In My Own Words – Finding an Insurance Agent You Can Trust

Meet MARIA LUZ RIOFRIO. An integral part of First Financial Security, Inc.’s Hispanic Outreach Program and LiSA Initiative, Maria came to United States eight years ago from Ecuador, determined to create a better life for her family.

Following a meeting with LiSA Initiative Chair Debbie Gerlicher, Maria now had the chance to follow her passion and help others, especially those in her community. Her firsthand knowledge of what many of them had experienced in rebuilding their lives and careers in a new country helped her connect with others.

Finding a trusted financial services representative can be difficult. We asked Maria, “How do you find an insurance agent, and how do you know if you can trust him or her?” Here’s what she said:

Starting over is hard enough.  Starting over in a completely different system, a completely different country, was intimidating.  And to add some extra flavor, my first experience with an insurance agent was not necessarily the best one.

Car insurance – I didn’t know that I needed car insurance before leaving the dealer with my “new” $5,000, 2001 Toyota Corolla.  So my lack of knowledge and information cost me the rest of the savings that I had to start the first steps of my American Dream.

The salesperson at the car dealership told me that I couldn’t take my vehicle off of the premises without insurance.  And, he was more than “kind” to recommend I speak with a friend of his that could “help” me.

The insurance agent he suggested was not a bad person. He was just doing his job, but that meant getting the most money possible by recommending a very expensive policy to someone who didn’t have the knowledge to do better.

I didn’t even ask questions. I didn’t know what to ask him or what to look for in the policy. I was in unchartered waters, so I thankfully accepted any hand that was offered. In my case, it was an overpriced car insurance policy.

I experienced something similar, when I started looking for a job. I got a lot of letters from insurance companies who were recruiting new agents, but because of my experiences with insurance agents in the past, I didn’t want to be part of any sales force.  I was not comfortable with it.  I still didn’t understand how insurance should work.

Insurance Agent, LiSA Initiative, First Financial Security, Changing the Face of Insurance

Maria Luz Riofrio and Debbie Gerlicher

But my mindset completely changed when I met Debbie Gerlicher, First Financial Security, Inc.’s Co-CEO and LiSA Initiative Chair, and she said the exact words that I needed to hear.

Here was someone ready to listen to my story, and that showed me she cared. She shared with me other people’s stories and statistics to which I could relate.

Debbie explained that selling insurance was more about being in the helping people business, than just making money. Being honest is an important virtue, even if it costs the sale. Honesty and acting with integrity builds trust, which can lead to future sales.

One of First Financial Security’s core values is to act with integrity – to tell the truth, to stand for what is fair, to be genuine. I knew I’d found a company and job that would allow me to pursue my dreams and help others to do the same.

For me, insurance is now easy to understand, because I am on this side of the fence.  I am “in” the house.  I know the major insurance agencies in the United States are selective about with whom they do business. Many of the most respected financial services companies have entered into longstanding relationships with First Financial Security and its independent agents. In fact, two of these provider partners have developed proprietary products exclusively for First Financial Security.

For this reason, as well as the company’s vision to help all people achieve financial security and peace of mind, I know I’m working with the right company.

But on the other side of the fence, how do you know if you are dealing with an agent who is going to put your best interests first, rather than making his or her needs a priority?  And yes, just like every other industry, there are honorable agents and others who are not so much.  So, when you meet with a new financial representative, here are some questions I recommend you ask:

  1. How long has the company been in the business?
  2. Who is the company doing business with (well-known and reputable financial services companies or ones you’ve never heard about)?
  3. What are their ratings (A.M. Best Co., Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s), if applicable?

Don’t simply rely on his or her answers. There is public information accessible to everybody.  Do your research online and by talking to others.  Finally, the best scenario possible is to do business with someone you already know and trust (family, friends, neighbors, members of your church).

LiSA Literacy Project, Hispanic Outreach, Inform Education Empower

The rapid growth of the Hispanic population has made our community an important market for the Financial Services Industry. But if they want our business, financial advisors need to be willing to take the time to complete the educational process with us, and to build trust by truly informing and answering all of our questions.

As clients, we have a responsibility as well. We need to be willing to speak up and ask questions. If we are to embrace this different system, we need to understand and learn new concepts.

If we do our homework, there is every reason to believe our experiences with insurance agents and the products they sell will be a pleasant and rewarding one.