“There are worse things in life than death, Woody Allen once cracked. “Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?”
Life insurance salesmen have been a butt of jokes for years, but when Emile Bayle (BBA ’53) was looking for his first job, nobody bothered to tell him.
“My mother was living on the proceeds of some life insurance my father had had, and I thought, ‘Gee, that’s a pretty good business,’” Bayle recalls with a laugh. “I didn’t realize then that mothers shielded their sons from going into the life insurance business. Nobody wants to sell life insurance.”
Nobody wants to sell life insurance because, in all honesty, it’s a tough job, but if you’ve got a gift for it—as Bayle turned out to have—the business can be very rewarding.
Bayle spent 50 years with Mutual of New York and was one of the company’s top five agents when he retired in 2005. He then joined TRC Financial, a boutique insurance brokerage in San Marino, Calif., where he continues to sell insurance and specialized financial products. TRC is part of the M Financial Group, a coalition of 125 independent financial services firms.
“There are only 500 sales people like me selling products through the M Group, but we sell more life insurance premium than any life insurance company in the United States,” Bayle says. “Our 500 agents sell more insurance than AXA’s 7,500 agents, more than Prudential, more than Metropolitan Life, more than New York Life.”
Bayle was born in New Orleans but grew up in Joliet, Ill. After three years in the U.S. Navy, he enrolled at Tulane at the suggestion of his mother, who had moved back to her native New Orleans after the death of Emile’s father.
It was at Tulane that Bayle met his wife, Tinker, an LSU grad who worked as a home economist for New Orleans Public Service, where she created some of the much-loved recipes NOPSI handed out on streetcars. The Bayles today have four children and 12 grandchildren.
After graduating from Tulane, Bayle spent two and a half years with General Electric’s prestigious Business Training Course in Syracuse, N.Y., but when he realized a finance job was not in the cards, he wrote a letter to Tulane’s career services office asking if any companies were hiring. Mutual of New York was at the top of the list.
Bayle joined the company’s New Orleans sales office and sold a dozen policies the first month, a remarkable performance for a rookie salesman. His career was set.
During his 50 years with Mutual of New York, Bayle rose through the ranks, serving in a variety of roles at both the agency and home office level. He moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to New York and to Los Angeles, where he ultimately became vice president of sales with responsibility for 25 agencies in the L.A. area. When the company later asked him to take a new job in New York, Bayle said enough is enough.
“Our roots were in California and our kids were about ready for college, so I turned them down,” he says. “I said just give me a sales office in Los Angeles and I’ll be happy. So I took over a sales office as a manager and stayed there until I retired.”
So what’s the secret to being a good life insurance salesman?
“It’s just an innate interest in people,” Bayle says. “You can see situations in people’s lives where your products can have some use, be it for retirement, survivorship, estate or business planning.”
For the last 40 years, Bayle and his family have resided in San Marino, a city of 13,000 located about 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles. In that time, he’s served on the board of every civic organization in town as well as on the city council and, for two years, as mayor.
Today, in his role as insurance agent and registered representative with TRC Financial, Bayle specializes in sophisticated financial products aimed at corporate clients and high-net-worth individuals.
“Not that I won’t sell anybody a policy,” Bayle adds with a laugh. “I’ll drive 100 miles to sell you the smallest policy in town. It’s still my orientation.”