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3 Advanced Planning Strategies to Skyrocket Your Life Insurance Sales

handheld tablet device in portrait orientation in a living room

It’s no secret that life insurance advanced planning can lead to some pretty large premiums. The challenge is uncovering these sales and then feeling comfortable identifying and presenting the solutions.

We have identified 3 ideas in our Producer Guide that make it easy to become an advanced planning expert. We cover the opportunities, conversation starters, and how it works for each of these strategies:


Many high-income and high-net worth individuals will be taxed on most of their retirement income, including their Social Security benefits. Are your clients prepared to pay taxes on all of their retirement income?


As your clients begin work on developing their estate plan, a key consideration is the fair and equitable distribution of assets to heirs. However, there are times where doing so may not be practical. In situations where a large portion of an estate is a business or other non-liquid asset, a client may want the asset to go into the hands of those that have interest. Life Insurance may prove to be a useful tool in helping to ensure a proportionate inheritance.


A buy/sell agreement gives business-owners peace of mind knowing that their business is in capable hands in the event of their death or departure. A life insurance policy is one of the most efficient methods of funding these agreements.

Your partnership with Zenith Marketing Group provides you access to a host of advanced planning experts and attorneys, within Zenith Marketing Group, our parent company Ash Brokerage, and our carrier partners.

Don’t be intimidated by the idea of offering advanced planning services; we’ll make it easy for you.

Download Your Guide Now

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Mike’s Musings: Sometimes Change Can Be A Game Changer!

Life Insurance Policy Terms of Use Concept

Decades ago, as a Captain in the Air Force, I was given a diaper at my going away luncheon by a First Lieutenant who worked with me.  She said it was to remind me to embrace change in my future undertakings.  Even then, she recognized that change was difficult for me (as it is for most everyone else).

Remember when the airlines issued only paper tickets?  When they started to move to electronic tickets – before cell phone apps were readily available, I wasn’t thrilled.  Since I traveled almost every week back then, I asked my corporate travel agency to always issue me paper tickets.  And they did.  That worked fine until I forgot a paper ticket at my office and never realized it until I was running for a connecting flight.  I got on the flight but vowed never to use a paper airline ticket again.

In our industry, whenever I have taken a life insurance or annuity application in the past, I always used paper.  In fact, I’d take a couple of blank applications to the client meeting just in case I made a mistake.  And I knew that my brokerage general agency (Zenith) would ‘scrub’ the application before sending it to the carrier so I was never too concerned about being 100% in good order (IGO).

A few years back, insurance carriers started to move to electronic applications and online accelerated or streamlined underwriting programs; but since they still accept paper, I stuck with paper.  The idea of saving a few days in the underwriting process didn’t seem worth losing control by using these new processes.

That all changed in the past few weeks and now I’m sold on these streamlined processes.

I received a call from a prospective new client a few weeks ago whose 10-year term was expiring.  He had just moved close to where I lived, and a friend referred him to me to help find him a new competitive term policy.

He told me he was in excellent health taking no meds, etc.  I quoted a very competitive 10 and 20-year term product.  The hitch?  It was a product that required a complete online experience, including: submission utilizing eApplication, eSignatures and eDelivery.  But the upside for him would be no medical technician visiting him to draw blood or collect urine.  This process only requires a personal history interview (PHI), and motor vehicle and prescription drug database checks.  He was pretty excited about this new streamlined process as it was a far cry from what he went through 10 years earlier.  I still wasn’t completely comfortable, but my client was willing to try it, so I took the opportunity to familiarize myself with this new world.

My client decided on the face amount and policy duration, and we set up a time for me to take the online application.  I could not believe how easy the process was.  I just ran the quote on the Zenith Producer Portal and clicked “Apply” next to the term rate. For the first time ever, I didn’t have to ask for any intrusive medical-related questions.  I didn’t have to ask his income.  When I finished the input in about 20 minutes, I received a message that the application was in good order and ready to send to the client. He agreed to wait on the phone and almost immediately after hitting the ‘send’ button, he received the application.  Within a few minutes he electronically signed the application and sent it back to me for my eSignature.  Then it was sent to the insurance company electronically.

