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Another Insurer Faces Agent Recruiting Headaches

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What You Need to Know

  • CNO's CEO says the number of new worksite division agents is down 40% from pre-COVID-19 levels.
  • Agent retention levels have improved.
  • CNO is the third company to talk with analysts about facing agent recruitment problems in the second quarter.

CNO Financial Group is finding it easier to keep experienced agents right now than to recruit new ones.

Gary Bhojwani, the Carmel, Indiana-based life and health insurer’s CEO, talked about the effects of a tight labor market on agent recruiting last week, during a conference call the company held to go over earnings for the second quarter with securities analysts.

The second quarter ended June 30.

“I’ve been involved in a handful of groups both within the insurance industry and other industries with other business leaders,” Bhojwani told Ryan Krueger, an analyst with Keefe Bruyette & Woods. “I don’t know a CEO out there right now that’s not worried about ability to get labor. Every single CEO I’ve talked to regardless of industry has expressed concerns over the tightness of the labor market and how difficult it is to get help. So we are absolutely no exception in that regard.”

CNO is now benefiting from moves it made before the COVID-19 pandemic came along to focus more on retaining veteran agents and brokers rather than maximizing the number of new producers, Bhojwani said.

The agents in CNO’s consumer division sell products such as supplemental health insurance and life insurance to consumers through one-on-one meetings.

At the consumer division, CNO has intentionally followed a strategy of recruiting a smaller number of higher-quality agents.

“The new agents we appoint are more likely to succeed and stay with us,” Bhojwani said.

The agents in CNO’s worksite division sell supplemental life and health products to workers at the worksite.

At the company’s worksite division, CNO slowed agent recruiting due to the workplace restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a result, agent count remains down nearly 40% from pre-COVID levels,” Bhojwani said.

But successful veteran agent retention efforts have increased the number of veteran agents by 7% and improved the level of sales per agent, he added.

Executives from Aflac and Globe Life have also talked about the difficulties of recruiting agents during their second-quarter earnings calls

The Earnings

CNO is reporting $78 million in net income for the second quarter on $1.1 billion in revenue, compared with $82 million in net income on $1 billion in revenue for the year-earlier quarter.

Here’s what happened to new annualized premiums, or sales, for some types of products the insurer sells, between the second quarter of 2020 and the latest quarter:

  • Life Insurance: $52 million (up from $41 million)
  • Supplemental Health Insurance: $26 million (up from $8.8 million)
  • Medicare Supplement Insurance: $8.8 million (down from $8.9 million)
  • Long-Term Care Insurance: $7 million (up from $4.3 million)

Annuity collected premiums increased to $344 million from $243 million.

Pictured: Gary Bhojwani