Author: Jayne Alford

We started this year with a commitment to focus on three distinct areas: communication, data, and training. I’m pleased to say that over the past 12 months, we’ve made major strides in all three areas, in addition to a few others. In the spirit of bringing in the new year, I wanted to spend some time reflecting on 2017, as well as leaving you with a teaser of what’s on the horizon technology-wise in 2018.

Communication: Emails, Newsletter, Blog Posts, and More Social Media

Earlier this year, we committed to never sending more than three mass emails per week to the field. The idea was to unclutter your inboxes and cut down on unnecessary messages. I don’t think we’ve once violated that commitment since its induction into our rule book.

We also decided in 2017 to replace our monthly newsletters (Community, Stability, and Integrity) with one bi-weekly distribution, titled Everyother, covering all relevant information and written in a succinct and palatable format. So far, we have had some great feedback about the distribution and will continue to build on our creation.

Blog posts are now being regularly posted to the website. We try to cover a number of timely and timeless topics while also nailing down our future posting schedule. If you’re in the mood for a good read, check out our blog to see the latest posts. I know we silently introduced the blog halfway through this year without much flare, but it’s here now and worth a look.

Lastly, our social media presence has taken a step forward. In previous years, we posted maybe once or twice a week — if that. Now, we post quite frequently with timely, relevant, and interesting content. If you would like to see what we’re up to, just check out our Twitter page.

Data: Salesforce, Zendesk, & More

As a firm, IFP will always work to improve data quality and usage. Our industry deals with a metric ton of data that belongs to multitudes of other parties and is transmitted with varying degrees of security. It’s occasionally hard for some companies to keep up. To this effect, IFP has been working hard on two main data initiatives internally that stand to produce external benefits in 2018 and beyond.

Zendesk: Zendesk is a customer service ticketing software that we implemented mid-year to start tracking and managing submissions from the field to our department inboxes. Both our employees and financial advisors are working to familiarize themselves with this process, but by centralizing requests to inboxes in lieu of individual people, we hope to eliminate the need to rely on those who may be out of the office for any reason. We know it’s a learning process, but we strongly believe this system will greatly reduce turnaround times on pending requests. Internally, we’ve taken the data from Zendesk and fed it into dashboards that each department can use to monitor requests, turnaround times, and more.

Salesforce: We’ve used Salesforce internally as our CRM system for a few years now. However, under our technology team leader, Jordan Slack, we will have completed the creation of and migration to a brand new internal Salesforce org by the end of 2017. IFP employees will have a much more sophisticated interface and system from which to service our advisors. This may not seem like an immediate or tangible benefit for our advisors, but it will allow us to evolve our service model and eventually provide a much-enhanced level of concierge support to them in the coming months and beyond.

As we move into 2018, IFP has a renewed focus on what I’d call external data initiatives pertaining to our institutional data fees from LPL, Fidelity, Schwab, and TD as well as the ever difficult recordkeeper and third-party money manager data feeds. We will communicate more specifics around these initiatives in the coming months.

Coming Soon: Training

As a small to mid-size firm, robust training for our employees or advisors evolves over time as the need for training increases and the resources to implement a training program become available. We have personnel at IFP who are very passionate about training and have stepped up to the plate to help build our training programs for internal and external individuals. Led by Liz Piquet, one of our operations liaisons, our operations team is currently working on a training initiative that includes:

  1. Updating and documenting all current internal workflows, policies, procedures, and systems (technologies)
  2. Identifying common advisor training needs across all categories: onboarding, compliance, technology, custodians, etc.
  3. Using items 1 and 2 to create training curriculums for IFP employees and training modules by subject matter for advisors
  4. Vetting learning management systems (LMS) and selecting one for deploying the curriculums and modules that we develop

We hope by mid-year 2018 to have a working version of our training program with the intent to continuously evolve and improve it as we grow.

