Recruiting Female Agents Has Its Benefits
Top 3 Reasons to Recruit Women:
1. Successful Interactions: Females are able to relate to other female clients and prospects, making it easier to understand their unique needs.
2. Strong Contacts: Women typically have a base of contacts, either within their former professions or within their communities. This can assist them in building solid practices.
3. Popular Demand: With so many agencies – small and large – targeting female agents, woman investors now have a choice to do business with an insurance company who meets their needs. If you’re not meeting the need, you’re losing business to a competitor that is.
Danica Patrick did it. Hilary Clinton did it. And now droves of females in the financial services industry are doing it – succeeding in what was once a man’s world. As this male-dominated industry continues to change, so do those who represent it.
Recruit: Magnetic Attraction
Despite female representation dwarfing in comparison to its male counterpart, the number of female insurance agents continues to grow year after year. In fact, several large financial firms are creating recruiting campaigns and initiatives based around attracting women .
The approach to recruit, support and retain female agents is evolving. More financial institutions are recognizing females as prime candidates. So much so that companies are competing for female talent. In order to stay competitive with its forward-thinking counterparts, companies must recruit and advance women. “Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s the smart thing to do, given the continuing emergence of women as a powerful economic force,” said Heidi Spilotros, Director of Women’s Recruiting for MassMutual. “It’s also increasingly important for financial services companies to better understand women as prospects and clients, in order to serve this important market segment well.”
MassMutual has been a pioneer in recruiting, retaining and helping females to succeed. But in order to help these individuals do well, you must first understand their needs and motivations. Perhaps no one is more familiar with what female agents desire than Spilotros, as she appreciates the innate need to achieve the ever-illusive work and family life balancing act. She traveled the nation – during her eighth month of pregnancy – to gain a better understanding of what women want.
MassMutual has been able to effectively attract female agents by emphasizing the positive attributes of a career as a financial services professional, specifically the challenge, entrepreneurial spirit, financial and personal rewards and flexibility. This top insurance company is so in tune with these needs that MassMutual was named a Working Mother’s 100 Best Company by Working Mother Magazine in 2007.
While the financial services industry has made several strides in recent years as it relates to female candidates, progress has not penetrated throughout all organizations. According to Geoff Kaltenbach, Associate Managing Partner for Signature Resources in Irvine, CA, the insurance industry has not been successful in these arenas compared to other trades, such as pharmaceutical sales.
Kaltenbach’s approach to recruiting talented females begins at the university level. His firm works with three sororities at two local universities to engage potential candidates for its internship program. This highly effective strategy has resulted in a tremendous source of referrals to the firm. In fact, many of its advisors and staff emerge from the internship program. “Start there (university level) because they know other people who have the same work ethic and that creates a nice center of talent,” said Kaltenbach.
While Signature Resources recruits females, the firm actively seeks good candidates in general, regardless of their gender. There are, however, several benefits to hiring women. “Women can succeed in this business,” insists Kaltenbach.
Typically, females in their mid to late twenties are more mature and empathetic, possess a stronger work ethic, and boast a better sense of fashion than their male counterparts, according to Kaltenbach. Additionally, many human resources directors are female and feel more comfortable dealing with the same sex. Therefore, female representation becomes even more valuable in building the business.
Often times, it is not a company that actively recruits an agent, but rather an individual recruiting her new place of employment. When a devastating car accident left the Wilkerson family in medical and financial distress, Julie Wilkerson left a successful career in sales and marketing to pursue new horizons. Surprised to learn that she had inadequate coverage, Wilkerson felt a personal obligation to educate others in areas where she had not been well-informed and decided that the best way to make a difference was in the insurance industry.
In the end, it was Colonial Life that was able to woo Wilkerson with its strong reputation in customer service satisfaction and vow to educate agents. However, Wilkerson did not commit to Colonial Life without first doing her homework on the supplemental insurance company. “What impressed me was the longevity of the agents who worked for Colonial Life,” said Wilkerson. “I was looking for a company that nurtured its people.”
