Q. What tips and experience can you share about the process of grooming agency successors into leadership roles?
As soon as you have determined that the person you are grooming has want and desire to grow your business beyond what you are doing, you should begin to get them more involved in the overall operations. Have them begin to attend industry meetings so that they can learn more about how others run their companies and hopefully generate new ideas that they can bring to your company and implement.
They need to learn from the bottom up and work in every department to get a true sense of the business and how it operates.
My personal opinion is grooming isn’t the hard part, it is finding the right person who, first, wants to dedicate themselves to this noble yet fragile profession and, second, has the temperament to be a leader. Just because someone is a great salesperson doesn’t make them a great manager of others. Just because you have a superstar operations person at your firm doesn’t mean they will connect with the sales staff if you hand over the reigns to them. Find the right person, with the right personality, and you can teach them the business.
In my own personal experience, I found it really, really helpful that the name on my driver’s license matched the name on the door of the building. What a happy coincidence, right? Because I think I can tell you that I probably wouldn’t have qualified for a job here otherwise. The biggest lesson I learned was when I stopped trying to be Father2.0—or Uncle2.0—that’s when I had a chance at success. My leadership style is different, and it had to be mine or it wouldn’t work. That’s the message I try to pass on to others in leadership roles. Learn from your leaders, implement what works, but don’t try to be them. Be you.
We are a first-generation agency with a relatively young ownership team. However, we have taken key people in sales and administration and given them leadership roles, and as they have gained experience we have expanded their decision-making opportunities. The idea being that they gain a firm understanding of how we would like the company to run and give them the experience they need to be able to one day run the agency.
You have to set expectations, you have to give them responsibility, and you have to mentor them through their decision making.
Q. What steps does your agency take to maintain, respect and accommodate “old school” long-standing producer relationships?
I think the most important thing is to make the producers know that they are important to your company and to spend a little extra time on their cases and service. The long time relationships need to feel that they are special and that their business matters. If these advisors have a drop in business, you need to make sure that you stay in touch and see if there are ways that you can help them grow their business.
Most of our producers are old school. We try to treat them with a sense of urgency and meaning still to this day as we did from the beginning.
We have tried to adopt the motto that, “We will work with you the way you want to work with us.” If that means the person wants to fax in paper applications then so be it. If we recruit a producer who never wants to hear a human voice and wishes to use technology to submit, manage and issue his business, we can do that too. Learning how your producer is most comfortable doing business is a great first step in a long-term relationship.
We try to respond with a “one better” approach when we can. If someone takes action on LinkedIn, we’ll reach out to them with an email. If they email, we’ll call. And if they call, hopefully I can make it out to visit them and shake their hand. We haven’t been very successful with mass marketing campaigns. We tend to pick up customers one at a time, often through referrals. It may not be as efficient, but the relationships have a solid foundation.
We do have a fair number of agents who do not embrace the newer technologies that have become prominent in the industry such as e-policy delivery and drop ticket application submission. In these cases, we do not push those agents to change. Additionally, we strive to maintain communication with them in the ways they are accustomed to. In many cases that is making sure status is called in to them (or their office administrative staff) or speaking to their offices prior to policy issue—situations where newer agents and agencies are accustomed to working via email or direct website access.
We feel that even though we are finding technology helping us with becoming more efficient we still rely on tactics like hand written thank you notes and phone calls instead of email to stay relevant to “old school” advisors.
Q. What are some key ways the thinking of the younger generation has been instrumental in the growth of your agency?
They see things differently than you do. Each generation has different views on what is important and this is helpful in developing marketing and sales presentations. The “old” way of doing things may have become old, and having a younger set of eyes on what is important is a good thing. Also let them make mistakes. The best way to learn is to make mistakes and it is important that you let them try things you may not agree with because they might also be right!
The younger generation is more focused on transactional business so technology and simplified process is key to them. It has made our agency more efficient.
I think the “Pandora’s Box” of technology infiltrating and slowly transforming how a carrier, BGA and ultimately the producer does business has already begun. I am always humbled by how the younger generation embraces these changes as just the newest and best way to do business and immediately implements and starts improving on the new technology and processes. Firms that have embraced the next generation and new technology have an advantage over those that do not. It is just that simple.
I’m sure others can speak to that better than I can. Generally, though, I love the fearless nature of some of the younger generation. There’s an attitude of courage, and proactive mentality, in many. Definitely not in all—you have to find the right ones.