Getting Stuff Done: Workflows, Project Management, and Technology

In addition to communication, data, and training in 2017, we began focusing on ways to improve getting projects done, for lack of a more sophisticated phrase. We had workflows that need to be updated and documented, not to mention automated. We had policies and procedures that needed to be refined and optimized. We also had numerous people in various departments working on many different projects that needed to be better organized and outlined. To start solving for these needs, we did the following:

  1. Launched a workflow project, also being led by Liz Piquet, whereby each department is updating every one of their workflows (large, small, or tiny) and mapping them in flowcharts as well as linking each step of the flowchart to relevant policies and procedures documents.
  2. Formed a Project Management Office (PMO) consisting of Aaron Prida, one of our operations liaisons and project manager, Jordan Slack, our Director of Technology, and myself. The PMO has the responsibility of overseeing, tracking, and managing all active projects for the firm and ensuring contributors are meeting deadlines.
  3. Deployed new technologies to allow our employees to make items 1 and 2 possible. They also help reduce friction in areas like meeting scheduling and conference calls. These include:
    • Moqups: an online, cloud-based, flowchart designer
    • Milestones PM: a project management software built on the Salesforce platform
    • Box: a cloud-based document storage software that allows us to dynamically create and link policies and procedures and other documents to other software and processes
    • Calendly: a calendar app that integrates with your calendar and allows you to direct people to a link where they can only schedule time on your calendar that shows as free
    • UberConference: a free personal conference call and screen sharing software that eliminates many of the frustrations associated with conference calls

Again, this ‘getting projects done’ initiative is mostly internal, but everything we do at IFP is geared toward servicing and supporting our advisors, so the more we can create and foster an efficient environment internally, the better our advisors’ experience will be externally.

Final Thoughts: Cliffhanger

As you can see, 2017 was a busy year, and 2018 looks to be just as fun. As you can hopefully tell, we are focusing and will continue to focus on improving and optimizing everything we do with the ultimate goal of perpetually enhancing the IFP advisor experience. One key part of that experience is the IFP portal. In 2018, we will be rolling out a brand-new advisor portal equipped with more functionality, integrations, and tools. Look out for the first iteration of this system in Q1.

That’s all our technology team will let me share at the moment, but I promise that IFP is quickly becoming a technology company (we recently hired our first software engineer, Saransh Singh!). Our advisors will soon see what that means and how it will benefit them.

We hope that 2017 was fruitful to all of our employees and advisors and we thank everyone for being part of our firm. Here’s to next year and beyond as we all continue to evolve, grow, and enhance the lives of those connected to us.

Time is the most valuable asset we own, especially in this industry. If you’re like us, an eight-hour work day is absolutely unachievable with the amount of work on our plate. For this reason, we rely heavily on our strategic partnerships to manage part of our heavy workload – and you should too.

Offloading Contingency Planning

In most cases you’re simply facilitating the insurance buying process through a proxy (like the IFP Insurance Group), so the weight of the world isn’t on your shoulders. However, that’s just one example of teaming up to make life easier (and potentially more profitable). Partnering cuts down on your time investment, provides a way for clients to minimize the impact of certain life events on their assets, and more, so you can focus on getting more business.

Robo Is Not Your Biggest Threat

While financial planners are on the front lines battling robo-advisers, the life insurance industry is enjoying a (mostly) robot-free environment. Clients need a professional to explain insurance plans and how they benefit their financial health, while also generating revenue for your firm. They might use an online insurance provider for other products, but life insurance requires a bit more explaining.

Bigger Growth in LTC

Partnering often involves stepping out of our comfort zone to find even greater comfort elsewhere. In insurance, this means we need to embrace a friendship with long-term care insurance providers. For instance, we know a financial advisor on the West Coast with 11 long-term care clients paying 100 cents on the dollar for their care. Their practice AUM is getting drained for around $2 million a year due to these cases. This is directly damaging the value of the practice in addition to their clients’ net worth — it’s a lose-lose situation. LTC insurance is a risk management strategy that could save you and the client money in the long run.

Teaming Up for a Succession Plan

Retirement seemed so far away, didn’t it? Well, building a solid succession plan means finding a partner (if you haven’t already). Passing on the firm is a great way to generate some addition retirement income and get you to that beach without a care in the world. Now that we’re all living longer, healthier lives, it’s time to plan for the future where we aren’t working and the young pups have taken the reigns.

