As a life insurance producer for more than 30 years, Chuck Scrafano was accustomed to getting invited to all sorts of unique events. But, something about a gift box invitation he received in June of 2021 caught his eye. It was an invite from Signal Advisors to attend the Rocket Mortgage Classic PGA Tournament.
As he unboxed the invite, he discovered a package lined with golf grass, containing a personalized itinerary for the event and golf-related swag. The obvious attention to detail that went into the design of the box reminded Chuck of the custom producer experiences he grew up around. It made Chuck feel like he was more than just another fish swimming in a big pond. The individualized attention felt significant.
Through that golf gift box, Chuck recognized a sort of old-school mentality in Signal Advisors, where the community angle focuses on smaller, more curated, and more individualized experiences, but this time around it comes with a twist. Through Signal, technology is what’s driving and empowering the advisor community.
“I’ve been in this industry for 30 years,” says Chuck. “I’ve never seen another IMO blend the community aspect with this hyper-focus on innovative technology. Signal is changing the industry as we know it.”
Chuck attended the Rocket Mortgage Classic and soon after had the opportunity to join the Signal Advisors team as a Founding Advisor, advocating for the business and coaching other advisors in the industry.
“I couldn’t pass up the chance to be a part of something important,” says Chuck. “My dad was a life insurance agent, and so this is a way for me to give back to an industry that means a lot to me.”
We spoke to Chuck to find out what it is that makes Signal Advisors so special.
A focus on innovation
First and foremost, Signal Advisors is leading with cutting-edge technology. For the first time ever, advisors can manage everything about their annuity (35 insurance carriers) and life insurance (22 insurance carriers) business in one single platform, using just one login.
That means applications, commissions, annual reviews, and more are organized and visible in just one place. Any advisor who writes annuity and life insurance business can understand how that’s a game-changer in terms of efficiency and productivity.
“Many advisors have relationships with multiple IMOs - you may have multiple contracts with three or four different companies,” says Chuck. “Prior to coming to Signal, I had five different IMOs with their own processes, teams, and applications to manage. I liked them all, but it was hard to keep track of who had what. Now, I go into one platform and get everything I need. That’s huge.”
Thinking about it from another perspective, how much time does your staff spend on hold with insurance companies?
“I have a client who has 17 policies spanning across 6 different carriers and they want quarterly numbers,” says Chuck. “I could be on the phone with each of those companies for hours just trying to corral all the information I need. With Signal, I log in once and get everything I need. Theoretically, I can have full visibility into every single household I serve in just one single place. That has never existed before.”
Having access to all information from one centralized location means staff members can spend more time focused on helping people instead of sitting on hold with an insurance company.
“I wish Signal was part of my life 20 years ago,” says Chuck. “My growth would have been exponential had I been with an IMO like Signal.”
Simplifying Life Insurance
When the popularity of IMOs emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was difficult for some advisors to contend with. On the one hand, advisors were giving up direct relationships with insurance carriers, which often represented years (or even decades) of invested time. On the other hand, advisors were able to recognize more tailored support in many areas of their practice, including when writing life insurance business.
Insurance is an unmistakably difficult process. Case designs can be more complex than with annuities, risk assessment periods tend to be long. There are a lot of nuances to deal with. IMOs specializing in life insurance are nothing new.
However, the differentiating factor with Signal Advisors is the way life insurance and annuity business seamlessly live together in a single platform.
“60 percent of my business is life insurance,” says Chuck. “When I was considering joining the Signal team, it mattered to me that they were prioritizing life insurance. Again, having a centralized portal where I can manage all areas of my business has changed everything. For example, it’s a huge advantage that the Signal Advisors technology has made the annual review process so simple - I get reminders for upcoming review dates and can generate annual reviews in just a few clicks.”
Maybe you have a client who has a mix of annuity and life insurance policies. Maybe you have a client who solely invests in life insurance, and another who deals primarily with annuities. It doesn’t matter. You can get visibility into all of it, all at the same time, just by logging into one platform.
Tapping into the emotional side
Chuck’s father was a life insurance agent for 55 years. Chuck grew up with the ideology that it was a great business because of the life his family was able to create together. Not only the travel and the producer experiences, but Chuck’s father was a constant presence in his life
As someone who was always in the back of the room during producer events, Chuck didn’t know any different. This was an industry with deep family ties and it was where he belonged.
People are inherently social and thrive on a sense of belonging. And being an independent advisor, specifically, can feel like you’re on an island just looking for somewhere to port. That port - that community - is necessary and having had access to that early on left a lasting impression on Chuck.
“Signal Advisors is evoking emotions of producers past. It feels like experiences my dad had in earlier days. They make an extra effort and they pay attention to the small things,” says Chuck. “Signal is giving hope. Hope is a good thing.”
The Signal Advisors team has a desire to foster an advisor-focused community where everyone is helping one another. They aren’t the arbiter of what flows back and forth, but are the conduit for the community to thrive on. They are trying to cement the feeling that advisors are independent, but never alone. They can feed off one another’s energies, ideas, and experiences to elevate their own.
Traditionally, all advisor interaction revolves around the marketer. At Signal, the marketer is replaced with a team of experts who can help an advisor scale more effectively. Where other marketers may bring on as many new advisors as possible and thus dilute the experience for each advisor, the Signal Advisors team focuses on making the experience valuable and personal for every advisor with a model that actually scales. Case design experts, onboarding guidance, new business processing, and one-on-one coaching all exist in tandem with technology for the sole purpose of helping an advisor achieve their best.
Signal Advisors has tackled annuities, and now life insurance is an integral part of the platform. So, what’s next for the game-changing IMO?
Chuck believes additional business lines and service integrations will continue to present long-term opportunities for Signal. Incorporating asset management, property and casualty insurance, mortgage origination and health products into one platform not only creates efficiency for advisors already offering those products - it increases the odds of adoption by advisors who don't currently use them.
Managing all the areas of your business in one singular location is revolutionary - but increasing consumer access to more financial solutions and services? That's visionary.
And, make no mistake about it, Chuck is determined to get back to what was important when his father was showing him the ropes - that sense, that belief that they were part of building something great.
“We’re going back to a more community-driven, nostalgic feel for the advisor while being completely cutting-edge and technology enabled,” says Chuck. “This dichotomy is unique and it is special.”