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Mining for diamonds: Tips from GAMA LAMP on how to attract and retain the next generation of talent

GAMA LAMP logoThe challenge of attracting new producers to the insurance industry was a recurring theme at GAMA LAMP. In his opening keynote, CEO of the Wealth Advisory Group and retiring GAMA LAMP president, Howard Elias, urged the attendees to tackle this issue head on. “Our industry helps everyday people prepare for their futures, but we need to ensure that continues into the future,” he said. “The industry needs new talent and you are the leaders who will make that happen.”
As the advisor workforce ages, many firms are struggling to attract and retain the next generation of talent. Younger candidates often have a negative perception of the industry and the complex regulatory environment is only compounding the issue. “We need to educate candidates about the value of our profession,” explained Howard. “In addition to providing lucrative financial compensation, unlimited growth potential and flexibility, our industry lets [producers] help their communities in tangible and intangible ways. And that can be a powerful motivator.”

The social media advantage

To reach younger candidates, “… you need to be where they are,” said Hearsay Social CEO, Clara Shih. “These potential recruits look for opportunities through their online social networks. By empowering your advisors in the field with social media, you can amplify your recruiting messaging and reach candidates you might not have connected with otherwise.”
Clara also explained how digital channels help new advisors become more productive. “New producers in their twenties aren’t going to want to cold call,” she said. “Encourage them to reach out to their online social networks in the way you used to encourage your producers to reach out to alumni or former co-workers.”
In a highly attended keynote, “Gen Y Guy” Jason Dorsey described what motivates millennial candidates. “We have short attention spans,” he explained. “Don’t send us an email. Don’t call us on the phone. If you want our attention, send us a text or connect with us on social media.”

“Some of the best recruits we find come in through social media,” said Pete Gillespie of Freedom 55 Financial in his leading practices session. “After four years, 82% of the candidates we source through LinkedIn are still with our firm.” Once Freedom 55 Financial engages with a candidate, “we have them go through a consistent recruiting process where we get to know them well, understand what motivates them to succeed, and helps them understand who we are as a firm and exactly what we offer,” he said.
Successful recruiting through LinkedIn was described in several other sessions. Georgette Geller of AXA Advisors shared how LinkedIn has helped her firm find new talent. And John Maxwell, founder of EQUIP and the John Maxwell Company, also shared how his clients have used the social network to reach untapped candidates.

Building a legacy

Harry Hoopis, CEO of the Hoopis Performance Network and formerly of the Northwestern Mutual firm the Hoopis Financial Group, reminded attendees to carefully consider whom they bring into their firms. “Ask yourselves is this someone you’d want to have over for dinner? Are they someone you’d want to introduce to your grandchildren?” he said. “Most importantly, is this someone you’d want to be the last candidate you bring into your firm? Is he or she a good testament to your legacy?”

“You can’t afford to hire the wrong candidate,” echoed John Maxwell. “Think about how much the wrong person costs you in time and money. We all know that only one in four new advisors will make it through their first three years, but always be thinking about how you can improve those odds and grow your firm.”
As new producers join the industry, firms must prepare them for the realities of life in the field. “Don’t sugar coat how hard it is to become successful,” said Harry. “This is the worst career for those who shouldn’t be here. But for those who can succeed, this is the best career they could ever ask for.”

Leading by example: Empowering the next generation of distribution managers at GAMA LAMP 2014

“Leadership requires us to take risks and risks help us become great managers.”

So said Howard Elias during his opening keynote at GAMA International’s 2014 Leadership and Management Program (LAMP) conference. As GAMA’s retiring president and CEO of Guardian Life Insurance’s Wealth Advisory Group, Howard drew on his decades of leadership experience as he addressed the event’s more than 2,700 attendees. His session focused on the important role distribution leaders have in delivering value to their clients and in keeping the industry relevant to future generations. This was a sentiment that was shared by speakers throughout the conference.

Hearsay Social was excited to be among the event’s participants. Thank you to everyone who came to our sessions or stopped by our booth.  For those of you who weren’t able to attend, here are some of the best takeaways we discovered.

