As an Executive Search Consultant, I specialize in the recruitment of Producers, Senior Level Executives, and Producer Teams for the retail brokerage industry. Over the years, I have had the chance to help dozens of Producers and many Producer teams make the transition to a new brokerage. If this is your first move, it can be daunting. This guide will help you navigate the process and ensure that you are able to provide all information to your clients without violating any employment agreements or non-compete agreements.
Bottom line, your employer’s asset is your employer’s property. You can use any form, electronic or paper, to defend yourself against your former employer. Your employment contract should include an indemnity from your new employer for any legal proceedings. This should be included in your employment contract when you negotiate your deal. In many cases, however, taking any property of your former employer can void your indemnification section. You can minimize the likelihood of litigation arising from your decision to jump ship if you follow these steps. However, this does not mean that you won’t face a lawsuit. Anyone can sue anyone. This guide is intended to be a “how-to” manual, and not a substitute for professional advice. For any questions about your legal situation, please consult an attorney.
SECTION ONEClient information
This is the most straightforward area when it comes time to make a move. This is the bad news. Brokers are known to violate this area when making moves. There is no reason for it. Every time I meet with a Broker, I warn them about the dangers associated with sending client information to their personal email address or spouse’s email account. A broker is usually in trouble if they think they can sneak in one email and get away with it. Today, most companies have an off-boarding process where employees leave the company and all outgoing emails for the past 30-60 days are reviewed to see if any confidential information was transferred. Files that are deemed to be proprietary are “red flagged.” Do not email files to your spouse, friends, or any other email accounts. This will land you in serious trouble. It doesn’t mean that it can’t be deleted from your computer. A good forensic IT department will be able to recover such files without any problems. It can’t even be deleted if it was sent via the internet. It can only be deleted from the computer it was sent from or the one it was received from. If it was sent through a server (which is likely), it will be possible to erase it from the computer that it came from and the one that it came from.
Client information should not be sent to the carrier or client. This is where you will find the solution to your problem. Your work product should be available to your clients. They own it and can share it with anyone they wish. Send the client an electronic copy of the file, including all loss runs, and send it to them. This information is required by many large shops in order to be transparent. This is a simple way to follow company guidelines and rules. This information can be shared with clients as part of their business disaster recovery plan. After you have BOR’ed your account with your new employer (we’ll talk about this in the next section), you will need to contact the client to ask if they would be willing to forward the information you sent. This is one method of getting the client’s file information. It may not be possible to send all files electronically to clients if your book of business contains hundreds of small accounts (between $2500 and $7,500). After you have BOR’d the account, contact the carrier to get all information. You don’t need to get any files from your employer. You will not need any documentation if you are able to provide excellent customer service. Do not take files, records or pencils! Don’t expose yourself to unnecessary liability! It is just not worth it.
The insurance brokerage business is relationship-based, let’s face it. Your clients will tell you if they’ve been with you for a while that “Wherever you go, you go” or “Tell me what flag you’re using and I’ll follow.” Your clients are loyal to you because they trust and believe in you.
Manage their risks. Name of the firm is not the only reason clients choose a broker. Unless you recently purchased an account solely on price, your clients will likely value you.
This section will be formatted as a 30-day time continuum. This section will be built on the premise that clients and you will start having conversations 30 days before.
You are leaving your current company. Your goal is to break down all accounts into three distinct categories. These are made up of: The bag! 2. Or 50/50, I believe so.
3. At renewal, you will have to compete again for the business. You will need to have a conversation about your key accounts before you leave. It should be casual conversation with your key accounts over lunch, dinner or any other meeting with clients. You should say, “I’m looking at an opportunity and may be leaving my firm.” After you have indicated that you are leaving your current firm, don’t tell them. Listen to what they have to say. You can’t say “I want to follow you”. There will naturally be questions such as:
Client: Why do you want to leave?
Your Response: There have been changes in my firm, which has led to a change in culture. This will ultimately impact how we serve our clients. This is why I’m leaving the firm to find a firm that will support me in providing excellent customer service.
Client: Where are we going?
Your Response: My current employer still pays me. My current employer would not allow me to promote my new company while I am still employed by it.
Client: When will you be leaving?
Your Response: Although I am still deciding, it is likely that I will soon. When I arrive at my new company, I’ll ensure you have a copy the press release. Don’t forget my mobile phone number.
