You have a wonderful story about your entrance into the business. Please share with us your early career and how you got into the insurance industry.
Before I got into the insurance industry almost 20 years ago, I used to be in the manufacturing business. I was VP of sales and marketing, and did that for 15 plus years. It got to the point where I was traveling 50 weeks a year. After 9/11, that became very difficult, and rising sales quotas were a challenge. I always had that entrepreneurial feeling in my heart, and a dear friend, who I actually own an agency with today, introduced me to the business. I went to one of his workshops and said, ‘Hey, I think I like this and can do it.’
Did you meet your Advisors Circle partner Eugene Coyle at that time?
Eugene and I started our agency, the Advisors Circle, a few years ago, but I’ve known him for 25 years. We used to play on the pro-racquetball tour together and competed against each other. [In 1996, John competed with the U.S. National Racquetball team and won a silver medal in the Atlanta Olympics.] We became friends even though I joke with everybody that I hated him on the court. Even though I still hate him on the racquetball court, we are dear friends and business partners. We have the same philosophies as far as taking care of people and doing what’s in their best interest.
You are in the top 1%, even say 0.5%, of all annuity producers or life insurance producers in the industry. To what do you attribute your success?
I’ve built my business on in-person meetings and, more importantly, staying in touch with them throughout the year. I’m very big on service and meeting with people all the time. From an agency standpoint, it’s the same thing. A lot of FMOs or AFMOs out there promise you the world to get your contracts. But once they have your contracts, they aren’t there to help grow your business. We are.
When it comes to building client trust, what advice do you give to agents, particularly those you’re recruiting at Advisors Circle?
Consumers are a lot smarter today than they were 10 or 20 years ago, because they are more educated about our industry. Retirees and those nearing retirement have been exposed to financial professionals or advisors. Some of them, unfortunately, have been taken advantage of. I think sincerity is a huge factor in convincing someone to trust you. I’ve trained a lot of financial professionals around the country and, unfortunately, many of them have a client base of 200, 500, 600 people who they don’t contact. Those client touch points are so important.
Why do agents choose to join Amatulli and Associates or Advisors Circle?
Our job as an FMO or AFMO is to help them be more successful. I’m a big advocate for keeping things simple. I can’t tell you how many times people tell me, “John, you’re one of the first advisors that I’ve understood.” And if people understand what you’re recommending to them and what you’re going to do for them, then they’re more likely to do business with you. That’s a big part of how we train our people. We teach them a very simple 10-step process when it comes to the sales presentation. It’s captivating, and people understand it. That leads to more business.
You mentioned that you and Eugene visited your producer’s office. Do you often visit producers in their offices?
I make a requirement of anybody who wants to do business with me at Amatulli & Associates that they come to my office at least once a year to meet with me in person. Frankly, and I’ve never had anybody say they’re not going to do so. When we go through customer accounts, we go through the statements in person, line by line, and people understand it. It’s hard to do that over the phone. So yes, when it comes to our financial professionals around the country, we go wherever our producers are. We have them do a sales presentation and a fact finder for us, so that we can help them to simplify things and use our process to get more business.
You have strong connections with clients and with your FMOs. Do you coach them to do the same in order to build their businesses, to go see people face to face?
That’s our job as an AFMO or FMO, to help our people be more successful. But I don’t think a lot of other FMOs or AFMOs travel the country like we do to meet with our people in person. We believe in close relationships, which is what we have around the country with our financial professionals and advisors. Others may bring them into their place of business, but they don’t go out to the financial advisors’ or financial professionals’ places of business. I want to make them feel comfortable in a process of how to be successful. How can you teach someone to do something if you’ve never done it yourself?
The average age of an agent today is 59. What does the landscape look like over the next three to five years as our producers get older?
It’s a wonderful question that’s very difficult to answer. We need to recruit younger people interested in finance and helping people. FMOs and even the carriers need to do some marketing to expose them to the opportunity that’s out there, letting them know how well they will be compensated and that they will have the opportunity to do great things for people. I talk to so many people today that have never even heard of a fixed-index annuity. Well, why? It’s lack of marketing. So that’s where our job comes in.
What advice would you give a new agent entering into the business today?
The first piece of advice I would give is to take the time to know the investments or the fixed-index annuities that you’re working with. Get to know them like the back of your hand. If you don’t, it will come through in meetings and you won’t earn the business.
For younger people entering the business, connect with an older mentor, not just to learn the business but also so the client feels secure that’s there’s a next generation to their relationship.
Are you bullish or bearish on the markets and our industry/products?
Obviously, over the last eight years, the market has gone up in an unprecedented way. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I am personally shocked that we haven’t had a serious market correction yet. I can’t tell you the day and time, but I promise you, it is coming.
In terms of the DOL, our government shouldn’t have to make us sign a sheet of paper to make sure we’re doing things in clients’ best interest. We should already be doing that.
When it come to our products, most people agree that pensions are a thing of the past. So, people have to create pensions for themselves. I think we’ll see more people looking for ways to create secure lifetime income.
This has been very insightful. I really appreciate it John, thank you.