Standing in the Gap – With Che Norman – Insurance News

Early in Chinnier “Che” Norman’s insurance career, she worked with a client who was experiencing one of the greatest fears of any would-be retiree.

Norman said the woman, who is retired, eats cat food because she doesn’t have enough money for nutritious groceries. She also paid $200 a month for her Medicare supplement and prescription drug plan. Norman reviewed the client’s financial situation and moved her to a zero-premium Medicare Advantage plan.

“Now she had an extra $200 a month to buy healthy food,” Norman said. “That’s when I started to realize how much helping someone with their insurance would affect other areas of their life.”

Norman is the Georgia regional manager with Advocate Health in Atlanta, and she has worked in the Medicare space for 17 years.

Her work with Medicare clients began when she was a recent college graduate working in an assisted living community while planning to attend law school. A member of her church told her that his brother was starting an insurance agency focused on the seniors market.

“He said he knew I worked with seniors and he said, ‘I know you’re going to love this,'” she said. “I met his brother and never looked back.”

Norman said her work at the senior market fulfilled her desire to be an entrepreneur while helping others.

“Soon after I started working in this field, I saw that I could help people with so many things in their lives, starting with their health insurance,” she said. “The insurance business really called me. I was in and I realized that I could turn in different ways in this industry if I needed to.”

That Norman and Thomas Priester started the Society of Black Agents in December 2021 and it has grown to 1000 members.

Eventually, the owner of the agency she worked for expanded its offerings to include life insurance, and Norman expanded her knowledge base as the business expanded. She soon acquired her securities license.

“We have continued to elevate our offerings to customers,” she said. “I moved from Medicare and small policies like Final Expense Life to working with clients on all components of their financial lives. I wanted to make sure they were efficient on the health insurance side and that led to more financial planning business. I wanted to help people invest their money better.

As Norman helped more clients find the best Medicare coverage for their needs, she branched out to help them with issues like maximizing Social Security and making sure they have the right life insurance or portion placement them in annuities when appropriate.

She also began attracting younger clients and helped them with their life insurance needs and financial planning.

The 24 hour rule

Eventually, Norman has the opportunity to move into the corporate insurance space where he will manage other agents. But before making that decision, she applied what she calls the “24-hour rule.”

“I am the youngest of three children in my family and the youngest of my grandmother’s 39 grandchildren on my mother’s side,” she explained. “I was born with a lot of opportunities, a lot of support, a lot of help. But even though I see myself as having a lot of options, I’m also an analytical person. In my younger years, I made decisions quickly and saw that it would trap me. So I realized it was good to step back and give myself time. I don’t have to stretch all the time.

“Because if life is abundant and you have many opportunities, you can really sit back and receive. So for 24 hours I have to think about it. It helps me settle into the decisions I make instead of making snap decisions and thinking about them later.”

During those 24 hours, Norman decided that a career change was right for her.

But after about five years, she moved to Advocate Health, a field marketing organization, where she helped recruit and train agents. She has been with the Advocate since 2022.

Switch to trainer

Meanwhile, Norman took another step in his career and became a life coach in addition to his work in the insurance business.

In 2019, she launched Tha Bridge, a financial accountability training company that aims to help people bridge the gap between where they are now and the life they want. She said life coaching was a natural outgrowth of her work training and mentoring agents.

“When you educate and train agents, you lead from the front,” she said. “With coaching, I can lead more from the sidelines or from the back and watch someone figure things out on their own. You give someone space to grow, to feel comfortable, to feel cared for, and to feel safe. You talk to them about their money, how to plan for the future, what options they have. And they are more open-minded and better equipped to make decisions they can stick with.

“I lay it out to people and give them the opportunity to choose the best route.” And I coach them through it all.”

Norman said she chose Tha Bridge as the name for her coaching business “because I stand in the gap.”

“If you can become who you are and understand your options, then you can get what you think you want, lifestyle-wise and money-wise,” she said. “Once we do this life coaching about who you really are and what you say you want, you can be inundated with watching other people’s lives reaching for things that aren’t even naturally in your trajectory. But when you give people the space to really come into themselves, it can lead to a more authentic financial plan, life plan and assessment.”

Starting SOBA

Norman has worked with community cooperatives in the Atlanta area for several years. Her experience in this field brought her to the attention of Thomas Priester, whom she had met several years earlier during their work in the insurance industry. Priester launched KORE Financial, an Atlanta brokerage firm that works with individuals, families and small business owners to protect and grow their wealth through life insurance.

“He had tried to create some insurance groups in the past where members would champion collaboration and connectivity over competition,” she said. “But we found too many situations where someone had a winning strategy or discovered a new market but was afraid to share that information with anyone else. We are all driven to be so competitive. I think competition can be a good thing, but over-competition can kill careers and relationships.”

Norman said Priester approached her about creating a group of black insurance agents and agency owners to network and share best practices. “He knew I had a sense of community and wanted to see us win as a black community,” she said.

The two started the Black Agent Society in December 2021 and it has grown to 1,000 members.

SOBA provides training through webinars and calls, access to interviews with industry leaders and digital marketing content to attract more customers, in addition to connecting its members with industry partners.

“We wanted to build a force of people who trust each other, who know their craft and who are experts in their space,” Norman said. “But we also wanted to create a space where newer agents could come in and quickly attach themselves to people who want to see them win and who know how to help them win. Many times black professionals really struggle to fit into the mainstream version of who they should be.

“With SOBA, it’s just the opposite. We provide support, connectivity and guidance so that anyone can thrive in this industry on their own terms. We protect our cultural differences and know our strength. And we know that when we work together, we create more opportunities.”

Those opportunities extend to those outside the industry, Norman said. “We’re finding that there are so many people — moms, dads, grandmas, young adults — who are interested in being better with their finances and then realizing that insurance is a foundational part of it all. It’s all about leaning into the power we have and influencing our community from a place of strength.”

Food as medicine

Norman enjoys traveling, riding his electric bike and spending time with his extended family.
She is also serious about health and wellness.

“My family is really strong on health and wellness, and we don’t necessarily run to the doctor for all of our needs,” she said. “I’m passionate about using your food as medicine. My sister is a herbalist and I grew up with a father who is a vegetarian. I love cooking real, whole foods.

“When we talk about wealth, we talk about health. I believe we often miss this component of letting food be your medicine, and I would like to see more conversations around this.

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