Financial Horizons Group
Financial Horizons Group is appointed by insurance companies to distribute their products and services, through independent financial advisors to consumers. Financial Horizons Group is a leading, national Managing General Agency (MGA) that provides financial advisors with a broad array of life, health, employee benefits, pensions, investments, structured settlements, and risk management products and services.
John Hamilton, President and CEO started Financial Horizons Group in 1990, and the firm became a Managing General Agency (MGA) in 1999. At this time, shift occurred in the insurance industry, and the insurance companies decided that they did not want to deal directly with advisors, and started moving regulatory compliance, training and other responsibilities to MGAs. Today, MGAs serve the insurance industry as the hub connecting advisors with the insurance companies.
“Yes, doing business this way, the insurance companies run the risk of being exposed to direct competition, but the companies have to be competitive or they’re not going to get the business. The idea is to draw the consumer in. One customer may not buy from you, but enough potential customers will come and so everybody will receive their share of customers. This model works very, very well for the industry, and the MGA network is now the largest distributor of insurance products in Canada,” says Hamilton.
The original goal was to eliminate the brick-and-mortar locations from the insurance companies’ balance sheets, save the overhead cost, and pass those savings onto the customers and investors. So instead of a town with offices of Canada Life, Manulife, , Empire Life, Standard Life, etc., a representative of Financial Horizons Group will deliver the same result with incredible savings to the companies’ expense.
The MGA Advantage
Offering services as an MGA has the definitive upside for the customer, as this approach ultimately offers nearly unlimited options when shopping for one’s insurance needs, as Financial Horizons Group works with nearly two dozen institutions, and its advisors are well-trained experts who work to find the best policy fit for every customer.
“Working with an MGA means that our advisors are now talking to all of the insurance companies, and the consumer has a lot more choice. So we certainly can always offer a variety of options, and a variety of products, from a variety of different institutions,” says Hamilton.
The firm works closely with its advisors to provide them with the ideal mix of resources, products, services, and support they need in order to provide exceptional products, services, and solutions to clients, and always supporting them in growing their business.
“What sets us apart from the competition is that we extend this tremendous support to advisors keeping the power of business in their hands. We are firmly fixed on our tagline of being the gateway to financial success and do everything in our power to ensure the needs of advisors are met in today’s ever-changing financial services industry.”
Potential on the Horizon
Hamilton’s move towards the MGA model in the 1990s was a successful one, and what started with four employees has grown to 180, working in 22 offices across Canada. Still headquartered in Kitchener, Ont., Financial Horizons Group is one of the top 5 MGAs currently operating in the industry, and Hamilton expects to continue to grow because new regulations will see a further industry consolidation. As an MGA, Financial Horizons Group endorses the new regulations that are coming into the picture.
“In our mind, we think there are still too many MGA’s. There’s about 4 or 5 that are very large like ourselves, and then there’s a second tier of MGA’s that are smaller, maybe more regional, and then there’s some very niche ones that are even smaller. With the regulations that are coming out, the smaller MGAs are not going to be able to afford the compliance, and they are not going to be able to continue to compete in this new regime.
“We support new regulations because we’ve been pouring money into proper compliance for years, as have my major competitors, and we think this is a good thing. The new system has arrived and we endorse it, because it’s here to protect the end consumer.”
With the system regulatory shakedown, the smaller MGAs will be on their way out of business, and that’s where the hammer hits the nail for Hamilton, as these operations will be available for acquisition. The firm completed three acquisitions to date, but there is more to come, seeking solid, viable organizations that can add further value and an edge to Financial Horizons Group.
Engaging Internal Culture
Hamilton, his passion for business, and the fact that over the years he made the right business moves and turns, has turned Financial Horizons Group into a national insurance powerhouse. As the fastest growing MGA in Canada (in terms of new premiums, new assets, and new addition of advisors), Financial Horizons Group operates on the values of education, integrity, and professionalism.
To this, Patricia Ziegler, COO, added, “Certainly, our culture has shifted over the last couple of years, as we’ve gone from being a 21-odd person organization, to almost 180 employees, going from a single office to 22 offices across the country. We simply had to keep our employee culture strong.
“We achieved this mainly by employee engagement, and we are striving to become a high-performing organization, measuring our employee engagement, and satisfaction level on an annual basis, and addressing any potential dissatisfaction.
“Our results are phenomenal, and we keep our culture strong by constantly finding out what may or may not be shifting in terms of what satisfies employees. We also encourage our leaders to take 360-degree surveys as well. By doing these surveys, leaders are made aware of how they can improve and lead the organization to where we are trying to steer it.”
As the company expanded nationally, securing extremely strong presence in Eastern Canada, Hamilton seeks to strengthen his hold in the West through organic growth as well as the right acquisitions, and if the company reaches a certain size, even looking to go public.
“I’ve never done an IPO before, so that would be fun, and a challenge, I’m sure. And I’d like to see personal growth amongst our executive team, see them reach their personal goals and give them the opportunity to do that. And I think that type of mentality in our culture gets people engaged, and you can accomplish anything, and we have done that,” says Hamilton.
Even after he has built a company worth millions, Hamilton stays humble, not considering himself successful — not because he wants to earn more, but because money is not the only measure of success. “I encourage balance, and I think when you have balance in your life you are always more successful in everything you do.
“It’s kind of like I don’t go to work every day, I get to live the dream. I have been 30 plus years in the business and it never gets dull. And you know I think they always say reach for the horizons, but once I get to the horizon, I can see another one, and another one …,” concludes Hamilton.