Tier One Interview: Anne Long
This month, our CEO, Jay C. Judas, sits down with Anne Long, RICP®, CLU®, President, Life Insurance Solutions at CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services, Inc. The pair discuss Anne's path through the industry, working with CPAs, diversity in the industry and poodles. Read it all below!
JAY: It will be difficult to defend myself against my husband’s accusation that I simply picked one of my favorite people to interview this month. I’ll own that! Anne, I’ve known you for about ten years but have known of you for twice that time. You have been a senior leader in the life insurance industry for decades and your accomplishments are remarkable. We have so much to discuss so let’s get started by hearing about your current role with CBIZ.
ANNE: Jay, thanks for including me in your interview series. I am in fine company from your previous interviews with some of my friends and former colleagues.
This is my second stint with CBIZ having previously run the life and wealth management business until the end of 2010. I returned about a year ago as the national practice leader for our life insurance practice. This encompasses all individual protection products including annuities, disability, long term care, executive benefits and life settlements. We transact through our BGA which is a 40-year-old legacy company which CBIZ acquired about 23 years ago.
Our business comes from traditional wholesale producers with whom we have done business over many years as well as our own CBIZ W2 licensed producers. The latter group is where our real differentiation comes. We assist our other service lines - accounting, retirement, property and casualty and employee benefits - in identifying and solving client problems using our unique product suite.
JAY: When I meet someone who says they are from Philadelphia, they usually are from some town out on the Main Line or from South Jersey. That is not you – you actually grew up in Philly. What was it like growing up in the city and then take me on the path to your life insurance career?
ANNE: Yes, that’s right, I was raised in the city where I grew up in a row house on a beautiful tree-lined street. In the summer after dinner, you could whistle and gather up multitudes of kids to play all kinds of games. At one point we had 99 kids on our block. It was a special place and time where you spent time outdoors, knew your neighbors and cared about them. Talk about socialization!
I was the first in my family to go to college. I took the subway to Temple University so I could live at home and afford college. I put myself through school on a credit card. When I graduated with a degree in political science, I had every intention to go to law school. But I wanted a break from working two jobs as I did through college.
Since I didn’t have a dad with a rolodex full of contacts, I went to the newspaper and just started applying for entry level jobs. I ended up getting hired by Manulife for a management training program and the rest, as they say, is history. Manulife specifically sought out liberal arts majors for their curiosity and willingness to learn new things. Trainees were exposed to all facets of the business and then could gravitate to an area which best matched their skills. I wish we still invested in this type of training and management development.
When I was entering the business in Philly, we had the local offices of major carriers led by some of the icons in the industry - Sid Friedman at Phoenix, George Karr at Equitable, John Cronin at Connecticut Mutual and my boss, Len Day. It was like going to graduate school for life insurance.
JAY: I loved hearing a lot of familiar names when we talked about your years with Manulife. It sounds like you and your co-workers spread out to become the who’s who of the life insurance industry!
When I think about your role at CBIZ, I am impressed with the success of the business model aimed at generating life insurance sales. For as long as I can remember, institutions have tried and failed at different ways to internalize the distribution and sale of life insurance. As you noted, you are working with accountants, benefits professionals and property and casualty customers and are driving insurance revenue. Can you talk about how you have made this happen?
ANNE: CBIZ was formed on the premise that offering a business owner access to all the resources, tools and advice they need to run their business from a single source would make their business life easier. They could focus on running their business and an organization like ours could really understand their needs and cross-serve them with solutions. CBIZ has put infrastructure, leadership and a rewards system in place to achieve success in cross-serving.
I think part of why the model works so well is that an accountant or producer in one of our service lines is referring in a colleague and not someone from the outside. The experience is more seamless for the client, and we use Salesforce to track all referrals so a client doesn’t get lost in the system. We can demonstrate that clients who engage with us on two products or services have a higher retention rate than those who only have one. This helps to get our colleagues comfortable that referring to another business line is good for business.
I have worked in other organizations where we were a strategic partner to a bank or accounting firm and it is a much harder way to source leads and generate business.
JAY: Let me get into some granular detail on this topic. How does a CPA identify a life insurance opportunity and what do those opportunities look like? Is the insurance usually needed for estate planning or do you see other strategies?
ANNE: Well, first let me challenge your premise that the CPA should be identifying the opportunity. I think that as practitioners who best know how our products create opportunities and/or solve problems, we should take the lead in identifying prospects. Jay, what I have learned in working with my CBIZ colleagues from multiple service lines is that you must be very targeted with the solutions you offer. You can’t be generic and say, we offer life insurance. You must craft a marketing message that is specific to a need you know their clients have and that you can solve.
One of the things that many people don’t realize is the breadth of services that accountants provide. We generally think of tax returns and tax planning. Our accounting practice offers services including litigation support, valuation, risk and advisory, commercial real estate and private equity advisory. This opens up tremendous opportunities for collaboration with my team.
