As an Executive Search Consultant specializing in the recruitment of senior level executives, Producers and Producer teams for the retail brokerage community, I have had the opportunity over the past several years to assist dozens of individual Producers and several Producer teams to make the transition to a new brokerage house. I realize this can be intimidating if this is the first time you have made such a move. This short guide is designed to help you navigate through the process so that when come out on the other side with your new firm, you have all the information necessary to service your client’s needs without violating or breaching any non-competes or employment agreements.
Remember, bottom line is that your employer’s property is your employer’s property. Electronic form, paper form, and human form, take any form and you’ll find yourself in trouble, or at least having difficulty defending yourself should your old employer decide to take legal action against you. Your new employer should indemnify you against any litigation as part of your employment contract. When negotiating your deal, this should be part of your employment agreement. However, if you have taken any form of your former employer’s property it can in many cases void the indemnification section of your employment contract. If you follow the suggestions and steps outlined in this guild you should minimize any litigation that may arise as a result of you jumping ship. This is not to say that there won’t be a law suit, anyone can sue anyone. This guide is meant as a “how to” manual and should not be a replacement for legal advice. Please consult an attorney for any legal questions regarding your situation.
SECTION ONE Client Information
The good news is that this is the easiest area to deal with when it comes to making a move. The bad news is that this is the area most often violated by Brokers when making a move and there is absolutely no reason for this to happen. Without failure, every time I talk with a Broker for the first time I warn them about the dangers of emailing client information to their personal email or their spouses personal email account. Without failure at least once a year I have a broker get in hot water because they thought they could sneak one email in and not get caught. Most companies’ IT department’s today have implemented off boarding processes whereby when an employee leaves a company they review all outgoing email records for the past 30 to 60 days to determine if any proprietary information was transferred from the company. Any files that are determined to be “proprietary” are “red flagged”. Don’t email files to spouses, friends or other emails accounts. This is what will get you in trouble! Don’t think that if you erase it from your computer it’s gone, a good forensic IT department can recover such files with no problems what so ever. If it was sent over the internet, it can’t be erased. You can erase it from the computer that it was sent from and the one that received it. But if it went through a server, and chances are certain it did there will be a recoverable record to be used against you in a court of law.
The only party you should be emailing client information to is the client or the carrier…and there lies the answers to your problem of having all your client information available to you when you set up shop with your new employer. Make sure your clients have a copy of your work product. It belongs to them and they can share it with anyone they want! Make an electronic copy of the file and all the loss runs and email them to the client. In
many large shops you are required, in the name of transparency, to send the client this information. By doing so you’re just following company rules and guidelines. You can also advise client’s that they should have this as part of their business recovery emergency plan. Once you get to your new employer and you BOR’ed the account (we’ll discuss this in the next section) you’ll need to call the client and ask them if they can forward that information that you sent them. This is one way of getting your file information to the client. If your book of business consists of hundreds of small accounts ($2,500 to $7,500 in size) it may not be practical to electronically copy all those files and send it to the clients. In this case, after you have BOR’ed the account contact the carrier for all the information you would have had in the file. As you can see there is no need for you to take any files what so ever from your current employer. If you provide quality customer service, every piece of documentation you will need will be on the other side when you start with your new employer. Don’t take files, don’t take records, and don’t even take a pencil! Why open your self to the unnecessary liability? It’s just not worth it!
SECTION TWO Clients
Let’s face it the insurance brokerage business is a relationship based business! If your client’s have been with you for any length of time they have told you “Where ever you go, I go” or “tell me what flag you’re operating under and I’ll follow you”. The truth is your clients do business with you because they trust you and have faith in your abilities to manage their risks. Clients are seldom with a broker solely due to the name of the firm. Unless you have recently acquired an account that was solely based on price your clients will value you and likely follow.
This section is going to be formatted into a 30 day time continuum. It’s going to be based on a premise that you will begin having conversations with your clients 30 days prior to
you’re leaving your current firm. The goal is to have all your accounts broken down into three distinct categories. These categories consist of 1. In the bag! 2. I think so, or 50/50 and 3. You’ll have to compete for the business again at renewal time. In preparation of leaving you will want to have a conversation with your key accounts. This should be a natural conversation over lunch, dinner, golf, or some other meeting with you client. In the conversation you want to say “I’m considering an opportunity and I may be leaving my current firm”. (Don’t mention what firm you’re moving to) Just listen to what they say after you indicate you may be leaving you’re current firm. What you can’t say is “I want you to follow me”. Naturally there will be questions asked of you such as:
Client: Why are you leaving?
Your Response: Changes have taken place in my current firm that has caused the culture to change and ultimately I believe this will have an impact on how we service our clients. This is why I am choosing to leave the firm and go with a firm that is dedicated in supporting me in providing quality customer service.
Client: Where are you going?
Your Response: I can’t tell you, I’m still being paid by my current employer. It would be unethical for me to promote my new firm while still being employed by my current firm.
Client: When are you leaving?
