Independent Financial Concepts Group
Based in the Greater Toronto Area, Independent Financial Concepts Group Ltd. (IFCG) is an innovative MGA (Managing General Agency) with head offices in Toronto and Concord. Since 1999, IFCG has been providing Canadians with high quality insurance and financial products that are well suited to their individual financial needs.
We first profiled President and CEO Gary Mandel in February, 2012. In this issue, Mandel tells us that he was inspired to found IFCG after working in the industry for many years.
“I started out as an independent broker, dealing with MGAs and brokerage offices. I realized that there was something missing. I wasn’t happy with some of the services and support I was getting. I knew I could build something better,” Mandel recalls.
IFCG takes pride in being a proactive company that can truly support their advisors. IFCG operates under an independent philosophy with a focus on doing what is best for the client.
“I run the business the way I want to be treated. We don’t make the products, we distribute them, so our business as an MGA is about the service and support,” Mandel clarifies. “We take care of the advisors by giving them the appropriate support, products, training, advice and service so they can take care of their clients, the end users of the product.”
IFCG provides the superior support needed to help advisors grow their business. Because clients demand expert advisors, it is crucial for advisors to keep up to date in a constantly changing field. At IFCG, advisors are given access to in-house meetings that cover sales concepts, prospecting techniques, strategies and unbiased product knowledge. In addition, IFCG also holds seminars and conferences, inviting leading industry experts as guest speakers. A virtual office allows the advisors continuous access to product, sales and client information, applications, marketing materials and industry software, including calculators.
“We take people brand new to the industry and teach them how to get licensed, provide ongoing training with a team who can support them, and we even have someone who can go on calls with them. We also have an actuary on staff for more complicated cases. Basically, anything an advisor would need—from support, to product, to education—that’s what we offer them,” says Mandel.
Working with an MGA is preferable for independent advisors, because they can access all carriers under one roof, rather than having separate contracts. Mandel also explains that having advisors work with MGAs is the direction the industry is going in and what insurance companies prefer.
IFCG is a sought-after MGA for advisors, most of whom have come to the company by word of mouth. Even so, the business isn’t for everyone. IFCG does not supply advisors with leads, so they need to be savvy marketers.
“They have to have a good network. People buy from our advisors because they like and trust them. A candidate has to be self-motivated, disciplined and a self-starter. It’s not easy; they’re running their own business,” Mandel adds.
That being said, those who feel they have what it takes should not be discouraged from stepping into a growing industry.
“We are consistently looking for new advisors. We continuously have people coming to us that are unhappy with their current situation, either wanting a change of career, or even if they are in the business, they may be unhappy with where they’re working and how they’re being treated by their current MGA,” Mandel remarks.
Having access to several products under one umbrella isn’t only good for the advisor, but also for the clients. Although two products may be similar, they may perform differently. Mandel recommends that clients deal with independent brokers as opposed to somebody who doesn’t have access to all of the products.
“Sometimes you need these other products to solve the client’s problem. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution,” Mandel tells us.
IFCG offers a range of high quality products, such as life insurance, mortgage insurance, long-term care, benefits, and personal and financial services. IFCG also offers solutions for small business owners, including business insurance, estate planning and key person protection. Clients receive unbiased advice, with IFCG advisors having no incentive to “push” any particular products.
Mandel draws parallels between purchasing a financial product and purchasing a car.
“If you go to a Ford dealer, he’s going to give you what he can offer you, which is a Ford. We can offer you every car on the market. Based on your needs, maybe that Ford is good, or maybe you should be looking at a Mercedes. And again, not every Mercedes is the best car for that client. We can educate clients about which car can best meet their needs. Some want to go fast, some want to go slow, some want a better warranty. We are like a car company that has every car,” he explains.
So who requires the help of a financial advisor? According to Mandel, most people do.
“I find that most people don’t understand their own situation too well and don’t think of everything. They may only look at one part of their financial plan because that’s what they’re interested in. They don’t want to think about something that might happen, or might not happen. There’s an old saying that most people spend more time planning their vacations than they do their future, and we see that all the time. A lot of people shy away from financial planning, but it’s not as complicated or expensive as people think. They all wish they would have started earlier,” he concludes.