Generating insurance sales in an agency owned by a financial institution is the new frontier of the life insurance business. “New?” you might ask. Well, lets just say the West has yet to be won.

At FirstMerit Insurance Agency Inc., we market customers through bank referrals to our financial consultants. The challenge was and remains getting the financial consultants to include insurance with their investment sales. Id like to share how our agency is getting it all off the ground.

The big challenge has been to get the financial consultants to buy in. The FCs have trained and worked with their bank partners on the art of profiling and referring customers for possible investment sales. Yet most FCs hesitate to embrace insurance sales as a part of their practice. As one remarked to me, “If I wanted to sell insurance, I would be an insurance agent.”

Many factors can help achieve the buy-in. To get the buy-in, we needed to understand the framework under which FCs would embrace insurance sales.

First, we knew we had to have an effective back office that was exclusive to insurance sales and would provide total and dependable sale-product support. Second, we needed to create an insurance sale opportunity that was easy to understand and had simplified paperwork. Third, we needed to deal with the reality that our FCs were uncomfortable discussing health issues with customers.

Fourth, we needed to deal with the delayed financial gratification of the typical insurance sale. Annuity commissions are almost instant. Insurance commissions are delayed by underwriting, issue and delivery requirements.

Last and most importantly, we needed investment and banker management support.

Our back office is staffed with licensed personnel with sales support experience. This provides the producer with the confidence that comes with knowing they have technical back up. Most sales support is provided from the back office. This includes applications, illustrations, point-of-sale brochures, outstanding underwriting requirements and commission tracking.

Next, we selected a product that would be user friendly: single premium life, an outstanding wealth transfer tool. All too often, annuities are chosen for a job better done by single premium life.

Annuities represent a large segment of our FC sales production. With SPL, we are dealing with a product that works like an annuity while the owner is alive. The product works like a life insurance policy at death. We have chosen a carrier with a simplified two-page application and a limited number of health questions.

In addition, the application can be faxed in for fast approval. Those people who dont qualify go through more thorough underwriting driven by an attending physicians statement. All further processes are handled by the back office.

The result is that producers are up to the task. Paperwork is not as cumbersome as most insurance sales, issue comes more quickly, the health questions are limited and wealth transfer solutions are better served with this product than with annuities. It works.

To help promote a change in sales activity in this area, we have focused on seminar selling. Training has been coordinated at the bank branch level to heighten awareness of the ability of single pay life products to satisfy the wealth-transfer needs of our customers. This has nurtured the existing relationship between the financial consultant and branch personnel. It is the branch personnel who provide the pipeline to the bank customer for the FC. Seminars held in the branches are the combined effort of bank managers, FCs and bank personnel. Seminar planning provides the ideal setting for involving bank and investment managers in a focused team effort.

The results have been fantastic. The success of the seminars has spawned more seminar dates and greater revenue.

With SPL sales underway, it is a natural evolution to introduce other insurance products. Long term care insurance is a fast-growing market and is particularly pertinent to our customer base. As the FCs become more experienced with insurance sales, there is a growing comfort level with the processes.

Other products that we have introduced with simplified processes include level term insurance, whole life, universal life and variable universal life. Single premium life has given a real lift to our agency.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, July 22, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.