Now the big worry on my part: Will my client be happy with the process?

I told him that the insurance company will call in the next 48 hours and how important it was to take the call and make an appointment for the PHI.  Otherwise the process could get slowed down.  As part of the eApplication process, the insurance company also sent him a worksheet so he could capture the information they will ask beforehand such as current doctors, medications, etc.

My client emailed me the day he finished the PHI.  I told him that it may be a bit of time before we get the results as I fully expected at least a week before I heard anything.

The next day, my case manager called to let me know that the insurance company issued a policy for him at the best nonsmoker rate class – as applied for.  I was impressed!  But not as impressed as my client!  He couldn’t thank me enough for the quick, painless process.

A few days later, I received the policy electronically to review and then forwarded it to him.  Within a few minutes, he paid the first premium by credit card and it was inforce.

I’m now a convert to the streamlined underwriting process.  Sure, it won’t work for every policy you sell, but it will make your life easier for many of the cases you do sell.

It won’t be long before these programs expand to larger face amounts and ages, ultimately becoming the only way to submit new business. Please reach out to me or your Zenith Marketing brokerage representative to help you stay ahead of curve by walking through the use of an electronic streamlined underwriting process on your next case.  You’ll be glad you did.

Michael S. Pinkans, CFA, is Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer for Zenith Marketing Group with headquarters in Freehold, N.J.

Investment adviser representative and registered representative of, and securities and investment advisory services offered through Voya Financial Advisors, Inc. (member SIPC).  Zenith Marketing Group, LLC is not a subsidiary of nor controlled by Voya Financial Advisors, Inc.


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LTC Protection and Women


When you speak with your female clients, do you truly emphasize the importance of planning for future care?  Do you stress that, more often than not, the caregiving role is taken on by a woman, and that they will most likely live long enough to need care themselves?

These truths make it extremely important that you are addressing the long-term care needs of your female clients!

Unfortunately, too many people think “it won’t happen to me”.  Well, here are some statistics:

65% – the percentage of Long-Term Care Insurance claims paid to women over men. Of this, the majority of those claims paid for home care and were opened over age 80.

Women provide the majority of care. \
Today, 7 in 10 unpaid caregivers are women, mostly wives and adult daughters.

  • Women who spend 9+ hours a week caring for an ill or disabled spouse double their risk of coronary heart disease
  • Women don’t abandon their caregiving responsibilities because of employment but they lose an average of $25,484 in Social Security benefits, and some $565,000 in lifetime earnings and $67,000 in pension benefits

 Women live longer than men.
As a result, women are more likely to reach an age where they will need long-term care.

  • Women over the age of 65 are twice as likely to be living alone
  • Women over the age of 65 include 980,000 nursing home residents versus 337,000 men

Ask your female clients: “What will happen if and when you need care?” “Who will provide it?” “If you have to hire caregivers, how will the cost impact your savings and assets?”

Look at it this way – how would an extra bill of $50,000 – $100,000 a year impact your clients’ retirement? 

Be the long-term care insurance expert for your clients – we can help answer your questions and get your clients the affordable protection that best suits their needs!

*Statistics published by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance

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Mike’s Musings: Show Your Clients a Valuable Alternative


How many of you remember when Guaranteed Universal Life (GUL) first arrived into the marketplace? When it first came out, it was just a regular universal life contract which built up cash values based on an assumed interest rate and if the client added the guarantee rider and agreed to pay the higher, stipulated premium to keep the contract in-force, it was fully guaranteed. And because it was a rider, it could be dropped at any time if the customer paid less than the required premium to keep the guarantees.

But the real point is that the contract also provided cash value accumulation. It provided some consumer value. It also still required an insurance producer to ‘sell’ this permanent contract over term. That was the early to mid 1990’s.

And then there was a race to the bottom by the carriers. Specific GUL contracts were introduced that had (and still have) the full guarantees built into the contract with a focus on depressing or eliminating cash values. No cash value accumulation means no contract flexibility, such as loan availability. That is what allows the guaranteed premiums to be lower and more competitive.

