Independent insurance advisors have high expectations for their managing general agencies (MGAs) regarding support in positioning a product – and the results in this year’s Insurance Advisors’ Report Card prove that MGAs are up to the challenge.

More than ever, advisors want MGAs to help them make sure their product presentations to clients are perfect. In fact, the overall importance rating that advisors gave the “MGA’s help in positioning a product” category rose to 9.3 from 8.5 last year.

“There are a lot of companies out there, [so] you have to be associated with people who can keep you up to date,” says an advisor on the Prairies with Toronto-based PPI Advisory. “We’re independent, so that service is essential.”

Not only do advisors consider this support to be important, they also feel their MGAs provide stellar face-to-face support in this area. In fact, the overall average performance rating for the category was 9.1 this year, up from 8.6 in 2015.

There were five MGAs in the survey, and advisors who work with them praised MGA staff members who can answer questions about products and assist with preparing presentations to clients.

Specifically, advisors with Mississauga, Ont.-based IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. (IDC WIN) and Calgary-based PPI Solutions Inc. gave their MGAs ratings of 9.5 in the category for the direct help advisors receive from these staff members.

“[PPI Solutions] has seminars and training,” says an advisor in Ontario who works with that MGA.

PPI Solutions hosts two symposiums a year at each of its offices during which advisors can learn more about products. As well, marketing staff are on hand to answer questions and help advisors navigate the PPI Toolkit, an online resource that advisors can use; this tool aids in the creation of product illustrations and presentations.

“PPI Solutions has 40-plus people who are solely marketing support people in our offices, and they support advisors every day,” says Jim Virtue, the MGA’s president and CEO.

IDC WIN advisors also appreciate the product education their MGA provides. As an advisor in Alberta says: “They explain the products properly.”

Although Ron Madzia, IDC WIN’s president, points out that neither the staff nor the online resources available from the MGA are new, the company is “always working to improve in every way.”

IDC WIN advisors said that the MGA has already improved: the firm’s rating rose from 8.9 in 2015.

Kitchener, Ont.-based Financial Horizons Inc. is another MGA that saw significant gains this year. Its rating in the category rose to 8.9 from 8.2 last year. Although many Financial Horizons advisors admitted that they don’t depend on the MGA very much in this area, advisors who do praised the knowledgeable staff.

“They can help you with any situation a client is having,” says a Financial Horizons advisor on the Prairies.

The MGA offers its advisors local support through business- development managers who work at each of its 34 branches across Canada. These specialists can help advisors create illustrations, as well as outline the differences among products.

“Our tag line is ‘We live where advisors live’,” says Patricia Ziegler, chief operating officer with Financial Horizons. “It’s very much a locally driven branch system that supports advisors.”

Woodbridge, Ont.-based Hub Financial Inc. also has in-house staff to assist advisors in positioning a product. Broker-development specialists can discuss a case with an advisor to make sure he or she has the right product and is aware of the options.

As well, Hub set up a marketing committee two years ago that consists of experts whom advisors can call on to learn the ins and outs of a specific product, says Terri Botosan, Hub’s president: “When you go to a carrier’s wholesaler, you get the marketing answer – and sometimes you want the real answer. We dissect all the products and make sure that we understand all the pros and cons from an independent, unbiased perspective.”

Hub advisors appreciate the responsiveness and knowledge of these in-house specialists.

“If I call on a [Hub] marketer, I’ll get support to understand things that I don’t have a lot of exposure to,” says a Hub advisor in British Columbia.

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