For many years, the life insurance industry has grappled with a long-standing problem of recruiting and retaining new young talent, and 2003 proved no different. Through the first 6 months of 2003, the number of inexperienced recruits increased by only 1%, according to a recent report from LIMRA International.
In response to the situation, companies are exploring different approaches and perspectives. For instance, some feel that in order to increase recruiting, the industry needs to reposition the career a little differently than it has in the past.
Rather than focus on how a new agent can help people accumulate and transfer wealth, a big area of opportunity is in cash flow managementthe orderly liquidation of assets throughout retirement, says Doug French, global director of Ernst & Youngs insurance and actuarial advisory services, New York.
“Cash flow management is not a simple solution for people,” he explains. “Its going to be sold face to face, and its going to be heavily advice-driven.”
French feels this is an area companies should be recruiting to. Carriers need to build a field force focused on an advisory relationship where theyre working with clients for 30 to 35 years throughout retirement, he explains.
“Theres a big opportunity for those who get there early and start working on it now,” French says.
But others feel that to motivate people to get into the business, carriers need to appeal to an individuals desire to help other people. “I think weve lost our religion,” says David Woods, CEO of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Va.
“We dont recruit to the passion. We dont recruit to the fact that young people are idealistic, and they want to do something good with their lives,” he explains.
“I came into the business, and a lot of people came into the business to help people, to do something to play a meaningful part in the lives of other people,” he says. “We dont recruit that way anymore.”
Instead, a lot of the industrys focus has been on selling certain products to meet specific needs, and a lot of attention has been placed on commissions and payouts, says William J. Cuff, vice president of recruiting, selection, training and management development for MetLife, New York. “Thats something that has hurt recruiting for the entire industry.”
Over the past year, MetLife has refocused its recruiting efforts to “return to the philosophy” of helping people. Cuff has worked with his agency management team to change their recruiting strategy. MetLife will now focus more on actively recruiting quality recruits, putting more emphasis on retention of the agent, he says.