Working for Banker's Life Insurance Company
Since I posted an article about the fake interview at Banker's Life Insurance Company, people have been responding positively. Mostly they write to say "Thanks for warning me about the fake interview!"
Jack wrote on Friday, describing his experience working for Banker's Life.
It is a long story, but I'll spoil it for you: Working for Banker's Life Insurance ruined him.
I found your page on a search for this company intending to write a review of the place after all this time, since they just called me yesterday (again). After reading your experience with these people, I thought I'd share mine. I hope you have the patience to stick with me.
Once upon a time, when dinosaurs walked the earth (2008), I had a home, a wife and 3 year old kid, 2 cars, we were the all-American family... grilling out, having friends over, mowing grass, the usual blah stuff. My background was in radio and car sales, and I worked 60-65 hours a week, but it was generally a financially rewarding career. In the early to mid part of the year though, the recession hit and car sales were as bad or worse than they've EVER been. I personally witnessed three dealerships within 20 miles of mine close their doors, one of which I used to work for. I can't remember whether I had a resume up on Monster already or if I posted it just before Bankers called me (I suspect the latter), but I was definitely exploring my professional options at this time.
In late Jun 2008, a recruiter from Bankers' office in Wilmington, NC called me. Said my resume looked great and thought I would make a great fit at their company. I never applied for this job, but what the hell, I thought, I've got nothing to lose by going to speak with them. Isn't that what Monster is for? She arranged an interview at the location in nearby New Bern.
I arrived at the interview, and it was held with two other prospects and the assistant manager (Max) of the location. There was a discussion of the commission structure, a general praise-the-Lord session about how good their lead system was, and him raving about their skies-the-limit income opportunity. It was revealed here that it was indeed a straight commission job, but that didn't scare me at the time; I had been in straight commission car sales for the better part of five years. And what he said about what the company did made sense to me... sell health/life/insurance policies to Seniors, as well as annuities. Their bread and butter are the elderly. They will always need this kind of help, i thought... sounds recession proof to me.
I left, and about a week later got a call from the manager of that office. He told me how Max had been EXTREMELY impressed with me during my interview, and would I like to come back to speak to him. I said sure, why not. So I went in when I had a day off, I remember it raining like hell that day.
It was obvious that Luke had done well in that company; his previous employment before he got into the insurance business was selling paint. He was quite motivational, and again touted the income potential of the Senior market, and went through the needs analysis they used. I was thinking, "hey, we could use something like this at the dealership" where I worked. When I left there, I left with a copy of the commission structure and an idea of what I would be doing if I decided to go work there. I discussed it with the wife... she was less than thrilled at a straight commission job, but then that kind of thing had been good to us for a long while. If I did exactly what they asked, and used my work ethic to get me thorough as I always have, I can't go wrong, right?
I would have to get licensed by the state of NC first, and go through their weeklong training program in Wilmington. I thought it was as good an education as I was going to get at age 43, so I fell for it. I spent about 600 bucks on an online training program (actually three training programs, one for life, one for health, and one for medicare supplements) to prepare for the state exams, and hit the books. I called Luke in mid-October and accepted the job in principle... the Wilmington training would be the first week of December.
About October 2008, working at the dealership wasn't affording me enough time to really study. Car sales were horrible at the time, but I had saved a few thousand dollars and thought that with my wife's small income as an x-ray tech I had enough to get me through until I got to movin' and groovin' in the insurance business. Plus I knew I had a job guaranteed, and the backing of my family, so I left my two and a half year job at the dealership to concentrate on my studies. I was still studying for the state exams when the December company training rolled around, but was told that wasn't a big deal.
I left for Wilmington on the first of December for a weeklong stay. There were about 15 others at this training and they put me up at a hotel in town as roomie with another guy who was quite cool. I had to pay for meals, gas, etc, but at least they did pay for the lodging. The training was quite good. Luke was there, plus some other guy who had made a fortune in annuities at that company and they basically were teaching things I was learning with the online courses, so I thought I was ahead of the curve. The thing I remember most about that time was it was the first time my 3 year old son spoke to me on the phone (nowadays I can't get him to shut up!)