The value of transparency and trust

Robert Krumroy, founder of Identity Branding and creator and CEO of, reminded the audience that they need to build trust and foster relationships before the sales process can begin. “No one cares about your company, commodity or brand,” he said, “… you need to educate your customers. And if you’re not doing it, you have to ask who is.”

Other key points he addressed included:

  • “Stop sending drips and start sending tips.” The most effective advisors use the Internet to share financial information their clients may find useful.

  • “79% of people are more likely to buy from someone they have a connection with. You can’t set an appointment with a prospect until they have emotional safety.”

  • “Social media is not a replacement for social connection. Don’t dismiss the value of using your database to nurture relationships over time.”

Getting down at the Denim & Diamonds Bash
From left to right: Jean Paul LaBelle (Strategic Account Executive, Hearsay Social, @jplabelle), Bonnie Godsman (Vice President, Corporate Relations, GAMA), Clara Shih (CEO, Hearsay Social, @clarashih), Gary Liu (Vice President, Marketing, Hearsay Social, @garycliu) and Shawn Davis (Senior Vice President, Transamerica, @shawncdavis).

How social media and big data are transforming distribution

Next on the stage was Clara Shih, Hearsay Social’s CEO and Founder. In her session, Clara discussed how social media and big data are helping financial services firms address the challenges of the evolving industry.

“People don’t want to buy from institutions,” Clara said, “they want to buy from people they know.” Customers share over 1 billion buying signals each day and advisors who have insight into “three or more life events” are more productive, see an average of a 10% increase in sales and are more likely to get customer referrals.

Clara Shih at GAMA LAMP 2014
Establishing trust and relevancy have never been more important for financial services firms. “Social media is a key way consumers validate their purchasing decisions,” said Clara. “But consumers across all generations still prefer to engage with trusted advisors face-to-face. Today’s technologies should enhance your producers activity. Help them become more successful by encouraging them to tie their digital activities to their real world channels.”

The dawn of the superhuman advisor

In a special Leaders of Tomorrow and Today (LOTT) session, Jason Suen, Hearsay Social’s Director of Customer Success, was joined by Eileen Forrest, Head of Sales Support, AXA Advisors & President, AXA Network, Robert Keorkunian, Regional Director at Modern Woodmen of America, and Desi Doise, State Manager at Woodmen of the World. Their session focused on key tactics financial services firms could implement to drive social business success.

Not surprisingly, compliance was initially a key concern for each of the panelists and their firms. “We started our social media program three years ago as a pilot with a focus on compliance,” said Eileen. “Hearsay Social made it possible to use social media as a marketing program,” a transition that was echoed by the other panelists. As their firms began to embrace digital channels, social media training and access was offered to more and more producers in the field.

Other key takeaways included:

  • Top social networks: “Facebook and LinkedIn are the ones we use the most,” said Robert. Desi agreed. “We use LinkedIn a lot for recruiting,” he said. “By the time we speak with candidates, they already know something about our firm.”

  • Digital replaces other forms of advertising: “We’ve gone from Yellow Pages and mailers, to social where it’s all about giving our clients and prospects quick access to information,” said Robert.

  • Provide social media access and training: “We’ve rolled out our social business program to all of our advisors,” said Eileen. “But before getting access, they need to go through a three-part compliance training program. We also offer a weekly opt-in social media class that covers a variety of topics.”

  • Know your audience: To use social media effectively, advisors need to strike a balance between business, educational and fun content. “We encourage our advisors to share different types of content,” said Eileen. “There should be a 5:1 ratio of fun to business posts,” agreed Robert. “Keep your posts to a schedule and 3-5 posts per week is a good number to shoot for.”

Recruiting and retaining the next generation of talent

The issues of the aging advisor workforce, and challenges of recruiting (and retaining) new talent were discussed throughout the conference. In our next post, we’ll share the best advice we heard for attracting millennial candidates, effective recruiting strategies and empowering new advisors to be successful from day one.