LifeMark Partners, Inc., one of the nation’s largest independent national insurance marketing organizations, celebrates its 20-year anniversary as an IMO this fall. With roots in the life insurance industry extending 40 years, the company began from the study group LIFE Inc., before developing into an IMO serving the comprehensive distribution needs of the BGA community. Currently with 37 BGA partners nationwide and a reach of more than 100,000 affiliated agents and advisors, LifeMark Partners, Inc., celebrates this milestone through reflection on the past, present and future of the life insurance industry.
“I believe we have been successful for so many years because we remained focused on improving the distribution of life insurance for our BGA partners. We did this by concentrating on three critical initiatives: Access. Expertise. Partnership,” said William Shelow, CLU, ChFC, CPCU, LLIF, current president and chief executive officer, LifeMark Partners. “We pride ourselves on offering world-class resources to a top-tier group of BGAs, and our success will always be due to their success. We are fortunate to be the company they chose to have as a partner.”
Past–Rooted in Study Group History
It started at the Greenbrier Resort when Security Connecticut, one of the leading early brokerage industry companies, hosted a meeting of their general agents. Several of these attendees decided to share ideas for insurance sales and marketing. The first formal meeting of LIFE Inc., (Life Insurance for Everyone) was held in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1976 with the original member agencies Security House (Baltimore, MD), Life Plans (CT), Shaw American (Louisville, KY), Underwriters Brokerage Service (Pittsburgh, PA), Ambassador Insurance Agency (Boston, MA) and Imco Life Services (Southfield, MI).
Membership expanded over the years to a high of 17 member agencies, and while LIFE, Inc., has remained a study group, business and growth opportunities beyond the original charter were emerging. The group understood that there was a major difference between a study group among friends and a successful business venture that could dedicate resources to build tools and infrastructure to support BGAs, so a marketing organization, LifeMark Partners, Inc., was born in 1996.
“As one of the founders, LifeMark Partners has been part of my life and my business since its inception,” said Barbara Crowley, CEO of Brokers Clearing House, Ltd., and 2014 NAILBA Chairman of the Board of Directors. “It has meant camaraderie, resources, opportunities and industry recognition for myself and Brokers Clearing House, Ltd. I can’t imagine the last 20 years with anyone else.”
Present–Today’s Industry-Leading IMO
Today, the founding study group philosophy remains evident through the partnership of like-minded BGAs recognized for sharing best practices and growing their agencies together. LifeMark Partners provides agency owners, employees and affiliated advisors ongoing and diverse training opportunities throughout the year, as well as an opportunity to connect, collaborate and share intellectual capital with each other for effective strategies toward continued growth of their agencies.
“LifeMark Partners offers true partnership through the most impressive resources available in our industry,” said Ed Leisher, CLU, of AgencyONE. “Their established stature as a trusted organization and vision for the future of our industry made partnering with them an obvious choice. Both our companies believe in strong collaborative environments, and we look forward to working with them for many years to come.”
Through its established and extensive carrier relationships with more than 20 insurance companies for life, annuity and long-term care, LifeMark Partners assists its BGAs and their advisors to expedite and enhance the underwriting process with industry-leading underwriting training and resources. Earlier this year, it launched a new proprietary technology, QuoteShop, reinventing the way agencies communicate with carriers to be able to place cases with complex underwriting faster, more accurately and with less hassle for the end client. Additionally, LifeMark provides exclusive access to reinsurance markets and jumbo case capacity to collectively provide access to the right products, resources and support needed to place all types of business.
“The various technology and training resources available through LifeMark have kept us on the cutting edge of the industry to attract and retain top quality advisors,” said partner Brad Newcomb of Independent Planners Group. “Last year alone we were able to recruit more than 170 new advisors to our firm, and a lot of that was because of these different platforms that are available to us exclusively through LifeMark.”
Future–Vision for the Future of Life Insurance Distribution
“While LifeMark Partners has been an industry success story throughout their 20-year history, I am most excited and encouraged with our prospects for the future,” says Mark Rosen, CLU, current Chairman of the Board for LifeMark Partners and 2010 NAILBA Chairman of the Board of Directors. “LifeMark is constantly expanding on a truly impressive array of resources and distribution initiatives that will continue to enable partners to be proactively positioned for growth and relevance in our constantly-changing marketplace for years to come.”
