Executive Q&A from MetLife Inc.
In what markets/product areas is your company particularly strong?
Life insurance, annuities, variable life insurance, mutual funds and variable annuities, disability insurance and group products for large and small businesses.
Please describe your company's hiring process:
Two or three standardized profile questionnaires are administered. They evaluate the individual's characteristics in terms of people who are successful in this industry. The agency manager will conduct three interviews to determine the candidate's commonalties with the ideal candidate (see next question). The candidate must obtain a state life and health license and an NASD series 6 (& 63, where required). The manager will assign a market assessment exercise to determine the strength of a candidate's market, and his or her credibility within it. Candidates have the opportunity to interview Account Representatives and accompany them on sales calls if desired. Managers may also offer to meet with a spouse or significant other to conduct a career presentation to answer the concerns and questions of that individual.
Approximately what % of interns receive offers of full-time employment?
New program; no data.
How is your company organized?
In the industry vernacular, we are a career agency system company. That is, we market our products and services through company owned and operated agencies. Agency managers are employees.
Please describe the orientation process for new hires:
Most new associates are hired as Marketing Associates. For a four week period, they engage in a training program. Two weeks of this program are held in our corporate Learning Center; the balance is done in the agency. Marketing Associates are in training; they may not sell. Training covers sales skill development, market identification, and prospecting as well as procedural issues. At the end of four weeks, the associate is appointed Account Representative. At this point, they begin to sell and service customers.
What skills and traits does the company seek in new hires?
Sales skills, knowledge and experience; honesty and a high degree of personal integrity; goal orientation and achievement motivation; ability to call on prospects without hesitation and handle rejection; effective communication skills; professional appearance and behavior; willingness to work long hours; a belief in the value of personal insurance and financial services; a potential market.
What are some of the most interesting new developments at the company?
President and COO Robert Benmosche, in his two and a half years with MetLife, has spearheaded the implementation of the MetLife Express, a reengineering effort started in 1995. This has resulted in: Significant changes in product line (more competitive pricing, significant changes in features and benefits, redesigning our business around our markets -- focusing on what our customers want to buy); Strengthening our career agency operations; Making it easier for Account Representatives to do business by providing them with laptop computers and a state of the art electronic communication system; Centralizing initial career training and beefing up continuing education; Streamlining decision making and minimizing paperwork where possible.
How does the company provide employees with feedback on their on-the-job performance?
Managers hold weekly Individual Sales Performance Conferences with each representative.
What advice would you give someone interviewing at your company?
Be prepared to explain how skills you have can be transferable to a sales career, if you have no sales experience. The first meeting will take about two hours, allow plenty of time. Many agencies offer career seminars on a regular basis. Check first; this can be a good way to learn more about this career. Remember that this career is very entrepreneurial in nature. Be able to articulate what attracts you to a self directed opportunity. Be able talk about the kinds of people you want to work with and how you will gain access to them.
Name some major marketing initiatives:
The introduction of the Life Advice series of brochures; Training to teach representatives how to identify and penetrate target markets, the tools to penetrate them and enhanced management support.
In 1997, MetLife acquired Security First Group, and Hyatt Legal Plans. We qualified for the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association, formed by the American Council of Life Insurance to promote and maintain high ethical standards in the sale of individual life insurance and annuities. Qualification involves a rigorous assessment process.
Please describe the company's compensation package:
First 5 months: An initial payment level is offered, negotiable to $800/week. Next three years: Training allowance (if qualified), commissions, expense reimbursement (if qualified), renewal and service commissions, trailer commissions (if qualified), quality service payment (if qualified). Total compensation varies with production.
Please describe the company's diversity recruitment/retention programs:
MetLife is a very committed equal opportunity employer. To be sure we reach into all segments of the population in our recruiting efforts, our national recruiting team includes special teams to connect with the certain target markets -- African American, Asian, South Asian, Women, Hispanic, MBA's, and College undergraduates and interns. Each has a partner in the marketing department who can provide in-language marketing materials, fact finders, advertisements, product brochures, etc. in markets where English is a second language. We offer in-language licensing training as a supplement to our English language classes (exams are in English). In many urban communities, agencies are located in storefronts rather than office buildings. In many parts of the country, company-sponsored advisory councils of Account Representatives and managers meet to discuss opportunities in that market and to offer one another support.
Please discuss the company's future growth opportunities:
The population continues to age, creating estate planning and opportunity to plan for financial security needs. Our market potential for equity based products (mutual funds, variable annuities) will grow, simply because of the size of our customer base. Opportunities for synergy between different divisions of the company (institutional and individual business, for example) are just starting to be explored. We maintain a very prominent market presence and continue to be favorably regarded by the public
Please describe your company's internship program for undergraduates and MBA's:
Interns act as Account Representatives. MetLife helps the intern obtain and pays for state life and health licenses, NASD registration (at the manager's option) and the state variable annuity license where required. The company also assigns each intern a mentor and the team's performance is evaluated weekly. Our training program includes both product knowledge and sales skills. Coupled with a realistic compensation plan, our internship offers a 'real-world' experience with an established company.
Please describe what benefits and perks employees receive:
Benefits: "Cafeteria" plan which currently includes health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, dental, dependent life insurance, health and/or dependent care spending account, prescription plan, survivor benefit plan, group legal, defined benefit pension and 401(k) -- company presently matches your 3% contribution with 4%. Some benefits are available only after one full year's service. For new employees, health insurance starts on the first day of the month after you complete one full calendar month of service. The company currently contributes up to $7,350, depending on family size, toward the total cost of benefits.
Perks: Company provides support for a number of business expenses (business cards, stationery, furniture, rent, clerical support). Provides laptop computer to Account Representatives. Account Representatives paid weekly. Because Account Representative receive a W-2, company pays its share of Social Security taxes. Training conducted by professional corporate trainers. Company pays for attendance at recognition conferences, if an Account Representative qualifies for a conference. Account Reps reimbursed for expense of attending required company meetings. Company pays costs of courses sponsored by industry leading to professional designations (LUTCF, CLU, ChFC, CFP).
What are three ways in which your company stands out from its competitors?
Account representatives are employees of MetLife. The company pays its share of social security taxes, a very large percentage of the cost of benefits, and provides significant support for business expenses, including the cost of a laptop computer. This is not the case at most of our competition.
The company pays you an initial payment level during your initial five month training period. Commissions generated during this period are paid out beginning at the end of that time. Our initial training is centralized and conducted by professional trainers in a corporate school. Most of our competitors don't have a corporate school for entry level people.
Please describe typical career paths for new undergraduate and MBA hires:
Undergraduates, through continuing education, can obtain professional designations and become product specialists and/or Certified Financial Planners. They can also become Functional Managers, Associate General Managers, Agency Managers or General Managers. MBAs can follow the same path, but can progress more quickly. The company posts positions available both in the field and in home office locations and any qualified individual can apply.
What types of personalities thrive at your company?
People who are entrepreneurial, assertive and social and like to network tend to do well here.
Does your company participate in any public/community service activities?
Numerous activities. Between MetLife and the Metropolitan Life Foundation, the company contributed over $13 million to over 500 non-profit organizations in the US. In addition, the company made over $12 million in social investments, providing below market rate loans and equity investments. The company also provides employee volunteers and gifts in kind. MetLife employees contributed in excess of $1.3 million to the United Way in 1997.
Name three things that employees like most about your company:
Its rich history and warm public image. Excellent employee benefits and perks. Senior management is very responsive to field sales force.