Focus on Collaboration: The Value of Relationships and Authenticity in Insurance Marketing. My Industry Chat With Renee Hamlen

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to interview Renee Hamlen, Vice President, Marketing at Fidelity & Guaranty Life. Brokers International has a long relationship with F&G, who offer fixed annuity and life insurance products across the U.S.

Please tell me a bit about your start in the Insurance industry, and how your career trajectory has brought you to F&G as VP, Marketing.

“Early in my career, I worked in marketing and communications in Washington D.C., mostly in the non-profit sector. After my daughter was born, I went to business school at Georgetown University, and the courses I completed in finance and strategy led me to research careers in the insurance industry. Insurance appealed to me because of the social good it provides, whether it’s providing protection through life insurance or retirement products and solutions through the annuity line.

I was at New York Life for 10 years — three years on the life side and later focusing on the annuity business. Over those 10 years, the annuity business grew from about 9 billion to over 14 billion a year. It was a rewarding job that really changed my life. 

In my current role at F&G, I own a brand and expanded product line, with responsibility for both the life and annuity products. We’re not building a product unless we know that there’s both a market for it and a distributor that wants to work with us.

It’s hard for consumers to go out and shop for insurance products. Partnering with our distribution partners, like Brokers International, is something that really makes sense to me, as a marketer. I understand the importance of being able to position a product through a distribution channel that the values the advisor or agent and what they need to help drive new business and service their clients.

The move to F&G for me was a really big one personally too. I relocated my family from the New York City area to Des Moines, Iowa. My three-hour roundtrip commute each day has been reduced to 20 minutes, and I can be home for dinner every night!”

How do you feel the expectations of today’s retirees and soon-to-be retirees are going to change over the next five or 10 years with respect to needing products and advice?

“Our industry spends a lot of time talking about baby boomers and millennials, but there’s not a lot of focus on Generation X — the do-it-yourself generation. While I don’t feel like the robo-advisor is the future, I do think there is a future that combines hands-on technology with the trusted advice of an agent or advisor. Thinking about how the marketplace might change, we may see an increasing amount of technology built into planning and how insurance products fit into an investor’s world.”

Do you think that at some point in time, we’ll figure out how to sell our products to younger people, outside of life insurance? Is there a way to create products that appeal to a younger generation?

“Are younger generations ready to save money? I believe an annuity that turns into income later has the potential for appeal. The guaranteed income annuities could appeal to more risk averse younger clients if they have the means to save — if they want to go above and beyond their 401k contribution. Lifetime income is probably the easiest play. If it can be easily administered in a transparent way, it can be integrated into their overall asset allocation.”

Renee, what still needs to change in companies for how we approach effective recruiting and retaining of women in our workforce? How do company policies factor into it?

“How we treat working fathers impacts women in our workforce. It’s important to empower working dads to partake in taking care of their kids too. I appreciate seeing more companies supporting paternity leave and hearing male colleagues talk about their role in parenting.

When it comes to balancing work and life, couples and families have to make choices about how they want to raise their kids and the trade-offs between work and life. I believe that while you can’t have it all, you can have everything that is most important if you’re willing to make some sacrifices.” 

What advice would you give someone starting in the business today? Now that you’ve been in the business for a while, what would you tell a financial advisor just getting started with a book of business?

“Being authentic is probably the most important thing you can do in this business. I believe the ball starts to roll when your customers, friends, relationships, and community truly believe that you care and that you understand them. Once you get the flywheel of referrals going, that’s when the business becomes a lot of fun — because there’s less time spent prospecting. It’s important take the time, hours, and effort to connect and to prove yourself as authentic and caring. 

In addition, I would say embracing technology is one of the things that can make your work much easier. Outsource the things that you can through technology. What can you automate to create more time for relationships and authenticity? When is it time to staff up with a helper, and when is it time to work with a marketing organization that provides the right kind of back office support? The competitive advantage of every agent is you — what you bring as a person and an advisor.”

You’ve talked before about alignment between clients and advisors. Can you please elaborate on what that means to you?

“Thinking about your financial health requires a lot of trust and honesty. People may not talk about money within their families because it’s very personal. A trusted agent or advisor can play an important role in helping families set goals and plan, deal with challenging situations, and understand the complexities of retirement.” 

We have a lot of manufacturers on the shelf, and many products that are available to sell to most of our field force. Why should a producer look at F&G?

“From a very personal perspective, what I have found at F&G is that people really care about what they’re doing. Our tagline is ‘Experience the Power of Collaborative Thinking’ and it doesn’t say anything about financial services or products. That was the big question for me when I arrive: Why this tagline?

The heartbeat of F&G is collaboration, and our IMO partners are our number one client. We believe that if you have a concern or a question, you can pick up the phone and get a real person who cares and wants to roll their sleeves up to help find a solution.”

One final question. It’s Saturday morning, you have no responsibilities whatsoever. Describe for me your perfect Saturday morning.

“The perfect Saturday morning is pretty simple. I would get up and have a big cup of coffee and breakfast with my family. My kids would be out of bed before noon! We would walk our two dogs, Harry and Neville, and then we would all go out and play golf together. It’s my new hobby! “

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