Veteran life insurance advisor to work with Seneca College to recruit new blood

By Donna Glasgow | January 19 2006 01:51PM

Sam Albanese, a long time leader in the insurance industry, is sick and tired of seeing grey hairs when he attends industry conferences. So he’s deciding to do something about the lack of new blood. He has founded a new program with Toronto’s Seneca College, which Mr. Albanese refers to as a complete A to Z course that will create financial service practitioners.

The pilot program is expected to get underway this spring. Mr. Albanese, the founder of the managing general agency Albanese Financial Group (AFG), acquired last year by the PerformINS Canada network, has experienced recruitment problems from the front lines.

“The industry has been very good to me and I am watching it deteriorate,” he explains. “The amount of sales and applications are declining. And we need to change this around and if anyone can do this, it is a person like myself. On a more philosophical level, I guess I want to leave a legacy.” Mr. Albanese will be acting as the chairperson of the program.

He has already held a meeting with managing general agencies (MGAs) and says they expressed support for the initiative. On Nov. 28 he invited 11 insurers for a similar meeting. Getting their support was critical to making the initiative fly.

Mr. Albanese told The Insurance Journal that he received the backing of the 10 insurers who came out. “The meeting went extremely well…They were very enthusiastic and felt very strongly that we need to move forward.”

Insurers are being asked to contribute $25,000 each as seed money. The total $250,000 will be used to develop the curriculum and hire instructors. Mr. Albanese says this is a “one-time hit” since once it is up and running, the program should be self-funding via tuition fees.

The tuition fee for this program has not been established, but Mr. Albanese expects it to be $4,000 at least. The tuition requirement will help to ensure that only very serious candidates will enter the program, he explains, adding that some MGAs or insurers may decide to partially subsidize students’ tuition.

The program will remain independent of any MGA or insurer, stresses Mr. Albanese. It will be an accredited program with the goal of creating a brand new type of advisor. “This program is not geared to people graduating out of college. It is for people looking for a career change, for people who have a B.A. or a Bachelors of Science.”

Mr. Albanese is proposing a finished product. He explains that currently advisors can learn about soft and hard skills, but everything cannot be found under one roof. “I am saying lets get a community college and let’s create ourselves a brand new broker – with talents that will talk to us.”

At press time, he was in the process of setting up an advisory committee to be composed of 6 to 8 industry representatives from MGAs and insurance companies. He was aiming to have the first committee meeting in mid-January to discuss the development of the program.

He anticipates the program could be from 36 weeks to up to a year long and will be a co-op program involving apprenticeship sessions with MGAs.

Roy Atkinson, a professor of insurance for Seneca College, says that he was thinking about the idea of a complete comprehensive program for quite some time. “There is a huge vacuum out there. Very few companies are not recruiting. One of the justifications for this is that within 10 years, 30% of the field will retire and there are a huge number of accounts that need to be serviced.”

Once the program and curriculum is set up by Seneca, it could then be adopted by other colleges and become a national program, adds Mr. Albanese. He expects it to eventually expand to about 10 colleges located in the larger Canadian cities.