Final Notes

Remember, insurance isn’t the boogeyman. It’s just another revenue stream and a hedge against future risk for your practice and clients. Stop being afraid of it and grab up those partners to help you generate more revenue while making your life easier.

Have questions or comments? Email me at [email protected].

It’s 2017 and at the time of writing this blog post a new administration is heading into the White House. No matter your political preference, there will be no end to the ‘noise’. There isn’t a doubt in my mind there will be countless other interesting issues and events unfolding as the year moves forward – even more of that ‘noise’ we mentioned. All piled on to the demands of daily lives, jobs, children, et al. Regardless, clients are in significant need of quality information that helps them make informed decisions about their finances. That’s the role of a good advisor; translate what your clients learn from their endless hours on the internet into information that is useful to their specific situations. In the realm of insurance planning, that person is YOU! Let’s take a look at an example from our books.

Be the One They Call

Back in December we received a call from an IFP advisor that was referred to us from one of his contemporaries who was already doing business with the IFP Insurance Group. He believed he had an opportunity for a reasonably nice case but, as an advisor that focuses on retirement planning, he had done very little in the realm of long-term care with plan participants. He had considered walking away without another thought. His past experience was that insurance was too much of a hassle. Between getting the paperwork together, submitting everything to the insurance companies, and the long waits and poor communication, it wasn’t worth his time. His fellow advisor said, “Don’t worry. Just call the IFP Insurance Group – they know what they’re doing and they will help you!” Despite his hesitation, he carefully listened as we explained how we operate and can help his firm. By walking him through the plan design and the next steps in the process, the advisor was on his way to building a stronger relationship with the client and saving otherwise lost revenue.

The Lesson

Don’t let past experiences drive your behavior going forward. If you do, everyone loses. Insurance might be a different business, but it’s a far cry from having a dentist work on your teeth without Novocain. We assure you, the tools of the trade have changed! Products have multiple uses and make premiums work harder than ever. In addition, modern marketing support tools are first class. Today, we have accelerated underwriting, electronic submissions, and the IFP Insurance Group’s Kelle App service to make it easier than ever to facilitate the process. Our team is credentialed and constantly working to keep up with the latest changes to insurance products. While it’s your job to offer insurance, it’s our job to stay current and relevant on your behalf.

What Are These Tools?

While some tools may be familiar, others have been introduced in the last few years. Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Marketing Tools to Help Start the Conversation

Life Happens

Life Happens is a nonprofit organization created to help Americans take control of their finances through life, disability, and long-term care insurance. Use their calculator app on your smartphone or desktop to determine how much coverage your client needs through a few easy steps.

Principal’s Informal Business Valuation

Through Principal’s Informal Business Valuation service, 3 years of tax returns and a very minimal amount of information can get you a business valuation prior to having a buy/sell conversation.

Retire Stronger

AIG has created Retire Stronger to provide advisors with consumer-facing, visually appealing marketing materials to help clients see the value in insurance products.

Tools to Make Life Easier

Accelerated Underwriting

The accelerated underwriting program offers fast underwriting decisions by eliminating lab testing, paramed exams, attending physician statements in 65% of cases. It’s that simple. If your clients do qualify, it’s a free opportunity to under-promise and potentially over-deliver, which makes you look like a rockstar.

Electronic Submissions

By using an electronic submission process, it takes less time to submit applications, signatures are obtained electronically, and needed evidence is ordered locally. The faster this process is completed, the better you look. Electronic submissions are also a great way to minimize the amount of human error that contributes to Not in Good Order (NIGO) applications.

The Kelle App

The IFP Insurance Group offers a proprietary application process, internally referred to as the Kelle App, for all financial advisors offering insurance products. If a case’s premiums exceed $2,500, our very own Kelle Schnabel will work directly with the client to complete and submit the insurance app on your behalf. She is an extension of your team.

Bringing it to You

While you are certainly welcome to sell insurance on your own, our team can help cut through the noise and keep you up to date with current and relevant information. Start building a complete financial plan with risk transfer products and generate more revenue for your firm. Everybody wins! What hurdles are you facing when selling insurance? Let us know in the comments.

Securities offered through IFP Securities, LLC member FINRA and SIPC Investment advisory services offered through Independent Financial Partners, a Registered Investment Adviser.