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Life Insurance — The Greatest Gift Of Love

Being a brokerage general agent (BGA) has given me a great appreciation for the life insurance industry and the companies we distribute products for. More importantly, I am deeply thankful of the producers who serve their clients.

My life insurance career started in 1978 as an agent for a major eastern mutual company where I received tremendous training and gained a great appreciation for our business. Yes, we were taught product, how to “sell” life insurance with sales ideas and marketing programs, but I was very fortunate to learn the business in an agency that used “service” work to prospect and sell new business.

I came into the agency as one of the first mutliline agents who had a history of a lot of old “debit” business on the books. (Debit Life Insurance had very small face amounts and was sold in the 1930s through the early 1950s. Life insurance agents would actually stop by the home weekly or monthly to collect the premiums.)

My job as an “ordinary/multiline” agent was to service an old debit route, collect the premiums, offer to convert or exchange the old policies (for a reduced commission), prospect for home owners and auto insurance renewal dates (so I could offer a “premium/coverage analysis”) and in general, just make sure that everything was still right with the old policies (current beneficiary, owner information, etc.).

I also took incoming phone inquiries that came into the office and went on every service call that no one else wanted. I was young and hungry and it was better than cold calling in the office on the phone as far as I was concerned.

One of these calls was an inquiry from an individual interested in converting their company-sponsored group term insurance. Again, most of the other guys didn’t want to go because it was not in the best part of town and it paid a reduced commission. I really didn’t care — it was still an opportunity and off I went.

When I got to the home, it was very nice and I met the policy holder. He was about 50 years old (to me that was old since I was 25 at the time) and he asked me how much it would cost to convert his term insurance. After I went through everything he said, “Fine, complete the paperwork.” He wasn’t married and named his mother as his beneficiary. I really didn’t think much of it and was a little surprised at how easily everything went.

After I had the application (very short of course) completed, he told me the reason he was doing the conversion was that he was taking medical retirement from his employer and that he had some heart issues. This was in early 1979 and at the time the mortality experience of someone that young having heart issues was not very favorable. Again, being young, rather new in the business, I really didn’t think much of that comment at the time. After all, he “looked” fine to me. I can still remember him to this day and our afternoon taking the application in his garage while he was working on one of his planes (he was a model airplane hobbyist and had a great display of planes).

After the policy was issued, I went back to deliver it, and again, he “looked” fine to me. He thanked me for the policy and after going through the contract with him, page by page (I told you I got great training), he thanked me again and wished me good luck in my career.

Even though it was a “reduced” commission, for me it was a good day’s pay and I really appreciated the business. I sent the usual “thank you” card and a note to please call me if there was ever anything else I could do for him, including reviewing the homeowners or auto insurance rates he was paying.

I had the policy holder on my “follow up” list, but about six months after the last time I saw him, I got an intercom call from the front office that someone wanted to see me. When I came to the front to greet the person asking for me, it was an older lady and the first thing she said was, “Are you the Dexter that sold my son the life insurance policy?” She was upset and I thought maybe she was mad at me because I sold her son the insurance.

We went back into my office and she sat down and started crying. She said, “I’m sorry, my son Robert died.” I was stunned. After all, I was trained to sell and service, and yes, even trained how to handle a death claim — but this was my first one and I had not even been in the business a full year!

She began to tell me that her son left a note with my card and thank you letter and before he passed away, told his mother to see me. She told me that he liked me, which made me feel good, but I felt so bad for her. She then said, “Thank you for selling my son the insurance policy. He left me his house and this will pay it off free and clear for me.” She hugged me and asked how to begin the claim process.

As I went to get the forms from the front office, it hit me, right then and there: This is what we do. We don’t sell insurance — we sell love and leaving the ones we love better off, not worse off when the worst event in their lives happens. I am convinced that until you process a death claim and see how much difference the insurance makes in the lives of the beneficiaries, you really have no idea of how much good agents truly do for the people we serve.

I had two more death claims that year, both from the debit policies I was responsible for servicing. Again, the experiences reinforced the fact that what life insurance professionals do is noble and honorable work.

Dexter "Dee" Umekubo, CLU, ChFC, is the senior managing partner of Producers XL and the 2012 NAILBA Chairman of the Board. Contact him at [email protected] [email protected].

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