Tag Archive | "agents"

SouthwestRe Recruiting Independent Agents to Service New Territories in Expansion Effort


ALBUQUERQUE, NM – SouthwestRe announced today that it plans to aggressively expand into new territories beginning in the 2017 calendar year. The Company is now recruiting independent agents to support this effort throughout the continental United States.

“Our expansion plans have been long in the making, and we are eager and excited to put them into action,” said Eddie Eckert, President of SouthwestRe. “Although SouthwestRe has strong relationships with many agents throughout the country, there are many states where we currently lack representation. With the assistance of our new and veteran agent partners, we expect SouthwestRe’s nationwide footprint to expand dramatically in the coming year and beyond.”

As part of its comprehensive commitment to agents, SouthwestRe offers:

  • Agent-controlled commissions – agents have the power to determine their financial success
  • A suite of over 30 F&I products – automotive, powersports, RVs, and class 3-8 trucks
  • Agent and dealer reinsurance programs – for every situation, and all of our products are reinsurable
  • OLÉ – SouthwestRe’s suite of online assistant tools, integrated with many F&I menu systems
  • Personal training – both one-on-one, and through regular webinars and agent seminars
  • Two in-house claims departments – fast, friendly, fair adjudication in Dallas and Albuquerque
  • Expert Sales Support – to help agents seal the deal, either by phone or right on premises
  • Client Services – with the right answers and personal support agents need
  • Marketing Solutions – with proven, quality POS materials that engage customers and really sell

“I would like to encourage all independent agents to learn more about SouthwestRe today,” Eckert said. “We pride ourselves on being ‘The Right Choice’ for agents, with the right products, the right service, and the right results. A partnership with the right company can be very beneficial to an agent’s career, and without a doubt, SouthwestRe is that company.”

If you are an independent agent and would like to join SouthwestRe in its expansion efforts, please click here, email email hidden; JavaScript is required, or call 866-414-3867. Note: SouthwestRe works with independent agents only. This is not a solicitation for direct employment.

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GSFS Group Launches F&I Performance Reporting Tool


HOUSTON, TX — On Tuesday, F&I product provider GSFS Group launched a new centralized online performance reporting tool for F&I products called Dealer Executive Dashboard. It’s designed to help users update income strategies and improve profitability.

The online data solution provides dealers and agents with access to extensive claims analytics, customer retention data, performance reports, dealer comparisons, and participation structure information. It features a user-friendly design and can be used on mobile devices, according to the company.

“We saw a pain point for our clients when it comes to information and wanted to find a solution. This gives our clients the ability to access info anywhere and anytime,” said Steve Amos, president of GSFSGroup. “I am proud of our team for creating, developing and launch this tool. We will continue to build and push the market forward using tomorrow’s technology.”

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An Interview with Jimmy Atkinson


At Agent Summit in May, Jimmy Atkinson continued a long career in public speaking when he joined “Building a Team Theme for Prosperity,” a panel discussion led by Tom O’Neil of O’Neil Financial Services Agency. Upon returning to his adopted hometown of Napa, Calif., the COO of AUL Corp. met with AE to reflect on his work in retail and as a trainer, product provider, marathon runner and long-suffering Braves fan.

AE: Jimmy, it was great seeing you at Agent Summit, and I enjoyed your panel. Great energy, great content, and O’Neil did a nice job as the moderator.

Atkinson: Tom did a terrific job. He was probably the most engaged moderator I’ve worked with. We drilled down on the questions on multiple calls and had a final prep session before we went onstage. Everybody on the panel had a good time.

AE: Do you enjoy public speaking?

Atkinson: I do. I spent about five years just doing training and another three or four years just doing F&I development. I started with MS Diversified, which was later acquired by Assurant Solutions, and then worked with Joe Verde for four years. I started my own training company in 2001. I found I had a real passion for teaching and sharing information. By the way, when I started at Joe Verde Group, the first person to take me under his wing was Dave Anderson.

AE: The same Dave Anderson who spoke at Agent Summit?

Atkinson: The same. And I gained a lot of confidence through that experience. It’s always great to see Dave and listen to his powerful message.

AE: What was your first job in the auto industry?

Atkinson: I started selling cars in March of 1983. Pugmire Lincoln Mercury, in my hometown of Atlanta, had an ad running in the newspaper. I actually replied to the ad at their Chevrolet store down the street. The sales manager at the Chevy store said, “You’ll never make it in the car business,” so I walked down to the Lincoln store.

