Letter below written by a Farmers Home Office employee, taken from the United Farmers Agents Association website, UFAA.
Original article as it appears on page 8 of The Voice, a UFAA publication can be found at this link: http://www.ufaa.com/page/voice/2011_Issue_4__Winter.pdf
Article cut and pasted below:DO YOU ALL UNDERSTAND WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON?
First of all, let me state that I am not an agent, but I am writing this article anonymously because I think it is important that agents understand a couple of things about what is really going on with Farmers.
So let me lay it out for you and you draw your own conclusions as to what the final game plan is for the agency distribution system. I will say that I work in the Home Office management, and have done so for the past 20-30 years, and I am tired of the lies.
When the top level management team reads this article there will be a witch hunt in the Home Office. Most agents know that several years ago, Farmers developed a program that makes it virtually impossible to convert 500 series policies to 300 series policies. This program was developed for one reason and one reason only and that is to develop more renewal premium for FGI (Management Company/Zurich) and less service commission premium for the servicing agent. FGI has been telling the Farmers agents that they are the preferred distribution channel, but all the while they have been going out of their way to increase the Independent Agency distribution to approximately 40,000 agents. They have bought 21st Century to compete directly against the Farmers agency force. Did you all know your AAA states that you are contractually obligated to sell, service and submit business for all companies in the Exchanges? Do you all remember the big push to force agents to accept Foremost as part of the Exchanges? FGI went out of their way to make sure the State Executives used pressure to make the agents conform to this idea, even though most agents already had contractual agreements with Foremost. Then FGI forced agents to move existing business out of Mid-Century (Part of the existing Exchanges). The reason for this move was calculated because FGI had negotiated a higher management fee for placing business in Foremost as opposed to Mid-Century. This was definitely not in the Exchanges best interest, but the Board of Directors approved the transaction.
If you will look at Farmers objectively over the past 10 years or so, you will see that FGI has become a holding company for FIG by buying companies and allowing FGI to charge higher management fees. Many agents are now questioning the Take 5 program and why the big push for the continued influx of leads. If the agents will go back and look at the leads they have keyed into the system and were not taken they will see that 21st Century has contacted them and written business. Many agents have already discovered this because they did test quotes on friends and family only to find that those friends and family were soon contacted by 21st Century. This has caused concern because no one expected that agents would create false quotes just to make their daily Take 5 quotes.
You all do understand that you are Independent Contractors and don’t have quotas under the law, don’t you? Well the agents under the new contract do have quotas, I should clarify that. The biggest FEAR that FGI has is that one day you will join forces, like join UFAA and they will lose control. You see there is power in numbers and if the agents banned together and refused to do the Take 5 and other misguided programs, there is nothing they can do because you are Independent Contractors.
There is one more important item that I believe you need to know to really understand what is going on. I know that you all know that FGI is terminating veteran agents and giving their policies to new agents, but I don’t think the agency force really understands the real reason they are doing it. Let me explain. FGI eventually wants everyone under the new contracts as they are very repressive to the agent and
DM, but they give FGI total control. The production quotas are built into the contract, leaving no question as to whether or not there are production quotas.
Secondly, on the DM side the DM has deferred pay unless he hits certain goals. If he doesn’t hit them he loses the income. Bottom line, if the DMs don’t hit the goals set for them their income is drastically reduced. This naturally sets up an adversarial relationship between the agent and the DM.
Thirdly, and this is the most important thing you need to understand is why veteran agents are being replaced. The subsidy program for the DMs and new agents changed to put more of the liability on the DM, instead of FGI eating the money. When a DM signs up a new agent, if he can give him policies in the 04% series then the agent will need to borrow less subsidy and this puts less liability on the District Manager. The failure rate of new agents is very, very high. The other thing you need to know is although it hasn’t been publicized FGI intends to reduce the DM population from around 450 to 150. FGI intends to create super District Managers and eventually super agencies comprised of policies that pay less service commission.
All you have to do is read the periodicals and you will see that this is the brain child of Allstate and FGI has decided this is the future of the agency force. If you look around you will already see the DM runoff occurring. If you look on the State Executive level, you will notice that FGI is going back to the old system of having State Executives being responsible for two states instead of one. If you have a good relationship with your DM and he is truthful, he will tell you he is scared for his job with what is going on with the recruiting centers and the super DM program. 2012 will be an interesting year, because the District Managers are going to be aggressive, because they want to be part of the 150 surviving District Managers.
The reason I decided to write this article through UFAA is that I knew UFAA would publish it and get it out to the agency force. They don’t know who I am, but I know they will publish my article, because everything I have said is true. If it helps at all, the employees of FGI and management are very sympatric with the agency force. This is not the company it used to be. The people at the top do not listen anymore. They are only focused on generating monies for Zurich. They don’t understand that purchasing insurance is price driven. Unfortunately, Farmers now has the reputation of being overpriced. Our commercials are entertaining but they don’t give consumers a reason to call the agent. However, if you will notice 21st Century commercials are price driven commercials.
Why can’t the Marketing department coordinate the two marketing programs and make them both price driven? You know, the new CEO Jeff Dailey is a student and a firm believer of the Progressive model and we are being told major changes are coming that will make a lot of employees and agents very unhappy.
So it’s time for you all to stand up and unite. Remember no agent is safe, regardless of his tenure or production level. Luckily, I have my time in for retirement and I felt that I owed the agency force something for providing my livelihood all these years. And so, I shall fade into obscurity understanding change is inevitable, but it breaks my heart that the company that I have loved and labored to support for all these years has become what it is.
- Heart Broken Management-