3 top producers share their thoughts and reveal their strategies for utilizing new technology in their practice, and explain why there are some things automation should never replace.
Curious about how some of the most successful producers in the business are working to integrate new life insurance-centric technology into their practice? So were we, so we asked some high-profile members of the Million Dollar Round Table to explain their approach to taking advantage of emerging technologies where it makes sense, and how it often still takes a back seat to personal service – especially for wealthier clients with more complex needs. We also wanted their opinions on topics such as automated underwriting, genetic testing and sharing wellness data. We think you’ll find some great real-world perspective in their responses.
— Brian Anderson
MEET THE PANELISTS
John J. Demboski, CFP, is a 13-year member of MDRT and a Silver Knight of the MDRT Foundation with 5 Top of the Table qualifications. His coaching practice in Santa Barbara, Calif., invests in small business entrepreneurs.
Julian H. Good, Jr., CLU, ChFC, AEP, is the Founder and Principal of Good Financial Group. He works directly with clients and their advisors primarily in the Greater New Orleans Metro region. He specializes in estate conservation and wealth transfer strategies, business succession planning, retirement accumulation and income strategies and life insurance consulting. Good is a 35-year MDRT Member with 13 Court of the Table honors and 4 Top of the Table honors. He served as MDRT President in 2011.
Bryon Holz, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, CASL, LACP and his team of associates in Tampa Bay, Fla., have been helping build brighter tomorrows for their clients since 1983, specializing in asset protection, income planning and wealth conservation strategies. A business graduate and Presidential Scholar of the University of Tampa and graduate of the Professional Management Institute in Insurance Marketing Management at Purdue University, Bryon has complimented his industry education with numerous designations, certifications and credentials. Holz is two-time national trustee of NAIFA, and a Life, Qualifying and numerous Court of the Table Member of MDRT, who has served on numerous MDRT and MDRT Foundation committees.
Question #1: About your practice
Please give us a brief overview of your practice – how it started, how it’s grown and evolved over the years (including what markets you focus on).
Julian H. Good Jr., CLU, ChFC, AEP: I began my practice in 1982 with Mutual Benefit Life as a career producer. My initial practice was very traditional: insurance products were straightforward and our profession was just entering the financial services and planning arena. I stayed with Mutual Benefit Life for nine years, then began my affiliation with MetLife. For the next 22 years, I remained there as a commission-based insurance and financial services producer.
In September 2013, after 31 years as an agent, I launched my own practice and became an independent financial advisor. With my company, Good Financial Group, I was able to design my practice using a holistic approach based upon my interests, strengths, and vision. Being independent allows me to remain nimble so I can stay relevant no matter what changes take place in the future.
Much of my practice now is fee-based. It includes life insurance consulting, assets under care and time spent working with clients. A considerable part of my practice is still, and will always be, a commission-based life, disability, long-term care and annuity product-focused. My typical new clients are between 45 and 75 years of age with an average net worth of $5 to $10 million.
Most advisors today focus heavily on assets under management. My practice is unique in that it’s focused primarily on life insurance product sales and life insurance consulting. The fee-based and assets under care portion of my work continues to grow stronger each year, even though it’s not my primary focus. It’s a byproduct of my insurance-based practice. To my knowledge, no other advisor in my area does what I do, which has allowed me to carve out a niche in the marketplace.
John J. Demboski, CFP: The firm started as an insurance agency with a broad spectrum of protection-related products, although we primarily focused on life insurance. Over the past 30 years, we narrowed that focus to a niche of driven, successful small business entrepreneurs. Our firm advises on all of the financial complexities between investments, insurance, property and casualty services that might otherwise hinder or distract the small business owners from giving their unique gift to the world.
Bryon Holz, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, CASL, LACP: As a 35-year insurance agent, Investment Advisor Representative and Registered Principal with three associates and four assistants, our firm’s focus is on retirement planning and life insurance, helping protect families and provide legacies. We work primarily with pre-retirees and retirees, with an emphasis on assisting qualified pension plan participants with their rollover options.
