Time was, there were plenty of good producers to go around. No more. Now insurance companies - regardless of whether they have captive agents or work with independent producers - are in competition with each other, mutual fund companies, independent broker/dealers, and others to retain and motivate top performers. It's an enormous challenge.
Kevin Crowley, senior vice president for John Hancock Financial Services, called it "the top-producer paradox" at last fall's Life InsuranceResearch Association Annual Meeting. Hancock depends on its top 2.5 percent of producers for 20 percent of its production. But getting and keeping them is expensive and difficult. "They are the least flexible and the most demanding of service," he said.
They're also the most well-traveled and the toughest to impress with incentive conference campaigns. Time for a "ratcheting up" of incentive trips, says Tom Joyal at Lutheran Brotherhood in Minneapolis. And nothing "ratchets up" a trip faster than an exotic destination. Perhaps that's why two-thirds of respondents to this year's ICP reader survey said they had held international meetings - up from 57 percent two years ago. It's certainly why London Pacific Life launched its annual incentive 11 years ago on the premise that the company would stand out from the crowd by hosting only international trips.
How else can you stand out? Our survey showed that many of you aren't using the Web to communicate with producers. No top producer today is without Internet access. Give them a meeting site with key information, links to your meeting property and destination, an update on their progress toward qualification, and you'll get their attention more often and far more cost-effectively than with traditional promotions. Take a tip from Marie Dremann, Planning Corp. of America in St. Petersburg, Fla., who did the bulk of her recent promotion online.
It's All Financial Services On another note: As we leap into 2001, the Insurance Conference Planners Association marks one of the biggest changes in its 43-year history - broadening its membership to include qualified planners from financial services companies. The move is a recognition of the industry's changed landscape, in which more companies are delivering "integrated financial services" than are sticking with an insurance-only mandate.
As I wrote last year in this space, ICP has broadened its circulation as well, and now reaches those financial services companies. Look for case studies and ideas from their meetings to add a new element to the coming year's worth of issues.