Boy, have things changed!
As I was cleaning my office, I found my old recruiting marketing material. Reading the Allstate promises reminded me of the proverbial story of the frog in the boiling pot. In this story, the frog is placed in a pot of water and the temperature is raised so gradually that he does not recognize the danger he is in until the water is boiling around him and it is too late to escape.
The recruitment brochure states: “Building a Business as an Allstate Exclusive Agent.” “Exclusive” has two definitions: 1. excluding or nor admitting other things. 2. restricting or limited to the person, group or area concerned.
I, and thousands of potential agents, took the scary first step into the proverbial pot by signing up as Exclusive Agents. We took out loans, borrowed from family, cashed in 401Ks and sometimes quit corporate jobs with guaranteed paychecks to become business owners.
How did I miss that Allstate was raising the temperature? How could I have known it had veered off the path promising busines ownership and the opportunity to sell as retirement security?
I remember the first time I heard that some independent agents could sell Allstate insurance in a small, rural communities; I felt like a wide-eyed young woman who lived in Pollyanna. I thought it was a breach, but, as all of you agents know, the word “Exclusive” has a new definition in the world of Allstate.
About one year later, I found that Allstate was being sold by independent agents in my city without any concern for the “Exclusive” title. Two years ago, my best friend’s son signed up with SelectQuote insurance in California. He is also an Allstate agent; except he is working for Select and can also sell other companies in 48 states.
The incremental changes that Allstate has made throughout the years have not been beneficial to the Agents; we have adversely affected most. Many agents’ books have decreased in value due to the compensation changes. Now, we are unable to sell our books. When I look back, I wonder if I should have leaped out of the pot a long time ago. Sadly, the good hands were not there for agents.
The “good hands” people at Allstate, the hands that once showed such confidence, are no longer supporting agency owners. 2020 has proven to be a rough year for our agent community, with or without the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have learned that the “good hands” of Allstate really don’t extend to the agent community. The loyal agents who have faithfully served their clients and communities for years have discovered that Allstate has taken the reins of their businesses and made selling their agencies virtually impossible, especially for small and medium-sized agencies. This made our books of business, which we worked every day to build, plummet in value. This investment is now being held hostage by the “good hands” people.
The changes in renewal compensation announced in late fall 2019 adversely affected the value of our businesses. The pandemic that occurred in the spring 2020 put even more pressure on the agencies’ bottom lines. Coupled with Allstate’s decision to enforce ABO’s arbitrary demands, hundreds of agents have been forced to close their doors so Allstate could pursue the low-cost 800 number business model and implement an integrated service center to provide “good hands” service without the advice or guidance of a local professional agent.
Even though the “good hands” is moving away from the model that serves agency owners, we know that people buy from people they like. Our clients don’t buy off the web, they buy from US. Financial investments aren’t made over toll-free calls, they are the result of relationships cultivated by years of community investment and support. The lifeblood of Allstate is hardworking agents. Let’s hope they realize this before it’s too late. Or, maybe this is the new normal for Allstate which I, for one, do not like.
There has never been a better time to join NAPAA because we are the only voice for agent advocacy. We do thank Allstate for being a marketing force for growth and membership acquisition for NAPAA.
Meet the Team – Board, Staff and Executive Director
Members of NAPAA are supported by a dedicated Board, Staff and Executive Director.
Each year, we hold an election for board members. Some members are new while others are up for a re-election of their two-year terms.
All Board Directors are actively engaged with and understand the challenges of being an Allstate agency owner or Exclusive Financial Specialist. They are required to be active agents under contract when elected, though we do allow members to serve the remainder of their terms if they leave Allstate. Board members are not allowed to serve if they operate an independent insurance agency. Check out https://napaausa.org/ to read the bios of the board members.
I am pleased to present the board of directors for the upcoming year below. I look forward to working with, and offer my congratulations to, each and every one of them.
First, congratulations to the agents who have stepped up to take officer positions:
- Claudia Gamache (IL) was re-elected to her second term as Vice President;
- Lezlee Liljenberg (TX) was elected Secretary, replacing Virginia Ottenberg (OH) whose term on the board expired; and
- John Harvester (IN) is our current Treasurer.
In addition to the officers above, the following board members were elected:
- Rob McBride (AZ) to his second term;
- Mike Garofalo (CT) for his second term;
- Javier Najera (TX) was elected to replace a retiring board member; and
- Fred Manfredi (VA) was elected to his first term on the board.