When I got home, I was ready to go... I launched into the courses again and took two state exams a week apart the week after Christmas. God, I can't believe I passed those. Each one of them I came away thinking there is no WAY I passed that, only to find that I had. I was officially licensed by the state of North Carolina as an insurance agent. My wife was about as proud of me as she could be. I was pleased with what I had done, thought I had a really bright future as an insurance agent. I'd never really failed at anything I ever did, and I really thought I was going to do well at this. I started officially working at Bankers the Monday after New Years.
In retrospect, I will say, after the first week there, I should have run screaming from the building, and begged for my car job back. But I've never really been a quitter and I still thought if I followed the plan I couldn't go wrong. But it was obvious in hindsight that it was going to be a LOT different. The days were thus: on Tuesday and Thursday you made outbound sales calls. You went through their phone system so as to not violate the Do Not Call list. They didn't discourage you from calling on your cell, but it was made clear that if you didn't go through their, if there was a $10,000 fine it would be the responsibility of the agent. You called until you set eight appointments, PERIOD, for the following Wednesday, Friday, and Monday. If it took til 9 at night, this had to be done.
The lead system they had touted so much was horrible. The leads had been so picked over as to be ridiculous. More than once I called someone and was told they had already been contacted by Bankers at least 3 times and please do not call them again. I called people who it was obvious on the phone could not buy life insurance. I called at least 100 a day just to set these appointments, and while I was successful at it, a lot of times I made appointments with people who I knew would be bad prospects, just to fill up the book so I could get the hell out of there.
Hell, I called one guy on the lead system, and not only had he died five years ago, my own manager Luke had sold his wife insurance 8 years ago. I got an appointment with the lady, and Luke even went with me on that one, but we didn't sell her anything. Concerning in the field training, the managers were great, but they had their own needs to meet, and so much of the first month I was out there on my own. Keep in mind there is no guaranteed income there, and you're paying for gas to go see these people. I tried to work smart... I was able to choose the areas in which I wanted to make appointments, and I tried to pick towns where I knew people, knew people who knew people, or had some heritage. But gas back then came back then to about 125 a month at nearly $4/gallon, and my wife and I were already falling behind on everything in spite of my fore-laid plans.
One day in mid January 2009 I made an appointment with an elderly couple in New Bern, which went well. The guy had retired from a major factory and had a current life policy with Woodmen Of The World. Since I knew Max had once worked for that company, I asked and received permission to take the policy for Max to take a look, to see if there was anything we could do to help. They were very interested, and we made a followup appointment.
The Big Sale
One thing I will say about Bankers, they do have some outstanding insurance products for the right people. Max went back with me to these folks house and told them their WOW policy was generating cash value they didn't even know about. He then proceeded to tell them he could roll it into a Bankers plan that would pay the spouse $750,000 upon the other spouse's death. They were all for that, of course, and so we wrote it up and were going to split that 50/50. The commission on such a plan would be about $7,000 apiece, more than enough to make up for my struggles in January. I felt rejuvenated about my decision to come work for this place.
Only one problem. It has to be underwritten, and underwriters aren't on commission... they take their own sweet fucking time. This gentleman was the picture of health, but he was also 82 years old, and I don't even know what kind of hoops they were trying to put him through.... doctors appointments with THEIR physicians, follow up appointments... it all takes time even if the customer jumps through all these hoops, which as far as I know they were. But I wasn't seeing any return, and falling behind day after day. Every 3 or 4 days I asked what was the status on this policy, I'm sure they got tired of me asking, but I was very much drowning. Had it not been hope to gain that particular commission, I might have left long before, but I kept plugging away. Sold a few medical supplements there, a life policy here, but what I was really waiting for was the big payoff. February came and went, and it never came.
By mid March, my family was under severe financial stress. Two car payments were past due, the mortgage was probably $2,000 behind, and I'd had about enough of calling these endless useless leads, spending what little money I had to go see these people. Once you had an appointment and you got there, you found a wheelchair ramp at the front door, a sure sign that I couldn't help them. Nonetheless, had to go in and do a needs analysis anyway, I was expected to bring back 3-4 a day. But I was done.
Quitting Banker's Life
I told Max and Luke under extreme duress that it was not working out, I was going to have to go back to the car business. They said sorry to see you go, but keep those licenses, we've heard you on the phones, and you're a MONSTER on the phones. I was thinking that may be, but if I was good on the phones here, I'd be damn good at a car lot with it too. Thus my departure from Bankers Life and Casualty. But my story doesn't end there.
