Michael Chandler is President of Dogwood Capital Management. He attended East Carolina University and has been a Life and Health Agent since 1989 as well as an Investment Advisor/Financial Planner. To contact Dogwood Capital Management, please call (910) 487-8755.
Q) What originally got you interested in the insurance industry?
A) I started in the industry as a financial advisor back in 1989. As my practice developed, I wanted to be known as a problem solver and not a product pusher, so I redirected my efforts to financial planning which not only incorporated asset management but the equally important risk management. Insurance is a key vehicle in managing risk. Since then, insurance has been an integral part of my practice from the simplest cases to some of the most complex estate situations.
Q) With the industry landscape in flux, what is the biggest challenge for agents in the field today?
A) Great question! It is clear to me that the insurance industry from many perspectives has become a commodity. Property and casualty has certainly been that way for a long time, but most recently, the healthcare industry is going in that direction. The product is dictated to us by the Affordable Care Act, and there’s very little difference between them besides pricing. This has been a huge windfall for health insurance agents. This windfall may continue for a couple more years, but I don’t believe it will last.
I believe it is imperative that today’s insurance agent takes an advisory approach to managing their practice. We must become problem solvers and not product pushers. We must identify the problems and find the best solution for our clients by always putting their needs first.
Q) Recount an experience (positive or negative) that taught you a lesson that you still apply.
A) There have been a bunch of both positive and negative experiences in 25 years. It’s the negative experiences that we learn from. Early in my career, I was desperately hungry for my first sale like a lot of agents. I had little patience, and I simply was not a good listener in many cases. I can remember getting a referral from a local CPA early on. His client was looking for a charitable remainder trust. It sounded real important and indeed it was, so I went to work setting up an illustration for over $1 million. I turned it over to our estate planning division, and they completed an incredible illustration giving me a crash course on CRTs. I had been in the business for a little under two years and had landed what I thought was my first huge case. I took the proposal back to the CPA who thanked me for all of my efforts. You see his client needed this illustration to go back to a local bank and execute the plan. This was simply a case where I did not listen well enough and certainly didn’t ask the right questions. It worked out well though because I subsequently learned a tremendous amount about charitable giving and have since made it an intricate part of my practice. The moral of the story is listen well, ask the right questions, and have patience. Large cases take time and a lot of effort.
Q) It has been said that “selling insurance” is the most difficult job in the world. In your opinion, is that true and why?
A) It has been frequently said that insurance is sold and not bought. I don’t believe that to be the case today. Many folks would disagree with me on this, especially those trainers who are preparing young agents to be successful in the field. Today, I believe that P&C and health insurance are bought instead of sold. When I mentioned earlier that insurance was becoming a commodity, this is exactly what I meant. You see it’s all about price today. Geico saves you 15%, Progressive does its own price comparisons, and so on and so on. It’s all about the lowest price. As a result, the margins are squeezed and agents’ payouts fall. If you’ve built your practice on selling a commodity, you will be a dying breed. And under those circumstances, selling insurance is the most difficult job in the world. We should all take the position of the problem solver. Get to know your clients well, identify their needs, and propose solutions to their financial problems. That is the key to building a practice on sound footing that will grow for many years to come.
Q) What is the best part about your job?
A) There is nothing more gratifying than to build a practice centered on multi-generational planning and see the plan succeed. When you wake up in the morning knowing that you have done the right thing for that client and their heirs, it just feels good.