This is a great question–the younger generation’s move to newer, faster technologies has been great to push us to improve our operational efficiencies. As I noted before, e-policy delivery and drop ticket are just a few. The ability to quote cases on smart phones, having 24/7 access to a case’s status, and the use of website tools for things like carrier training and product information are also great time savers. This push by the next generation has in turn made carriers move to become more efficient as well. The industry is becoming more streamlined, from the carrier level, to BGAs, to the traditional and non-traditional agent. As the industry evolves and improves, so does the consumer experience. These improvements benefit us all, allowing carriers, BGA’s and agents to expand distribution and to provide faster and easier access for consumers.
The younger generation grew up using technology, so when we went to start incorporating new technology into the agency they were a big part of those conversations in understanding how those changes can positively change the company.
Q. What “old” is still essential, what “new” is inevitable and how does your agency build for the future?
Relationships are still the things that are most important regardless of how old they are. People do business with people they like…that will never change. You need to explore new markets to continue to grow your business. New markets will require new relationships and being willing and able to do that is very important.
Broker urgency is essential for the old. Point of Sale help is critical for the new.
We are a boutique agency by most measures. What has allowed us to remain competitive and relevant in the marketplace is our desire to develop technology that will assist in making our producers’ lives easier. Contrary to what you hear, there are a lot of producers out there writing the products that we sell. The reason they don’t write them with us or with you is that they haven’t heard our or your value proposition. Be ready to accept a faxed app and then turn around and suggest trying e-policy delivery. You my just find a rep that has been labeled “old school” just because he didn’t know he could get policies electronically or submit that app through a drop ticket platform. Teach while you sell and in my opinion the reps will stay with you longer.
It’s the whole “art vs. science” debate if you ask me. The process of securing a life policy can be so different today—drop ticket, e-app, no exam, accelerated underwriting, e-policy delivery… It’s pretty easy to buy and sell a life policy without talking to anybody, really. And I think, with the efficiency and cost savings of these processes, that they’re inevitable. But I still love to talk to agents about cases, and I love to fight with underwriters. All day long.
The old that is still as relevant as ever is the need to generate and maintain authentic relationships. This is true from carrier to BGA, from BGA to agent, and from agent to consumer. The trusted advisor is a foundation of the industry, and that only exists if the relationships forged are genuinely based on what is good for everyone with a goal of delivering quality product and advice to those who need it.
The new that is inevitable is simple. The industry has undergone a dramatic change over the last decade due to the pervasiveness of new technologies. From the BGA/agent side, delivering fast, accurate, efficient services is key. From the carrier side, streamlined underwriting, the efforts to move to predictive analytics, and embracing new ideas and technologies is helping to deliver the experience consumers are demanding.
We believe the old is that insurance products still have to sold. Someone has to make the first outreach for planning to begin. The new is how the product will be delivered to the client. With more and more accelerated underwriting options available and faster turnaround times it will improve how we deliver policies to middle America but it will still need to be sold with the guidance of an advisor.
John W. Felton, IV. Since 1988, financial advisors and their clients have chosen John Felton as their lead insurance advisor for his responsiveness, attention to detail, and the personal nature in which he conducts business. After graduating from the University of Tennessee, John entered the life insurance industry as a marketing specialist for Manhattan Life Insurance Company in Cincinnati. After a company merger, he joined Tennessee Brokerage Agency (TBA) in Knoxville as marketing manager. After serving in various positions, he became president of the firm in 1996, a position he enjoys today. Tennessee Brokerage Agency has been a leading insurance brokerage firm since 1959 and is licensed to conduct business in all 50 states. What this means to you and your clients is that you are working with an insurance firm and advisor that is built on character and a legacy of serving others. They are renowned for solving the hard to place cases and bringing confidence and accuracy to the insurance process.
Felton has served on many local and state insurance association boards as well as local civic and social organizations. He is currently past president of NAIFA-Tennessee, board member of Lifemark Partners, past chairman of the National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (NAILBA), former board member of The LIFE Foundation (now Life Happens), past president of the NAIFA-Knoxville, and past President of TYGERS, a second-generation brokerage agency study group. John carries NASD Series 7 and 63 securities licenses and is life/health licensed in 50 states.
Felton is married to Johnna and has four children, Hannah, Kate, Sadie and Jack. In his spare time, he enjoys playing golf and spending time with his family.
Felton can be contacted at Tennessee Brokerage Agency (TBA), 6508 Baum Drive, Knoxville, TN 37919. Telephone: 865-282-4922. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co Authors :
Parks LaMarche is president of CPS/Integrated Marketing and Insurance Services (CPS/IMIS). He founded CPS/Integrated Marketing with his father Daniel LaMarche, Jr. in 1986. CPS/IMIS is a full-service brokerage general agency in San Diego, CA. The agency represents over 40 insurance carriers in life, annuity, disability, and long term care insurance. CPS/IMIS specializes in impaired risk life, advanced markets, premium finance, and low-cost term. Over 3,500 brokers nationwide are serviced through CPS/IMIS, and he employs a staff of 10.
