A secure financial future is something we all aspire to achieve and it is in fact readily attainable when advisors and clients have the optimal resource tools and information available to them in order to formulate the most prudent decisions for each individual situation.
Enter Hub Financial – a company that was established in 1999 as a managing general agency by its parent Hub International, a leading global insurance brokerage. Supported by more than 200 employees in 15 offices across Canada, Hub Financial has catapulted itself to the upper echelon in the financial services industry as one of the most recognized and respected industry-leading MGAs.
The Canadian Business Journal recently spoke with Hub Financial President Terri Botosan and Executive Vice President and Chief Sales Officer Chris DiSalle about the company’s business approach, its impressive growth and plans for the future.
A managing general agent is appointed by an insurer to seek out applications from agents for insurance contracts or to negotiate contracts on behalf of an insurer. Planning and executing a secure financial future is one of the most prudent endeavours businesses and individuals can undertake. At Hub Financial it’s about identifying and growing a team of professionals who are the very best in their field. A successful MGA puts in the time and effort in providing the necessary resources for advisors and their clients to succeed.
“What we do is seek out the right advisors where we can build relationships with them. With the expertise and education programs that we have we can help them build their practice,” begins Botosan from her office in Woodbridge, north of Toronto. “We treat our insurance carriers as partners and we have very beneficial and respectful relationships with them but we’re really focused on the client – who is the independent advisor – and helping them to build their business and find the right niche.”
During 18 years in operation Hub Financial’s development portfolio has primarily been defined through robust organic growth and savvy acquisitions, which have served to drive new business growth. Existing brokers, who are direct clients of HUB Financial, are serviced in ways that augments their productivity, thus boosting organic growth, and ensuring the best quality financial services made available for Canadians nationwide.
“We’ve tried to build a strategy that has a nice balance between acquisition and organic growth but I wouldn’t say that our acquisition planning has a set path that it takes. We take the integration of the operations very seriously. We don’t necessarily say that we have to have a set number of acquisitions per year. It depends on what we buy, where we buy it and how well the integration goes and the opportunities that arise,” explains Botosan.
As both Botosan and DiSalle agree, it’s not about promoting one carrier’s product over another, but rather it’s about finding the optimal products for a particular advisor and the clients that they serve.
DiSalle, who works out of the Vancouver office, has a primary responsibility to set the overall tone and to drive sales for the organization right across the country and to build upon value proposition, which includes the development of wide array of products and services as well as courses and programs made available to advisors. “We want to help make the advisors even more effective in the roles they have with their clients and within their businesses. We differentiate ourselves from our competition in terms of what we offer,” he says.
One of the initial components DiSalle and his team put forth is a patented sales process that they call Your Financial Compass. The key behind it is to provide an advisor with a compliant roadmap from prospecting right through to conducting business with a client.
“That prospecting module is something we call our Simple Conversation. It is huge and we’ll really be focusing on that this year,” notes DiSalle, who says that one of the biggest challenges advisors have is getting in front of customers. “We’ve created something that has lots of value with the advisors who are using it, so we’ll be having a big push on that aspect of Your Financial Compass sales process.”
Three Primary Divisions
Hub Financial is comprised of three main business areas: risk, investment and FlexSave™, the latter of which came via one of the smaller agency acquisitions from Alberta where it had been running provincially for about eight years prior to Hub’s purchase in 1999.
On the investment side, Hub Capital serves as a mutual fund dealership. A notable difference is that a representative is not free to choose multiple relationships in that realm. Due to stricter guidelines it means a significantly higher degree of responsibility for Botosan and her team in terms of oversight and training. There is also a compliance team that works closely with those individuals to ensure proper execution.
“It’s a much more highly regulated part of our business. The advisors that choose to do business with us there are tied more closely whereas on the Hub Financial side they are entirely independent and they can have more than one MGA relationship although obviously we position the value that we provide so hopefully they would choose us for all their contracts,” notes Botosan.
To ensure success, Hub’s comprehensive basket of products and services always needs to be robust and effective in making the lives of the advisors as straightforward as possible and by extension helping them to grow their businesses. Each of the company’s advisors are independent business people with zero type of employment ties to Hub.
The third division is FlexSave™, which is a proprietary Hub product whereby an employer determines the monetary amount set aside for the employee who in turn can then use that amount until the end of the year. The amount initially set aside is tax deductible for the employer, and becomes a tax-free benefit for the employee, making it an obvious win-win for everyone involved as Botosan says. “We serve as a trustee and market this generally to enhance group benefits products that companies might have in place for their employees. They are able to claim some health and dental and it is a tax effective manner for the business. We handle the administration of the claims for the employees of that business. It’s a completely different line with different clients and brokers. Typically on the FlexSave™ side we’re dealing with group benefits brokers that are looking for a different solution for some niche clients that they have.”
Hub Financial offers a series of courses known as Masterworks that ranges from a ‘brand new, just entering the industry’ course called the Valued Planner Development program, which is one-week in duration with 10 follow-up sessions. It assists new advisors in helping to identify their natural markets and build a prospecting and client-building process that will best work for them. Taking someone who is new and moulding them into a successful insurance and financial advisor is what it’s all about. The program has been incredibly effective, with tweaks and developments always being made to provide further enhancements.
