History definitely repeats itself
After 32 years in business and billions in pre-need sales in the U.S. and Canada, I want to share some lessons learned in the hopes that you might avoid some of the same mistakes I have made along the way. It is crucial that funeral home owners make the most informed decisions for their long-term success, and today it is particularly difficult because of the confusing and challenging time in our industry.
My company, Pre-Need Funeral Program (PFP), started small. After building a successful pre-need program at our family-owned funeral business, colleagues and friends from around the country asked if we could work with them to help secure families into the future.
We hired an insurance actuary who developed pre-need products with a strong insurance company called United Companies.
Upon exiting the business, United Companies reduced the policy growth and sold the block of pre-need business at a profit to recapture its investment. The acquiring insurance company reduced the growth and sold it again and made a profit. This continued several times until the growth was next to nothing.
In addition to the financial impact, the administration of the pre-need policies declined to such an extent that it was difficult for funeral home owners to determine who was supposed to receive the death claim!
From my position, it was gut-wrenching.
Choosing a replacement
Our clients were depending on us to find another pre-need insurance funding company that was reliable, financially secure and in the business to stay. We didn’t want to make the same mistake, so we did two things: 1) We built our own administration system to ensure top-notch customer service; and, 2) We picked a “better” partner.
Allianz Life was one of the six-largest insurance companies in the world. After helping Allianz and funeral homes sell nearly $1 billion of pre-need, Allianz discontinued their pre-need line of business.
Like United Companies, they decreased the growth and sold the block of business to another company called Guardian Life.
This was one of the biggest disappointments of my life — personally and professionally. We went back out to market and narrowed the search to two companies: Homesteaders Life Company, which was always a consistent option in the early 1980s, or Fortis Family, (which later became Assurant).
It turns out I would earn another battle scar…
Despite being top-ranked and with avowed long-term commitment, we made the wrong choice in selecting Fortis. Our relationship lasted only seven years before they, too, took flight from the pre-need marketplace.
Landing on the sure option
At this point we didn’t look at all the “wanna-be” pre-need insurance providers because we could not put our funeral homes and their client families through another turbulent ride. We went directly to Homesteaders, a company we knew didn’t have the highest growth and would not have the highest commissions, but …
We knew they would be here for the long term. Homesteaders is the only constant in our 32 years of helping funeral homes with pre-need.
We wanted the safe, secure path and didn’t wish to gamble by taking a chance on an unseasoned insurance company even though their initial offerings looked attractive.
For the past six years we’ve enjoyed the comfort of knowing Homesteaders is in it for the long haul, like we are.
This year, PFP’s client funeral homes are collectively on target to become one of Homesteaders’ highest-producing groups! This is a result of our working together, leveraging their financial support for the innovative and unique programs, systems and services we develop to help our clients succeed.
Our story is not new to the funeral industry… AFA (American Funeral Assurance), Liberty, United Family, Monumental (NSM program), CNA, Lincoln Heritage, Southland National… These are all lessons that only the stable, consistent company that does what it says it will — even if it doesn’t pay the highest growth or commissions — can be the best long-term solution for you and your families.
My father used to tell me not to chase the “flash in the pan.” Unfortunately he is not here today to look me in the eye and say, “I told you so.”
Instead, as a long-standing contributor and member of funeral service, I’m sharing my experiences with you, so you can learn from my mistakes and make informed, confident decisions for your organization.
Thanks for your time,
Quinn H. Eagan
CEO-Pre-Need Funeral Program
P.S. To learn more about the top three systems funeral homes are using to help families during their grief journey, as well as expand their pre-need program, call your Homesteaders account executive or contact us. These programs are offered at no cost.