This conversation will give you an idea of where the client should be placed. They will either say “Wherever you go, I go” (Category 1 in the bag) or “Let’s me”.
Know where you are at all times” no commitment (Category 2, I believe so or 50/50), and then, “Come to me at renewal and we’ll see how things turn out.” (Category 3, You will need to compete again for the business at renewal). If your clients have been with us for a long time and have a good relationship with you, they will be able to understand the situation. You can assure them that you will keep in touch with them soon, and also thank them for all their support over the years. Reaffirm your appreciation for their business.
All clients should be placed in one of these three categories. This is especially important when we start our first day at the new firm. You will need to send a press release out to all of your clients on the first day with the new company. Are you familiar with their postal address and email fax numbers? You may be able to get your own personal phone/PDA if you already have one from your company. To send clients a copy the press release about your move to the new company, you will need to have the address information. Remember to only load any information that is publically available into your personal PDA. If you need more information, call the client. You should not obtain any information from the client files for your personal PDA. If you can get the email address of the client, it is a good idea. This will establish a personal relationship.
One of two things will occur on the day that you give notice. Either you will be asked to coordinate smooth transfer of client files to your new company (this happens when the sun rises in the west), or you will be asked to leave immediately. Your personal items will be sent to your home. This is a great time to ask your former employer how they would handle if you worked remotely and have ever transferred files to your home.
These files are yours to manage. They are now aware that you have confidential company information and would like to be able to provide it to you.
Ask for a reply on how you should proceed. Often, the company will just tell you to delete the information. It makes it hard for them to come after you. If you inform them upfront that you have company files on the computer at home, and how they would like to handle the return of that information.
Your old firm will be closing down. You will call your clients and inform them that this is your last day at X company. It is a nice gesture to a valued client. You can call the client Monday morning to discuss the matter and then you can proceed with your normal business. If the client says “I want to go along with you”, your response should be “I cannot ask for your business while I am employed with X.” My cell phone number is available. You can call me Monday to discuss the matter. Don’t solicit their business nor discuss moving their company while you are still employed by your employer.
Your new employer will send out a press statement announcing your move to a new company on your first day at the new firm. The press release should be sent to all existing clients of the firm, as well as your clients via email, key contacts, and carriers. If you don’t hear from any of your category #1 clients within two days of the press release being sent, call them to verify that they received it. Set up a meeting with them to discuss the BOR as soon as possible. It will take Category #2 between one week and sixty days to transfer this business. These clients will need wine and dined with, as well as being called. If the relationship is good, a good percentage should be transferred. The third category is about you being the great Broker that you are in the first place to win this business.
You must be competitive if you win the business solely on price. If the business was won based on services, then you will need to develop a new marketing strategy that focuses on your strengths.
New firm. You should be able to compete with other brokers if you have served the business well and done your job effectively.
In short, you should make the move for the right reasons and have the best outcome for your mental and financial health. A solid plan is the best way to ensure your move yields the maximum financial return and minimizes liability. Let’s take a look at the following: files and work products must be sent to the client before the termination. Call them once you have sent the file. If you don’t have the files forwarded to the client after you reach your new company, you can get them from the carrier. Do not email or copy files. Remember that your employer’s property belongs to you. You should not even carry a pencil. Begin having conversations with key accounts 30 days before the deadline to determine which category they fall into. You’ll need to start all over again if you are in the bag. Prepare a resignation letter with verbiage to notify the company that you have files stored on your home computer. Ask for instructions on how you should handle this. Call all of your clients to inform them that this is your last day working for your current employer. Make sure you give your new employer’s name to them and that they have your mobile phone number. Your office should be kept clean and tidy for the next person to use. It should be in a moveable condition. Do not tell your support staff that you are leaving or that you will be taking them with you. Let them know that you will be recruiting the people they need. Your staff should look at Monster and Career Builder to see an advertisement. If interested, they can apply for the job or contact your new employer to apply.
Send out a press release on your first day with your new employer. Start calling your In the bag category #1 group to see if you haven’t heard back by the second day. You may have blocked the spam filter that prevented the notice from reaching them. This will allow you to arrange a meeting to go to the BOR. Once all of the “In the bag”, “tied up” items are complete, Focus on the “I think it so/50/50”. You can call them and go to them and push for the BOR. They work hard to renew their membership. You can expect to get a financial and mental boost if you do it right.