There is also a two-day Business Insurance course designed by Hub Financial that provides assistance for some advisors are not comfortable in the tax and planning and structure areas of the corporate world. The fundamental goal is to help move those advisors into a comfort zone and give them the confidence they need in order to succeed.
A third aspect of Hub’s advisor development is a coaching program and an annual plan for those advisors who are existing and prosperous but have the need or desire to step out of their core business. This program is called the Focus Planner. “It allows them to look from the 30,000-foot overview level in terms of what they are good at and what changes they should be making, including such things as delegation techniques, adding staff and identifying unique abilities,” continues DiSalle.
At Hub Financial a headlining focus is to disrupt the financial services industry by providing vastly improved methods to conduct merger and acquisition activity, succession planning and talent management within financial organizations. The succession program was originally launched towards the end of 2015 and has become a business growth and continuance model. It’s an entity that not only provides advisors with an opportunity to sell or buy a block of business but how to handle investment prospects.
The company has designed forms, potential valuation methods and legal documents on buy-sell in order to make the efforts of the advisors run that much more smoothly. Hub Financial’s succession program has partnered with the Find BoB platform of technology, which has the capability of revealing nearby investment specialists hoping to partner with somebody else whose primary experience is with life insurance. Find BoB helps smart financial institutions protect existing assets by encouraging succession behaviour within their organizations.
Hub Financial also has two other proprietary programs that have proven extremely valuable. Critical Start is a CI sales training course that is conducted in a study group format. It was designed exclusively for Hub by one of its advisors named Keith Leech, who is a very successful living benefits consultant and advisor. A series of nine short training videos and a 30-page sales guide make up the program. Yet another program deals with long-term care sales training to assist advisors consisting of 12 short training videos and a sales guide, held in study groups where six to 10 advisors are brought in to discuss the situation, and to ensure the best positioning of the products.
“We want to be careful that we’re always listening to our advisors and then coming back to them with the best solutions,” remarks DiSalle. “We then wrap all that up in a rather sophisticated compliance regime with a great team out of Woodbridge and compliance roadshows that we do across the country.”
Innovative Mentoring and Technology
Botosan and DiSalle have set an initiative for this year whereby the Hub team will be getting in front of 300 to 500 of advisors to enroll them in this system to ensure that they are presented with the most updated program opportunities. It’s not just a ‘you should do this’ scenario but rather ‘we’re going to do this for you and show you what’s out there that you might be missing’.
Incredible technological capabilities that were not possible in the past across the entire industry are now constantly being developed at Hub Financial. Technology is utilized as the base in allowing Hub to have the ability to provide additional coverage to more Canadian families. Compliance, regulation and critical mass are among many areas that have evolved tremendously over the past 25 years.
Botosan and DiSalle estimate about 70% of the programs made available through Hub Financial are classroom-based with coaching methodologies, with about 30% on balance being available online. The Critical Start CI training and long-term care training can be found right on Hub’s website where the videos and sales guides are readily available. Online learning has become an excellent resource; however, Botosan and DiSalle agree that the most effective method is still within the confines of a study group environment.
“When you get six to 10 advisors in a room, you get great discussion going on. We always want to be sure we’re educating the advisor and that’s the goal of those courses. The approach is working very well,” adds DiSalle.
The entire process from start to finish – and the ultimate way to gauge success – is based on the level of customer satisfaction. Botosan and DiSalle are both confident that any advisor who is looking to acquire access to a complete basket of products and services to provide to their clients it is Hub Financial that can best handle those needs.
“This really is a relationship business that builds over time. If you spoke to anybody on our management team we all really believe in the product – we believe in insurance and investments. We do all of this because we want Canadians to have good access to good advice with well-trained people to serve them. I know that might sound a little altruistic but over time that comes through and trust in the relationship grows,” says DiSalle.
The skilled, professional employees who work alongside Botosan and DiSalle help to push Hub Financial to the pinnacle of an intensely competitive industry. “Internally we have very special people and Terri has done an incredible job of being inclusive with our team. Everyone knows where we stand at all times. Also, we just had a conference with our top advisors and we couldn’t be more proud of them,” says DiSalle.
Hub Financial makes prudent business decisions and will not spend the time and effort inventing or designing a new program unless there is a firm belief it will enhance an advisor’s success in dealing with a client. “There has to be a recognition that something is important followed by a movement to action to allocate a piece of what they have from their disposable income to take care of that risk,” says DiSalle.
In addition to having direct access to all major carriers across Canada, Hub Financial delivers extensive sales training and coaching with comprehensive back office support and cutting-edge technology that provides advisors with the independence and career development objectives that they seek. Remaining ahead of the curve by implementing industry-leading innovative new strategies and technologies will be at the forefront for the entire team moving forward.
“One of the most important things for me personally is continuing to serve our clients well and continuing to offer programs that help them enhance their business while cultivating a great culture within Hub. We are successful and growing and have made acquisitions and a steady string of organic growth,” says Botosan. “We want to continue to do what we’re doing – and do it well.”