Finally, due to the increase in membership over the past 18 months, the board decided to increase its number from 8 to 10 for the upcoming year to adequately address member concerns.
- Dean Gentile (NY) and
- Scott Verbarg (IN) were appointed to the board for the next calendar year.
In addition to our board members, NAPAA employs the services of an association management firm, IMI Association Executives, of Raleigh, NC, to run day-to-day operations. Your contacts there are Peter Kralka, our account manager, Christina Alevizatos, who handles general questions regarding membership status and Meredith Parker, who helps us with media and publishing. Please reach out to them if you have questions. Our toll-free number is 877-627-2248 or 919-573-5025. Email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Finally, we employ an executive director to run our organization. Ted Paris has been our executive director for over three years. Prior to taking over the position, Ted purchased three Allstate agencies in West Central Indiana and ran them for 12 years. Ted was previously a district manager for Farmers Insurance for 18 years. He can be reached at email@example.com .
Our only purpose is to represent you- the agency owner. As you can see, we have the commitment and means to do that. We have the resolve and resources needed to be your voice to the Company, to the Allstate Board of Directors, to the media and to the investment community. We have the knowledge to give you unbiased advice and library of needed resources for you to use.
Thank you for supporting us so we may support you.
As I wrote this article, I felt a little nostalgic regarding how things used to be at Allstate. My affiliation with Allstate will reach 19 years in July. My have things have changed at Allstate! And I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you if current and future changes will be for the better or worse.
We simply have a few choices to make. We can decide to sell and hope that Allstate approves the buyer, or we can take TPP for those of us that qualify. An additional pathway is to “go for it” again and use best practices for our business to ride the waves. We are so fortunate to have a very good executive director, Ted Paris, who has great experience as a manager and former agency owner. He is ready and willing to discuss issues and help you plan for your future.
My history with Allstate is not as long as many of yours, but I do remember how Allstate tried to look like they really cared about the agents. As one of my board members said recently “they used to treat us like royalty.” This is not the case for many of the small-to-medium size agencies today. There is a long list of changes implemented by Allstate and I don’t need to go into the details of the new compensation plan, the integrated service option, the lack of executive advantage dollars and even the charge for marketing materials.
The industry is changing as many industries have changed and will continue to change in our lifetimes. Captive Allstate agents appear to be going the way of dinosaurs; they are disappearing. But we must face the era in which we live. The Baby Boomers still like to have a personal agent because they have assets and want them protected. Younger groups of people only want help when they need it. Insurance Companies are marketing more to these do-it-yourself techies. But of course, when things go wrong, we are the first to be called.
When I was young, there were pay phones in every corner. Today, I doubt many of us long for pay phones. I can remember when I was in high school and microwave ovens were the future of cooking. I don’t think many of us cook with them, but I would bet that just about every household in America has one. I was learning how to work with computers in high school and they were cumbersome and huge, no one knew that, in several years, they would be vital assets to maintain just about everything in our lives When I walked into McDonalds the other day, I was instructed that all orders MUST be placed at the kiosk instead of the counter. As I stood at the kiosk, I realized that they’ll replace the jobs of the 16- year-olds that used to work at McDonald’s during the summer months. When I thought about what they do now for extra cash, I noted that they certainly do not sell newspapers, because hardly anyone reads print and newspapers are going out of business. We used to receive our news from paper and three major network news channels. Now it is all about cable and social media.
Times have changed and we need to move with them. So, my advice is to make changes, move incrementally with the industry and have flexibility. Or maybe it’s time to move elsewhere. Smokey Bear said “only you can prevent forest fires.” Today, I want you to know that only you can decide what is right for your future.
There was a time when agents could set the goals they wanted to achieve in their agencies. But, like pay phones, those days are long gone. Since Allstate Corporation does not see the agent as an integral asset to the future and, in all fairness, considering online purchases for insurance is the rising tide of the industry, you need to consider what is good for you and Allstate Corporation will do what is good for it. I love what I do so I am here until Allstate decides it doesn’t want me or need me.
I do want to end on a positive note: when I was young, we had vinyl albums and turn tables (I actually still have one and my old albums). Those days were done due to technology but there is a current trend to own albums and turntables again. They are more costly than streaming music online, but young people are fascinated by them. My hope is that soon captive Allstate agents will be like albums and turntables and will be worth more to those that seek them in the future. Good luck and all the best to you.