Finding the Best FMO for Annuity Products: a Complete Checklist


Are you looking for the best FMO for annuity business? As almost everyone knows, FMO is short for “field marketing organization,” which also tends to be called an “insurance marketing organization” (IMO).

Finding the best FMO for annuity business isn’t a matter of just picking the right FMO, but rather the right one for YOU. Every agent and financial advisor has different needs. Are you looking for the highest-paying contracts as you are already squared away with marketing, sales, and leads? Do you write quite a bit of annuity business with your marketing and want to ramp it up? Are you looking to get a better return on your marketing, wanting to take your brand to the next level, or aiming to dial in your sales process with the right support?

    Is Your IMO Right for You? Ask These 71 Questions to Grade Them on Marketing, Product Research, Training, Support and Find Out:

    In this guide, we will go over different ways that an annuity FMO can support you, things to consider when looking for the right partner for you, and questions to ask an FMO.

    Here are some things at a high level. Is the FMO making non-biased product recommendations? Does the FMO have a sales agenda? Does the FMO return your calls and emails, including for smaller cases? Or is communication with them more like pulling teeth with the follow-up?

    Use this guide as a starting point or a process of evaluation for any FMOs for your annuity business that you are currently talking to. As a standalone marketing firm for independent agents and advisors, we have no business interest in the FMO you ultimately choose.

    What Kind of Support Do FMOs Provide for Annuity Business?

    FMOs are truly different in the support they provide you. Sure, common base supports across FMOs of all sizes include:

    • Giving access to different insurance carriers and annuity products
    • Recommending annuity products for your clients
    • Getting your business issued and you paid
    • Other back-office support so you keep selling
    • Helping with some compliance assistance

    Where the differences arise is in the quality of support in these areas, and the unique marketing, sales, and professional development programs that an FMO offers you.

    What Do Those Support Differences Look Like?

    For example, one area where annuity FMOs vary is usually the quality of service you receive. Among some FMOs, it can depend on the case sizes you bring and the overall amount of fixed index annuity business that you write.

    Small- and mid-sized FMOs tend to prioritize ‘service for all’ including middle-market and smaller producers. Meanwhile, big FMOs put most of their attention on those writing several million, or even tens of millions in fixed index annuity production.

    As mentioned earlier, a key difference among FMOs is marketing, branding, and sales development opportunities available to you through an FMO. Those programs can range greatly from being cookie-cutter or plug-and-play (but still professional) to being highly customized to your business and client focus.

    Some FMOs have in-house programs that you plug into as an individual rep and work leads or appointments they generate. These in-house programs may focus on a niche market – for example, state government employees or middle-income prospects needing long-term care planning.

    Other FMOs will have marketing vendor relationships or refined programs that you buy into and use in your practice. Those opportunities are branded for your practice, and they work as an individual marketing effort for your business. They include a seminar program, educational workshops, digital appointment setting, custom email drips, or lead gen.

    Annuity FMO Support Tied to Your… Production?

    Your potential to work with an FMO may hinge on your production. Some big shops will push you to “prove yourself” worthwhile of their support. They may not really entertain a conversation with an agent or advisor unless they write at least $3 million in fixed index annuity business a year. The more business that you write, the more attention that you will receive from them.

    Other FMOs will work with a producer that writes $1 million or more in FIA business. They may be open to working with someone who has written a few hundred thousand and proven they are willing to work hard for the long haul.

    On the other hand, a number of FMOs work with new agents. They grow their production together from the ground-up, and they provide training. Those shops aren’t the best partner for experienced producers or financial professionals with some business success under their belt.

    How Does the FMO Rank on the Fundamentals?

    No matter how big or small an annuity FMO is, our opinion is that they should score well in these areas, and there can’t be compromises:

    • Do they have a good reputation in the industry?
    • What do other agents and advisors say about them? What about online reviews, discussions on forums, and feedback in other places?
    • Do they offer competitive comp for your business – i.e., street comp for your annuity production? If you write more business, will they pay you more?
    • What do their compensation structures look like, and what are the requirements for them?
    • Do they return your phone calls and emails, especially with submitted business?
    • How long do you wait for a response?
    • Are their product recommendations tailored to your client’s needs?
    • Are they truly non-biased?
    • Do they prove it with impartial software or other objective means so that you can be confident in them?
    • Do they do a good job in scrubbing your apps and getting business placed?
    • Do they keep you updated on your submitted business?
    • Do they fix problems with your apps and put out fires with the carrier? (Producers will lose clients if things go bad, especially over an extended time.)
    • Are their marketing programs competitive? Or do they offer something that other FMOs don’t or aren’t as strong in?
    • Have they provided any competitive resources or sales tools so that you can write more annuity business?
    • Do they follow through on what they promise that they will do for you? (Of course, you need to be writing with them, too, so it’s mutually beneficial. Many agents don’t get this.)
    • Have they given you proven sales processes, tips, or tracks in order to help you close more business?
    • Did they give you marketing tips or other food for thought that helps you improve your practice?
    • Do they have relationships and vendors that they can introduce you to, depending on what you need?
    • Do they offer technology that helps you be more efficient and save time?
    • Do you get a warm experience from your marketing director/business development consultant/wholesaler?
    • Does your FMO representative give you confidence, and if they believe you might have something wrong, do they explain why in a compelling way? (This matters for clients.)
    • Does the FMO appear to be free of sales agendas that prioritize one annuity carrier or products over others?

