Channel | Highlights

Agent Summit Wrap Up

By: Jennifer Carter Nebrich

The fourth annual Agent Summit was a huge success. The number of attendees increased from 550 in 2013 to just below 800 this year. Top agents from across the country came together to learn and discuss the topics that matter most to them. Thanks to 79 sponsors, attendees enjoyed world-class meals, desserts, beverages and great giveaways throughout the show. Sixty-nine exhibitors filled the exhibition hall and offered a wealth of information on the services and opportunities they provide. Networking opportunities abounded as attendees took advantage of seeing clients face-to-face at the show.

Early arrivers were welcomed Sunday evening with cocktails and cigars on the patio, sponsored by F&I Administration, as they registered early for the show. The next morning, the Participation and Reinsurance Symposium began with briefings from seven companies, each detailing their offerings.

This was followed by the Blue Ribbon Insurance Panel with Bill Kelly, partner, Automotive Development Group moderating. Panelists engaged in a lively discussion on personal wealth building and discussed various court cases, including the Rent-A-Center case that shaped reinsurance. Panelists included Mark Genova, partner, Reinsurance Associates; David Kaseff, C.P.A., J.D., partner, MarksNelson; Alan Markowitz, Esq., Law office of Alan Markowitz; and Greg Petrowski, partner, GPW and Associates. During the session, Petrowski shed light on the real reasons for basing a business in the Turks and Caicos, such as having the right level of regulatory scrutiny, more affordable capitalization cost and reasonable annual operating costs.

Competitive Targets followed, with Steve Pearl, president and managing principal, The Oak Group, moderating.  Panelists included Bruce Osborne, national sales manager, Allstate Dealer Services; Randall Rabbit, national sales director/executive vice president, United States Warranty Corp.; and Jay Sharpnack, national sales manager, CNA Warranty Corp. Each panelist shared tips for agents to differentiate themselves and come out on top when dealing with the competitive programs of their opponents. Rabbit explained that an agent could shine by fully explaining the wide range of reinsurance options and programs available to a dealer, rather than putting them in the program best suited for the provider; the best program for a dealer nearing retirement would be very different from one geared toward a dealer looking to expand. “It’s an alphabet soup out there and dealers don’t always understand all that is involved,” said Rabbit.

After a lunch on the patio overlooking the hotel’s five pools sponsored by GSFS Group, the Agent Summit conference was launched with a welcoming address from Show Chair Randy Crisorio, president and CEO, United Development Systems Inc. Glen Tuscan, president, Dealer Commitment Services delivered the opening keynote address that focused on underdog agents – how they have survived and are thriving in today’s industry.

A panel session showcasing technology was next, moderated by Johnny Garlich, president, Heart Dealer Financial Services. Panelists Brent Allen, COO and President, StoneEagle; Brian Reed, president and CEO, F&I Express; and David Trinder, CEO, F&I Administration Solutions; shared their differing perspectives on where the industry is headed in terms of incorporating technology in the F&I office. Reed commented on the ever-increasing number of electronic F&I products, stating, “it’s not where the industry is going, we’re there now and everyone needs to get on board!”

The next panel session focused on hiring, training, motivating and retaining top people. Lyle King, partner, Auto Group Services, moderated the four member panel, including Craig Almon, partner, PRO Consulting LLC; Mike Marchione, corporate director of training and development, Interstate National Dealer Services; Tony Troussov, director of training, Automotive Development Group; and Chad White, national training director, Mechanical Breakdown Protection Inc, and partner, Ace/Automotive Training Concepts. To sum up the session, White commented, “2014 and beyond is time to refocus and invest in our most important asset, which is our people.”

Day one concluded with attendees in good spirits as they congregated in the Expo Hall for the opening day reception courtesy of AUL.

A breakfast, thanks to ECP, jump started day two of Agent Summit. Doug Herberger, president, Allstate Dealer Services opened the morning with his keynote address, detailing his experience of the turnaround of his company. “Accountability, velocity and productivity,” he expounded, are the keys to a turning a business around.

Next, Steve Richard, cofounder and chief content officer, Vorsight, gave a presentation on getting dealer appointments. Richard’s company is one of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies in America and he was named one of the 25 most influential people in inside sales. Richard asked the audience to rate their greatest challenges in getting dealer appointments. Attendees texted their responses in real-time as they participated in a live survey and watched as results were displayed for the audience to see. The top audience survey response was “getting past the gatekeepers.” Richard offered many practical tips then modeled how to deal with this frustration. Using leads from the audience, he demonstrated the process of getting a face-to-face meeting with a dealer by making live phone calls. During his presentation, he introduced Professor Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize Winner and author of the award-winning book, Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow. Richard related Kahneman’s research on the psychology behind decision making to the sales process.

Next on the agenda was Captive Coercion featuring Tom O’Neil, O’Neil Financial Services Agency, Inc. O’Neil shed light on the story behind banks tying their loans to specific products and how to combat this frustrating process. O’Neil walked the audience through various lawsuits he was involved in and had won against big banks. He gave insights into the tricky tactics commonly used by large banks to bleed out their opponent in a lawsuit, leaving attendees armed and ready to take a stand with valuable information about the legal process.

