Paul Hopkins (former CEO of FIG) expresses his true thoughts on the Agency Force and seasoned agents to Zurich Stockholders.
The Commission Cut from Another Perspective
Perhaps it is time to put the Commission Cut into perspective for those that are up in that “Ivory Tower”.
As a Farmers Agent, I am responsible to pay Rent/Mortgage, Electric/Gas/Water, my Health Insurance, E&O Coverage, Property Insurance, Internet Service, Phone Service, Computers, Fax Machine, Printer, Phone Equipment, Continuing Education/Training, State Insurance License, Appointment Fees, Office Furniture… And then there is the Student Loan from getting that preferred Bachelor’s Degree and having to pay myself so that I can pay my personal bills and still put something away for retirement. Then there is that wonderful person that I have working in the front office that I have to not only pay a salary to but additionally, I have to pay Health Benefits, Paid Time Off, Workers Compensation, Social Security/FICA Taxes, Unemployment, Paid Time Off, Training Time…
After all this, I still have FGI knocking on my door to participate in AMP, Performance Marketing Program, Digital Storefront Program, Website Customization, Signage, Office Paint Color, Co-Op…
Even if I do qualify for the bonuses being offered that will not “make me whole” and back to where I was before the Commission Cut, NOT EVEN CLOSE. And there is no guarantee that I will be able to consistently hit the mark to make the bonuses, especially with FGI moving the target at every turn. So I have to ask, “What expenses am I going to cut to be able to make ends meet and keep from having to make that ultimate decision to leave? The most logical and easiest reduction in cost would be to stop answering the door when FGI knocks about one more program or initiative in which to participate. Now, if I am no longer participating in these programs I will not be eligible for a bonus so I am going to have to cut more. The next logical step is to cut my staff. That person who has stuck with me through all the ups and downs of this industry and life with Farmers. They have been my right hand and given me the chance to step away from the office to take that vacation with my family and help my first born settle into their first college dorm. They have provided me the support that I needed to be able to help my clients that needed someone when their house caught fire, when they needed help evaluating the new antique ring from their grandmother or putting together a good policy to protect their children should something happen to them.
Come to think of it, that is why I became an insurance agent in the first place. I wanted to be able to help people protect those things they hold dear and be able to be there to help people during a horrible time in their lives. To be able to look at those clients that had become almost family, when there was a loss or a claim for that event no one ever thought was going to happen, and I was able to help them quietly celebrate the fact that they would be taken care of. I was able to witness what the insurance really means at the time of real loss or tragedy.
Perhaps FGI does want to have younger, more disposable agents, I mean, after all, Paul Hopkins did say to the Zurich Shareholders “7 years is the optimal productive lifespan of an agent, after that they get immersed in servicing the clients they have instead of writing new business.” Perhaps they think that if they keep the revolving door of agents going and if they just keep making the contract more and more one sided they will be able to have their cake and eat it too, that they can have an Agency Force that they can call Independent Contractors but treat like employees. But, perhaps they haven’t thought that by doing all of this not only are they going to force out the good solid agents who have built this company up, but they are going to become known throughout the industry as that company that puts money and shareholder payout above all else. I guess this is where I should mention that in their shortsightedness they may have forgotten that most of the policyholders they have aren’t with Farmers for the price, they are with Farmers for the agent that they have had through all those years, the agent that has taken care of them. That agent that made sure there weren’t holes in their coverage and that was there for the good times and the bad!
I know there are a lot of Farmers Agents looking inside themselves and trying to make tough decisions about what the future holds and that they feel their backs are up against a wall but I have a few questions for them, the same questions I have asked myself. Am I willing to just let them take this money from me? Let them reach into my pocket, throw up my hands and say “I can’t change anything”. Am I willing to let them take away my ability to help those first-time homebuyers or that seasoned couple moving into the place they will spend their last days? Am I willing to let FGI tell me that what I do is of no value and that anyone can come in off the street and do what I do; take care of my people the way I do?
Here are some of the questions I have posed to myself and I now pose to all Farmers Insurance Agents…
*Have you signed the petition to tell FGI what you think of them stealing money from you?
–If not why not, like it has been said many times, if you don’t do anything there is NO WAY anything will change.
*If these Commission cuts go through what will you do…
–Turn tail and go restart from scratch or stand up and fight for what is right and good and decent?
*If I say what changes am I planning to help with the initial impact of the commission cut…
–Decline to sign up for all those extra programs that cost me through FGI?
–Cut my staffs hours or cut my staff completely?
–Move to a smaller office?
–Since I won’t qualify for the bonuses anyway will I move in with another agent?
I realize that it really doesn’t matter to FGI if I can pay my expenses, but the reality of life is that these are the expenses that I have to pay to stay in business. If you cut my income 30-40% how am I supposed to continue to grow? Growth is one of the main marks on the AGM, therefore by cutting my income, you are forcing me to make decisions that will result in my inability to “make the grade” and end up “above the line”, once again making all those bonuses you keep talking about our of reach for me.
UFAA received this message from a long-time supporter/member of UFAA and we thought that we would take these questions to the Agency Force. Please take a few moments to reply to this email and let us know what tough decisions you are having to make, what are you having to cut, what sacrifice is going to have to be made for you to stay afloat with the impending commission cuts.
If we collectively shout at the “Ivory Tower” they will have to hear us!