Not only did we lose cash values within a GUL, but I believe we lost a lot more. Many insurance producers lost the art of selling. The sale became about being able to find the lowest, guaranteed GUL premium for a client.  Many producers just told the client that they can find the cheapest GUL around.

If you’re a producer that is looking to separate yourself from the pack, start showing your clients some of the GUL options offering valuable consumer enhancements. One great example is Guaranteed Universal Life with a Return of Premium (ROP).  The ROP can be a percentage of premium (up to 100%) available if surrendered at certain point in time (15, 20, or 25 years). Other carriers go a bit further by also adding the possibility of an LTC/Chronic Illness/Critical Illness rider to this type of contract.

Now of course, these types of policies cost more than the lowest cost GUL; but consider the value it can provide to a client.

Try incorporating one of these value-add contracts into a hedge strategy for your clients. Maybe 50% of the death benefit covered by a straight GUL and the other 50% using a GUL with ROP. This would provide a bit more flexibility to the client than straight GUL without having to pay the full premium amount for GUL with ROP.

Ever have a client of yours go through a divorce? And they had to provide death benefit coverage for a period of time to an ex-spouse? GUL with an ROP rider may be a strong fit.

For your next few cases, ask your clients a few additional questions about the possibility of needing a bit more flexibility in a guaranteed for life (GUL) contract. Ask how important to them it would be to accelerate the death benefits for living benefits covering LTC, chronic illness or critical illness protection. And then show a couple of alternatives. I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Michael S. Pinkans, CFA, is Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer for Zenith Marketing Group with headquarters in Freehold, N.J.

Investment adviser representative and registered representative of, and securities and investment advisory services offered through Voya Financial Advisors, Inc. (member SIPC).  Zenith Marketing Group, LLC is not a subsidiary of nor controlled by Voya Financial Advisors, Inc.


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Best Interest Rule Rises from the DOL Rule’s Ashes

The DOL Fiduciary Rule, while officially dead, has been somewhat resurrected by New York State.

While the Obama-era regulation known as the Department of Labor (DOL) Fiduciary Rule officially died a silent death in June 2018, New York State took matters into their own hands on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, by issuing a final regulation that would raise the standard of care for life and annuity sales.

What does this mean for you if you do business in New York?

The New York State measure, which takes effect August 1, 2019 for annuities and February 1, 2020 for life insurance would require insurers to establish the proper policies and procedures that would ensure a ‘best interest’ definition as follows: “only the interests of the consumer shall be considered in making the recommendation. The producer’s receipt of compensation or other incentives permitted by the Insurance Law and the Insurance Regulations is permitted by this requirement provided that the amount of the compensation or the receipt of an incentive does not influence the recommendation.”

New language for Producer Duties include: “in making a recommendation, a producer, or an insurer where no producer is involved, may weigh multiple factors that are relevant to the best interests of the consumer including, but not limited to, the benefits provided by the policy, the price of the policy, the financial strength of the insurer, and other factors that differentiate products or insurers.”

Also, the new New York State best interest regulation contains a warning about using certain titles: “A producer shall not use a title or designation of financial planner, financial advisor or similar title unless the producer is properly licensed or certified and actually provides securities or other non-insurance financial services. Although a producer may state or imply that a sales recommendation is a component of a financial plan, a producer shall not state or imply to the consumer that a recommendation to enter into a sales transaction is comprehensive financial planning, comprehensive financial advice, investment management or related services unless the producer has a specific certification or professional designation in that area.”

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which promulgates suggested legislation for states to approve on a more uniform basis, has an annuity working group that is looking at changing its annuity suitability rule to a best interest standard.

There is no current movement by the NAIC to work on a best interest standard for life insurance.

So, as a producer in New York, get ready to supply more suitability information to the carriers to satisfy the new best interest rule. While not onerous, it will be one more form to complete.

More importantly, be careful how you market yourself in New York.  Do not use a financial planner title if you’re not actually doing financial plans or are not licensed to sell securities or not providing other non-insurance financial services.

With the NAIC working on revised annuity suitability standards, expect, at the very least, that over time, new best interest annuity standards will be endorsed by other states. As for life insurance best interest standards outside of New York, we’re still in a wait-and-see mode.

