By Cyril Tuohy
A conversation with life insurance agent Vinnie Hirsch amounts to a trip back in time. He speaks slowly and clearly, his measured cadence indicative of an agent with many years in the life distribution business, convinced of the purpose of what he is selling, no matter the highs and lows of the marketplace.
Hirsch entered the business for Prudential in 1964, right out of college, and he has been at it ever since. In October, in honor of his 50 years with the company, Prudential bestowed on him the title of agent emeritus.
Hirsch is one of only five company agents still active to hold the title, according to a Prudential spokeswoman.
His name alone — Vinnie — evokes an era in the business when life insurance agents sat at the kitchen table with two folders: one for term life and one for whole life.
You can almost picture the scene, like the ones in the old insurance ads published in magazines of the era: The clean-cut insurance agent sitting with the buttoned-down husband, whose wife busies herself in the kitchen.
Clichéd? Yes. But in many a household in central New Jersey was uttered the refrain: “Go see Vinnie.”
And they did. Hirsch was local and second generation insurance. His father was at Prudential, and Hirsch followed in his dad’s footsteps.
“From day one, my objective was to see people,” Hirsch said in an interview with InsuranceNewsNet.
“When you talk to somebody, you’re doing them a favor and giving them an opportunity before their situation changes. That’s an opportunity I had as a life insurance salesman,” Hirsch said.
Michael Marciano is managing director for Prudential’s Central Jersey Agency, which oversees Vincent Hirsch Financial in Matawan, N.J. Marciano called Hirsch a “consummate professional.”
“He is incredibly adept at helping his clients plan for their future financially,” Marciano said in a news release.
In the 50 years since Hirsch joined Prudential, life has changed for him, his clients and his employer.
Hirsch said that when he started, the popularity of insurance policies migrated from whole life to variable life with more flexibility and as consumers took a greater interest in the stock market.
One of the biggest changes, he said, was when Prudential gave its agents the opportunity to become financial planners. The trend was industrywide, not just a move by Prudential, and it meant that agents steeped in the sale of life policies could start investing on behalf of clients. In Hirsch’s case, those investor clients were mainly retirees.
Hirsch started with his carrier with the idea that “life (insurance) was the greatest,” before shifting to investments and back to life insurance again.
That’s the part of the business that has changed, he said. But the fundamentals of the business — focused on serving the client — have not.
“Nothing really changes in this business," he said. "You have to prospect, find clients and service them.”
Hirsch has two sons who joined the agency, and he said that he still conducts quarterly reviews with his clients, “which is rare.” He contacts them by phone or via email to ask if they would prefer to talk face to face or by phone.
“When I presented that to my sons, they said, ‘You’re crazy, that’s too much work,’” Hirsch said.
Have clients' needs changed? Not with regard to life insurance, he said. Has his love of serving people wavered? Not one bit.
“There hasn’t been a time when people didn’t need life insurance,” he said. The difference now is what that actually means.
Client needs are more complex today than they were when he first started. Clients need more help with estate planning, retirement and inheritance than they used to, he said.
Hirsch said technology has opened new doors to agents, enabling his agency to serve families in a way that was never possible when he started in 1964. Current technology enables warp-speed sales and service of life and retirement needs.
Hirsch said he has handed over the technology tasks to his sons and an assistant. For now, Hirsch’s technology involvement stops with an iPhone. That’s more than enough.
For Hirsch, life insurance isn’t about technology. Never has been and never will be. It was and always will be about service and exhibiting a desire to service clients, which is why clients keep coming back to “go see Vinnie.”
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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