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Broker Succession Planning - Don't wait until it is too late.

by host on Friday, November 22, 2013 6:45 AM

Broker succession planning is something that can fall through the cracks, until it is too late. As insurance has evolved into meeting a client’s needs within minutes, having your own house in order – with a clear line of succession – is more important than ever.

Nolan Peters, a partner at Christie Phoenix Insurance, says Succession Planning has already undergone an evolution at his firm.

“Our office recently underwent a major succession about four years ago; from one principal and a single office to 5 principals and three offices,” says Peters. “Four years later we are already planning for the next round of succession, beginning later this year and looking five to 10 years ahead.”

As for the mom and pops, those days are all but over, he points out.

“Gone are the days of the ‘ma and pa’ shops, where in many cases a family member took over the family business to keep it going. While some ‘ma and pa’ shops still exist, they are the minority nowadays to the mighty nationals and direct writers, etc. These new conglomerates/large brokers are operating in many of the smaller towns and larger cities across the country,” he says.

Peters adds that they bring with them not only financial power, but also the latest and greatest technology. They have the ability to canvas the entire nation for employees, and provide multiple positions for employment, promotion, education and career advancement.  This makes them very attractive, and provides a higher level of security for the employee. All in a time where many industries struggle to find qualified employees today, let alone five to 10 years out.

What is even more prevalent today are head hunters, says Peters.

“They are much more prevalent today and play a large role in moving many of the desired Industry people into career positions – that is, those who are experienced, educated and knowledgeable in niche areas,” he says.

Succession planning has evolved, not only for brokerages but for clients too, as brokers tailor the product for the coming wave of Baby Boomers, and eventually, Generation Xers.

“I believe the broker today must strive to further build on the relationships with their customers. Meeting their insurance needs is just one aspect and getting to know your client; building and maintaining a healthy relationship with your client is another. I am of the opinion, the better I know my client, the better I can look after their needs.”

The real challenge for brokers is factoring in the emotional attachment with any succession planning package, says Peters.

“There is always that uncertainty of how things will be when particular individuals leave for retirement or other reasons. People become attached to their work; it often can be emotional as well as psychologically challenging for both employees and employer when an individual leaves especially one who was the symbol of strength, security, stability and mentor status to industry colleagues,” he says. “What can brokers do to ensure the family business client is satisfied? I believe that the smaller family business will have more difficulty to attract the right successors, if not family. Financing could also become challenging for the younger generation wanting to get involved. Often it is a great idea to plan the succession over a period of time – say two-to-three years – so as to smooth out any hiccups along the way. It allows more time for communication, and helps make the transition seamless with staff and clientele.”

The coming Baby Boom generation that is poised for retirement age will require succession planning products – and the industry should be ready to meet those needs, says Peters.
“The Industry as a whole is always jumping up to meet new demands and needs of our customers,” he says. “For instance, 30 years ago you had to buy travel medical insurance separately, whereas nowadays it can be included right on your homeowner’s policy with certain insurance companies and can be renewed annually via the same.  Many of the major credit cards provide some form of travel medical coverage as well.”

As for the follow-up generation, Generation X, Peters sees the constant evolution in technology as necessitating an upgrade in succession planning for the future.

“Honestly, I believe the Baby Boomers have paved much of the way for their successors in almost all the categories; however, technology is certainly an area that is outpacing them,” he says. “Perhaps that will be the future for new product needs of the consumer and Gen X.”



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