After serving more than 10 years in the Navy, 28 in the insurance industry and now as board chairman of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance — Matt Coleman is not one to sit back and watch the world go by.
“It’s almost impossible for me to not be involved in something I care about, and Colorado Springs is what I care about,” said Coleman, who is married to jewelry store owner Luisa Graff and serves as Colorado president for HUB International Insurance Services, a privately held company with a $1.5 billion fee commission income. After decades of civic involvement, Coleman said he is optimistic about the future of the community and believes the time is right to “get in the game and make a difference.”
Tell us your background.
I’m a Colorado guy. I was raised in Colorado Springs and left in 1975 to embark on a career in the Navy. My specialty was nuclear engineering, running nuclear power plants. I attended graduate school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. I returned to Colorado Springs and was privileged to succeed my father, taking over the family insurance agency. My father was older and not in good health, so I was his caretaker until he passed away. More quickly than I’d ever envisioned, I was thrust into the insurance industry. I was recruited by HUB International Insurance Services and in 2009, the company asked me to oversee what they do in Colorado and I’ve been doing that ever since.
What do you appreciate about Colorado Springs?
I grew up here and raised my kids here. People and institutions in Colorado Springs have done a lot for me personally and I’m at a stage in my life where I have the privilege of being able to give back and feel very strongly about that. It’s also a good place to do business. I tell people: If you want to get involved, you can get wired into the fabric of this community more quickly and effectively than you can anywhere else.
What opportunities do you see for the city?
At the RBA, we have three areas we’re structured around and allocate resources to. In the defense sector, protecting the assets we have here, as well as attracting new missions. Second is community development, including issues like workforce, business climate and governmental affairs. Third is economic development, where we help employers grow organically, as well as attract new employers and expand existing companies here.
The poster child example today that cuts across all of those is the National Cyber Intelligence Center. We have a confluence of roughly 85 cyber companies in Colorado Springs. We all know that cyber is a big issue today — on both the military side and commercial business side. If we get this right, it’s not going anywhere. It will help secure the military presence in Colorado Springs long-term as well as move the ball based on our ability to develop workforce.
What are the biggest challenges in the insurance industry?
I’m an insurance broker and I’ve always played in that space. We broker relationships between our customers and insurance carriers. In a very real way, our business spins off the rest of the economy. The economy and regulations are the biggest obstacles. Speaking from a personal and business perspective, government regulation is not always helpful to what we do in our industry and more broadly. We are less about selling a product and more about being informed consultants to the businesses we’re privileged to serve.
Business owners are scared to death about violating the Affordable Care Act, compliance issues, fines and the cost of insurance, which is really the cost of health care. That’s ultimately the root cause. Currently in Colorado, the train on the tracks is Amendment 69. Whatever merits the idea for single payer health care has — in the long run it’s a bad and ill-considered idea. Like every other industry in business, we compete for talent. Our business is if we get our fair share of good talent, we’re going to do just fine.
How do you overcome those challenges?
With our business being a function of the economy, during the last 30 years, I have been heavily involved in economic development issues. Its front-and-center on my mind as I [serve as chairman] of the Regional Business Alliance. As far as regulatory issues, legislators are people just like us. You can get involved in advocating for the people you believe will carry your values and ideas forth.
How do we bring in younger talent?
You’ve got to be proactive. We can’t solve all of the problems, but I would say we’re pretty good about trying to understand them. Invest time and money toward having solutions. n CSBJ