NU Online News Service, Dec. 6, 11:29 a.m. – Agents who represent The Farmers Insurance Group, Simi Valley, Calif., have traditionally focused on selling property-casualty coverage to the middle market. Now a Farmers subsidiary, Farmers Financial Solutions, is capitalizing on those middle-market p-c relationships to sell life insurance, annuities, and mutual funds.

Farmers formed the subsidiary in 2000 to give its 14,000 career agents a chance to branch out. “We saw an opportunity to broaden what we do for our customers,” says Brian Cohen, president of Farmers Financial. “The big question has always been, ?Can the property-casualty agent really become more of a full financial services provider?’”

The company started with only about 500 agents signing up to be licensed. That number has now grown to about 6,000.

“And, now in order to become a Farmer’s agent, you have to be licensed to sell our security products from the onset,” he says.

Before selling any of these products, agents must go through an extensive training program, which combines online tutorials with classroom instruction. Because many of these agents have never worked with these types of products, the training program focuses on the fundamentals of risk management and investing, Cohen says.

“Everyone thinks a property-casualty agent can’t make the transition,” he says. “But you don’t have to be a financial genius to do this for the middle market, you just have to have a relationship and understand the fundamentals. That’s really all the middle market is looking for.”

While Cohen was unable to give an exact number of sales made to date, he estimates the growth in assets under management to be about $2 million every business day.

Cohen says that rate of growth is significant, given the nature of Farmer’s target market. “Our average transaction size is under $1,000.”