AE: If only he knew.

Atkinson: Well, I was a bit more shy and introverted at the time. And it was only a 10-minute interview. But I caught on and moved into F&I after 18 months. Then I was promoted to sales manager and then general sales manager. I spent seven years at three dealerships. From there I went to work for MS Diversified as a regional manager and training director — the same work that agents do, but as a direct employee.

About four years into it, I got involved in F&I training. When I started my own company, I figured I would be a trainer and have a few products. In 2002, I received a call from my old boss at MS Diversified. They had been acquired by what was then Assurant and he asked me to rejoin him there.

AE: When did you make the move to AUL?

Atkinson: That was in July of 2010. Luis Nieves, the founder, was a client and friend through Assurant. He called me and said, “I would like to visit with you. I have an idea.” We met and he said he needed someone to come in and be his No. 2.

AE: And that was a big move, leaving Atlanta for the Wine Country.

Atkinson: It was. We had moved around a bit before that, but I was born, grew up and spent most of my life in Atlanta.

AE: I learned most of what I know about Atlanta from “A Man in Full” by Tom Wolfe.

Atkinson: I just read that a few months ago! The way he paints Atlanta is probably pretty accurate. It’s a great city, but you get the sense it’s always trying to prove itself. It is home to a ton of Fortune 500 companies, so it’s always growing and expanding, and that brings a lot of challenges. But I love it because it’s home, and of course I still love the Braves, Falcons, Hawks and Bulldogs. You can’t learn to appreciate the meaning of loyalty and heartache until you follow teams that have lost so many championships.

AE: Actually, I’m from Buffalo, so …

Atkinson: Oh, that’s right.

AE: Let’s move on! We had a nice visit in Napa a few years back. What is it like to live there?

Atkinson: It’s very different. There are things I miss about living in the South, but California is a beautiful state. And people don’t realize this about Napa, but it’s like a small farming town, only with hotels and restaurants and tourism. When I think about living in Atlanta, I picture myself either being at the airport or fighting all the traffic, so the relaxed atmosphere is welcome.

AE: Still, it must have been difficult to leave.

Atkinson: It’s never an easy decision. It was made easier because we have two sons who were grown and moving to Los Angeles at the same time. That’s only a one-hour flight. We moved a couple times when the boys were growing up, and that was probably tougher on them than I’d like to admit. Thankfully, I have the greatest wife and mom in the world, and the boys are now wonderful young men.

AE: What do you do to stay in shape?

Atkinson: I ride a Pinarello road bike sometimes, and I’m terrible at golf, but mostly I run. I’ve been doing it for about 18 years. I have run four marathons and a bunch of half-marathons, including two with my younger son. It relieves stress and gives me solitude when I need it.

AE: Running in Napa must be a lot more comfortable than running in Atlanta.

Atkinson: If you’re training for a fall marathon, you’re running up to 18 miles in the summer. So, yes, climate-wise, it is better in Napa. But both cities have a lot of hills.

AE: How much do you love working with agents?

Atkinson: I do love agents. It’s kind of wild. They’re such a different breed. Not unlike car dealers. They are the masters of entrepreneurship and truly brilliant in their fields. They have that amazing ability to adapt to change and grow their businesses. It’s a neat group of people.

AE: Are you looking for more agents? How does that process work?

Atkinson: Jason Garner, our general sales manager, heads up agent acquisitions. He has a team of business development managers. We’re pretty selective. But if we have an area where we’re underperforming and want to grow, and if we don’t have an agent there, we will look for someone. But we have a very stable agent force. We still have the first agent we signed and the first dealer we signed.

AE: That’s impressive.

Atkinson: It’s all driven by Luis, who founded the company and created this wonderful culture. He is probably the most humble, generous and appreciative person I’ve met. He would give you the shirt off his back. He always believes in doing what’s right, and that’s the real secret.

AE: So what drives you now? What gets you up in the morning?

Atkinson: Well, first, there’s always a million things to do. Second, it’s exciting. You asked about agents. That’s one of the most exciting parts of the job. They bring unique opportunities and problems to solve. One of the things we strive to be is a company that agents can turn to for a new approach and we think we do a lot of it really well. At the same time, you have to find a way to create new value. It’s a tremendous business, and it’s growing. There is nothing I would rather be doing.

