Broker Words—May 2022

I think I’ve digressed before about my love for the Farm Bureau robot advisor ads.You know, the ones with a white robot with glasses that looks like a cross between John Lithgow and a George Lucas stormtrooper. My favorite line is where the husband winks and the robot says, “Your ocular cavity is experiencing a malfunction.” I think if my wife hears that one more time in response to her “helpful observation” that some assigned task is still yet to be done I’d better start hiding the kitchen knives. “Working Tomorrow for a better Today.”—Procrastination. I have the t-shirt.

In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changin’.” I spent almost an hour in conversation with loyal reader Bob Brassard last week. I bet Bob is one of those guys whose most used app on his phone…is the telephone. I’m not sure if my beloved niece Sophie even knows which app is the telephone on the new iPhone my wife and I bought her. Anyway, Bob’s been selling insurance since 1963 and was bemoaning the intrusion of FinTech into the personal relationships he nurtures with his clients—specifically an insurer who emailed the policy direct to one of his clients. He appreciated the crux of Dave Murphy’s recent article on the value of hand delivered, nicely bound, paper policies to clients (Worth The Paper, April 2022). The gist of our convo was the great importance of growing the personal relationships with clients that has been the cornerstone of success in the insurance industry for many decades, and how the inevitable advance of FinTech into the everyday business of life insurance has the very real possibility of eroding those little but vital interactions if one doesn’t commit to staying vigilant.

Dear friend Ken Leibow writes an excellent column each month exploring and outlining countless advances in FinTech that make the sales and distribution of life insurance infinitely more efficient for the carrier, the BGA and the agent, and therefore of much greater service to the ultimate consumer. I recognize the value of eApps, advances making blood draws less necessary, policy tracking systems, needs analysis software, a bunch of stuff in agency management software, forms standardization, a whole bunch of the computereze that Ken utilizes in his articles that go way…way…over my head, and even, as a customer, ePolicy delivery. It is nice to know I can go to a folder on my laptop and review a policy if I should ever need to. Much easier than searching for it in my house, a task I would compare, with regrettably less exaggeration than should be, to the closing warehouse scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

But without the many little formerly formal in-person human interactions that bring agents together with customers, and the inevitable interactions with the families during those meetings, including of course the delivery of a policy printed on high quality paper and attractively bound, how true, and solid, and dependable, is the loyalty between consumer and agent, and hopefully between the consumer and his children and their children’s children? Available in the Hogwarts of industry tech wizardry are a number of things that can greatly help grow this trust and loyalty. At its simplest are things like birthday and annual coverage review reminders. More helpful still are ongoing policy sustainability trackers. There are many advancements in FinTech that truly can help make an agent a truly trusted advisor to multiple generations of clients’ families.

Further complicating the issue are the communication preferences of the various generations which we should adapt to as we progress in service through the younger generations of the families of our clients and new prospects we garner through referrals due to the trust we’ve banked. I’m not a Tweeter or a Tweetee, rarely a Facetimer, and enjoyed just my third Zoom call last Friday. I’m not personally on Facebook although I’ve participated in Facebook posts featuring my “T-shirt of the day.” (Today’s is, “I told my wife she should embrace her mistakes…she hugged me.”) So maybe turn to some of my authors for concrete advice on how to live in both worlds.

The danger, as I see it, is insidious and lurking. As we come to depend ever more heavily on the efficiencies of tech advances, how dedicated are we to maintaining the tried and true personal interactions with clients? How soon do these practices erode as we come to rely on other processes? How many emails have replaced phone calls, or hand written notes? Ya can’t yum with a client about a nice plate of ribs on a Zoom call. It ain’t the same as riding side by side if you’re playing Golden Tee on the internet.

Back before the cell phone, and even through the first few generations of them, I knew by heart all my friends’ phone numbers. My grandmother, alone and blind and still at home, remembered over thirty phone numbers of the people she called daily as a volunteer for a KC service called Telephone Reassurance. And she actually dialed them by running her fingers through the holes on the dial and counting one through zero. She was truly an amazing person. Fast forward to today and I have to pause and strain my brain for my wife’s number when they ask for my loyalty account at the grocery store. And that’s not all the fault of whisky consumption in the 80s and 90s…it’s the reliance I place on the directory in my iPhone.

So I’m “guilty as charged.” I’m not at all immune. I often just text a friend a quick hello, or anecdote. Now Hope and I do call and sing “Happy Birthday” to some dear friends when we remember (or our iPhones’ calendars remind us!), but often too are the texts with: HB2U, HB2U, HBD(Whomever), HB2U! Accompanied by the musical note, party hat and streamer emojis.

It occurs to me that I might need to step up my diligence.[SPH]