Top producers talk about their wholesaler
Charles K. Hirsch, CLU
Chuck Hirsch, CLU, is the former
editor and publisher of Life
Insurance Selling magazine. He
continues to contribute to insurance
industry publications, in addition to
providing consulting and marketing
services through his firm, Hirsch
Communications Consulting, LLC.
He can be reached at
We’re in a business
that thrives upon
relationships, and the
best BGAs I know are
of the profitable ones
he or she has built.
If I were to poll NAILBA member agencies and ask what drives their
success with any productive advisor, I believe the word I would
hear most often would be “relationship.” We’re in a business that
thrives upon relationships, and the best BGAs I know are extremely
protective of the profitable ones he or she has built.
But there’s more to it than that. After all, if you’re going to develop new relationships with
a new group of advisors, what’s going to attract them in the first place? What are they looking
for from you and your team? What’s going to pique their interest long enough to even give
you a chance to develop a relationship?
To help get a clearer view of what top producers are expecting from the wholesalers with
which they do business, I recently asked those kinds of questions of a couple of top advisors.
Both Steven P. Arengo, CFP, AIF, of Interdependent Advisors in Glendale, Ohio, and Michelle
L. Binder, CFP, of Potomac Financial Consultants in Germantown, Maryland, do business with
brokerage general agencies on a regular basis. And both were kind enough to share their
thoughts about what advisors expect from their relationships with wholesalers.
Mr. Arengo told me about the importance of the advisor and the insurance brokerage firm
working together like teammates. “I like using my insurance brokers like extensions of me,” he
said. “So in a perfect world, I would tee up my insurance prospect, and the brokerage general
agency would do the rest.”
Importance of support
He pointed to the value of support materials that he receives on a regular basis from one of
the insurance brokerage firms with which he does business. “I love the kind of stuff I get from
them. They’re always open to mentoring me and growing my practice. I’m slowly getting to
the point where I have a process that tees them up enough so that they can carry out all the
details. The firms I work with do a pretty good job of running with it and keeping me or my
assistant in the loop.”
Ms. Binder talked about the biggest value she sees the insurance brokerage firm bringing
to the table. “For me,” she said, “it is the firm’s ability to offer us access to various insurance
companies and products at one single place. They are willing to work directly with the
insurance companies on our behalf without us having to get involved.”
Mr. Arengo added that he sees the greatest value in the firm’s “breadth of knowledge,
experience, and mostly support, as if they were an extension of my own practice.”
I asked whether there is a part of the business where the wholesaler offers the potential to
be of significant help, but for some reason that potential is not being realized. Mr. Arengo
pointed out that he could use help with more complex business arrangements. But he
conceded, “This is primarily an issue with me, not the insurance brokerage firms. I’m
in the process of tidying up my practice so I can grow.”
Ms. Binder said, “My current wholesaler is great about helping us with life and
long-term care insurance needs, but does lack a bit on help with disability insurance.
We don’t write a ton of disability insurance, but it would be nice to have a stronger
support system in place for those times when that need does arise with my clients.”
“I like using my
insurance brokers like
extensions of me.”
Steven P. Arengo, CFP, AIF, of
Interdependent Advisors in
Since the competition among brokerage general agencies can be fierce, I thought it would
be good to get an advisor’s perspective on what a relatively new insurance brokerage might
do to set themselves apart. Ms. Binder pointed toward technology. “I would encourage the
insurance brokerage firm to have software available to the advisor that enables people like me
to give quotes, process, and follow up with cases if the advisor wants to be a ‘do it yourself’
kind of advisor. On the other hand, the insurance brokerage firm should be willing to do the
process work for the advisor if the advisor is the kind who doesn’t want to handle those things
by himself or herself. In addition, any new insurance brokerage firm should have access to
numerous top carriers.”
For Mr. Arengo, an insurance brokerage firm can set itself apart by keeping it simple.
“Simplify the process,” he said. “Let the advisor tee up the client, and then let the insurance
brokerage take it from there.”
He, too, sees effective technology as a plus. “Use DocuSign as much as possible,” he said.
“Some are better than others in this area.”
Certainly, no one expects all brokerage general agencies to appeal to everyone. There is, in
fact, a lot of specialization in this business. But generally speaking, good agencies know their
market and who they want to do business with. The smartest agencies, though, are good at
listening to their market, and improving in those areas where they need improvement. The
result, of course, is more — and stronger — profitable relationships.
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