The first time I was exposed to the industry was through my favorite high school teacher who left education for a career in insurance and financial services. He always told me that he was still a teacher, educating his clients how to plan for their financial future. We kept in touch, and as I prepared to graduate college in the midst of a recession, he suggested that I work with him temporarily until I found a full-time job. I quickly learned that I like to help people manage their risk, plan for their future and become more financially responsible. I was very attracted to the idea of being my own boss and correlating my compensation to how many and how much I helped others. Thirty-five years later, I’ve given up on finding my “full-time job” and realize how blessed I was to find my life-long career practically by chance.
Question #2: Tech’s biggest impact
In what ways have new technologies helped you become more efficient and productive in your work? Is there one thing you would say has had the biggest impact?
Demboski: The amount of free information available to anyone at any time online allows our firm to expeditiously and confidently manage a vast array of client issues. In this age of information, there is no reason to not competently address any case our clients present.
Technology’s ability to streamline both our backstage processes as well as our client deliverables has also had a huge impact on our firm. We automate as many processes as possible to better focus on creating more value for our clients. This enables us to intelligently organize another human being’s financial world, bringing stability and security in moments of chaos or confusion. For example, a client trying to refinance a house needs a copy of her statement. Being able to have that within a few clicks of a mouse? That’s insanely valuable.
Conferencing remotely with our clients via video allows us to communicate more emotively than if we were simply speaking over the phone. This means we can more effectively provide them correct product solutions and, by extension, peace of mind.
Holz: So much has changed since I started in the industry in the early 1980s, when we gave clients original handwritten presentations and kept the carbon copy for reference. I became an early adapter throughout the years, always trying to get the latest, greatest, bleeding edge technology. Eventually technology, software, hardware and the information superhighway started coming together in ways that would forever change how we conducted business and served our clients.
It’s difficult to imagine where we’d be without our cell phones, laptops and other technology. I couldn’t do without internet access in my practice which enables me to open accounts, run insurance quotes and communicate with my clients. Our efficiency is exponentially greater than it was in the 1980s, 1990s and as recent as five years ago. We have yet to utilize web video conferencing, but this is something we hope to use soon to have more efficient client reviews. With so much technology available, it seems that we are only limited by our imagination and openness to seek, explore and adapt.
Good: At the start of my career, there were no cell phones, and we used large IBM desktop computers. If you were late to a client meeting, you had to find a phone booth and hope you had a quarter in your pocket. The smartphone has had the largest impact of any technology I have ever used.
Now, we try to take advantage of all technology that is relevant to our industry. We use Redtail for our customer relationship management, Albridge and other effective software. We are currently initiating our new eMoney strategy now. We primarily use an eApplication technology, which my team loves. We also utilize state-of-the-art computers and peripherals that we upgrade every three years. Many of our clients are savvy with technology so it’s important to keep up with them.
We invest a lot to ensure our clients’ information and accounts are safe. Cybersecurity is extremely important for all professionals in our business. Simple things like two-factor authentication and using 16-digit passwords have been invaluable.
All that said, I don’t use a lot of the technology in the office. Full disclosure, I am not gifted in this area. I was an English literature major in college and prefer handwriting to a keyboard. To do what I do best, I utilize my time connecting with my clients personally. I have 10 to 12 in-person or phone appointments per week with clients and prospects. The technology my team uses allows me to dedicate my time to high-touch, personal interactions.
Question #3: Automated underwriting
Would you see a move toward significantly more automated underwriting for life insurance as a good thing or as potentially more of a threat to your business? (and please briefly explain your response)
Holz: I view the move towards more automated underwriting as very positive, so long as it never totally replaces the opportunity for a human underwriter to review certain situations. I’ve already seen it significantly reduce policy issue time. As long as I’m involved in the sales process and can facilitate the application, preferably electronically, the automated review and potential pre-approval can only be a good move and positive evolution.
Good: Automated underwriting is a great option in certain markets such as young, healthy clients who have little to no medical history, middle-income families and those who prefer small face amounts of life insurance.
However, underwriting is a science. It has many variables that automation can never fully replace, such as an underwriter’s ability to understand a client’s long history of an autoimmune disorder or depression.
Julian H. Good Jr.
A machine will never be able to replicate a human being’s ability to bring their experience into play when making tough underwriting decisions.
Demboski: All technological advances of automation are, in my opinion, a great opportunity. The only threat to my business would be a client’s own disinterest in taking care of their future self and loved ones.