For most of you, the upcoming changes in New York will be a non-event as you already follow a best interest rule. Now it will just need to be documented.

As always, if you have any further questions about the New York or proposed NAIC changes, feel free to reach out to Zenith Marketing Group at (800) 733-0054 at any time.

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Inaccurate Marketing

Young business man asking to stop right there

In one of the airports I frequent, I see ads for an advisory firm touting its low investment fees and showing comparisons of projected investment returns utilizing low and higher investment fees with the conclusion being that lower fees are better.

When I overnight in that city, I also see this firm’s television ads, again touting their view that lower investment fees are always better than higher fees.

I’m reminded of that modern Latin phrase, ceteris paribus, meaning “all else being equal”. So, lower investment fees are better than higher ones, ceteris paribus.

What’s the difference? Let’s use an example outside of our industry. My good friend Neal is an excellent real estate attorney. He’s helped me purchase a couple of homes, refinance those homes, etc. and I recommend him in a heartbeat, as I have to my own children, and to anyone needing a real estate attorney. Plus, his hourly fees are extremely reasonable. But what if I need a top-notch securities attorney to represent me? On an hourly basis, Neal would be much less expensive than any securities attorney. So, would Neal’s lower hourly fees be better for me? Probably not, because ceteris paribus, Neal does not have the requisite knowledge base required to help me with securities issues. It’s not Neal’s fault, it’s just not his area of expertise.

In the past, when I’ve seen this firm’s ads at the airport or on television, I’ve just chuckled to myself until I received an unsolicited booklet from them in the mail recently.

Again, the discussion about lower versus higher investment fees was presented. Also, a clear focus on utilizing indexed funds is preferred by this advisory firm which is a contributing factor for their lower fees. I know there is a heated debate between passive and active investment management and that’s a discussion for another day, though there is some correlation to fee structure inherent to each. I’m sure that even within passive investment devotees, there’s probably opinions relating to indexed funds compared to exchange traded funds (ETFs).

I’m convinced that there is no one right answer for all clients. But here is what I take issue with in this firm’s booklet:

“A large corpus of academic work shows that investors in low-fee index funds, practicing what is called ‘passive’ investing, long-term outperform almost all active mutual funds, stock pickers, annuity products, and whole-life insurance concepts.”

Can you compare low-fee index funds to “annuity products and whole-life insurance concepts”?

What low-fee index fund can provide guaranteed growth and income for life? Only annuities and certain life insurance contracts.

What low-fee index fund can provide guaranteed chronic illness/long-term care protection? Only certain annuities and life insurance contracts.

What low-fee index fund can provide guaranteed death benefit coverage? Only certain annuities and life insurance contracts can.

If your business model is predicated on low-fee investing, so be it. I’m not in the least bit against that. But, ceteris paribus, the marketing materials used should be fair and unbiased and, in this case, either delete references to annuities and whole-life insurance or better yet, acknowledge that these products could be so different than what is available through normal investment channels that they need to be considered and incorporated within the investment plans of many clients.

Michael S. Pinkans, CFA, is Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer for Zenith Marketing Group with headquarters in Freehold, N.J.

Investment adviser representative and registered representative of, and securities and investment advisory services offered through Voya Financial Advisors, Inc. (member SIPC). Zenith Marketing Group, LLC is not a subsidiary of nor controlled by Voya Financial Advisors, Inc.



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Top 4 Things You Should Know About Health Care Costs In Retirement

Doctor Examining Female Patient With Elbow Pain

Countless Americans are unaware that retirement and health care are linked. 1 in 3 Americans have $0 saved for retirement and many are falling short in estimating and preparing for out of pocket health-related expenses.

Below are 4 things to keep in mind when preparing for health expenses in retirement:

Retiring couples should set aside $280,000

Couples retiring this year may need about $280,000 to cover health care and medical expenses over the course of their retirement, according to a new report from Fidelity. The estimate represents a 2% increase from last year. Fidelity’s estimate applies to those with traditional Medicare insurance coverage and considers premiums, copayments, deductibles, and out of pocket drug costs. It excludes the cost of a nursing home or any long-term care you may need.