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AE to Honor Women in the Industry


TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — The publishers of Agent Entrepreneur are accepting nominations for “Women in the Industry,” a cover story that will honor hardworking and successful women in the dealership, agency and F&I product provider and administrator segments.

“In what many still regard as a male-dominated industry, countless strong, smart, industrious women have reached the heights of success,” said Kate Spatafora, associate publisher of AE and P&A. “If you or someone you know fits that description, I encourage you to nominate them today.”

The deadline for nominations is August 28. Nominations should include:

  • The nominee and nominator’s name, title, company and contact information
  • 100 to 200 words explaining why the nominee is deserving of recognition, including any professional accomplishments, recent promotions, honors and awards

The magazine’s publishers and editorial board will carefully consider every nomination and select 20 honorees for inclusion in the story, which is scheduled to run in the September/October 2016 edition of AE.

 

Submit Your Nomination!

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AE to Honor Women in the Industry


TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — The publishers of Agent Entrepreneur are accepting nominations for “Women in the Industry,” a cover story that will honor hardworking and successful women in the dealership, agency and F&I product provider and administrator segments.

“In what many still regard as a male-dominated industry, countless strong, smart, industrious women have reached the heights of success,” said Kate Spatafora, associate publisher of AE and P&A. “If you or someone you know fits that description, I encourage you to nominate them today.”

The deadline for nominations is August 28. Nominations should include:

  • The nominee and nominator’s name, title, company and contact information
  • 100 to 200 words explaining why the nominee is deserving of recognition, including any professional accomplishments, recent promotions, honors and awards

The magazine’s publishers and editorial board will carefully consider every nomination and select 20 honorees for inclusion in the story, which is scheduled to run in the September/October 2016 edition of AE.

Posted in Auto Industry NewsComments (0)

Build Your Agency With Powersports


2016 marks the end of an uptick cycle with vehicle sales in the retail automotive market. This year, we can expect vehicle sales to slow down and plateau. Combined with increased regulatory pressure, 2016 will be a year in which many agents will need to stretch their capabilities and their market base as they prepare for potential economic challenges in the years to come.

The good news is that new opportunities are not out of reach. In fact, there is an often overlooked opportunity for agents seeking to expand their business volume, as well as increase their footprint in the marketplace, in the powersports industry.

Revving Up Product Sales

Now, it is understandable that discerning agents might be concerned with branching into a market they know little about. However, given that the powersports industry is still in the early stages of F&I development, agents might find that they know more than they give themselves credit for.

Your knowledge, particularly in the F&I space, can have immediate and dramatic impact on powersports sales and profitability. Most powersports dealers do not fully understand the F&I process, how to implement a strong F&I department or how to measure its success. Strong agents who have worked with dealers in this area have a wealth of knowledge to provide immediate benefits. This makes the agent value proposition that much larger and more tangible in the powersports space.

Beyond the potential ease of differentiating their services in the powersports market, agents with automotive industry experience may not realize that there is actually a shorter sales cycle and faster revenue opportunity in the powersports space. Think of it this way: You can spend 18 months going after one new-car dealership, all the while competing with 50 administrators. Or you can acquire several powersports dealer partners in that same time period with only seven competitors. That’s right, seven.

So what does it take to make the leap into this brave new world? When contemplating expanding into the powersports market agents need to take the following steps:

  1. Change your mindset from working in a “need to have” industry to a “want to have” industry,
  2. Do your research and
  3. Apply what you’ve learned in auto to the powersports space.

It seems simple when put on paper, but taking the time to really delve into these three steps can go a long way toward ensuring success in the powersports market.

Step 1: Mindset

One of the biggest learning curves for any agent will be operating in a space where the vehicle purchase is a “want to have” rather than a “need to have.” Most powersports owners buy motorcycles and four-wheelers for leisure activities, not for their daily commute. This means that, while powersports demand might be high, the number of people willing to invest in the purchase of a powersports vehicle tends to filter down to those who can afford both a car payment and a motorcycle payment, along with the required insurance payments.

Typically, powersports enthusiasts, who still have to put food on the table, will focus on paying off their car or truck before making a powersports purchase. This filter is the industry’s biggest challenge right now, especially with the rising price tag of new powersports vehicles.

That is not so say that powersports consumers are not heavily invested in their ride. In fact, powersports owners often show more care and concern for their motorcycle than their car. They tend to see the bike as more of an extension of their personality, whereas the car just gets them from one place to another. And as the economy grows, we can expect more powersports enthusiasts returning to dealerships to make a purchase, meaning there will be more opportunity for dealers to increase their profitability and for agents to expand their footprint in the space.

