Succession Planning and Management Guide for Home Office Leaders

Succession planning and management is an essential component of the broader discipline of human resources planning. The benefits to insurance and investment home offices are far-reaching and include the mitigation of risk, client retention, and enhanced performance.

Succession planning and management for the home office are much more than simply transitioning ownership of practices.

Done correctly it’s an effective human capital strategy that helps distribution leaders develop and retain capable and skilled agents and advisors while staying in line with current and projected business objectives.

What exactly is Succession Planning and Management?

Ideally, in the Home office or firm setting, succession planning and management involve an integrated, systematic approach to identifying, nurturing and retaining human assets in line with current and projected business objectives.

It's about developing pools of talent to fill key areas and positions that are critical to an organization's ongoing operations and long-term goals. For insurance and financial institutions with captive or independent distribution, this means ensuring gaps are identified and planned for in their salesforce. Succession planning helps next-generation talent acquire the skills and competencies they need to compete for books of business when they become available. It also helps in preparing the relationships owned by those agents and advisors to seamlessly transition to the next generation. While it doesn't entail guaranteed transitions for individual candidates, it does increase the likelihood of success.

Executives and field managers all play critical roles in succession planning and management in the home office. So do agents and advisors, who are responsible for expressing an interest in growth, having practice management learning plans, and participating in opportunities to acquire skills in certain areas.

Currently, all of the insurance and financial service home offices we’ve encountered and researched are at varying stages in their approach to transition management. Prior to planning, the home office needs to assess the current state of transition planning within their organization. This process should include reflecting on the values important to their company.

Below we’ve identified some key enterprise fundamentals that can help you gain access to the advantages of succession planning and management.

Key Enterprise Fundamentals

Successful organizations who’ve effectively executed sound succession planning and management systems have programs that:

Are Well-Aligned

  • To increase the likelihood of success, there must be alignment between senior management and their understanding of the importance of succession planning and management and how it relates to business strategy.

Extend To All Interests

  • Performant succession planning and management takes into consideration agents and advisors of all vintages and is not limited just to senior advisors looking for an exit.

Focus on Talent Pool

  • Succession planning and management is about planning for both current and future needs and involves helping existing distribution to develop the skills and competencies to ensure that the organization has a pool of talent for key books of business. It is not about grooming specific candidates.

Encourage Collaboration

  • Succession planning and management in the home office require the efforts among key players so that the process is extremely well communicated and there's buy-in by all concerned parties. Key players include those field managers who have the deepest relationships with existing distribution.

Is Needs-based

  • Home office efforts must not only be accessible and transparent, but fair while addressing the needs of agents and advisors as well as consumers.  It can't be just about the objectives of the company.

Must be Measurable

  • Processes must be established to monitor the effectiveness and progress of succession planning and management efforts.

Advantages for the Home Office

The benefits of adopting a simple and formal succession planning and management strategy are extensive:

  • Improved loyalty and distribution engagement and resulting cost/benefits
  • Nurturing of next-generation talent pool ready to succeed to key books of business
  • Improved appreciation of distribution on the part of managers
  • Transition enterprise goodwill already embodied by existing salesforce
  • Increased ability to achieve business goals
  • Meet consumer obligations by building insurance and investment practices of endurance

Approaches to Succession Planning and Management

It's not possible to have a silver bullet or one-size fits all approach to managing succession within home offices and firms. Our research has found that tactics resonate differently from one organization to another and may evolve through iteration and experimentation.

The following can be used to help assess the current state of planning and management in your organization. By answering some of these questions you may be able to utilize the information to develop a more comprehensive and progressive approach to addressing succession and transition in your organization.

No Approach

  • No focus on proactively encouraging internal succession or transition
  • No focus on proactively supporting distributions needs for perpetuation
  • Focus on generating new business through sales of existing distribution
  • Focus on recruiting new talent using traditional enterprise value propositions

Classic Approach

  • Focus is limited to reactively responding to needs of sell-side advisors
  • Focus is on identifying immediate replacement in the event of a catastrophe to the practice
  • Plans are limited to identifying 1 or 2 potential successors or transition partners
  • Candidates are identified solely based on relationships and awareness of a relationship manager
  • Succession is done in isolation and is not a part of the larger overall business strategy (eg. recruitment, teaming, development)

Progressive Approach

  • Focus on key assets and books of business at varying levels
  • The focal point is nurturing talent for the long term by addressing their growth and perpetuation needs
  • Plans involve the nurturing and development of talent for key areas served by existing books of business
  • A systematic process is used to inventory, assess, and provide insights on distribution utilizing multiple perspectives and sources of information
  • Processes are in place to support distribution at different stages in their succession journey

Assessing the current state of your succession planning and management approach

Unclear of where your organization is along the succession planning and management paradigm? Answer the following questions to get a sense of where your enterprise falls short and what gaps you need to fill in order to reach your desired state.

Current State

  • Is succession planning currently done? If so, how?
  • Unclear? Start having discussions amongst key decision makers and stakeholders, establish a committee, or conduct a survey.
  • Have you assessed the impact of loss losing one of your key advisors or books of business might have on future profitability?
  • Is your succession planning and management strategy connected to broader business objectives like recruiting, talent development amongst existing producers, or advisor teaming?