Also, our accountants and producers from other service lines who work with high-net-worth clients will refer us in on estate planning opportunities. We have recently been educating our colleagues about the legislative landscape for long term care since the passage of the Washington Cares Act. We see opportunities for individual and group long term care sales as states look to offset large Medicaid obligations through payroll taxes to pay for long term care.
JAY: You are not only a rare female leader in the life insurance industry but also a high-profile member of the LGBTQ+ community. Talk about rarified air! As you think about the face of our industry, is that face changing and why or why not?
ANNE: I think it is less rare to be a female leader in our industry. Look at the top ranks of carriers and the strides women have made is impressive. I’d like to see more progress on the distribution side of the business. In terms of the LGBTQ+ community, we probably have a long way to go but there has been progress. You and me doing this interview wouldn’t have happened a few years ago. I hope if there are folks out there who are afraid to be their authentic selves that they know there are allies out there, both straight and gay, who welcome and support them in our profession.
JAY: For the most part, people who look like one another are manufacturing, distributing, selling and buying life insurance. How do you think our industry can benefit from greater diversity?
ANNE: I heard a saying over the past few years that really resonates with me when it comes to diversity and inclusion. “Nothing about us, without us.” If we want our industry to represent the world we live in then we should have broad representation of the groups we are hoping to attract as employees and customers. I can tell you that my LinkedIn feed showing posts of industry events doesn’t look too much different than 10 years ago. Maybe we need a collaborative effort among various stakeholders to create more urgency and a bolder vision for bringing more people into the industry.
In my current role at CBIZ and my previous role at NFP, I have had the privilege to lead diverse teams. The different life experiences and viewpoints that get represented make us better and certainly more interesting.
If I was queen for a day in charge of marketing for the life insurance industry, I would do a few things differently. I would take some of the dollars used to sponsor golf events and redeploy them to events and causes that matter to a more diverse audience. Are we showing up in a meaningful way where our future employees live and spend time? I think we spend a lot of time telling younger folks about the benefits of considering a career in insurance and not enough time listening to why they don’t consider us.
JAY: The day this interview is published – December 12 – is a special day for you for another reason. You are being honored this evening in New York City as one of Irish America’s Wall Street 50 honorees. Congratulations! Tell me about this recognition.
ANNE: I was adopted as an infant by my fantastic parents, Larry and Bonnie Long. I had an older sister who recently passed away and I have a younger sister, all from different birth parents. With the support of my parents, I was able to research and meet my birth mother. Both she and my birth father were immigrants from Ireland. While I always suspected that my blue eyes and rosy cheeks were probably a result of being Irish, the connection with her helped me complete the picture. So, to be recognized by Irish America magazine as one of their Wall Street 50 honorees is very special to me. The award recognizes the contributions of Irish-American and Irish-born leaders in financial services. It is my third time receiving the honor and it never gets old. I have been trying my hand at writing and will have a short story published in the magazine as well. I also now hold dual citizenship and look forward to returning to visit Ireland again soon.
JAY: You and your wife, Sarah, have joined the pickleball craze. You even suffered a sports injury with a knee incident! Besides pickleball, how do you spend your free time? By the way, I hear you have poodles, so I want to know more about them, too!
ANNE: Well, pickleball is at the top of the list of how we spend our free time. I did break my knee bone but expect to be back on the court by the end of the year. We like to travel and, because of Covid, we took road trips with the dogs and visited Colorado over the past few summers. Our poodles scored us an invitation to Breckenridge to stay with some Austin friends who have poodles and live in Colorado during the summer. It was poodlepalooza! We are season ticket holders to Broadway in Austin and love to support the arts and we both volunteer at our respective university alma maters. We are impressed by how informed and passionate these students are about a range of issues. Don’t underestimate this next generation. They give us hope for the future.
JAY: This has been a treat, Anne. Thank you for doing this. When we last spoke, you proactively told me you already had a restaurant in Austin picked out for this restaurant question. That’s great because I was worried that a Philly native might name Geno’s or Pat’s and those violate the no steakhouse or steak dish requirement. Let’s hear it – where do our readers have to go when they are in Austin and what should they order?
Anne: When you and Pete are next in Austin, we suggest you try Loro. It is a joint effort between the James Beard Award winner chefs of Franklin Barbecue and Uchi. It is Asian Fusion barbecue served with a truly Austin vibe outside under the trees and stars. Order the chicken karaage, the pork belly, the crispy potatoes and the tomato and cucumber salad. Really anything on the menu is a good choice.
Since its inception, Life Insurance Strategies Group has solely focused on the individual high net worth life insurance market. We do not sell products. This allows us to offer unbiased, pragmatic advice. Visit us at www.lifeinsurancestrategiesgroup.com.