World Financial Group Review: Sprawling financial services
A few weeks back a reader wrote in requesting a review of WealthWave.
I went over to WealthWave’s website and was met with a faceless corporation. No readily identifiable products, management or even a business model… was this even an MLM company?
Stock photos, blech. And what the heck is a “HowMoneyWorks company”???
There is a “team” section of WealthWave’s website… but access is password protected (no, seriously).
I was about to write back to the reader to request clarification I had the right company, when I spotted this in the WealthWave website footer;
WealthWave is a financial services marketing company that is associated with World Financial Group, Inc.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to deep-dive into the Wealth Financial Group rabbit hole.
I put in some good time trying to figure out why WealthWave and “How Money Works” exist. I honestly couldn’t tell you.
I’m not even sure How Money Works is a company, but both “brands” appear to be unnecessary marketing arms for Wealth Group Financial.
Just so we’re clear, there’s nothing wrong with establishing a marketing arm. Both WealthWave and How Money Works only offer vague marketing pitches.
Our slogan is ‘to disrupt the financial industry so families can dream again.’ We’re attracting leaders all across North America who are ready to position themselves to eradicate financial illiteracy and pursue the business and future of their dreams.
That’s nice… but what on Earth is your actual business?
World Financial Group launched in 2001 and is headquartered in the US state of Georgia.
Prior to 2001 World Financial Group operated as World Marketing Alliance (WMA).
WMA was founded in 1991 as Alexander Inc. by Hubert Humphrey, a former Primerica distributor.
On its website World Financial Group refers to itself as a “Transamerica company”.
Transamerica Corporation is a US ‘holding company for various life insurance companies and investment firms’.
Transamerica in turn is owned by Aegon, a “Dutch multinational life insurance, pensions and asset management company”.
Heading up World Financial Group is President and CEO Thomas Dempsey (aka Tom Dempsey).
Other than their names and titles, no information about Dempsey (or any of World Financial Group’s other executives) is provided.
Dempsey (right) joined Transamerica in 2008. He was appointed President and CEO of World Financial Group in 2018.
As far as I can tell, World Financial Group is Dempsey’s first stint as an MLM executive.
On the regulatory front World Financial Group has had run-ins with FINRA, NASD, the SEC, Missouri’s Securities Commission, Utah state regulators and Arizona state regulators.
In Canada World Financial Group has had run-ins with the New Brunswick Securities Commission, the Manitoba Securities Commission and the Mutual Fund Dealers Association.
This is an particularly high number of regulatory incidents for an MLM company.
Prior to Aeogon’s acquisition in 2001, WMA was
- fined $100,000 in 1998 after “clients lost nearly $2 million in unregistered investments”; and
- fined $125,000 in 2000 for “failing to report nearly 900 customer complaints”.
With respect to reviewing WeathWave, to keep thing simple I’m going to be reviewing World Financial Group.
Again, as far as I can tell WealthWave and How Money Works are simply marketing arms of World Financial Group – which itself is a marketing arm for Transamerica.
If you have a headache at this point I won’t hold it against you. As a reviewer World Financial Group certainly failed my own personal headache test.
Fair warning though, things only get more complicated from here.
Read on for a full review of World Financial Group’s MLM opportunity.
World Financial Group’s Products
World Financial Group markets “solutions”, including;
- financial strategies
- insurance protection
- retirement strategies
- college funding plans
- business strategies and
- estate preservation
In short a range of financial services. In addition to its parent company Transamerica, World Financial Group works with a number of US and Canadian third-party merchant services providers.
These providers are disclosed by logo on World Financial Group’s website.
Specifics are not disclosed, presumably due to the tailored nature of offered services.
I’m not holding this against World Financial Group, as this is a common issue when it comes to insurance niche MLM companies.
World Financial Group’s Compensation Plan
World Financial Group fails to provide a copy of its compensation plan on its website.
I did manage to track down a copy of an official compensation document from a third-party.
This document is dated 2015 but matches up with snippets provided on World Financial Group’s website (provided in lieu of actual compensation documentation).
Unfortunately the document is vague and missing large sections – namely in terms of explanations and company-specific terminology used.
Despite these obstacles, I’ve done my best to break down World Financial Group’s compensation plan below.
World Financial Group Affiliate Ranks
There are eight affiliate ranks within World Financial Group’s compensation plan.