Desired State

  • How will you involve other stakeholders within the enterprise (eg. executive team, practice management, talent acquisition, and sales/relationship management)?
  • Have you defined the business case and communicated it to build engagement with the same key stakeholders?
  • Have the roles and responsibilities of those stakeholders been properly outlined and communicated?
  • Which aspects of succession planning process can be decentralized to 3rd parties (eg. lenders, valuation, legal, etc.)
  • Is there a communication plan, including key messages to your distribution about your concern and care for their succession and transition?
  • What data and technology do you need to get started?
  • What resources do you require (eg. financial, human, technological)?
  • What tools are required to support the process (eg. legal templates, procedures, etc.)?
  • Have you considered implementing a pilot project?
  • How will effectiveness be tracked, monitored and communicated?
Download Infographic

good succession planning and management offering tenets

What are your organization's core values? It’s important that your desired state for a succession planning and management program reflect those values. It’s also important the company's values meet the following criteria:

  • Ensure that your process is transparent and communicated to each and every member of distribution, relationship management, and senior management
  • When identifying candidates, measure them objectively
  • Ensure next-generation agents/advisors who express interest in growth have a reasonable opportunity to connect with senior advisors
  • That vintaged advisors are met with care and consideration in discussing how they will gracefully transition their book of business in the event of their death, disability, retirement, or loss of license

Home Office Roles and Responsibilities

The desired state of your home office succession planning and management program greatly depends on the collaboration of all stakeholders. The following are some roles and responsibilities seen in home offices with the most successful offering.

Executives

  • Ensuring the program is integrated with both recruitment and business planning
  • Being the champions through effective communication regarding the importance of internal succession planning and management within the organization
  • Determining the aspects that will be decentralized to 3rd parties (eg. business brokers, lenders, valuators, legal advice, etc.)
  • Reviewing the effectiveness of the offering and providing executive guidance to management

Relationship & Sales Managers

  • Active participation in identifying key books of business and advisors
  • Identifying the capabilities required for key books of business
  • Identifying and communicating critical or emerging gaps to distribution so they continually tailor their practice management learning plans
  • On-going consultation with senior advisors regarding their goals and ensuring they thoroughly understand their needs
  • Providing agents/advisors with the ability to discover  internal opportunities within your distribution
  • Reviewing agent and advisors' growth progress and perpetuation plans
  • Participation in talent review meetings and developing succession plans for key books of business
  • Minimizing expenditure while maximizing the opportunity to retain assets and generate revenue by effectively linking succession planning strategies to the program offering
  • Transparently communicating the offering through campaigns and initiatives
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the offering, reporting to executives, and revising as required

Operations / IT Managers

  • Providing timely advice and guidance to managers on key books of business (e.g. helping identify vulnerable positions like a senior agent/advisor retiring or leaving  within the next several years)
  • Participating in functional communities (eg. Marketing, Recruitment, and Sales) by providing necessary data to glean insights on current and future talent gaps.

Marketing Managers

  • Developing collateral to support relationship managers, distribution, and key books of business
  • Help relationship managers to evaluate succession planning initiatives
  • Communicating key books of business and opportunities for growth to distribution

Recruitment / Talent Acquisition Managers

  • Ongoing discussion with relationship managers to ensure links are made between new candidates and opportunities within the succession planning and management program
Download Infographic

LINKING SUCCESSION PLANNING & MANAGEMENT WITH BUSINESS STRATEGY

As a part of your overall strategic planning, this 5-step process for planning and succession management will help home offices conduct a gap analysis to identify key assets that present a higher risk of loss.

Step 1: Identify Your Key Assets

Key assets are the focus of your succession planning and management efforts. For example, succession planning activities may be geared to developing talent for certain assets which present the greater risk or impact of loss.  Or you may focus your efforts on your talent pool (e.g. financial planning advisors, crop insurance producers).

Key assets are those agents and advisors that, without them, the organization would be unable to effectively achieve its business objectives.

Executives and managers need to play a primary role in identifying key assets and gaps in your talent pool because they are linked to the operational activities and strategic objectives of the organization. However, your talent acquisition and recruitment teams can play a supportive role by providing criteria to help managers.

TIP: Review your key assets periodically because they may change over time.

Step 2: Identify Capabilities for Key Assets and Talent Pools

It is important to identify the capabilities needed for key assets and talent pools so that it can guide the development plans for your existing bench strength while curating external talent requisitions. These capabilities may even serve as the basis for self-assessment tools. Moreover, knowing the required capabilities is necessary for setting clear performance expectations, assessing performance, and for selection purposes.   Many home offices already have existing offline tools that help measure capabilities utilizing competency profiles or knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) tools.

Whether your organization uses KSAs or competency profiles, it's important to incorporate capabilities for key assets and talent pool deficiencies into strategies for succession planning and management. This practice will allow you to better assess gaps and focus your development efforts.

