Recruiting Recent College Grads For Advanced Markets Can Work

By

San Antonio

Can an insurance agency realistically expect a recent college graduate to come on board and be successful planning for clients in the advanced markets?

Patrick Ungashick thinks so, and he told a group at this years LAMP meeting how his agency does it. The managing director of Madison Financial Group in Atlanta, Ga., explained that all his recent college graduate recruits begin their career working on fee-based cases in advanced business, estate and financial planning markets.

Many agency managers feel that recent college graduates are not a good fit for the advanced markets. Ungashick admitted that these new agents have no “natural” market. “From a quality and quantity standpoint, the people these young agents know are not prospects for the advanced markets,” he said. With limited life experience, and a first job, resum?-building mentality, most recruiters will not want to take a chance hiring one.

But Ungashick explained that there are several reasons why recent college graduates are ideal recruits for the advanced markets. College graduates have high energy and enthusiasm, he said, and theyre extremely coachable–”they do what you tell them,” theyre loyal, and theyre willing to pay their dues.

Given these qualities, its important to understand there are certain tasks recent college graduates can do well, and others they cannot, he added.

“They prospect well in highly structured systems, they can qualify prospects well, and theyre comfortable in a supporting role in a team environment,” he said.

On the other hand, recent college graduates are unable to execute advanced cases by themselves, are not credible as financial planners, cannot immediately develop their own markets, and cannot draw on past experiences for confidence, Ungashick continued.

The system the Madison Financial Group has built for bringing in these recent graduates puts them in a team environment with a mentor for at least two years and gives them clearly defined tasks and expectations.

An apprentices first task is to set appointments for a mentor. But, since the new agent has no natural market, the mentor must identify whom the apprentice should call.

As a veteran agent who has already developed his or her market, a mentor should easily be able to produce a list of 100 names for the apprentice to call on, he said. The new agent uses structured methods to contact these people. These methods include targeted phone calls or performing market surveys, depending on the nature of the market, Ungashick explained.

Once an appointment is made and a prospect becomes a planning client, the apprentice will serve as the case manager. “Theres no better training environment than seeing a case from start to finish,” he said.

Here, the apprentice accompanies the mentor on all client calls and is involved in all case design meetings–then he will run the illustrations, prepare the presentation and analyze the clients portfolio. This is the task where the new agent will learn a great deal as each case goes from application to issue, Ungashick said.

Finally, the apprentice is responsible for market research activities. This is where “we identify how the apprentice will step out from under the mentor,” Ungashick said. Here the apprentice will identify new opportunities in his or her market, either through trade associations, new centers of influence or possible tangential market niches.

In addition to performing these tasks, apprentices are expected to go through a very structured, extensive training program covering many advanced market concepts. Classes are conducted at the agency where attendance is required. Areas covered include business exit planning, investment planning, retirement and executive benefits planning, and estate planning.

“Were not making them experts,” added Ungashick. The purpose of the training program is to qualify them to speak with prospects about planning strategies that may be appropriate for the prospects situation, he said.

Furthermore, these new recruits are expected to sit for the CFP designation before the end of their third year.

In addition to a financing arrangement with their primary carrier, Met Life, apprentices are entitled to a commission split with their mentor. In an agents first year, there is a 25%/75% split. This goes to 50%/50% in the second year. By the agents third year, joint work and commission splits are left between the two individuals, Ungashick explained.

This structured program at the Madison Financial Group has resulted in an average fee per plan by new associates of $2,450, he said, compared to the industry average of about $1,000. For those plans developed, they have a 90% implementation rate, and the average first-year commission is about three times the fee charged.

The academic record for these new recruits is outstanding, Ungashick said, with a 100% pass rate on the CFP exam over the last five years.

For agencies looking to start recruiting more college graduates, Ungashick warns that its important to start out small–bring in only two or three the first year.

Its also important to identify who will be mentors, and to make sure that their methods and training are consistent with what the agency will be providing. “Mentors should not necessarily be your biggest producers,” he said.

Finally, the mentor and the agency need to establish specific performance standards for each new recruit. “Performance standards should be different for every situation, because every market is different,” he said.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 24, 2003. Copyright 2003 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.