This week we had an agency call in that has been trying to move one of their contracts to us for 6 months. Their FMO is jerking their chain and they were understandably frustrated. “Is this the way it always is? It just seems like it should be faster,” the MGA confided to me.
I explained it to the agent. “First, your current FMO doesn’t want to lose you. He doesn’t HAVE to release you so the fact that he did agree to release you is a plus, and a step above many FMOs. However, he is playing a stall game hoping you’ll just give up and stay–or at least stay with him for another AEP.”
The FMO had signed a release 6 months ago but then sent it to this agent for his signature, and then to me, the new FMO, for my signature. A few month’s later when the agent asked why it still hadn’t been returned to him or sent to the carrier, the FMO feigned disorganization/death in the family/dog-ate-the-homework and pseudo apologized. The FMO then demanded that the process start all over as the signature dates were now stale and the carrier won’t accept a date more than 30 days old (true with most carriers). New forms were signed this week with a nod to rush them.
However, the FMO only released the agent and NOT HIS DOWN LINE of 15 AGENTS. Yes, the FMO could have checked the box on the carrier’s release form to release the whole agency, but in order to stall some more (and he is not alone in employing this stall tactic) he told the agent that each of his down line agents would have to request their own release–and go through this process!! Thereby dragging the release out a few more weeks at minimum.
When you request a release keep this old adage in mind:
“Beggars Can’t Be Choosers”
You can’t demand they speed it up, or act in an efficient manner.
That FMO may be making a mistake by treating this agency like this. A swift and friendly release leaves the agent with a good taste in his mouth. I’ve found that over 50% of the agents we release eventually come back to work with us. (In the spirit of full disclosure, NOT ALL ARE SWIFT OR FRIENDLY based on the circumstances).
Many agents find that the promises that make them leave us were hollow. Since they left us on good terms, they are comfortable coming right back. When an FMO sends an agent away on bad terms, that door is closed forever! We’ve had agents that only wanted to move 1 contract to us, but the way their prior FMO treated them in the release process made them so angry that they pulled every. single. contract. from that FMO, when that had not been their original intention.
Nasty Mistakes Agents Make:
- Go in hot. Demand a release TODAY and threaten to have your attorney sue the FMO if the release isn’t received this week. This is a useless threat and it never works. People don’t like to be threatened. When an agent acts like this to me, I guarantee you that I will put his release at the very bottom of my to-do list.
- Calling the FMO you want to move to and telling HIM or HER to get you a release. “Can’t you just call BIG FMO and get this done?” Uh, no we can’t. This is between you and your upline. We only start work with you after you are released.
- Emailing the CEO and demanding an immediate release. This is rude. I get these emails and I forward them to the marketer the agent works with. Your request for a release must start with your immediate contact at that company and go up the chain. You can start at the top, but it won’t be processed. There is a chain of command and you need to follow it.
- Assuming that you are entitled to the immediate attention of your current FMO. They will lose money letting you go, so be nice and patient. Your release will not be on the top on anyone’s to do list. Most people are very nice, but busy. Releasing you costs them money so the more work you can do, and the less they have to do, the better.
- Not giving a reason why you want to move. Keep in mind YOU signed the contract. The carrier drafted the rules and the FMO is bound by them. No contract requires a FMO to release an agent, so coming in hot is usually not a winning approach. When our marketer messes up, and an agent reaches out to me. I first apologize and try to fix the error. When the agent has lost faith in GM, I understand and barring any other extenuating circumstance (usually this is where the problem was caused by the carrier and not GM) I release immediately.
- Assuming that your immediate upline has the authority to release you/not knowing who has the actual authority to release you. This is the most common mistake i see. For example, Bob is under a GA and gets a release from him. He doesn’t realize that Bob is under Mark and Mark is under Eldon. Only the very top of the hierarchy, (with every carrier but Aetna Med Supp) has the authority to release an agent. The upline usually requires that every level agrees to the release before they will sign off on it. You can save time by asking the carrier who the ultimate person is that must sign your release.
Here are some tips for a smoother release scenario:
- Call your marketer and discuss why you want to move. Give them the opportunity to meet or beat another offer. Yes, this isn’t always possible and you may be so mad this doesn’t apply, but consider this option. When there has been a problem caused by your FMO (and not the carrier), you have leverage.
- Copy the FMO/Marketer on your email to the old FMO stating why you want to move so if they have a reciprocal relationship (many FMOS do) they can negotiate your release in exchange for another agent (this happens behind the scenes and more than you realize).
- Get the correct form signed by the receiving FMO first and send it to the FMO you want released from. This can speed things up by a few weeks! If there is not a required form, type up the release with all your information (all carriers and agent numbers, the list of all your agents etc) to speed things up. They don’t want to spend time drafting it up. Do it for them.
- Leverage your other contracts. If you like the FMO you are moving a contract from enough to keep some contracts there, be sure to point that out. “If you will release X, I will be happy to keep Y and Z with your agency.” The unspoken threat here is that if they don’t release X, you will go inactive or put in an intent to move X,Y and Z so it behooves the FMO to release x.
- Know your contract. Release rules vary greatly between companies. Don’t rely on what you assistant tells you or what you assume are the rules, they have changed a lot in the past year. Before you start on your quest for a release, call the carrier to find out the latest release rules.