The Culture of Leadership and Support

The Primerica management team leads a company as unique in its makeup as it is dominant in its expertise.

By Tahj Condra
Premier Business Magazine, Fall 2007

Any successful and booming business draws attention to itself. With approximately 100,000 licensed representatives, Primerica Financial Services, based in Duluth, Ga., is the largest financial services marketing organization in North America. It's no wonder the spotlight keeps shining in its direction, with its unique "Co-CEO" team and continued success in educating America's neglected middle-income market about basic financial concepts to help it get on the road to financial independence.

The leaders of Primerica are John Addison, Co-CEO, and Richard Williams, Co-CEO and Chief Operating Officer: In this remarkable partnership the expected power struggles and overactive egos simply are not there. Addison and Williams were already longtime Primerica executives when they were appointed Co-CEOs. The marrying of their talents proved a natural fit. Theirs is "a fairly rare example of a successful long-term power-sharing arrangement" says Mark Supic, Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations. "You'll find in most cases that co-anything is a hard thing to pull off, but they've been doing it very successfully since 1999."

Complementary Management Styles
Addison and Williams share the same goal, which is rooted in the company's mission statement to "Help people become debt free and financially independent." But they don't share responsibilities. Each works in his respective areas of expertise, which differ as much as their personalities.

Williams primarily handles the financial and operational sides of the business. With a background in finance, he is methodical, detailed and most comfortable out of the limelight. Addison is the marketing strategist, sales leader and motivational speaker. While comfortable speaking in front of 40,000 to 50,000 people, he prefers almost anything to sitting down and poring over a spreadsheet. Ultimately, Williams and Addison collaborate on decisions, and their skills complement each other.

Along with Williams and Addison, Primerica boasts plenty of seasoned leaders, including President Glenn Williams and many others with more than 20 years of tenure with the company. Besides experience and talent; the leadership team believes in Primerica's purpose, which is a contributing factor to its overall success. "We're a cause-oriented company. We have an emotional connection to our representatives," Supic says. "We're committed to ensuring that our company and our representatives are in a position to win."

The amount of business Primerica manages every month makes it vital for the management team to work together. Primerica's business process, from pricing to formulas, is huge. Primerica has 2.4 million policies insuring 6 million clients, and the largest North American mutual fund sales force of 26,000 securities­ licensed representatives. "We have a team that fully understands not only their part, but also how it fits into the big picture," Supic says. "It helps that you have an open environment and a management team that encourages teamwork."

Operational Expertise
Primerica's top 12 executives comprise the company Planning Group, which meets each week to help manage all facets of the company and the sales force. "You've got a mixture of leaders, each with distinct responsibilities and skill sets, ranging from operations, IT and financial to marketing, legal and human resources," Supic says about the Planning Group. "If you are running an operation of this size, you need expertise in a variety of areas far beyond marketing."

The corporate culture at Primerica is unique in the financial services industry, Supic says. Employees feel a genuine commitment to both of their client groups: the legion of representatives as well as the approximately 6 million company clients. "Unlike other financial services companies, we have two client groups who we need to keep happy," he says. "We have to support our sales force properly in all aspects, including easing the licensing process, providing superior training, processing their business efficiently and providing them with great marketing tools. The bottom line is, if they don't succeed, we don't either. We take our relationship with our field representatives and our other clients very seriously."

Todd Greer, Primerica Regional Vice President from Houston agrees. "When .I think of the Primerica management team, I think leadership," Todd says. "The entire home office is such a support for us. They always have the best marketing tools we need and are constantly helping to take care of the needs of our clients. Overall, they have made it easier for us to grow our business."

IT Support
Technologically speaking, Primerica is second to none when it comes to how rapidly it processes business with relative ease and accuracy. "A large amount of our business ­insurance and mutual funds-is done by monthly bank drafts, payroll deduction," Supic says. "Our business has developed superior systems and technology over the years." Primerica also conducts periodic surveys of its life insurance clients, asking them to grade their service levels. As a part of Citigroup, Primerica has received the highest marks of any Citi company several times.

That's an impressive accomplishment, given that Primerica also averages around 30,000 insurance applications every month-and that's just for the life insurance product. The amount of daily mail Primerica receives has earned the company its own ZIP code. "The Duluth Post Office doesn't want anything to do with us, because we routinely receive over 25,000 pieces of mail every day," Supic says.

It's About Dedication
Primerica's Duluth, Ga., campus is home to 1,800 employees-there are 2,200 employees when you count other offices in Canada and Spain. "We run a very lean and efficient business here at Primerica," Supic says. "We have dedicated people who every day are looking at ways to serve our representatives and clients." For many at Primerica, it's more than a job; it's about providing superior service to the representatives so they can pass that dedication along to the families Primerica helps. Supic says, "Many of our employees have been with the company a long time-some over 20 years-and they stay because they know that they, like our reps in the field, are making a difference."