How Ash Brokerage is improving practices while enhancing the future of the industry
by Adam SchaeferMr. Schaefer is regional vice president with Ash Brokerage, with offices in Ft. Wayne, In. and Eatontown, NJ. Connect with him by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to facilitating conversations around insurance and planning solutions with financial advisors and planners nationwide, Mr. Schaefer has been instrumental in growing the Young Advisors Group at Ash Brokerage. As a second-generation advisor himself, he knows the impact that networking, education and mentorship can have on long-term success.
“You don’t know what you don’t know.” I love that saying. It comes to mind often as I work with advisors all over the country. A lot of them simply don’t know about the concepts, programs, tools and training available to them to advance their careers and solve many of the problems they face today. It’s easy to get so caught up in your own business that you basically put on blinders to new opportunities … so we want to make sure that you don’t let the competition pass you by.
Life insurance producers are always telling me funny stories about how they got started in the business. It’s rare to find agents who have a degree in insurance or even financial planning. It seems like most had a degree in a completely separate field or industry, but they were introduced to life insurance and decided to make a career of it. Many of them got their training from companies like MassMutual or New York Life, but today there are a lot less opportunities out there if you’re looking to get started.
New professionals also are entering the industry at a slower rate. It’s scary to see the number of independent life insurance producers drop from 163,409 in 2007 to 149,187 in 2010. When you go to industry meetings and conferences and look around the room, you can’t help but notice the lack of young producers. According to LIMRA, the average age of an agent is 56 – and they’re not getting any younger.
Supporting Young Advisors
With this obvious problem, Ash Brokerage and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) have formed programs aimed at supporting young advisors. NAIFA’s Young Advisors Team (YAT) is for advisors in their first three years. At Ash, the Young Advisors Group (YAG) is for producers who have been in the insurance industry for at least five years but have 20 or more years left in their careers and are looking to increase their business.
Most successful advisors have built a team around them and are part of study groups or go to industry events to make sure they stay on top of what’s happening. Ash wanted to create a group focused on young advisors specifically, so YAG was created. YAG provides a mixture of presentations from carriers, specialists and mentors, as well as opportunities to share best practices and network with peers. After just three years, the program has more than 80 members!
Groups like these are vital to our industry. Carriers need young professionals coming into the business to continue selling their products and telling their stories. And seasoned producers need young professionals coming into the business so they can set up succession plans and make sure their clients are taken care of.
For example, we recently helped a producer who had sold life insurance for many years and was looking for a younger producer – someone who knows what they’re doing and has the same values – to take over his block. YAG was able to make that connection and assist with the transition. It benefitted everyone – the young producer, the retiring producer and the clients.
Return to a career system?
When I asked CEO Tim Ash about the future of our industry, he said, “If the agent field force keeps declining as it has, firms like ours will become more involved in educating and developing new talent. We will become what the old career agency system was in the past.” Therefore, the need for groups like YAT and YAG will only grow from here.
Also, in regards to the industry’s future, Tim said, “… Someone is going to disrupt the space. The process has to become easier, and the industry has to get back to telling stories and stop talking about taxes and arbitrage. We need to talk about how these products protect those you love.”
When you look at companies like Apple, Amazon or Wal-Mart, you realize they were the ones that came in and disrupted their space. They changed their respective industries by offering a new way of doing business. Look at how much we do with technology these days and how it has simplified so many things that used to be complicated … but we are not there yet with the life insurance industry.
I bought a house a year ago, and I was able to do all my paperwork on my cellphone. But I can’t do the same thing when applying for life insurance. Every company is different – I may still have to manually fill out a form and mail it in. Then I think about how long it takes to get medical records, even with the advent of technology … and I know things definitely need to change.
Rookies or veterans, all advisors need support so they have time to do what they do best – build relationships with their clients. Ash Brokerage wants to make sure we change with the times and offer that support, so we have developed a team that will not only work with a producer to find the best solution for the client, but can also do a medical review phone call and fill out the application. We’ve found this helps the producer and client … and it’s also more efficient for our team and the carriers because we have more complete and consistent applications.
We can also help advisors get into markets that, for whatever reason, they may not be comfortable entering on their own. We understand that producers wear many hats and have multiple lines of business, so it’s hard to stay on top of everything. We keep our producers informed with product specialists who focus on life, annuities, long-term care and disability.
Often, I hear producers say they don’t have time to get into other lines of business, but Ash Brokerage can solve that problem. We can become your back office and open up new opportunities.
For example, you may not be comfortable in the long-term care arena, but you KNOW clients need this coverage. We have a team of specialists who will get on the phone with you and your client and discuss all the options and even fill out the application for you – free of charge.
Ash has developed other turnkey programs, such as Life Insurance Portfolio Analysis (LIPA), which offers a full review of what insurance the client currently has and confirms whether it’s what they still need. Again, we do this all behind the scenes and then coach you so you can present. It’s just another value-added program to take your practice to the next level.
But products and processes are only part of the Ash Brokerage experience. Social media is everywhere and can be overwhelming at times. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many other platforms are now available on your phones, tablets and computers. With the average producer being 56 years old, it’s safe to assume many of them didn’t grow up with social media. Ash has a team that can not only get you in that space, but also provide you training on how to be proactive in it. The team can build your profile and make sure it sends the right message to your prospective clients and partners.
Speaking of messages, sometimes it can be hard to get yours out to the right people. Your prospects are barraged with emails and postal mail, and it can be tough to sift through all of it to make sure they don’t miss important information. Our creative marketing team has been using different ways to send these messages in order to make sure they’re seen or heard. We also offer training programs, sales ideas and marketing pieces using video.
Some of the industry’s top speakers are guests on our online video series, “Let’s get down to Business” with host Steve Savant. We understand everyone is on the go and time is precious, so we keep that in mind. Now, instead of attend a daylong seminar on new concepts and opportunities, you can watch a collection of 10- to 15-minute videos during your lunch.
Ash wants to make sure you stay ahead of the competition, and we continue to look for different ways we can bring value to your practice. We have developed proprietary products, built programs and teams unlike any others in the industry, and we have invested in some of the most talented people available. Give us a shot with your next case, and I promise we’ll be able to add value and take your practice to the next level.