This was followed by a buffet lunch provided by Performance Automotive Management where Old Republic Insured Automotive Services (ORIAS) gave away two iPad Airs and a fishing trip. After lunch, everyone headed to a workshop on Enterprise Building through Reinsurance where Steve Burke, CEO, Portfolio gave practical, in-depth advice. He touched on various structures and how they work, tax minimization, profits and why all of it matters. Burke detailed the “tools to excel at building the value of an agency, not just the revenue it creates.”

The State of Compliance was next, as Brian T. Casey, partner, Locke Lord LLC looked at the regulatory environment in today’s industry and gave an insiders view of the CFPB and the latest information straight out of Washington.

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is an important, aggressive Dodd Frank Act spawned federal regulator with a broad array of powers to enforce consumer financial products protection laws,” said Casey, “The CFPB has already demonstrated its keen interest in the auto finance and insurance and debtor protection products offered by lenders or by other product providers through the auto lending channel. Sellers and obligors under vehicle service contracts, extended warranties and GAP waivers must understand the reach of the CFPB into their businesses and take appropriate steps to avoid any compliance gaps in laws enforced by the CFPB.”

Eric Winegardner, vice president of client adoption, Monster Worldwide led the next workshop on recruiting quality staff. He offered a fresh perspective on what to look for when hiring, how much untapped talent is out there – and gave advice on how to find it for your company. Today’s job market is different that any other time in history, and Winegardner showed attendees how to embrace the new market and take advantage of all its offerings when searching for quality staff.

Day two concluded with a reception in the Expo Area, provided by F&I Express, where attendees met for drinks to discuss the topics of the day. Evenings were filled with dinners, gambling and shows as everyone enjoyed the Vegas nightlife.

Day three was a new addition this year for agency principals only and was well received. The audience was engaged, and everyone had a lot to say during this special morning designed just for agency principals. After breakfast, provided by E-Credit Express, John Braganini, principal, Great Lakes Companies, moderated the first session on the challenges and opportunities of leasing. Rob Glander, CEO and president, GWC Warranty; Jeff Jagoe, senior vice president sales and marketing, IAS; Rick Meinke, national sales manager, ECP; Kelly Price, president, National Automotive Experts; and Jeff Teuscher, vice president of sales, AAGI, served as panelists. Discussion topics ranged from leasing statistics to turning disadvantages of leasing products into advantages, high-appeal products for leasing, the importance of F&I training and changing dealers’ perception when it comes to making a profit on lease deals and higher mileage vehicles.

Chicago Attorney, Jim Duggan, M.B.A., J.D. led a discussion on exit strategies, estate planning and taxes. He offered insightful guidance on wealth management and the creation and options of establishing trusts. Dugan directed attendees to take notice of their advisor’s approach stating, “A practical and cost- minimization effective combination of a buy-sell agreement, living trust, limited liability company, and corporate and individual succession plans can help all entrepreneurs tame the planning beast. Ensure your professional advisors are pursuing an integrated planning approach to achieve your optimal structure during your lifetime and beyond.”

According to many, the best was saved for last, as Mike Conley, CEO, Conley Insurance Group, moderated the final panel discussion of the conference; Model Partnerships. Agents Robert L. Volatile, president and CEO, Northeast Dealer Services and Mike Rosenberg, president, Rosenberg & Associates, faced off against providers, Kevin Hausch, division vice president, Protective Asset Protection; and Tony Wanderon, CEO, NAC and FFDS; as the heated debate began. With strong opinions shared by the panel as well as from the audience, everyone was on the edge of their seats for this one. It was a great session as all sides candidly shared strongly held views.  Following the session, Conley stated, “While many of us in this room are competitors, I am always amazed at the mutual respect and admiration that is shared. The relationship between the Agent and the Company is often complicated by channel conflicts and production expectations. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that must be nourished through openness, trust and honesty. The Agent Summit has given us an excellent opportunity to come together as one group and discuss our expectations with our Vendor partners.”

Crisorio closed the conference, thanking all those who had worked hard to make the show happen; Bobbit Media, the Gesualdo team, the panelists and moderators and the Advisory Board who planned the sessions. Throughout the morning, Entire Car Protection (ECP) gave away a Tissot Sea-Touch Dive Watch and a Luminox Travel Alarm Clock to lucky winners. The final ECP giveaway – a Rolex Datejust II – was announced at the conclusion of the session. Readers can look forward to learning more about the sessions in upcoming publications, as selected presenters submit articles detailing the content of their session.

When asked about the show, Crisorio, stated, “I can’t begin to express how pleased I am with both the attendance totaling some 796 industry participants and the professionalism delivered through panels and workshops.  Agent Summit IV will be remembered for a significant elevation in important topical presentations that Agents can take back home and put to use immediately.  I think it’s about recognizing opportunity and then moving to cash in!”