In addition, in this want vs. need space, many powersports dealers extend their thinking beyond pure profitability metrics to the brands they choose to sell. While they can be just as strategic and sophisticated as an automotive dealer, powersports dealers can often base decisions on emotion as much as logic. For example, a staunch Harley-Davidson dealer who is heavily invested in the Harley brand is much less likely to open an Indian store than a Ford dealer is to open a Honda franchise.

Beyond the fierce competition and sense of stewardship between brands, powersports dealers are highly sensitive to being compared to the automotive space. The last thing they want to hear is how they are less sophisticated or versatile than their automotive brothers. This means that while agents can provide powersports dealers with quite a bit of knowledge gleaned from the automotive space, they have to be very careful in how they broach the subject.

In essence, both consumers and dealers operate in a sense of “want to have.” A good comparison to this mindset is the luxury vehicle market. Their purchase decisions are not based on getting from Point A to Point B, but rather on how the vehicle reflects their personality.

Likewise, highline dealers take their sense of brand stewardship seriously, which is reflected in the level of customer service they provide and expect from their agent partners. They believe in the benefits of the luxury brands and shape their dealerships to further cement in customers’ minds that buying from their dealerships comes with a care and attention to detail they cannot get anywhere else.

Powersports dealers operate in the same fashion. They take pride and ownership in the brands they chose to sell and they take care to ensure excellent customer service within a tight-knit community where word spreads fast. In turn, they need the same level of service from their agent partners.

Step 2: Research

Just like in retail automotive, it is important that agents perform their due diligence by researching the dealerships they want to pursue as well as their competitive landscape. They need to perform the groundwork to investigate each dealer’s current provider. It is also a good visual aid to develop a report card, providing a comparative analysis of the current provider’s services. Find out if they provide training, rate comparisons andprocess development, for example.

Be a problem solver. Most agents are probably already used to this when maintaining their relationships with dealer partners. However, it is just as important to research areas dealers can improve upon and provide insight before active engagement, especially in the powersports space. Taking this one extra step can put a strategic agent miles ahead in winning dealer business. You will demonstrate a level of service most powersports dealers are unaccustomed to — but would take advantage of in a heartbeat.

A strong presentation should include:

  • An online and in-person mystery shop,
  • A comprehensive website and online inventory review,
  • Online reputation assessment,
  • Demographics and surrounding area overview and
  • A comparison with the target dealer’s competition.

Lastly, it is important to look at each dealer’s inventory and compare it to the coverage offered by their current provider. Often, anywhere from 40% to 50% of their inventory does not qualify for coverage from most powersports providers, which means there is ample opportunity for a strategic and forward-thinking agent to earn their business with one of the few providers that maintains expanded coverage levels.

With this research in hand, you should be well-prepared to present dealers with something interesting — or at least a new perspective on their dealership operations. The powersports dealership personnel should be more intrigued and interested in how an agent can make them more successful.

Step 3: Application

Agents already accustomed to fierce competition in retail have the potential to easily win powersports dealers by maintaining the level of service they already know how to provide. You do not need to be timid about branching into a new market as long as you trust and use the processes you have relied upon for so long to build relationships and increase a dealer’s reliance on the agent model.

In fact, agent success in the powersports space relies more on understanding F&I than on understanding the space itself. Agents positioning themselves as F&I specialists and helping dealerships implement successful and compliant F&I programs have ample opportunity to materially grow their footprint at a faster pace in this space.

Remember, just like in retail automotive, providing a constant flow of solutions that keep dealers thinking about increasing market share and profitability deepens and strengthens your overall relationship with your dealers. Agents looking to make the transition into the powersports space will also need to look to partner with a solution provider that understands and can support and help execute their powersports strategy.

Providers that already operate in the space often have a better understanding of the products and services most dealers find beneficial, as well as a strong ability to cultivate relationships and make introductions, giving agents a resource to lean on to ensure successful market expansion.

Because the powersports space has so little agent competition, you’d be surprised how much more effective agents can be. Dealers in this space are not used to someone outside the dealership being invested in their success. By building a relationship with them, understanding their objectives and hurdles and educating dealers on the intricacies of F&I, agents can provide an immediate and exponential impact on their business. Remember, this all stems from adjusting your mindset, doing the homework and research on each prospect and determining how to apply lessons learned from automotive retail.

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