<p>When considering who to partner with for various insurance products, using rate as your determining factor is not always a better deal in the long run. You need to consider what each partner will bring to the partnership and weigh them appropriately. First, you want to look at the stability of the carrier and how much experience they have with the product. There are several companies out there making lofty promises, but they cannot sustain long term, and that is important when it comes to your members. You want a partner who only works with underwriters who have the strength and stability to be there for the long term, and who also can provide assistance with compliance issues. And as we have seen throughout the credit union industry over the past few years – companies come and go, and that is why it is important to diversify and not have all of your eggs in one basket. For example, consider going with a company who has multiple carrier relationships and expanded product offerings – not limited to one company, thus allowing flexibility that ensures you the best solution the marketplace has to offer, tailored to your specific needs. The days of `one size fits all’ philosophy are over. Next you need to consider rate, but do not simply focus on the number alone. What seems like a good deal at the beginning might not pay off in the long run. For example, some companies will come in with a slightly lower rate but what you have to consider is what you are not getting with that lower rate. Compare apples to apples and see how each company matches up. For example, a slightly higher rate may be the better deal long-term when you consider what services accompany that program. Factors to consider include: The level of service you and your members will receive.questions that are important to consider might be: Who will be talking with your members? What quality control mechanisms are in place to ensure high levels of customer service? Ongoing training and support for the program: How often will trainings be conducted? What types of training are available? Is there a support team dedicated solely to this product? How does the company plan to deliver the product, as well support to your members: What type of marketing collateral is included? Do they offer online delivery systems for training? How about for ordering supplies? Consider any charges associated for these services. Member buying habits and expectations are changing. For many products they no longer expect or even want face-to-face selling. That is why it is important to consider what tools the partner can deliver to assist your marketing efforts. As part of conducting your due diligence, it’s also a good idea to consult the industry trade associations on their recommendations for various partners. Most of them have programs in place that were created for the sole purpose of evaluating credit union industry suppliers and selecting the cream of the crop. Maybe it’s time to examine your financial services portfolio and who your partners are. It’s a new era, and your members are no longer satisfied with the status quo. In order to stay competitive, you need options. Offering innovative, quality, and profitable programs can help you stay one step ahead of the game – you just need to be sure you are working with a team who can deliver.</p>

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