Some of the most valuable insights often come from unusual and unexpected encounters. In her chairman’s remarks at NAILBA’s 2011 annual meeting, Christi M. Daughenbaugh told of talking to her hairdresser, a 24-year-old mother-to-be, about life insurance.
The young woman made it clear that she had no interest in buying something that came with a death requirement. That changed, however, when Christi focused on the need to protect her lifestyle. That’s when this young woman asked, almost jokingly, “Will you be my financial coach?”
In a few words, that remark captures what we all need, whether we’re consumers committed to building our financial security or advisors growing a business. We need someone in our corner — someone we trust — to help us maximize our talents, skills and resources.
And just as many producers are moving away from a transaction-based model to becoming financial coaches for their clients, so the brokerage general agency (BGA) is moving away from serving as simply a wholesaler of product. BGAs today are training and coaching producers — serving as a resource to help them succeed.
Since NAILBA held its first annual meeting 30 years ago, BGAs have not only increased in number, but many have also moved from essentially having a local orientation to serving producers regionally and nationally. This is good news for advisors because, today, they have more choices in BGAs than ever before.
So, what should advisors expect from a BGA? While every BGA has its own answers to this question, here are guidelines that may be helpful. When evaluating a BGA, ask yourself if the BGA does the following five things:
1. Ask the right questions?
You may want to be cautious if someone on the sales side of a brokerage firm starts off by telling you what a great deal you’ll get by working with their organization. While compensation is critical, there should be far more to a BGA relationship.
This begins with the BGA rep gaining an understanding of your market. “Tell me about your clients and the types of work you do for them.” Representatives should also express genuine interest in your business by asking about how you conduct your practice, as well as your objectives, your special interests –– and what you expect from a BGA.
Advisors should expect a BGA to invest time, interest and knowledge in an advisor’s work. You’ve learned that information helps build relationships. This is what you do with your clients, and it should be no different in working with a brokerage firm.
2. Keep in touch?
“Do you have any cases we can quote on?” It’s unfortunate that this is the question too many advisors hear from a BGA representative, who then signs off by saying, “Be sure to call us when you have a hot one.”
Such an approach is still far too common and helps explain why some independent advisors view BGAs as doing little more than placing cases, a far less helpful reputation.
Advisors should expect a BGA’s salesperson to stay in touch regularly, bringing helpful ideas and sales strategies. The BGA rep should possess the experience to offer reliable, workable solutions and follow up quickly with additional information. Every advisor needs a reliable sounding board, someone whose goal is listening, not just fishing for a case to quote.
3. Serve as a resource for your practice?