Soon after, I found that my old dealership was full of salespeople and had moved on, so I went to another in the next town over. That was somewhat successful (the Cash for Clunkers program was going on at this time, that might have helped I don't know), but we were SO far behind, we had to choose what to pay. We chose to try and catch the car payments up over the house payment a) because it was financially easier and b) we knew the cars would go away before the house did. Nonetheless, the house went into foreclosure in Sep 2009 after I hadn't made a payment on it since July. The dealership job was perking along nicely, but the car business was still in pretty bad shape.
On the last day of September 2009, the repo man showed up at my house about 9PM to take my wife's vehicle. We had just made a payment on it three weeks before, but we just couldn't catch it up in time, and that's when I truly lost my fucking mind. When you have these people taking away your wife's car and she's crying and you know there's nothing you can do about it... It's pretty awful. I couldn't have felt more low at that point knowing I had failed as the provider for my family; I'd made a decision to make our lives better and I basically was destroying it. I quit the dealership the next day, knowing that the house was probably going away soon too (actually it would be more than 3 years before it was actually repossessed), and took a $10/hr job with a friend pressure washing houses and roofs. Actually enjoyed that, but then I'm not scared of heights. After all this I considered it therapeutic, really. LOL. In any case, the wifey'd had enough of this.
She made plans to move back to her hometown in Florida. Talked to her father about getting me a job at Florida Power and Light, and I was tempted, but I didn't really want to move to Florida. In the end, after the new year, I got a job selling radio advertising many miles away that kept me from home a lot of the time. Bankers wasn't done with me yet though.
By this time, we had the sheriff showing up at the door serving papers, loan companies calling and even coming by trying to collect what I didn't have. Sometime in December, when I was in the middle of pressure washing a driveway about a million miles long, I got a call from my wife. A guy from the NC Dept of Insurance had showed up at the door. I called the guy back, and what had happened was that Max had taken one of my needs analysis sheets and gone to see one of my customers. He rolled several thousand dollars of their money into Bankers Policy, but what Max didn't tell them (or maybe did not realize) was that they had a HUGE tax liability by doing this. I was told in a high and mighty voice that I could lose my insurance license over this (this is the STATE speaking) and told that I would be liable because I had signed the original needs analysis. I just about told him to stick it up his ass, I was sitting here starving to death and cleaning a driveway, but I held back. I did call Max though... he didn't know anything about it. He had left Bankers back during the summer.
I took a job at a radio station doing sales at a town far FAR away from home that kept me away for days at a time. It wasn't enough to stop the damage though. My wife left for Florida in May 2010, taking my son with her. I left the house for good and lived out of my car (the one thing i had left) for a few months til I got my living situation right. I was expecting a life changing situation when I signed on with that company not even two years before, but I sure got more of that than I bargained for.
During my 2 and half months at Bankers (I figured this up today), I netted an income of $647.19. Then they attempted to charge me back $303 of it! That went on my credit report along with everything else (what did it matter at this point?)
Epilogue: In Dec 2010 I went back to the car biz, ironically at the same dealership I was working for when I took the Bankers job. Every day I passed a house that was once mine, I watched it decay. I saw a tree fall on it from Hurricane Irene that as far as I know is still on the carport. That house haunted my dreams for years, dreams of being a happy family, cutting the grass while my little son played in the yard, dreams of what could have been if I'd just NOT taken that job. Stayed at that dealership another two and a half years, left there over the summer to spend time with my son, who was up from Florida for two and a half months. So I'm currently looking for another job; I updated my resume on Monster over the weekend and who calls me yesterday from Wilmington! You got it!
"Hi I'm Joanna with Bankers Life and Casualty Company. I found your resume on Monster.com and thought I would have an opportunity you would be interested in!"
"Oh yeah? Well I have a job interview tomorrow so I don't know... "
"Yes sir. We provide leads and all training for you to be successful. We... oh.. I see you've worked for Bankers before..."
"Yes some time back"
"Well if your interview doesn't pan out, please give us a call"
* click *
Thanks for staying with me on this. The long and short of my experience there is this: It's a good (but not great) company, offering some really good products. The managers I dealt with were fine, but this is not the job opportunity they make it out to be. The commission structure is awesome, but you better have a residual income before you get involved there. If my wife had been making 40 grand a year, maybe I could have stuck it out, God knows I worked for the chance. But that wasn't the case, and the repercussions from my bad decision still linger today in many many ways.
You were right to stay away.