From the (Virtual) Desk of Meryl Rosenthal


It was my privilege to be invited by GAMA International to facilitate a panel, comprising esteemed home office and field leaders from Guardian, London Life, Northwestern Mutual, and Penn Mutual at the March LAMP Conference in Nashville. Our premise was this: In order to appeal to various talent segments – so that they stay, produce and thrive, and in turn, attract the next generation of advisors and clients – agencies need to have workplaces and experiences and practices that resonate. We used the study, ‘Building the Bridge for Culture Change: A Mandate for 2020,’ spearheaded by FlexPaths, in partnership with major U.S. and Canadian insurance sponsors, as the jumping off point for the conversation.


Our panelists shared emerging workplace models and practices, and provided insights around how they were developed and implemented, and what the impact has been.


LAMP Panel Highlights:


  • John McCabe, Freedom 55 Financial: Realizing that ‘anytime, anywhere’ work was becoming the norm, and that there was a great need to modernize physically and culturally, John and his team shifted from the personalized ‘me’ spaces to create ‘we’ spaces. The results? Spontaneous collaboration; increased use of technology; and attracting a new generation of advisors across gender and culture.


  • Jessica Choi, Penn Mutual: Ensuring that Penn Mutual was giving advisers and clients the experience they were looking for is paramount. To that end, the organization launched the “ACE-Adviser Client Experience,” an end-to-end solution for clients. They are continuing to solicit feedback from their advisers to fulfill Penn Mutual’s Adviser Value Commitment and leveraging both the physical workspace and technology enhancements to create new and innovative interactions. 


  • Emily Viner, Guardian: The company used survey information collected in 2014 to improve culture and replicate best practices across its network – and importantly to ‘close the back door.’ Today, Guardian is successfully recruiting younger advisors, has closed the gender gap in terms of ‘feeling supported at work,’ has seen a 71% increase in the number of women in agency leadership positions, and has achieved a 15% increase in women qualifying for club level recognition.


  • Michael Kane, Empire Wealth Strategies: Experience is the new currency. Creating ‘experiences’ to boost engagement has been a key success factor. Replacing kickoff meetings with recognition meetings, email updates with video updates and giving advisors a platform to share best practices has resulted in a significant shift in revenue sources toward those advisors with fewer than five years in the business, a more diverse customer base, and significantly improved retention rates.


  • Travis Hart, Pacific Advisors: Travis’ innovative and intentional approach to ensuring that all advisors feel welcome at work reflects feedback he gleaned through comprehensive assessments. Key learnings led to changes in recognition/awards to align more with impact and corporate values, and today there is a 50/50 gender balance on the leadership team.


  • Ronald Adams, Northwestern Mutual: Ron shared his experience assessing readiness for change and how to bring more diversity and inclusion into Northwestern Mutual’s sales offices. His immersion program is paying off, as you can read in more detail in the next article.


In this issue of FlexPaths’ Corner, we also explore the difference between a mentor and a sponsor, what to look for in each relationship, and why everyone should have both.


Work is no longer a place you go — it’s what you do. People do business in a variety of places — onsite with clients, in the airport, at Starbucks — not necessarily 9 to 5, five days a week in a dedicated office. As these leaders have shown, with effort and intention, organizations can embrace this new normal and make it work for them.


We hope you’ll find this issue informative and provocative. Let us know what you think – and what’s going on in your world – by joining our LinkedIn group, Work Is Changing. Be the Change!  And, please spread the word and encourage your colleagues to subscribe to this newsletter.