Plans for 2011: systematically identify promoters and detractors. LEVERAGE heaviest hitters. Cultivate new talent. Maintain position as the wholesaler to beat in a large and underserved segment.

While much of the wholesale distribution channel isn’t thinking beyond their 2011 survival, leadership at Crump Insurance Services is seeing its plans for all of the above produce exceptional results for each of the wholesaler’s divisions: p-c, individual life, and retirement plan consulting.

Formalizing plans that spread across each division and the national wholesaler’s large network of offices with nearly 3,000 employees isn’t easy. Dave Obenauer, president of Crump Property and Casualty, says retail clients should not feel threatened by the wholesaler’s presence in the marketplace.

“We’re a ‘pure play’ wholesaler,” he says. “Our model is hinged on provider-to-retailer, not competitor.”

The wholesaler, he explains, focuses tremendous effort on developing relationships with retailers and keeping them satisfied.

“We’re the only wholesaler we know that, as a matter of standard practice, surveys retailers at a transactional level for feedback on service,” Obenauer says.

“Client satisfaction is measured down to the actual broker. It’s very specific,” says Jana Rucker, vice president of marketing and communications. “We use the data to measure who our promoters would be. If we have detractors, a resolution model allows us to go in and discover why and how we can improve.”

One of the wholesaler’s boldest initiatives started in 2010 as an internal sales development program for a small number of employees identified as potential “high flyers.” These were people Crump believed could grow their book by more than 25% annually, says Phil Eisenmann, chief sales officer.
“We solicited volunteers to enter the selection process. Consideration was strongly based on their average account size and closing ratio.”

Other factors in the selection process include personal interviews with the individuals and recommendations from their office leaders. The results have been overwhelmingly positive. The 2010 participant brokers have books that are up on average 20%. The success has created a buzz among brokers hoping to be selected for the 2011 group. The group size is small to ensure resources are not spread too thin.

Eisenmann says the team is selected and receives coaching, including biweekly team calls and four face-to-face team visits at various locations. Group members are spread across many offices around the U.S. and across different product divisions. This helps the different offices and divisions to work together and encourages co-brokering, he says.

“This group is coached by folks that are not the office leaders or superiors of the individual group members. We have found that this helps free them from the pressure of having to ‘impress their boss’ at every interval,” Eisenmann says. “Tenure level of members is across the board. This helps the dynamic tremendously.”

Evidence of the program’s success was the decision by the 2010 group to continue working together after the year was over.

Crump is also revamping its recruiting efforts. “We look at recruiting externally and internally. We start with a ‘heat map’ of our needs and look for gaps,” Obenauer says.

While Crump scouts various schools for candidates for its internship programs, “we have found that our best source of interns is recommendations from our employees.” Obenauer shares the belief that insurance seems to “stub its own toe” more than any other industry.

“When recruiting, we try to position insurance as not only a great place to start your career, but a great lifelong career.”

Obenauer also spoke of the wholesaler’s plans to continue its life and retirement products. In the retirement space, Obenauer says, Crump’s focus is on administration, recordkeeping and consulting. While some larger retailers provide these functions in-house, many smaller retailers choose to use the wholesaler. “We have expertise in high-end life sales and retirement products. We have in-house attorneys, tax specialists, and other resources that other brokers don’t have.”

“In terms of wholesaling in the life insurance space on a national basis across both independent and institutional clients, we’re really the only game in town,” he says. He explains that Crump is the support mechanism for several well known financial services firms that use the wholesaler exclusively for life placements.

Crump is also positioned to help captive agents.

“Life insurance was traditionally dominated by captive agency forces. However, today, a majority of life insurance is sold through brokers that access a number of products. We have firms that still employ captive agents who send their agents to us for non-proprietary products if the house products won’t work.”

Brokering life products is great for the carrier, Obenauer says, because they still get the business without the expense of marketing those products independently. “That’s where we come in.”