1. Offer a full range of support
“We are a managing general agency (MGA), which means we distribute the products from all the carriers,” says Gary Mandel, president of Independent Financial Concepts Group Ltd. Most insurance companies have abandoned the old career system under which companies trained their own advisors, leaving a gap that MGAs like Independent Financial Concepts Group Ltd. (IFCG) fill.
“We train advisors, we provide compliance support, and we teach them about the products and show them how to promote them,” Mandel says. “We have tools to help advisors deal with clients, to help them get referrals and analytical software that helps them assess and cover a client’s needs.” Insurance products aren’t one-size-fits-all. Advisors often have to use a combination of products to fit the customers needs. IFCG serves the full range of advisors, from those who are brand new in the business to advisors that are well established and looking to retire. “I like to say that we have no handcuffs here—that means that our advisors are here because they want to be here,” Mandel says. Under the old career system, advisors who left their company had to leave all their clients behind. That is not true with IFCG. “With us, their clients belong to them,” Mandel says. “We tell advisors that they are in business for themselves, but not by themselves.”
2. Deliver outstanding sales support and service
“The support we give the advisor is the element that gives them the competitive edge against other advisors in serving their customers,” Mandel says. “If their managing general agency can’t get the policies issues or doesn’t really understand the business, the advisor looks bad.” Making sure that an advisor can access competitive rates for the best policies is critical to an advisor’s success. “If sales drag out, or the policy doesn’t cover everything the client needs protected, or the advisor has to go back and tell the client bad news, it reflects badly on the advisor,” Mandel notes.
3. Look to the best interest of the client
“People choose us because they like the way we treat the independent insurance advisors that are our clients,” Mandel says. “We work for our clients, not the insurance companies.” Some advisors hold themselves out as an IFCG-branded advisor. Others remain completely independent. Regardless, IFGC provides them with the best range of services. “When they go see their clients they can offer all the different insurance companies’ products without being beholden to any one in particular,” Mandel says. “Whatever product suits their customers’ needs the best is the product they recommend.” They get paid the same compensation, so they aren’t enticed to favour one company’s product over another. “We offer an unbiased opinion on products because we don’t work for the insurance companies,” Mandel adds.
4. Stay current with the market
“Our philosophy is that to best serve our clients, we have to stay on the cutting edge,” Mandel says. “We have to know what products are out there so we can bring that value to the insurance advisor.” The insurance market place is always changing, so IFCG’s team must review hundreds of insurance products offered by dozens of insurance companies. “We are always reviewing the industry to see what products are being launched and how regulation is changing the way business is done,” Mandel explains. Most of an advisor’s time is spent prospecting for new clients or working with their existing clients, so they don’t have time to keep abreast of the market themselves. “They need someone to say what’s changed,” he continues. “When you are, say, a London Life advisor, you only need to learn one company’s products. We have to stay aware of all the insurance companies’ products.”
Sometimes policy rates can change over night. New products get launched or cancelled, or the terms get changed. “It’s very difficult for advisors to keep up with the changes in the industry,” Mandel says. “The marketing representatives from the insurance company simply can’t reach every advisor, since many advisors have independent offices, or work from home. So advisors rely on their MGA to keep them updated.”
5. Train advisors to build their business
“We have more than 150 training and instructional meetings every year for advisor,” Mandel says. “We have special events in addition to those meeting that are specific to a certain marketplace or type of product.” IFCG also offers training for accountants because a lot of people rely on their accountants for financial advice, including guidance on insurance. “That puts the accountant in a tough position since they aren’t insurance people and don’t have training in the industry,” says Mandel. “Our training gives accountants the ability to tell clients about insurance options that might be right for them.”