Loud and Proud — You’re an Agent


If you are a life insurance agent, you should thank Don McNay. He is trying to make it safe to be one.

He is not a lobbyist but he is bringing attention to the cause by simply calling himself a life insurance agent in a blog on Huffington Post. After more than 33 years of selling life insurance, he is no longer calling himself the usual things agents call themselves, such as estate planner.

It has been getting tougher for people who sell life insurance to feel comfortable about it. Agents have long been regarded as terminally fuddy-duddy. Regulators seem to take aim at the whole distribution channel with a cocked eyebrow. Policymakers are constantly trying to nudge insurance selling into the financial-advising, fee-charging realm. The value of that move is debatable, obviously why it has not happened yet.

But the result of all this is people don’t want to call themselves life insurance agents. It’s rough feeling like a pariah. If you asked Americans who they would choose to see at their door, an agent or someone who wants to discuss their relationship with the lord, I suspect more agents would be shown the curb.

That won’t change if people who believe in the business of life insurance run away from the name. If you say you’re a whatever advisor or planner and eventually start talking about life insurance, the prospect just might recoil and exclaim, “You’re not a LIFE INSURANCE AGENT, ARE YOU?”

McNay said he was coming out of the closet as an agent, likening it to how gay people had to hide who they were. He acknowledged it is not as severe as the ostracizing that gays have faced, but his father was ashamed that McNay did not go into a noble profession such as his as a bookie or as a loan shark.

When I first got involved in the insurance world, it was with an insurance association and I quickly learned that the new term was producer rather than agent. That struck me as odd. An agent was my uncle who was loved by his clients and said the word “policy” how others said “Constitution.” A producer sounds like a guy working the phones, moving the merch and racking up the bucks. I concede we use the term in our publications, but that’s my feeling about it.

You’re an agent, the person who talks about a client’s family. A financial advisor talks about a person’s money. Which is nobler?





Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and insurance periodicals. Connect with Steve →

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