    Since we aren’t in the financial business, we will keep this brief. The biggest strength of fixed-type annuities is their contractual guarantees. You may want to think about whether the annuity products that your FMO suggests have those guarantees.

    Ex for income planning: If your clients wants income, does the recommended fixed index annuity have an income rider that grows at a guaranteed rate? Or does the rider grow based on index performance? These details arguably matter.

    What if you run a full-service financial firm so that financial planning and managed-money products are also part of your business?

    Many FMOs run an RIA or have advisory firms that are partners. Be sure to look into any business requirements, conditions, reputation quality, resources, compliance assistance, and potential headaches that such a partner may present.

    More on FMO Sales Focuses

    Sometimes an annuity FMO will have a proprietary product relationship with a carrier. While it’s not universally true, they may push that product heavily so that they will receive bonus money from the carrier for high production.

    On the other hand, a proprietary product may also offer your client something in certain situations that it’s hard to find in other annuity products. You may want to keep an eye out for this scenario in your FMO search.

    Should You Work with a Big or Small FMO?

    Nearly all annuity FMOs offer the same carriers and products. What size of FMO is right for you, then? There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to big and smaller FMOs, and it depends entirely on what you need and are looking for.

    The Big Annuity FMO Experience

    Big FMOs will offer resources, marketing programs, branding & promotional opportunities, and business influence on insurance carriers at a scale that smaller shops don’t. They may work with tens of thousands of agents, or several hundred advisors that move tens of millions of dollars in fixed index annuity premium. There are resources at this level that can be hard for the “typical” family-run FMO to match.

    If comp is a top priority for you, a big FMO may be able to offer you more money. They might have a higher-level contract with an insurance company due to the volume they move in premium. They may give away part of their override on top of your ‘standard’ comp, but you should also assess the downsides of that (less support for your business, compliance concerns, potential chokehold on your independence, etc.).

    Note that this isn’t an across-the-board statement, however – some medium-sized FMOs also offer the potential for more money.

    Big FMOs also tend to be the ones with the proprietary product relationships with a carrier or even have a carrier exclusive deal. If that is important to you for your clients, then you may want to explore that opportunity.

    The Smaller and Medium Annuity FMO Experience

    What about smaller or mid-sized FMOs? They usually excel in the quality of service that they offer compared to big FMOs, where communication can be stilted or things siloed in between massive corporate departments.

    You might heed marketing messages from a big FMO about how they excel in service with something of a grain of salt – agents and advisors have told us many stories, good and bad, from their experiences. Not necessarily the case with everyone, but it’s good to keep in mind.

    If you are a smaller producer or are just adding annuities to your product shelf, a small- or mid-sized FMO may be a better fit for you. They tend to be better at returning calls, emails, and keeping you in the loop about business. Service is also important for many big producers, so don’t discount it if that matters to you as well and that is a better description of your current business.

    You can have more accountability at small and medium shops. You have the same person taking your calls and handling your business, so you don’t have to deal with multiple people or departments to resolve an issue.

    If you have issues that need to be addressed, you are more likely to be able to build a relationship with the owner or top officer of a small or medium FMO. That means that you can take the issue to the top if it continues.

    While big FMOs offer marketing at scale, you will find that the forward-thinking small and medium annuity FMOs also work with many of the same vendors, marketing firms, and lead gen companies.

    They may not offer the same incentives for production as big FMOs do with those relationships. But if customer service is important to you, perhaps don’t write off a smaller shop for that reason alone.

    Some Final Thoughts on Finding the Best FMO for Annuity Business

    There is no one best FMO for annuity business. We covered a lot of ground about what to look for, objectively speaking, in an FMO. The biggest question is what does the FMO offer that covers existing gaps in your practice?

    Do they offer marketing programs that will bring you more appointments? Coaching from experienced producers that will help you fine-tune your sales process? Quality service that keeps your business humming and you happy?

    The primary thing is your FMO should fill holes in your business that help you close more cases, reach more clients, and grow your production.

    If you have any questions about other things to consider, or you would like to explore FMO-free marketing opportunities that boost your online credibility and appeal to prospects for doing business with you, call us today. We look forward to being of service to you!