Looking forward, one thing is certain: the need for life insurance is not going away. Today America faces a large under- or uninsured population needing education and access to life insurance. One in three households would be in immediate trouble paying living expenses if the primary wage earner died, according to the 2016 Insurance Barometer Study by Life Happens and LIMRA. Additionally, 40 percent of those surveyed haven’t bought life insurance or more of it because they were unsure of what type or how much to buy.
The question becomes how these needs are going to be met as the industry has continued to evolve away from the career model and into financial advisors and multiple-line agents who may not focus on life insurance solutions. “We need innovation around distribution. Period,” said Shelow. “Our reality is that there is no one solution to the distribution puzzle today. We need a collaborative and comprehensive approach, and that is what LifeMark Partners is all about.”
About LifeMark Partners, Inc.
LifeMark Partners exists to leverage partner, carrier and industry resources and expertise to enhance and expand life insurance distribution for the benefit of all stakeholders. As an independent insurance marketing organization, LifeMark is dedicated to the ongoing development and enhancement of BGA partner resources to help undeniably differentiate partner agencies from the competition. Affiliates benefit from some of the most robust service offerings in the market today, including expansive underwriting capabilities, advanced case design support, sales and product benchmarking tools, and turnkey sales and marketing systems. LifeMark also creates a unique opportunity to form strategic alliances and share best practices for partners to grow their agencies together through regular training, networking and educational opportunities. With unparalleled partnership, expertise and access to these industry-leading resources, LifeMark Partners provides affiliates The strength of many. The power of one. To learn more about the qualifications necessary to become a LifeMark partner, visit www.LifeMarkPartners.com or call 410.837.3022.
At its core, LifeMark Partners was founded as a study group more than 40 years ago and is celebrating 20 years as a leading IMO. With this focus on industry-leading partnership and innovation, 50 percent of NAILBA Chairmen of the Board of Directors have had affiliations with LIFE Inc., or LifeMark Partners, along with numerous other members of the board over the years. Here is what a few have to say about their experiences:
“As a part of LifeMark Partners we are able to leverage a number of opportunities and exclusive arrangements that would not be available otherwise. This partnership gives us enhanced underwriting capacities, the opportunity to utilize exclusive LifeTrends software, and access to niche programs from carriers, which enables us to better serve the advisors we represent.”
Chip Van Dusen—Diversified Brokerage Services
NAILBA Current Chairman of the Board of Directors
“With the 20th anniversary of LifeMark, and 40th anniversary of LIFE Inc., I think it’s important to recognize why they’ve stayed so relevant over the years: their flexibility and ability to adapt in an ever-changing environment. Our industry is always moving; really it’s a moving target. Whether it’s new products being introduced or a popular product being removed from the marketplace, having the knowledge and ability to be flexible, rolling with and anticipating those changes, continually recognizing trends and gaining access to new resources, that is what has kept LifeMark so incredibly relevant throughout the years and is what I think will keep them relevant for the next 20 and 40 years.”
Ben Nevejans —LifePro
NAILBA Current Member of the Board of Directors
“NAILBA provided me a great way to learn more about the brokerage industry, but LifeMark Partners has given me the ability to build a working relationship with the real players in the brokerage industry.”
John Felton—Tennessee Brokerage Agency
Former NAILBA Chairman of the Board of Directors (2007)
“LifeMark brings resources to our agency that add value for our customers. We are able to take advantage of the benefits from several vendors at discounts. These vendor’s products, like LifeTrends UL comparisons, Insmark presentations, and Alirt carrier financial overview, help us make sales on a daily basis.”
Chip Milner—The Milner Group
Former NAILBA Chairman of the Board of Directors (2001)
“The primary value many BGAs see in an IMO is access to carriers. What differentiates LifeMark Partners from others is the enhanced, seamless contract negotiations, priority/specialized new business handling, customized, state-of-the-art marketing resources and industry-leading reinsurance and underwriting relationships. By hand-selecting member agencies and maintaining a high-level of accountability and production, I believe LifeMark Partners is in a class of its own.”
Michael Tessler—Brokerage Unlimited
Past President of LIFE Inc. & NAIFA-St. Louis
Former NAILBA Chairman of the Board of Directors (1999)