There are certain tax strategies that can help

Check with your tax advisor about the concept of bunching large deductible expenses.

Health is a concern for retirees

Health care expenses represent the number one threat to retirement savings and are a vital part of a retirement income plan. Unexpected health care needs and costs are a major issue, especially for the chronically ill. Older people usually have greater health care needs and may need frequent treatment due to a number of different health-related issues. Research shows that health care expenses are increasing each year. Retirees may need to rely on a combination of personal savings, pensions, housing equity, and work to cover the expenses. The most effective way to deal with health risks is with insurance.

Medicare is facing a bleak financial outlook

Medicare is facing a bleak financial outlook due to the aging population and other factors. Although reforms are not in the immediate future, Medicare’s trustees want Congress to adopt solutions sooner rather than later. According to the latest report of the trustees of the Social Security and Medicare programs, Medicare’s main hospital trust fund is expected to be depleted by 2029, at which time general revenue, payroll taxes, and other funds will be available to meet only around 88% of expected spending. This could mean even more onus will be put on the individual to cover expenses.

The best advice is to save as much as you can and to strive to have money saved to pay for health-related expenses in retirement. Understanding the risks that can come between you and the retirement you want is a crucial step towards meeting your retirement goals.

The key is planning.  There are types of life insurance and fixed annuities available that may help to mitigate costs in retirement. And don’t forget the possible effects a long-term care event could have on planning as well. A long-term care event could wreak havoc on an otherwise well-planned retirement, so make sure your clients know their options.

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Dodd-Frank’s Banking Rules Rolled Back


It was another one of President Trump’s early promises: an overhaul of the Dodd-Frank law that significantly tightened rules on banks and other financial institutions after the Great Recession of 2008.

On Tuesday, May 22, 2018, it happened. In a rare bipartisan vote, Congress passed changes to the Dodd-Frank law which is expected to be signed by President Trump.

How will this change affect consumers and business owners?

  • The rollback would allow many regional banks (under $250 billion in assets) to avoid mandatory annual stress tests and other financial hurdles.
  • Lower capital requirements would apply to banks known as ‘custody’ banks. These are banks such as State Street Corp. which predominately hold clients’ assets for safekeeping rather than actively involving themselves in lending of that money.
  • Many banks would be able to buy state and local government bonds easier than today.
  • The bill makes it easier for banks to provide commercial real-estate lending.
  • Banks with under $10 billion in assets could make speculative investment bets by being exempt from the Volcker rule.
  • Smaller banks would file shorter financial reports and be examined less frequently.
  • Banks would be provided access to a Social Security database to match social security numbers to a name and date of birth to help minimize fraud.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be required to use alternative methods outside of a person’s FICO score to determine credit worthiness.

So, the new bill provides less regulatory hurdles for many banks, allows more aggressive investment management and some looser requirements for mortgage lending. This should benefit consumers and business owners as increasing bank profits could lead to more competition for the consumer wallet.

In the short term, this could help the U.S. economy and the insurance business as more disposable income for individuals and businesses can only help loosen the purse strings on buying decisions.

But long term, could you imagine smaller banks making speculative investment risks without oversight? Could you imagine mortgage loans to riskier customers that ultimately default?  Sounds all too familiar. Already consumer credit card debt is at its highest levels. We’ll have to wait and see.

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This Is My Story: How My Father Influenced My Future

family holding hands

Growing up, I always believed I had the white-picket-fence-middle-class lifestyle. I had two older sisters and two loving parents who only wanted the best for our family. When I graduated high school, my father asked what I wanted to focus my studies on through college. I expressed to him “anything other than what you do”, for he had spent over 30 years in the insurance industry reaching as high a position as the comptroller for a company.  He tried to express to me how helping others is a very gratifying feeling.

Within 3 months of starting my freshman year at college, everything changed for our family. My father was diagnosed with Stage 1a/1b Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Back in 1988, we were told my father was going to beat the cancer within 6 months. Three months later – one day before my father’s 53rd birthday – my father suddenly collapsed and passed away.

Our world had changed in a heartbeat. 