LaMarche is a long-time member of The National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (NAILBA) and served on the board of directors from 2006-2009. He also served as co-chairman of the Membership Committee. He is a Charter Member of the NAILBA Charitable Foundation, served on the board of directors from 2007-2011 and as chairman from 2009-2011.
LaMarche served two terms as president of the board of directors for NAIFA San Diego and is currently on the board as past-president. He currently is on the board of directors for the national organization Life Happens, which promotes sales and awareness for the life insurance industry. LaMarche is a current member and past president of the TYGERS. TYGERS is a national study group and strong supporter of NAILBA. He is also a current member of AALU.
LaMarche earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. He is married to Tiffany Ames LaMarche and has two children, Calleigh and Coleton.
LaMarche can be reached at CPS/Integrated Marketing & Insurance Services, 8447 Miramar Mall, San Diego, CA 92121. Phone: 858-220-7301. Email: email@example.com.
John Gilbert began his financial services career in 2002 as an agent for Banker’s Life and Casualty. He served the central Iowa senior marketplace with life insurance, long term care, annuities and Medicare supplements. Gilbert joined The National Benefit Corp. in 2004 as a marketing consultant specializing in annuity marketing. Gaining a strong knowledge of the brokerage world and the independent broker/dealer community was a key to the early successes of the TNBC annuity department. In 2009 he was named the director of annuity marketing at TNBC. The annuity department continued to flourish, posting several consecutive record years in total annuity production. In 2014 Gilbert accepted the role of VP of Business Development and worked in helping TNBC grow its distribution of insurance products in the institutional space while taking on a larger role in relationship management and agency operations. In June of 2018, Gilbert assumed the role of president of The National Benefit Corp.
Gilbert has been active in NAILBA, serving as the ASNG chair for the past three years and recently appointed to the NAILBA board of directors. He has also been active in the local NAIFA chapter, AALU and was the 2016 President of the TYGERS, a study group of second and third generation insurance professionals. Gilbert attended Northwest Missouri State and Iowa State universities and is series 6, 63 and life and health licensed. John is married to Lindsay and together they have three wonderful children Jack 9, Julia 7 and Jenna 5.
Gilbert can be reached at The National Benefit Corp., 5022 Grand Ridge Drive, West Des Moines, IA 50265. Telephone: 800-275-8622 or 515-243-3503 ext. 1249. Email: JGilbert@tnbc.com.
Jeff Mooers is president of H.D. Mooers and Company, a brokerage general agency in Lafayette, CA. He is a third-generation BGA and has been with the company for 25 years this fall.
H.D. Mooers and Company has been in business for more than 75 years. The agency is an impaired risk specialist and is one of the most respected names in the brokerage industry.
Mooers is the 2018 chairman of the National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (NAILBA) and serves on the editorial advisory panel. He won NAILBA’s “Chairman’s Award” in 2012. He is the past president of NAIFA Mount Diablo, the only NAIFA local in California to win the AAA Gold Award in 2013.
Mooers can be reached at H.D. Mooers and Company by telephone at 925-283-7310. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rick Gallegos co-founded Lakeview Financial Services, LLC, in 2006 and has 22 years of experience in the life insurance brokerage and financial services industry. He attended Boise State University majoring in Communications. He is a member of the Advisory Board of Directors for Tellus Brokerage Connections.
Gallegos can be reached at Lakeview Financial Services, LLC, 10074 W. Fairview Ave #140, Boise, ID 83704. Telephone: 800-841-2855. Email: email@example.com.
Jerry C. Thomas represents the third generation at J.L. Thomas & Company, a family-owned insurance brokerage agency. Owned and operated in the heart of Playhouse Square, Cleveland’s Theater District (second largest theater district in the United States), J.L. Thomas & Company was founded in 1971 by Jerry L. Thomas, CLU. Jerry’s experience in the insurance business as both a personal producer and general agent gave him the insight to operate one of the country’s most respected brokerage operations. Jerry’s sons, J. Michael “Mike” Thomas, CLU, David D. Thomas, MSFS, CLU, ChFC, and Craig W.
Thomas, have specialized skills that have fostered the company’s growth and success. Currently the company is employing the third generation, Jerry C. Thomas and Kurt M. Thomas, CFP, CLU. Both are active in point of sale and management within the agency.