The retail distribution channel of our company that I am in charge for is our own agency and independent partners (brokers that sell individual life insurance). The channel has been operating in the company since 1997. About 3.5 years ago, after evaluating all distribution channels, including an independent one, we found out that one of the most profitable channels was an agency that sold face to face. And the company decided to prioritize development of our individual sales.
When we were choosing a development strategy for the agency, we evaluated what we sold, our insurance programs. It is clear that today it is hardly possible to compete in the field of products - everyone has the same products: the risks of survival, death or accident. It is impossible to come up with some unique product that only we would sell, because it would be copied very quickly. We started thinking of what kind of niche our agency could occupy in the individual insurance market. After evaluating our own strengths and experience accumulated over more than 20 years, we have come to the conclusion that, on the one hand, we sell insurance programs, and on the other, an agent's contract (financial advisor and manager), this is also a product, and our competitors do not yet look at this the way we do.
When offering work in the agency, we do not focus on its number, we do not chase numbers. It is important for us that the agency consists of people who have committed their careers and their income to MetLife as individual entrepreneurs. People, who work with our company only and earn income only from it. There are hardly many people like that, but our goal is to make sure that their income is above the market and regional average.
We offer an agent a training program, a financial support program so that he can develop into a professional financial advisor, and we also offer him a number of tools that we consider unique. This is, for example, a special electronic platform for remote sales. It became a great help for us when they announced quarantine and social distancing. The plan for its implementation had been scheduled for a year, from January to December 2020, but in fact we implemented it in four days, two working days and two days off in early April. When we realized we could only work in a new reality, everyone downloaded this application and underwent training. As a distribution channel, we are “going digital,” which is welcomed by our customers.
We invite people of a certain profile to work in the agency, we do not accept just everyone and say “come and try”. There is a well structure system of selection as we turn our focus on maximization of the return on investment. The channel remains very beneficial for the company.
Concurrently, following the logic of channel "professionalization", we started a project for the development of agency leaders, which was designed for 36 months. Successful agents are selected for the project. We provide them with a professional development program for 36 months, pay them an additional scholarship during their studies, and give them the opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge. After graduation and successful practice, we want to conclude an agency manager contract with them, so they will have the opportunity to lead their own named agencies. We already have such agencies, and we count on their significant growth over the next three years. In my opinion, it is a very serious, targeted and correct investment in the agent network.
As for how we support our financial advisors and managers during the quarantine period, I will give a few examples: first, we provided them with distance work tools. Secondly, we organized additional financial support for our productive agents. We analyzed in April how much our successful agents had earned over the past 6 months, and if a person showed sales activity but dropped below 80% of his income from previous periods, we paid extra for the missing amount according to a certain scheme agreed with agents and managers. We wanted to support our professional network. I think we are the only ones who have supported our salespeople and managers this way.
Photos are from open sources.