it has been important to a couple of my clients that I do belong to NAHU and have access to up-to-date industry information.” She cites breaking news emails and NAHU’s Healthcare Happy Hour podcast as two useful tools. “Keeping up on all this information is impressive to a client who brings it up for discussion.”
For a job she initially took to “try out” before looking for a teaching position, Grider says she’s hooked. “I have not felt the pull to want to leave the industry at all,” she says. “This career fits well for people with an education background. I get to use my skills to relate to, take care of and educate people at a user-friendly level. It makes insurance understandable for people, and I love that!”