Thrivent Financial to recruit 675 reps

Mar 13, 2006 @ 12:01 am

By Gary S. Mogel

NEW YORK - Thrivent Financial for Lutherans said this month that it wants to hire 675 new financial representatives by the end of the year to sell its insurance and investment products to its mostly Lutheran target market.

The Minneapolis-based Fortune 500 company has $67.5 billion in assets under management and 3 million members. It has about 2,500 reps nationwide and added 658 last year.

Some reps are fee based, while some work on commission. As a non-profit fraternal-benefit society, Thrivent is legally permitted to hire only Lutheran reps.

According to the career center section of the company's website, Minnesota has by far the most openings, followed by Missouri and Ohio, but it is seeking reps in about 30 states.

Visible, not pushy

"While the reps are active in their churches, they don't mix religion with financial matters," said Bill McKinney, vice president of field development at Thrivent. "They want to be very visible and viewed as partners with the congregation."

Life and disability coverage are allowed by state insurance laws to be sold to Lutherans only. But the company's mutual funds and variable annuities must be available to everyone, Mr. McKinney said.

Recruiting is done mainly by networking with reps and pastors of Lutheran churches, according to Thrivent managing partner Bill Reichwald.

"For instance, we might ask the pastor whether he knows of any outgoing, people-oriented congregants who would be good at sales," he said.

The company also recruits rep trainees from private Lutheran colleges, such as Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., and Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. Recruiters also look for potential reps at state universities in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with large numbers of Lutheran students.

Once on board, the reps tend to stay longer, compared with those at other insurers and investment companies, according to Mr. McKinney.

"Turnover for our reps is considerably lower than at other firms," he said. Over the past four years, about 30% of Thrivent reps turned over.

Good savers

Most Lutherans by nature and upbringing are more thrifty and frugal than the general public, and are "good savers," according to Mr. Reichwald. For example, they often commit to saving at least 10% of their income, or target savings to specific purposes, such as their children's college education or their retirement.

"For the mutual funds, many choose the conservative funds, but there are also those that invest in the aggressive ones," Mr. Reichwald said.

Although many clients have German or Scandinavian roots and live in the Great Lakes region, no demographic generalizations can be made, he added. There are many Lutherans who are African-American, including those that emigrated from Ethiopia and Tanzania, Mr. Reichwald noted.

In addition, Florida, Texas and the West Coast have growing Lutheran populations. Mr. Reichwald estimated that there are 15 million Lutherans in the United States.

Lutherans tend to carry higher amounts of life insurance than the general population.

"They have more of a realization that they should provide for their families," Mr. Reichwald said. "Also, they are very loyal, and once they do business with a certain insurer, they tend to stay with that company."

Thrivent offers the option of investing in socially conscious mutual funds for members who want such funds, Mr. McKinney said.

But most choose to satisfy their socially conscious impulses through charitable contributions and community service. For instance, the company, through its chapter system, has invested $100 million over a four-year period in a program offered by Americus, Ga.-based Habitat for Humanity International, which builds houses for the poor.

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