Executives who help insurers recruit African-American agents to sell to African-Americans say the logic of doing so is obvious.
“If you want to serve a community, you must have people coming from the community,” says Tariq Khan, an assistant vice president who works in MetLifes multicultural marketing unit.
“People want to do business with people who they think understand them,” says Kareim Cade, a partner at M.L. Garland Hill Agency, Detroit, an agency that specializes in handling large worksite marketing programs.
None of the executives interviewed suggested customers will buy insurance only from other members of their own demographic groups.
But supporters of the recruiting programs argue that customers do want to see that at least some of the sales reps look like them, and that building a diverse sales force can help increase the awareness and flexibility of all reps.
Besides, supporters say, the idea of diversity seems to be popular with customers.
When researchers for a 2000 consumer survey sponsored by Ariel Capital Management Inc., Chicago, and Charles Schwab & Company, San Francisco, asked African-Americans whether there ought to be more African-American role models in the financial industry, 75% agreed.