Farmers P-C Agents Now Selling Variable Products
Agents who represent the Farmers Insurance Group, Simi Valley, Calif., have traditionally focused on marketing property-casualty coverage to the middle market. Now, a Farmers subsidiary, called Farmers Financial Solutions, is capitalizing on those middle market p-c relationships to sell variable products, including life insurance, annuities and mutual funds.
Farmers formed the subsidiary in 2000 to give its 14,000 career agents an opportunity to branch out. “The big question has always been Can the property-casualty agent really become more of a full financial services provider?” says Brian S. Cohen, president of Farmers Financial Solutions.
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The company started with 500 agents signing up to be licensed. Today that number has now grown to about 6,000.
“I always felt that we could offer more to people someday,” says Joe Wimpee, a Farmers agent from Rockwell, Tex.
When Wimpee started out in the business, he felt he would need to be in the investment and life insurance business “so we can offer all those things to our customers.”
Cohen explains that since Farmers has a customer base of about 10 million and good relationships are already in place, the next logical step was to offer investment and insurance services to this market. “We saw an opportunity to broaden what we do for that customer,” he says.
“Everyone thinks a property-casualty agent cant make the transition,” Cohen adds. “But you dont have to be a financial genius to do this for the middle market, you just have to have a relationship and understand the fundamentalsthats really all the middle market is looking for.”
“I already have the relationship with these people so I felt it would be a pretty easy transition,” adds Wimpee.
This has been a natural transition for Wimpee, in part due to the process he follows when assessing risk for a client. For example, when meeting with clients to write a homeowners or auto policy, he gathers asset information in addition to finding out information about the home, the cars and their driving records. “If youve got $500,000 in the bank, Im going to try to protect it with liability coverage,” he says.
Now, Wimpee takes his fact finding a step further by asking who manages that money and whether the client is pleased with the service from his broker or asset manager.
But for Farmers agent Michael Blau, Kansas City, Mo., it wasnt just a natural transition, it was one the key reasons he joined Farmers four-and-a-half years ago. Blau had prior experience in the investment industry, coming from American Centurys corporate offices, and when deciding on Farmers, “one of the key things was the ability to sell mutual funds with Farmers Insurance.”