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Life Insurance
Retention Plans: How Life Insurers Are Getting Agents to Stay on the Job

Life insurers say they working to meet the challenge of retaining new agents.
  • Lori Chordas
  • September 2021
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As life insurers recruit new agents into their organizations, the challenge many will face is keeping them there.

Only 15 of every 100 recruits will still be with their hiring companies after four years, according to LIMRA.

What's driving that trend? Duford Insurance Group's David Duford, who has created a website as well as sales and marketing systems to recruit and train new and experienced insurance agents to become top producers, offers a glimpse into that answer.

“Often life insurance agents quit because they don't see the business of selling insurance as a good fit,” he said.

Life insurance brokers, insurers and others are also eagerly working to alleviate agent burnout often caused by potential rejection or other stress-related issues.

A number of agents also run out of prospects or money to invest in new leads, while some leave the profession to contend with personal issues like health or divorce, Duford said.

But he said life insurers have the opportunity to alleviate some of those concerns by helping new agents build up their books of business and developing programs that offer them the best chance of success.

“Let's face it, this isn't an easy job,” said Kathy Reid, vice president of talent solutions at LIMRA. “You need to have the right person who is willing to work through some difficulties at the beginning of their career to see success on the other side.”

Once they do, she noted, “it is one of the most noble and rewarding professions that allows individuals to help others get through some very challenging times.”

At Primerica, retention begins the minute an agent is onboarded, CEO Glenn Williams said.

“Companies that fail to effectively train agents about their products and processes and teach them how to engage with today's consumers stand the chance of losing them,” he said.

“So we're doing everything we can to provide our agents that training and offer them a turnkey system that allows them to become licensed, pass their exams and learn new skills.” Williams noted Primerica's retention of licensed agents after the first year is 6% higher than the industry average, at 84%.

New York Life is also focused on improving agent retention through mentorship programs and partnerships such as its recent collaboration with The American College of Financial Services.

After completion of modular development tracks in financial guidance, retirement planning, wealth advisory, business solutions and estate planning, the company's financial professionals can attain relevant designations from the college and earn specialist titles only available to graduates.

Even before the onset of COVID-19, New York Life was supporting its new financial professionals with streamlined training programs “to support virtual prospecting and the Zoom-based sales cycle and further innovating with digital tools that identify consumer needs and match them with appropriate solutions,” said Michael Lackey, vice president and head of recruiting and development.

Luke Kaplan, president of life insurance and annuity brokerage at Gallagher, said it's important that employers deliver on the promises they make to candidates during the hiring process.

“They can do that by helping agents find potential leads and business development opportunities, identify what their niches are and surround them with the right resources and education goals needed to build that pipeline,” he said.

On his website, Duford points out yet another reason why some agents fall out of insurance: Many don't always feel their employers support them during tough times.

But companies such as New York Life are going the extra mile to dispel that concern. Lackey said during the height of the pandemic, the company assured its agents there would be no production-related terminations, offered established agents a bonus on eligible commissions, covered their health care premiums and waived their general office rent and group insurance costs, and offered new agents a stipend and access to low-interest loans.

Lori Chordas is a senior associate editor. She can be reached at

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