MGAs may ramp up travel conferences for advisors

By Matt Bell | November 04 2016 07:00AM

With the majority of insurance companies announcing an end to their travel incentive conferences over the next 24 months, some managing general agencies have recently begun reviewing their own conferences and discussing possible format changes, including the possibility of more insurance company participation.

As reported by The Insurance and Investment Journal in its April 2016 issue, a number of insurance companies have decided to end their sales-based travel conferences since they could be perceived as a conflict of interest in that an advisor could be seen as selling a product from a particular company to qualify for a travel conference. Managing General Agencies, that have contracts with multiple insurers, are not in the same situation as insurers with respect to their conferences and the perception of a conflict of interest. This has resulted in increasing MGA/insurer discussions about possible collaboration.

Previously, managing general agency QFS Financial has operated its travel conferences independent of insurance companies. Kevin Cott, CEO of QFS, says his MGA is now in the early stages of discussing possible changes to their conference format to potentially involve representatives from the insurance companies in future events, such as its 2018 San Francisco conference.

Chief executive officer of IDC Worldsource, Paul Brown, says IDC may make changes to their conferences too. “We may ramp the conferences up a degree to create more of an experience like an insurance company experience.”

Brown says insurance companies want to build relations with advisors and he thinks they might become more involved with MGAs once their current conference format ends.

“They’ll obviously have a desire…to be more involved (with MGA conferences),” says Brown.

HUB Financial president, Terri Botosan, says her MGA’s conferences might change a little, however, HUB already had taken a partnership approach to its conferences and will continue to do so going forward.

“It’s very important for us that these conferences provide exposure to some senior executives at the insurance companies and vice versa,” says Botosan.

Jim Virtue, PPI Solutions president and CEO, says his MGA has begun looking at how their conference format might change.

“We’re still looking at this internally and we haven’t really landed yet as to what we’re going to do. It has definitely been a topic of discussion, but we haven’t come to a conclusion yet,” says Virtue.

Despite that, Virtue says PPI Solutions remains committed to bringing advisors together to provide them with education to help them grow their businesses and an opportunity to share ideas.

Working together

Cott says insurance companies will have a lot of money freed up with the end of their conferences, so he expects there might be room for further collaboration between carriers and MGAs.

“We don’t know how the carriers will allocate that money. Knowing that it was in their budget, we’re looking to expand their involvement with us,” he says.

Cott says many advisors are happy that MGAs are keeping their conferences, especially QFS’ overseas “carrier style” conferences.

“They’re used to getting some sort of travel benefit (from insurers) and that is not going to be there…Advisors are turning to us, hoping we will keep them.”

Education-focused events

This year, several insurers have announced that they will be transitioning from sales-volume based incentive conferences to education-based events where advisors pay to go. Cott believes the new format may not be attractive for advisors, especially after years of enjoying paid conferences.

“I think that there will be a lot of advisors who will shy away from those conferences unless they make them very attractive.”

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