Meet Danny Cook, IIANC’s Chairman of the Board

Danny Cook, MSRMI, LUTCF, CIC, CRM, of Cook Insurance Services in Lumberton, NC, takes over as IIANC Chairman for 2021-2022. His passion for the industry and IIANC, coupled with his visions for the future, are the perfect combination to lead the association in the coming year. 

Thanks for chatting with us, Danny! Please start off by telling us about yourself and your family.  

Danny Cook: I was born in Miami, moved to rural Red Springs when I was 12, and lived in Lumberton since 1989. I obtained my B.S. in Business Administration from Pembroke State University (now known as UNC Pembroke) in 1993, and my Masters in Risk Management and Insurance from Florida State University in 2014. Additionally, I have held the CIC designation since 2002, and the CRM designation since 2007.  

My wife, Kim, and I have been married since 1990, and we have two daughters, Ashley (29) and Lauren (21). We also have one grandchild, Emmy, who is 6. 

When you’re not busy with the insurance world, what kind of fun things do you like to do in your free time?

Danny: I enjoy spending my free time on or near the water, as much as possible. I would rather be on a boat than dry land most days, and enjoy most water activities (although admittedly, I simply cannot waterski!) Additionally, I enjoy traveling with my family and friends.  

I have been involved with some type of community service since I was 17. My mother was an excellent example of servant leadership and involvement, and thus my inherit passion for serving my community. I served on Lumberton Rescue & EMS (LREMS) for more than 20 years, receiving honorary status earlier this year. While on LREMS, I served as a Board member and Finance Chairman, which I still continue to do today. I have also served on the Board of Trustees for our local healthcare system, Southeastern Health, now known as UNC Health Southeastern, for about six years. Within that service, I have served as Chairman of the Quality Committee, and currently serve as Chair of Medical Staff Development. I have been a member of the Kiwanis of Robeson-Lumberton for 20 years, where I previously served as President. I am a member of the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce, also previously serving as Chairman. 

I am also very involved with my church, First Baptist Church of Lumberton, where I’ve been a member since 1993. I currently serve as a Deacon and on the Endowment Committee. Previously I have served as interim youth director, Sunday School teacher, member of the Finance Committee, and Chairman of our Early Childhood Ministry. 

What got you started in the insurance industry?  

Danny: I have worked in the insurance industry since August 1993. My neighbor, Jerry Jeffords, watched me as I finished up my undergraduate work at Pembroke, and after a couple months of attempting to find a job, he convinced me to “try” insurance. Jerry was a sales manager with Jefferson-Pilot Life Insurance Company, and so my first few years in the business was spent in the life insurance market. (As was the case with so many I have spoken with over the years, insurance was not my first choice, per se.) In September 1999, after having worked a couple years with an independent agency, I opened my own agency after the agency I had been working with was acquired by a bank-owned agency. 

Who/what has been your greatest resource in this industry?  

Danny: I truly believe IIANC (and the connections I’ve made) has been my greatest resource. When I opened my agency, I was still fairly inexperienced in the P&C world, and I leaned heavily on several fellow young agents, as well as a few agency principals that I had formed a relationship with through my involvement with IIANC. I truly “survived” the early years of agency ownership due to friends (and at the time, fellow Young Agents.) The support I received from people like Bobby Salmon, John Snipes, and Dal Snipes while I onboarded my own carriers was invaluable. I often talk about the networking and relationships the association helps us to form, and for me it has truly contributed to my current status. 

I enjoy this industry because we help people develop solutions to protect their assets, and livelihoods. I often say we provide the hope in times when most people feel the most helpless and hopeless. We help people rebuild, recover, and move forward. Our profession provides the guarantee that allows money to be borrowed, dreams to come true, and capitalism to thrive. The economic engine could not turn without us. 

How do you think independent insurance agents set themselves apart from other insurance agents?  

Danny: As an independent agent we can offer a variety of solutions for our clients. We provide clients with choices, as we enjoy some freedom and flexibility that a captive agent may not offer. As a result of our ability to “shop” for solutions for our clients, I think we inherently enhance the value proposition and thus solidify our relationships. 

As Chairman, what do you hope to see IIANC accomplish in this upcoming year?  

Danny: Education is a passion of mine, and I think we should share our knowledge with others to help improve the industry. InsurAcademy is still early in its development, but I truly hope we continue to see that flourish, and be a tool so many of our member agencies have been asking for over the past several years (as evidence in our membership surveys.) I hope our efforts to raise awareness increases the visibility of the program, which in turn increases our enrollment, and then those enrollees graduate and are placed into our member agency offices. 

Recruiting new talent has long been a concern, and a dire need for the sustainability of our industry, and I look forward to watching the success of InsurAcademy grow in the next several months, and years. My goal is for us to be a market leader in recruiting, training, and helping to employ “new blood” in this great industry. 

What do you see as your greatest challenge during your tenure as Chairman?  

Danny: The greatest challenge is getting our message out to non-member agencies. There are so many reasons for an independent agency to join IIANC, but yet there are so many that have yet to join. While we have devoted many resources to try to make our message easy to hear and easy to see, the fact that we onboard only a fraction of potential agencies is disappointing. Obviously one could say I am biased, but the reality was (at one point) I didn’t know and understand the true benefit of being a member. I would say the cost of membership should more easily be replaced with the question of what is it costing us by not joining? So, to that point, if you know of any non-member agencies, please invite them to look into and/or visit with us. 

How did you first get involved with IIANC?  

Danny: I was introduced to the association once I began working for David Walker (Past Chairman) in late 1997/early 1998. He encouraged me to become active in Young Agents, which I did, and as previously discussed, it was probably the best decision I made relative to the industry and my success. As a Young Agent I was introduced to many fellow agents and several principals which, to this day, I call my friends. Those experiences set the foundation for my career as an independent agent. 

What are some tips that would you give to someone wanting to become more active with the association?  

Danny: Make your interest known to the staff; we are always wanting engagement and involvement from new folks. Choose a committee that is personally meaningful; connecting passion and servant energy usually produces great discussion and ideas. Be mindful of others, and remember that while everyone may not agree (which leads to healthy discussions more often than not) the common theme is doing what’s best for the membership at large. 

Being involved in the association keeps you informed and engaged. Often that means you are being watched for leadership traits that could provide for other opportunities in the future. Most importantly, in my opinion, by being involved you have a voice and can help to influence decisions that can help improve our association, which in turn enhances the IA system in NC. 

Plus… We Ask Danny: 

If you could eat anything for your “last meal,” what would it be?  

Ribeye steak, grilled shrimp, large and loaded baked potato (haven’t had many of those for a while due to Keto diet), house salad with ranch dressing, garlic bread, and a 10 layer chocolate cake (haven’t had one of those in a while either), and Diet Coke. 

What’s something that people would be surprised to learn about you?  

I can shed the business attire and get loose on the dance floor! I enjoy dancing (although my daughters don’t necessarily call it dancing…) 

Who would you invite to a fantasy dinner?  

Don Shula (I realize he died last year but it’s my fantasy dinner right?) Having grown up a Miami Dolphins fan, and understanding what his record as the NFL all time winningest coach means, would appreciate his insight on being a winner. 

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