Saturday, 23 March 2019

‘We are constantly reviewing the marketplace’

People Aug 06, 2018

Zander Insurance President Shervin Eftekhari talks the business of covering risks

Shervin Eftekhari serves as president of Nashville-based Zander Insurance Co.

The Post recently caught up with him for a brief chat.

Zander Insurance has faced criticism on various websites regarding its connection with Dave Ramsey. The arrangement involves Ramsey receiving compensation for his endorsement of your company. Can you see how some fair-minded people might be critical of this arrangement? On this note, explain your business relationship with Dave Ramsey?

Yes, I can see that [criticism]. For the last 20 years, we have proudly paid Dave Ramsey for advertising –– as is standard for companies that have a spokesperson who endorses their products or services. The practice of a credible business leader endorsing a product has been a mainstay in our business culture for decades and is carried out by all types of personalities –– whether on radio, TV, social media or other platforms.

The difference, as Dave has publicly stated, is that Dave only endorses and speaks on behalf of companies he believes in. The companies he endorses have a direct tie to products and services that he personally feels are beneficial to his audience who are seeking to eliminate debt and grow their savings. He has cut ties with numerous advertisers –– both local and national –– who do not live up to these standards. We are contractually obligated to provide the level of customer service and brand integrity he expects for his clients, or our relationship can be terminated.

Additionally, Dave’s team sends out surveys every six to eight weeks to measure the satisfaction of their audiences and clients with those people or companies that Dave recommends, monitoring various categories of service including response time, courtesy, knowledge and helpfulness. The companies then receive their results so that they can measure their efforts and focus on areas of improvement. I do not know of another partner who will go to that extent to ensure the people/companies they recommend live up to their standards.   

There are some detractors who contend Zander does not offer very competitive rates for smokers. Thoughts?

Zander is not the insurance company that takes on the risk and determines the pricing for that risk. As an insurance broker, our job is to seek out and find the best pricing and benefits that are available to our clients from an array of insurance companies. These options are based on the clients’ individual needs and personalized risk-related profile, such as their health history and other criteria that insurance companies review when pricing a policy. 

For the life insurance side, there is very little exclusivity in regard to whom an agent/broker can represent. The key is partnering with a stable of insurance companies that have an appetite for all types of risks.

For example, there are companies that prefer more affluent clients and adjust their pricing to attract more of these high-dollar policies. On the flip side, there are companies that focus on specific health risks (such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure), smaller policy values, tobacco users, pilots and those who participate in higher-risk activities. We have assembled a group of companies that allow us the flexibility to recommend insurance plans that are specific to clients’ needs, ensuring they get the best value possible. We are constantly reviewing the marketplace for not only ongoing pricing changes but also companies’ appetites for different kinds of risks. Change occurs constantly in the insurance marketplace, so it takes diligence to establish close relationships and manage the companies we represent in a way that ensures we have the lowest prices and broadest selection of products to offer.

Why did you decide to hire Phillip Maddox as director of experience?

As we continue to rapidly grow, a director of experience was a critical add to improve our brand and develop our workplace culture. Phillip’s role is, holistically, to develop and execute strategies that strengthen and evolve our workplace culture as well as our customer experience in every way.

The most immediate external impacts have been our new corporate identity and ongoing rebranding efforts. Phillip is also taking the reins on leading the redesign of our website. Internally, he’s helping to enhance our company culture by contributing to our “Zander Zone” employee lounge. He is also developing the company’s succession and mentorship program to ensure our most seasoned “guides” (previously referred to as “agents”) are given a clear path to excel while at the same time mentoring their lesser-experienced peers.

In addition to Phillip’s position, we also created a role last year for longtime employee Rebecca Jobe. Rebecca is our first director of client relations, who manages clients’ ability to directly access and provide feedback to our senior management team so that we can address any problems they may have. Clients have this access through links on our website and the signature block of all company emails, and we believe it’s a [distinctive] way to enhance the client’s experience.  

In 2013, Zander Insurance had about 73 employees. Today, the company is home to about 200 employees. What challenges — additional office space, equipment purchases, health insurance plan, etc. — have you faced handling this growth?

We are continuously growing — even now, there are many open job opportunities on our team. Over the years, there have been growing pains that we’ve navigated. The first challenge was finding a new office space in Nashville to fit our team. We found our current office building by pure luck and closed on it in 16 days. Over a four-month timeframe, we renovated the space before officially moving in July 2015. Our current challenge is the lack of parking at the office. We are currently renting the parking lot of a neighboring church, but we’ve maxed out those spaces and are on the lookout for another solution.

Another challenge has been recruiting employees in Nashville’s tight job market. We currently have over 20 positions to fill. As long as a person is trainable, they don’t need to have a background in insurance to join our team. They can simply apply by visiting our website.

Also, with a team of 200, it’s challenging to maintain personal relationships with everyone. However, I do my best to inform employees that I have an open-door policy to address any issues, concerns or challenges they are facing. Every six to eight weeks, I also have a Q&A session with each department that allows me to connect with employees in smaller groups of 10. This is an important time for us to candidly connect as a team, as our guides are encouraged to ask any questions they may have about different facets of the organization. It’s always very insightful and productive.


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