It took me a few hours to truly process that the person that I looked up to was no longer in my life. I went for a much needed walk by myself late that night until the early morning hours. As I was trying to wrap my brain around the instantaneous changes that were taking place in our family’s world, I came to the conclusion that maybe the passing of my father was his way of expressing to me that I needed to learn life lessons by trusting my own judgement.

I realized then that even though I was the youngest in the family, I would do anything to protect them. One of my other sisters was finishing up her last year in college, while my stay-at-home mother was now being thrust into the workforce.

I’m not sure what would have happened to my family if my father did not have life insurance. 

That my father had life insurance for the “what if’s” in life really helped me have a better understanding of the importance of protecting your loved ones. There are many different ways to utilize life insurance in today’s world. When my father passed away, it was there to help keep my family afloat and allowed me to recognize a path to potentially help others with situations similar to my family’s.

Protecting individuals and families with life insurance is my way of paying it forward. My father is “my why”.

Lee Halperin is Sales Vice President for Zenith Marketing Group, LLC.

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Why We Do What We Do

Business people in a video call meeting

Prior to rejoining Zenith Marketing Group on May 1st, I was employed by a very focused organization, catering to a specific market niche with the ultimate goal of selling cash value life insurance.  So, for the past 18 months, I was isolated from “brokerage”.

I don’t use social media tools like Twitter or Facebook because they can be challenging for broker/dealer compliance; instead, I rely on LinkedIn.  I use LinkedIn because it’s a business-to-business network.  I use it because it’s a “professional” network with an additional benefit of connecting, or trying to connect with, individuals who you may have worked with years, or decades ago.

But I’m noticing two disturbing trends on LinkedIn: self-promotion and, as it pertains to insurance brokerage since most of my connections are from that area, individuals and brokerage general agencies blasting out blatant product and commission announcements.

I’ve marveled at some of the ineffective posts I’ve seen recently:

  • I received my [fill in the blank] designation. Here is a picture of me holding it. I would be more concerned about a “value-match” we would have in determining whether to do business together rather than knowing you can pass an exam.
  • Have you ever considered selling [fill in the blank] whole life contracts? They have an [filll in the blank] rating. Isn’t it more useful to tell me why I’d want to consider presenting one type of contract over another?
  • Exclusive annuity: [fill in the rate] for 5 years! Top commissions. I knew that already.
  • Check this out: We can pay you [fill in the blank] commission on your next sale. Yeah, that’s the reason I entered the financial services business. Why can’t someone tell me how to sell more and increase my revenue overall?

And the list goes on and on.

Why can’t individuals and agencies on a business-to-business network tell me how to increase my revenue or be more effective in my sales process?

Why are individuals and agencies so quick to tell you what they do or what they’ve done – not why they do it?

After all, aren’t we in a relationship business?  Unless I share with you “why” I do what I do, I’m just like everyone else telling you “what” I do.  And “what” just doesn’t have the same emotional attachment.

I believe there is no nobler profession than protecting American’s assets and livelihoods. I absolutely love the business that we’re in.  I believe it’s always better to protect what you have, than chase the accumulation mentality. A lot of people will tell you how wealthy they can make you. Very few will tell you that they will protect you from becoming poor.

I believe that most people aren’t financially sophisticated.

I also believe that anytime money changes hands, problems can arise.

I believe that insurance company representatives market their products as “the best”. It’s not their fault – they sell what they have and I was certainly guilty of this when I worked for a carrier.  But this creates a lot of noise.  I believe producers and registered representatives need unbiased guidance to cut through the marketing spin from the carriers.

Many registered representatives don’t focus on insurance sales for a wide variety of reasons.  I believe these registered representatives would benefit by partnering with a focused brokerage general agency to offer the protection insurance provides.  I believe in sharing the value of protecting assets and more importantly, streamlining the process.

All these reasons are why I do what I do.  They’re my passion.

Now you know my “why”.   And it’s the reason I rejoined Zenith Marketing Group.

Sure, there are a lot of brokerage general agencies out there.  And most are all the same.  Let me help you understand why we’re different.

Mike Pinkans, CFA, CFP is Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer for Zenith Marketing Group, LLC.