Wilkerson’s research paid off. Colonial Life offered the ethical element Wilkerson was looking for. “The ladies room buzz is pretty telling,” said Wilkerson. “If you’re pushing up your lipstick and hear agents discussing how wonderful their year was – not just financially, but from a people standpoint – it’s rewarding. I feel honored to be in their company.”
For some agents, support refers to technology-based solutions and for others it is defined by emotional support.
Signature Resources supports its 100+ agents, 20 percent of which are female, with the proper tools to succeed. The company relies heavily on echoWealth, a web-based needs analysis program equipped with illustrated financial reports, motivating calculators and intelligent content. “It is our Wikipedia and it supports everything we do,” said Kaltenbach. “Having something at your fingertips immediately for you and your client is the single most important thing we do.”
Likewise, Wilkerson has been able to take advantage of the resources Colonial Life offers, such as a comprehensive website that answers questions ranging from the competition to specific policies; newsletters chalked full of sales techniques, product education and field agent-related anecdotes; and workshops and conferences.
While having the appropriate resources to advance your career and educate clients are necessary, other factors come into play when it comes to supporting the female agent, including integrity and the ability to balance a career and family life.
In order to build your business, you need a level of support. Additionally, you want to be sure that that level of support is coming from a reputable company. “I was not going to go snorkeling in a polluted pool,” said Wilkerson who places a very high importance on company reputation. “I can speak with passion and sincerity about the company.”
The suite of support services allows Wilkerson to be in business for herself but not by herself. From a flexibility standpoint, this career allows her to maintain a rewarding livelihood and family life. “I choose where I go, when I go and how I go,” said Wilkerson.
Like Signature Resources and Colonial Life, MassMutual is supportive of all of its agents, regardless of gender. However, the company recognizes there are certain accommodations that are attractive to female associates. “Success begets success, so one of the best ways we can attract female agents is to show them how women who come to MassMutual can establish and grow great careers,” said Spilotros. “Part of our success as an organization is attributable to the fact that we highlight and celebrate the achievements of our women advisors so that newer recruits can envision themselves in that position.”
One of the ways in which the company demonstrates this is via its recruiting website where a female agent discusses her role in her words. Additionally, the company arranges for mentor programs; hosts an annual female agent conference focusing on challenges that are unique to women; and is actively involved in groups such as Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS), an organization whose mission is to support, encourage and advance the success of women in the insurance and financial services industry.
In the end, the pay off of providing strong support manifests itself in stronger retention rates.
Retain: Keep the fire burning
It’s no secret that retention is an issue for many agencies. However, by ensuring proper support is in place, retention comes more easily. For example, one retention method comes in the form of rewards. Like policies, rewards come in all different flavors. Whether commission based, bonus plan driven, verbal recognition, or offering flexible schedules, the rules of the game have changed.
For Wilkerson, rewards can be measured qualitatively. “Hard working women don’t always get recognition and we all need a little encouragement,” said Wilkerson. “I receive such good feedback from this company and the clients I serve.”
However, others may view success quantitatively. Based on projected numbers, Signature Resources intends to retain its existing female agent base while expanding it to 30 to 40 percent in the coming years, as compared to roughly two percent a few years back.
Like Signature Resources, MassMutual has seen its female agents grow steady over the last eight years to 16%. In fact in 2007, women comprised 21% of the company’s recruiting classes, a leading indicator of future growth of female agents within MassMutual. The company anticipates additional growth as it begins new initiatives to more effectively target women of all ethnicities and successfully transition them into a career. “To compete as a company in the future, we need to be able to serve the fast-growing market of women consumers, and need talented people – both men and women – to accomplish that,” said Spilotros. “The more we can attract, retain and help succeed, the better off our company will be.”
Like any relationship, females require excessive courting and attentive support. If not, divorce court could be right around the corner.
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