AIG American General creates network to help independent advisors reach this market

A perennial challenge of independent advisors–garnering the benefits of a large organization while maintaining independence–is frequently a delicate balancing act. Through the creation of its Independent Advisors Network, Houston-based AIG American General believes it has achieved a balance producers will find hard to pass up.

“What we’ve done with IAN is to build value around advisors by connecting them to a network that extends beyond their capabilities and helps them grow,” says Richard Miller, president and CEO of AIG American General’s Independent Advisor Network. “That is, philosophically and strategically, where we want to take this organization.”

Launched in March 2003, IAN targets the so-called “mass affluent” market: individuals and small business owners with between $100,000 and $1 million to invest. Their numbers are large–and rising.

According to a 2000 Survey on Consumer Finances by the Council on Financial Competition, the mass affluent market generates more than $95 billion in revenue for advisors.

To secure a share of this market pie, IAN has recruited more than 125 general agents and 500-plus personal producing agents, exceeding AIG objectives for 2004. The company also surpassed its targeted goals of $12.5 million and $40 million, respectively, in annualized and total premium. Miller adds that IAN contributed to a 30% increase in business, or an additional 4,500 life insurance applications, for AIG American General.

In attaining these objectives, AIG American General credits in part the high caliber of producers recruited. IAN counts among its field force many who meet Million Dollar Round Table production levels.

Miller also cites the resources and tools available to the network’s producers: study groups and seminars; strategic planning techniques; online sales tools; plus a relationship with The Strategic Coach, an entrepreneurial-coaching organization headed by Dan Sullivan. IAN also has a similar partnership with Louis Cassara, a sales coach and CEO of the Cassara Clinic.

Advisors also enjoy sales leads generated through IAN-affiliated telemarketing firms, direct mail advertising tools, and access to case design experts who can advise on planning techniques. To offset the cost of these services, producers can apply credits they earn meeting production targets.

“The network isn’t a repackaging of existing offerings,” says Miller. “In building IAN, we’ve accumulated solutions that we don’t manufacture but that can help producers grow their businesses.”

Producers interviewed for this article agree. Merle Jones, president of Jones Investment Group, St. Robert, Mo., and an IAN advisor, notes he nearly “quadrupled” his production since joining the network. Chris Jacob, a principal at Michaletz & Jacob Wealth Advisory Group, St. Louis, Mo., says he secured through IAN a life insurance contract generating $850,000 in annual premium–his largest ever.

The advisors particularly praise the program’s mentoring program and workshops. They also cite AIG’s branding and marketing savvy with helping to enhance their sales levels.

“When you’re an independent, you normally don’t have a huge network to leverage,” says Jones. “AIG has created a network that makes you bigger than you really are.”

Adds Jacob: “Other companies have advanced planning departments, but I have yet to find one that will sit you down with an expert who has actual field experience. A lot of advance planning departments only have people working in home offices who have never sold a product in their life.”

What products are the advisors selling? Jacob, whose clients are primarily over 60 and have $3 million-plus in investable assets, has had success marketing AIG’s universal life insurance policy featuring a return of premium rider and guaranteed death benefit. Jones, who counts former military personnel among his clients, also has done well with the return of premium rider.

To be sure, advisors enrolled in IAN are free to market products other than AIG’s. Also, none of AIG’s solutions are targeted uniquely to the mass affluent market, though Miller says some products lend themselves well to this customer segment. Among them: a critical illness product launched during the past six months that will pay up to $250,000 in the event of an accident or illness.

Kicker: Slicing The Market

Mass Affluents by Age and Investable Assets

Market

% of Affluent Population

Age

Investable Assets

Emerging Affluent

45%

21-24

$100,000 to $500,000

Young Affluent

18%

30-54

$500,000 to $1 million

Mature Affluent

12%

55-70

$500,000 to $1 million

Young High Net Worth

6%

30-54

$1 million to $3 million

Mature High Net Worth

6%

55-70

$1 million to $3 million

Very High Net Worth

13%

30-70

$3 million-plus

Source: AIG American General, December 2004.