Doubling Penn Mutual’s Field Force, Doubling Down on Diversity
Eileen McDonnell wrote recently about Penn Mutual’s ambition to become one of the top ten life insurance companies by 2025, and a large part of that effort depends on growing and diversifying our field force. We set a strategic goal of doubling the number of our full-time financial advisers by 2020, and we’re currently 18 months into that journey.
According to industry data from LIMRA, the average financial adviser is a 58-year-old man. Not surprisingly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that upwards of 300,000 of these financial advisers will be retiring over the next ten years. As an industry, we must do something to replace this retiring talent. As a company, Penn Mutual recognizes that we have a tremendous opportunity to reshape our field force, to make it more diverse and more reflective of the communities we serve. My title includes “Talent Acquisition and Diversity” for a reason: We see the two as inextricably linked.
For the past 18 months we’ve been putting in place programs to achieve our goals for growing our field force. Our recruitment strategy encompasses three forms — we strive to educate, elevate and engage.
Educate – The life insurance industry has a rather staid image (think 58-year-old white men), so many people simply don’t understand the possibilities of working in the industry. From a communications and branding perspective, we must share our stories and voices to those who may not know us. Sponsorship of the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, for example, has been instrumental in allowing us to reach stakeholders and communities that we haven’t previously tapped into.
Elevate – As Penn Mutual evolves talent overall, we cannot rely solely on sharing our story. We must also elevate the company by challenging our own thinking on how we do things when it comes to our recruiting networks, training programs, etc. We’re in a relationship business, so we tend to go to people we know, and we hire people through those connections, who then go on to develop clients among their connections. We can’t keep fishing in the same pond and expect to catch different fish. As we educate our audience, we also recognize that we ourselves need to continuously learn and elevate ourselves.
Engage – Tapping into communities that we haven’t previously been exposed to is also an important key to our recruitment strategy. We are engaged with organizations such as the Chinese American Insurance Association, Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, The Urban League and U.S. Pan-Asian American Chamber of Commerce, though my experience shows that it is best to work at both the national and the local level if you really want to engage with a community. Diversity is more than just ethnicity, as well. Industry data shows that only 25 percent of advisers are female. Women are a huge market that our industry can tap into, in addition to other communities that haven’t received much exposure – multicultural/ethnic populations, veterans, LGBT and millennials. A diversified workforce is better able to respond and understand the needs of the client.
We’ve been successful in our efforts thus far and 2016 was our best year ever in terms of recruiting. However, we are also finding that it’s not just about attracting a new generation of advisers to join our field force, but it’s also about the experience they go through once they’ve joined. Therefore, we are also focusing quite a bit on onboarding and training.
In 2016, we launched the Penn Mutual adviser development program, and we’ve also launched a college internship called the Penn Mutual Pathways Internship Program. This established a roadmap for college students to learn about the industry through on-the-job experience. The Pathways Internship incorporates a huge mentoring component, where every intern is assigned to a member of the team as a mentor. Utilizing technology and leveraging social media is also a big part of their development.
The first round of the Pathways Internship was a big success. I wrote a bit about the program last May and shared some of the videos created by the interns themselves in September. Interns work in our home office and our field offices on a continuous basis. If anyone is interested in an internship at Penn Mutual, I encourage them to apply.
We’re working to expand our inclusive culture, one that changes as the market changes. For example, there’s been a lot of talk about millennials; however, the young adults graduating from college now are a part of “Generation Z,” and this group has a very different perspective from Millennials. It’s no longer a four-generation workforce; we now have five generations working together. One of the great things about a career as a financial adviser is that you can work at your own pace, so our field force has a significant percentage of “Traditionalists,” those that are age 70 and over, who are still working. I think it’s a phenomenal story to talk about.
A multi-generation workforce makes us a force to be reckoned with.