Investment Executive October 2018, page 18, Phil Marsillo sets sights on growth

Phil Marsillo, who took over as president of IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. (IDC WIN) this past spring, is depending on insurance advisors to play a critical role in the continued growth of the Mississauga, Ont.-based managing general agency (MGA).

The primary focus for Marsillo in his new position is on finding ways to enhance advisors’ experience when dealing with IDC WIN by delivering programs and services that will enable advisors to grow their businesses and serve their clients better.

“Our business is [based on] our advisors’ success,” Marsillo says. “So, we will be looking for ways to deliver consistent value to them in how they grow their business and how they protect Canadians.”

IDC WIN – one of three divisions under the umbrella of Markham, Ont.-based Worldsource Wealth Management Inc., a fully owned subsidiary of Guardian Capital Group Ltd. – has grown to become one of Canada’s largest MGAs, serving more than 2,000 advisors. Marsillo contends that IDC WIN has achieved this growth by being “a solid organization with a national presence and strong relationships with all major insurance carriers as well as advisors.”

Given IDC WIN’s relationships with all major insurance carriers, advisors are able to “put their clients’ interests first” because they have choice in where they place their business, Marsillo says.

IDC WIN has grown significantly since its origin, but the MGA “must now have the discipline and consistency to continue to grow,” says Marsillo, who replaced Ron Madzia, the MGA’s longtime president, who retired from that role on June 30.

Although Marsillo has no plans to make any dramatic changes to the way IDC WIN operates, he recognizes that change is necessary “as the world and regulations change.” And, he adds, any changes that take place at IDC WIN will be made to meet advisors’ needs and expectations.

To that end, Marsillo says, he’s involved in a planning exercise for the next three years “to identify the things advisors need and what we need to do to enhance their experience.”

That involves working with IDC WIN’s management team to identify specific areas the MGA will focus on. Although Marsillo points out that now “is too early to talk about specific goals,” the broad areas he plans to focus on include technology support, compliance, best practices, market segmentation and the “dos and don’ts” for advisors.

So far, IDC WIN has embarked on its “Win Big” project to provide online training, support, and marketing and educational materials for advisors. This initiative, Marsillo says, is aimed at providing advisors with easy, ready access to resources to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

Although Marsillo believes that technology and digitization will facilitate greater efficiencies, he points out that IDC WIN will have to “look at how digitization will help advisors and make their lives easier.”

These efforts will come down to having the right processes to target clients, improve marketing and communication, process insurance applications and issue contracts, Marsillo says.

Although technology will play a greater role, Marsillo doesn’t foresee digital platforms such as robo-advisors replacing human advisors. In fact, he says emphatically, “Insurance is sold; people aren’t going to buy it online” to the extent that many anticipate.

“We train our advisors to look for opportunities to engage in a conversation [with clients],” Marsillo says, such as when clients are experiencing a life-changing event. “People aren’t just going to go online to buy insurance because they’re getting married.”

Furthermore, Marsillo suggests, digital platforms can’t effectively engage in such conversations, which are part of the discovery process in getting to know clients and assessing their needs.

As the insurance industry doesn’t “engage in a lot of advertising,” Marsillo says, “we have to do a better job at making Canadians aware about the value of insurance. [And] we must find ways to get advisors in front of clients.”

Putting the value of insurance in perspective, Marsillo says, clients work all their lives to fulfil their dreams – and insurance ensures that their dreams are fulfilled, regardless of what happens.

For example, Marsillo says, insurance can create or protect an estate or provide coverage for life, disability, long-term care (LTC) and critical illness (CI). Insurance, he says, “provides money when people need it most” – whether “they die too young or live too long.” Thus, advisors have “to do a better job of speaking about claims insurance companies pay out.”

Marsillo brings a wealth of experience in the insurance industry to his new role at IDC WIN, which involves overall sales and operations.

Marsillo began in the industry in 1983 as an advisor with Crown Life Insurance Co. following his graduation from Concordia University in Montreal, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in commerce. He subsequently held management positions in sales and training at Crown Life.

Marsillo then joined Canada Life Assurance Co. in 1992 and was put in charge of wholesale distribution in Quebec and then Eastern Canada before taking over the national role in 1999.

Then, he oversaw the transition in the insurer’s focus to the MGA model from the dedicated agency model. Marsillo says he played a key role in writing MGA contracts and setting direction for what was then a new distribution model.

Marsillo remained at Canada Life until 2017, retiring from his position as senior vice president of the company’s distribution department – a position he held for 14 years.

As the distribution model undergoes changes, with insurers getting involved in direct distribution once again, Marsillo doesn’t anticipate this shift will affect IDC WIN: “I’m not concerned that a carrier would come to IDC WIN and say, ‘We’re cancelling your contract’.”

Marsillo believes IDC WIN’s product shelf will remain full, but, he suggests, changing the structure of certain products such as CI and LTC insurance to make them more affordable may be necessary. This change may involve removing or reducing certain guarantees that “Canadians love,” he warns.

Although some insurers may remove certain products from their menu, such as annuities or LTC insurance, these products will be available from other insurers to meet the needs of clients, Marsillo believes.

Although IDC WIN will be hiring new advisors to support its growth, the MGA will engage in “selective recruitment in key markets” rather than just hiring across the board to build critical mass.

Says Marsillo: “We will remain an independent organization that provides choice for advisors.”