Focal Points

Company Profile: Penn Mutual

Delivering stability and growth have been keys to sustained success for 170 years

by PE Kelley, managing Editor

Mr. Kelley is managing editor of Advisor Magazine and Advisor e-newsLink. Connect with him by e-mail:

This is the first installment of new feature series: Focal Points, which looks at the evolution of the financial services industry and the companies that comprise it wealth of services.

There’s no one-step solution to prevailing in today’s life insurance industry. Instead, successfully navigating a long-term growth path requires a multi-faceted strategic approach and the ability to remain nimble as new challenges continue to be thrown your way.

Since the inception of Penn Mutual in 1847, their commitment to delivering stability and growth in the industry has allowed them to thrive for 170 years. And as they embark on the next chapter of their growth story, they are taking a multi-pronged approach focused on growing and diversifying our adviser force. Here’s what their plan looks like:

Growing the adviser force

The company seeks and develops quality advisers that exude professionalism, ethicality and productivity. In order to continue to instill these characteristics in the advisers, they are in the process of developing a new career roadmap program.

This plan will help advisers understand not only what it takes to be successful, but provide guidance on the steps that need to be taken early on to effectively build a book of business. According to LIMRA, only 15 percent of newly hired advisers are still working in the industry after four years. Management at Penn Mutual understands that early on, many young advisers struggle with key concepts like establishing a client base or recognizing client needs. Helping young advisers learn how to tackle these responsibilities and teaching them how to build a business up front at the early stages of their career will allow them to successfully kick-start their professional lives and bolster retention rates.

“Teaming” is an approach that has helped both new and more experienced advisers. For the new advisers, they’re able to gain real life experience under the supervision of a more experienced adviser. For the more seasoned pros, teaming has brought their productivity to a new level.

“Teaming has been proven to boost productivity, retention rates and ultimately continuity,” said Bill Stevens, VP & Chief Agency officer. “A few years ago, Penn Mutual piloted a teaming initiative surrounding team selling. After measuring its progress, the results pointed to the myriad benefits of a collaborative approach to prospecting, client services and marketing. For those who participated, adviser retention doubled over this time period.”

The success of the pilot program solidified the company’s commitment to this approach. Clearly, despite being at varying levels of development, teaming has something to offer all advisers involved.

On a macro level, Penn Mutual also conducted significant demographic research across the country to identify ways to expand its footprint. This search has uncovered opportunities to expand in other major markets. The company now has 25 career agencies in 50 locations around the country that hire and develop both new and experienced advisers. By the end of 2020, they strive to have 40 career agencies and 70 locations in the U.S., which will allow them to grow their adviser force to 2,000 advisers by 2025. To make this happen, they are hiring and developing the right leaders to spearhead these efforts. Their ‘full-circle’ approach starts by building and growing a talented group of leaders and ends with expanding our footprint in new locations across the country.

The power of diversity

the results pointed to the myriad benefits of a collaborative approach to prospecting, client services and marketing

A focus on adviser diversity is another important facet of the company’s growth strategy in the life insurance industry. When they look at diversity, they aim to match their marketplaces. It’s essential to look like the demographic that you serve, which includes diversity in gender, ethnic background, age and thought. By doing so, they’ve made tremendous inroads by expanding the diversity of their advisers within the Penn Mutual community. With an adviser force of almost 1/3 baby boomers, 1/3 Generation X and 1/3 millennials, they are much closer to matching the makeup of their own policyholders.

While they’ve made significant progress in building a culture centered on diversity, they’ve also identified blind spots that they are committed to improving. They’ve engaged in a study with business transition consultant FlexPaths to give insight on areas they need to focus on.

FlexPaths conducted a series of interviews that looked at nearly 300 agency leaders and close to 1,400 advisers in the industry. The series of interviews zeroed in on tenured and newer male and female agency leaders to capture a broad spectrum of viewpoints. The results portrayed great improvement in the diversity of age and ethnic background of Penn Mutual’s adviser population. However, the FlexPaths study revealed a struggle to attract and retain more female advisers across the industry. As a result, they’ve made moves to engage with  field leaders to communicate and embrace the changes needed to improve.

For example, to target their need for more female advisers,they are looking to empower the 20 percent of  agency advisers that are women in order to create a more inclusive culture. Additionally, they are leveraging various female leadership programs and looking to other opportunities to build a more diverse career system.

An example of their ongoing commitment to women in business is their involvement with Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS). The mission of WIFS is to attract, develop and create opportunities for women in the financial services industry. As a top sponsor of the organization and with Penn Mutual’s Evelyn Geller as this year’s president, they have a hand in helping women in areas of mentorship, educational events, personal development forums and women adviser study groups.

They are also proud supporters of the 2020 Women on Boards organization, a group that is dedicated to increasing the percentage of women on corporate boards to 20 percent or more by 2020. The developmental platform supports women in their journey to becoming a better adviser, leader and individual. With mentoring and leadership developmental opportunities, women empower one another with a personalized coaching approach to finding success in business and in life.

As the world grows more diverse, Penn Mutual is committed to the maintaining an adviser network that reflects these changes. “By implementing the right tools to identify our ‘pain points,” Stevens said, “we are creating an environment that supports the success of our current and next generation advisers.”

Seeking growth in the life insurance industry after 170 years takes more than one simple approach. Penn Mutual consistently stays focused on what’s ahead while also spearheading the issues that arise in order to remain nimble and relevant. By meeting diversity needs and growing a diverse adviser force, they’re just ‘doing their job’ of helping people live life with confidence