Step 3: Identify Existing Talent Pool Against Capabilities

The main purpose of this step is to identify which individuals are interested in and have the potential to fill key assets or to discover talent pool deficiencies so that you can support them in acquiring the skills and competencies they need to fill the gaps when the opportunities become available.

If your organization is considering a more formal process of identifying internal talent for accelerated development, be mindful to manage expectations to avoid the presumption of guaranteed transitions and to not alienate those not selected.

It is important to inform your internal candidates who are not initially considered for accelerated development that they can be considered in the future with further career development or that there are alternative opportunities.

TIP: In order to minimize subjectivity, use multiple ways of assessing employees and include multiple perspectives, especially the perspective of agents or advisors who've built these books of business.

Step 4: Engage Your Talent Pool

Whether they are your top performing key assets or up and coming producers it is critical that you engage them in the succession planning and management process.

In this step, you must identify ways to determine what the interests are of your distribution and create opportunities for them to discover these opportunities internally within your network.

Examples might be continuing education sessions focused on providing content and stimulating discourse focused on certain key asset cohorts.  Ask them probing questions regarding their life goals. After you've conducted that assessment, provide coaching.

Ultimately, you want to be able to use this data to bring your talent pool together to facilitate a future transition or putting in place a systematic growth plan. 

Step 5: Develop and implement succession and transition plans

Research has shown that experience-based learning is more effective than classroom training in preparing potential candidates to fill future talent gaps or succeed key assets practices. It is important to incorporate strategies for learning, training and development, and transfer of specific home office knowledge into your succession planning and management.

Strategies for learning, training, and development could include mentoring and coaching opportunities for agents and advisors to obtain ongoing guidance and support from more experienced talent.  These arrangements don't necessarily have to be formal.

Providing unique case assignments can be an opportunity for junior producers to get experience at a more senior level by having them partner with a senior producer.  Orphan policies are an excellent opportunity to deploy this strategy and provides a mutual benefit to both producers.

Explicit knowledge and tactical knowledge are different and require different strategies than the above.  It's important to incorporate formal practice management education that involves strategies that include interpersonal interactions, product knowledge, and skills development in areas that support the producer and are filling gaps in specific areas of your talent pool.

Evaluate Effectiveness

When it comes to ensuring success, being systematic in evaluating and monitoring the performance of your succession planning and management program is vital.

We'll provide some questions, methods, and indicators to help assess effectiveness to help you determine which objectives are important to your organization and prioritize allocation of internal resources.

Sample Key Performance Indicators To Be Used In Assessing Succession Planning and Management

These KPIs should be used to assess your program's progression:

  • Number of key books of business at risk
  • Average time elapsed for each book of business identified to be at risk
  • Turnover statistics within distribution
  • Percentage of key books of business that are transitioned internally
  • Percentage of key books of business that have an established business continuity plan
  • Bench strength: Ratio of key books of business for which no internal replacement can be found relative to the total number of key books of business
  • Number of complaints by consumers with respect to succeeding agents advisors.
  • Questions by consumers with respect to succeeding agents/advisors.
  • New revenue generated as a result of internal partnering, teaming, or succession.

Other Assessment Methods

Evaluating success goes beyond quantitative measurement. Determining satisfaction with development programs can also be calculated by measuring and monitoring the quality of professional development, mentoring programs, and other practice management initiatives. 

Some methods include:

  • Conducting a cost-benefit analysis to quantify and compare the costs and benefits of your new program. These may be direct costs, such as money spent on resources promoting succession and perpetuation activities, or indirect, such as time spent away from promoting sales of product.
  • Mapping of key activities or components of a program and evaluating how they connect short, medium, and long term objectives. This can be used to evaluate both processes and outcomes (eg. linking recruitment of new candidates to existing talent pool opportunities within your succession planning and management program with revenue).
  • Net Promoter Scores or surveys to measure satisfaction with various aspects of your new succession planning and management program.

Boiling It Down

Effectiveness boils down to considering the following questions:

  • Do all practices have a continuity plan?
  • Do all key practices have a succession plan?
  • Are the key practices efficiently engaging the next generation with internal opportunities?
  • Are prospects (or new agents and advisors) being exposed to internal opportunities?
  • Are the successors who take over key practices performing effectively?
  • Is there a pool of talent qualified to compete for key practices and fill competency gaps?
  • Is the succession planning program reviewed regularly?
Download Infographic

Ready, Set, Fill Your Toolbox

Fill your toolbox

It’s time to take what you’ve learned and start building. Every home office needs a succession planning and management toolbox that helps him or her work smarter than the big guys.

Considering your business’ capabilities and limitations, create a succession planning and management strategy that prioritizes the pieces you want to deliver first to begin driving agent or advisor engagement and aligning your talent pool. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when you’re crafting these pieces — this guide, our blogs, and the articles above are excellent starting points to guide your efforts.

And when you're ready to take things to the next level with a digital solution that will help scale your home office efforts using the only machine learning technology applied to human capital management in insurance & financial services distribution, and the largest repository of data about changing agent & advisor behaviors across North America, check us out.

See How It Works

We've reimagined succession planning and management for home office teams that insist on protecting today's key assets and growing tomorrow's talent pool. More about FindBob.

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