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A Cultural Shift: Multilingual Producers Go Independent

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More than a decade ago, the life insurance industry experienced a seismic shift as many career agents made the transition to become independent producers. Today, an echo boom is taking place as significant numbers of multicultural agents make the leap from being career agents to starting agencies of their own.

The multicultural producer pool has grown in response to the growth of the minority market, which now represents nearly one-third of the U.S. population. And as the minority population has increased, so has its wealth, education level and openness to new products.

Today’s multicultural prospects are more affluent, better informed and more interested in preserving their wealth for their dependents. And like mass-affluent mainstream Americans, they’re also open to a broader selection of insurance solutions that allow them to grow and transfer their wealth.

As multicultural producers work to service this market–and to start their own agencies in unprecedented numbers–there exists a tremendous opportunity for carriers and independent distribution organizations to support them. How can independent marketing organizations (IMOs) and brokerage general agencies (BGAs) capitalize on the significant multicultural life insurance market share that’s up for grabs?

Do your own multicultural awareness training

“In-language” marketing materials are critical to success in multicultural markets. Product brochures, business cards and direct mailers should all be available in the languages native to the target audiences. But to communicate with multicultural markets, life insurance distribution organizations must do more than just translate flyers or include images of diverse people in their marketing materials.

IMOs and BGAs must understand the diverse needs of multicultural populations–and what they may be apprehensive about. For example, paying for the care of elderly parents may be of particular concern for one community, while certain other communities may have a greater need to finance small businesses.

By demonstrating an understanding of the relevant culture, you establish your credibility in front of multicultural producers and customers. In some of these markets, you only have one chance to make a first impression when it comes to recruiting or selling. If you believe you need professional help from a carrier that is knowledgeable and experienced in these markets, don’t hesitate to ask.

Find and support your internal champions

It is vital for IMOs and BGAs to identify and invest in their internal multicultural champions. These individuals will serve as “the face” and the voice of the organization’s enterprise-wide commitment. Ideal multicultural champions can be on your staff or leading producers in your distribution organization, or a combination of both. Either way, they should have close community ties and bilingual skills, know how to position the appropriate products and services in a “multicultural-friendly” manner, and be well-schooled about how your organization operates.

You can position your champions to help in matters of internal and external communication, training support staff about cultural sensitivities and service improvements. You thereby demonstrate a commitment to the independent multicultural producers and the communities they serve through your organization.

According to a 2006 LIMRA report, “ethnic markets will buy from a company they have heard about from its financial representatives.” With this in mind, your internal multicultural champions will need your organization’s support in marketing and branding. These efforts should be conducted within the relevant communities in parallel to the recruiting and training of field representatives.

Given the rise in wealth and education of this market, multicultural consumers are looking for high quality products and services, and they realize they have a choice. So do the multicultural producers. Many times an insurance company brand–particularly those with deep cultural roots globally–can help you solidify a relationship with a high-caliber producer and a sale with an affluent multicultural customer.

Set up shop in the target communities

Another way to earn the confidence in the multicultural market is to create a physical presence in their communities. By holding educational workshops and sponsoring events within the communities, producers can demonstrate their commitment to servicing the multicultural audience–and thereby gain their trust. Using co-op advertising or sponsorship dollars, IMOs/BGAs and carriers can demonstrate a willingness to work within these communities long-term.

By establishing a presence in multicultural communities, distribution organizations can more effectively leverage word-of-mouth recommendations–a critical factor for success in these markets. According to LIMRA research, multicultural populations, particularly Asians and Hispanics, are strongly influenced to choose a financial advisor based upon the recommendation of someone their family or community knows well.

Ultimately, in a domestic life insurance industry that is experiencing marginal growth at best, the multicultural market represents a significant opportunity for substantial growth. By allying themselves with the carriers that demonstrate a commitment to and experience in this market, those distribution organizations that seek partnerships with the increasing numbers of independent multicultural producers will undoubtedly seize significant market share.