Farmers Insurance recently “saluted” itself in recognition of “University of Farmers,” their frequently advertised insurance school, which took 1st place in Training magazine’s 11th annual Training Top 125 awards program.
This all but forced us here at TTAI to take a closer look into the University of Farmers and give you the skinny on what it’s all about.
Is This a Joke?
The commercials seem to imply this is some sort of a joke (see the “Meatloaf” commercial or the one about the car/boat/house thing).
But nope, there is actually a physical “University” where people can attend classes. We’re unsure if there’s a Greek system though…
So why would Farmers take this approach? Well, many national “chain” insurers have sunk to the level of turning insurance into a joke for the purposes of their advertising.
Our guess is they’re trying to relate to the younger, more internet-savvy consumers, who have begun buying insurance online rather than visiting the old brick-and-mortar shops seen on every street corner in America.
So, the school is real, but what really goes on there? It certainly isn’t an accredited four-year college.
What is University of Farmers?
The University of Farmers, officially dedicated in 2006, is a 120,000 square-foot training facility in Agoura Hill, California.
There are 20 “state-of-the-art” classrooms within the facility in which they train their insurance claims and management staff, as well as their current and prospective agents on the ins and outs of their respective fields.
The claims training facility appears to take up a good bit of space, including a two-story, full-sized mock home and a mock auto bay that can house up to 20 damaged cars.
Similar to other universities nowadays, Farmers also offers thousands of online classes for their employees to complete while residing in other states…in addition to the work they complete at the facility itself.
Why Does Farmers Have a “University?”
For our purposes, we’ll discuss solely the “agent” training afforded by the “University,” as that seems to be the focus of the advertising.
Anyone in their right mind would want insurance professionals to be knowledgeable. But why have a special school…beyond each state’s requirements?
Well, captive insurers, such as Farmers, State Farm and Allstate will make just about anybody an agent, with authorization to sell their insurance products. In fact, it’s not necessary to have a background in the insurance industry to become an agent with many of these insurers.
Sure, you may have to pass a “personality” test, and maybe even prove that you have over 100 “leads” (see friends and family) to become an agent, but they profess to do the rest.
“Have your own business” is how it’s advertised! They’ll teach you how to sell policies to your friends and neighbors…if you aren’t able to meet the sales goals after that point, Grandma’s new Farmers policy is simply transferred to an agent who can “make the grade,” and you’re back to what you were doing before you convinced your 100 “leads” to purchase coverage from Farmers.
Is University of Farmers Necessary?
Not according to the Department of Insurance in any of the 50 states in our great nation.
You must pass a written exam to become a licensed insurance agent in your state, as well as complete continuing education courses every two years to maintain your “licensed” agent status.
And most independent insurance agents, those who represent multiple companies, cannot “earn” the right to sell products on behalf of insurers without proving years of experience and knowledge in the field of insurance.
The story is a little different with captive insurers though…which may explain the presence of the university.