Your Response: I haven’t made up my mind but it will be soon. Once I get to my new firm I’ll make sure you get a copy of the press release. You do have my cell phone number don’t you?
Out of this conversation you will get a sense of what category this client should be placed. Their either going to say “Where ever you go, I go” (Category #1 in the bag), or “Let me know where you land”, no commitment (Category #2 I think so, or 50/50) and finally, “Come see me at renewal and let’s see how things pan out” (Category #3 You will have to compete for the business again at renewal time). Again, if your clients have been with you for any length of time and you have a good relationship with them they will understand the situation. Reassure them that you will be in contact with them in the near future, but also thank them for their business and support over the years. It never hurts to reaffirm your gratitude for their business.
Place all your clients into one of the three categories. This will be important especially when we get to the first day with the new firm. On the first day with the new firm you will want to send out a press release to all your clients. Do you know their email fax and mailing address? If you have a company phone/PDA you may want to consider getting your own personal one and start inputting this information into your unit. You’ll need address information to send the clients a copy of the press release announcing your move to the new firm. Don’t forget, only load information into your personal PDA that would be available in the public domain or call the client to get the information. Do not get any of the information for your personal PDA from your client files. Ideally, if you get a personal email address from the client all the better, you now have a personal relationship with the client.
On the day you give notice one of two things will happen. You will be asked to coordinate the smooth transition of the client files to your new firm (This happens when the sun comes up in the west) or most likely you’ll be shown the door and asked to leave immediately and told your personal items will be sent to you. If you have worked from home and have transferred files to home at any point in time, this is an excellent time to raise the question as part of your resignation letter as to how your former employer would
like for you to handle these files. This puts them on notice that you have proprietary company information that you would like to return and you would like for them to give you a response as to how this should be accomplished. A lot of times the company will tell you to just delete the information. Bottom line it makes it difficult for them to come back after you and say that you took proprietary information, if up front you tell them you have company files on your computer at home and how do they want to handle the return of the information.
On the last day with your old firm you will call all your client’s and tell them “Today is my last day at X firm. I start Monday morning with my new firm” This is a common courtesy to a valued client. Hopefully the client calls you Monday morning and you can go over and get the BOR on the account and continue life as usual with that client. If the client asks “I want to go with you”, your reply should be “I can’t ask for your business while employed with X. You have my cell phone number. If you call me Monday I’ll be free to discuss it then. Do not solicit their business or discuss moving their business while still working for your old employer.
On the first day at your new firm, your new employer will want to send out a press release announcing that you have moved to a new firm. This press release should issued to all the existing clientele of the firm in addition to your clients via email plus carriers, key contacts, etc. Within two days of that press release going out, if you haven’t heard from all your category #1 clients call them to see if they got the notice (It gives you a reason to call). At that time set an appointment to meet with them at the earliest possible date to get the BOR. Category #2 will now take between a week and 60 days to move this business over. These clients will need to be called, wined and dinned. But in the end a good portion should come over if the relationship is strong. Category #3 will come down to you being the good Broker you were in the first place to win the business the first time around.
If you won the business purely on price you will have to be competitive. If you won it based on service then develop a new marketing strategy based on the strengths of your new firm. If you have serviced the business effectively and have done your job, you should have a competitive advantage over the other Brokers you’re competing with.
In summary, if you’re going to make a move it should be for all the right reasons, and should produce the best possible outcomes for you both mentally and financially. The best way to ensure that you’re move results in a maximum financial return with minimal liability is to have a solid plan to execute against. So let’s review, prior to termination client files and work product must be transferred to the client or the carrier, it belongs to them. After you have sent it, call them to confirm they received the information. If after you get to your new firm and you didn’t forward the files to the client, get it from the carrier. Don’t copy or email files, remember your employer’s property is your employers property. Don’t even take a pencil! At 30 days out start having conversations with your key accounts to get a feel for what category they will fall into. In the bag, I think so / 50/50, or you’ll have to compete for the business all over again. On the day you resign, prepare a resignation letter that includes verbiage that puts the company on notice that you have files on your personal computer at home and request instructions on how they would like you to deal with this. Before resigning call all your clients and advise them that it is your last day with your current employer. Give them your new employers name and make sure they have your cell phone number. Leave your office clean, neat and orderly for the next person who will use it. Leave it in move in condition. Don’t tell your support staff you’re leaving ahead of time or that you’ll take them with you. Just let them know that your new firm will recruit who you need. Tell your staff to look on Monster or Career Builder for an advertisement and if interested to apply for the position or call your new employer and apply for a job.
On your first day at your new employer send out a press release. If by the 2nd day you don’t hear from your “In the bag” category #1 group, start calling them and ask if they got the notice. They may have a spam blocker that may have prevented the notice from getting through. This will give you a chance to set that meeting to go get the BOR. Once you have all the “In the bag” “tied up”. Start focusing on the “I think so / 50/50”. Call them, go visit them, and push to get the BOR. The third group work hard to get them at renewal. Good luck, if done right this should create a mental and financial boost for you!