Kevin Cott, CEO of Qualified Financial Services (QFS), says a general trend among insurance companies of reducing their field support staff is having a negative effect on the distribution channel.
Over the last few years carriers have cut back their support team in the field dramatically, he says. “They’ve done it quietly,” but the trend is “becoming more and more apparent and more severe as we see the field support at every carrier at every level being reduced…and it is clearly affecting the advisors.”
Cott says these cuts are occurring across the country. “If a company had two (field support staff) in a region, they are down to one. If they had four, they went to two, or six they went to three.”
The result is that advisors are saying they cannot find anyone to talk to, so MGAs have to fill in the gaps and this is a heavy burden. “A field support person for one insurance company has to know one company’s products, technology and compliance. You put that on the shoulders of a business development manager at an MGA such as QFS, they’ve got to know that for 20 different carriers. That’s just not fair, it’s not reasonable.”
Cott says while it’s great that carriers are launching digital platforms and e-apps, this new technology does not change the level of support that an advisor needs. “Just because the application process is different or more streamlined, doesn’t mean the advisor has any better sense of how to present the product, or about the product details, or even how to use the platform! So who’s showing them?” he asks. Wholesalers on the ground would enable advisors to use these platforms most effectively, he adds.
He adds that he has observed a shift in advisors’ business towards the insurers that offer more support than others.
Cott says he has been trying to get the message out to companies that hacking their field support is not a good strategy. “When any insurance company asks me, ‘How can we help you increase your business with us?’, I give the exact same answer – ‘Bring us back your wholesalers. You’re putting too much reliance on the MGA environment to provide support to your particular company’s products and technology.’”
He adds that QFS is looking to increase its own service support to help its advisors. “We’re just going to go out and make our team stronger and bigger. We’re actually hiring about 10 new people…We’re going to fill that gap because we have to do that to be a successful organization.”