Along with their respective qualification criteria, they are as follows:
- Associate – recruit three affiliates over a rolling thirty-day period and attend three field training appointments, or generate 20,000 PV over a rolling three-month period
- Marketing Director – maintain three personally recruited affiliates, have five life licensed affiliates in your downline and generate 40,000 GV, all over a rolling three-month period
- Senior Marketing Director – maintain three personally recruited affiliates (one Marketing Director), have ten licensed affiliates in your downline (at least six life licensed) and generate 75,000 GV, all over a rolling three month period, or generate 225,000 GV over a rolling twelve-month period
- Executive Marketing Director – recruit and maintain three Senior Marketing Directors and generate 500,000 GV over a rolling six-month period, or 750,000 GV over a rolling twelve-month period
- CEO Marketing Director – recruit and maintain six Senior Marketing Directors and generate 1,000,000 over a rolling six-month period, or generate 1,500,000 GV over a rolling twelve-month period
- Executive Vice Chairman – recruit and maintain nine Senior Marketing Directors and generate 1,500,000 GV over a rolling six month period, or 2,250,000 GV over a rolling twelve-month period
- Chairman’s Circle – not disclosed
- President’s Circle – not disclosed
PV stands for “Personal Volume” and is sales volume generated by the sale or purchase of World Financial Group’s products.
GV stands for “Group Volume” and is PV generated by an affiliate and their downline.
Note that for the purposes of qualification, up to 50% is counted from an affiliate’s own PV or any one of their downline legs.
World Financial Group affiliates earn commissions on their own product sales.
- Training Associates earn 25% to 30%
- Associates earn 35% to 45%
- Marketing Directors earn 50% to 62%
- Senior Marketing Directors earn 65% to 80%
The percentage range is due to some World Financial Group products paying a higher commission than others.
Other than mentioning “fixed: WRL” and a “100% table” with no context, World Financial Group’s compensation material does not go into specifics.
World Financial Group pays residual commissions via a unilevel compensation structure.
A unilevel compensation structure places an affiliate at the top of a unilevel team, with every personally recruited affiliate placed directly under them (level 1):
If any level 1 affiliates recruit new affiliates, they are placed on level 2 of the original affiliate’s unilevel team.
If any level 2 affiliates recruit new affiliates, they are placed on level 3 and so on and so forth down a theoretical infinite number of levels.
World Financial Group caps payable unilevel team levels at six.
Residual commissions are paid out as a percentage across these six levels as follows:
- level 1 – 10% to 17%
- level 2 – 5% to 8%
- level 3 – 3% to 5%
- level 4 – 3% to 5%
- level 4 – 2% to 3%
- level 5 – 1% to 2%
- level 6 – 0.5% to 1%
The percentage range is due to some World Financial Group products paying a higher commission than others.
Once again, other than mentioning “fixed: WRL” and a “100% table” with no context, World Financial Group’s compensation material does not go into specifics.
Business Supervision Commissions
Business Supervision commissions is the name World Financial Group gives to overrides.
That is commissions paid to the first ranked upline affiliates on downline sales.
There are three tiers to Business Supervision commissions:
- Branch Office Supervisors earn 1.25%
- Branch Office Managers earn 5.5%
- OSI Managers earn 1%
No information on these additional ranks is provided.
World Financial Group pays an additional 5.75% to 9% of generated company-wide sales volume across three bonus pools.
- 40% of generated volume is placed into a Base Shop Bonus Pool, paid to Senior Marketing Directors and higher (supposedly capped at “top 300 qualifiers” ???)
- 30% of level one unilevel team volume is placed into a Super Base Bonus Pool, paid to Executive Marketing Directors and higher
- 30% of generated levels one to six unilevel team volume is placed into a Super Team Bonus Pool, paid to Executive Marketing Directors and higher
In addition to rank qualification, the following additional qualification criteria must be met for each of the three pools:
- Base Shop Bonus Pool – generate 10,000 PV and maintain three personally recruited affiliates, or generate 15,000 PV with less than three personally recruited affiliates capped at three downlines, or 15,000 GV with less than three downlines
- Super Base Bonus Pool – generate 15,000 PV and 100,000 GV (only counted across level 1 of the unilevel team), note that this criteria is waived for Chairman’s Circle and President’s Circle ranks
- Super Team Bonus Pool – generate 100,000 GV across the first level of your unilevel team, and 500,000 GV across the first six levels
Note that all three pools also require “a minimum 60% Tracked Block of Business”
There’s no explanation for what a “Tracked Block of Business” actually is.
Joining World Financial Group
World Financial Group affiliate costs are not disclosed on their website.
I ran a search and found a number of sources claiming membership starts at $100.
Multiple licenses are mentioned in World Financial Group’s compensation material. The additional costs of licensing should also be taken into consideration.
My review of World Financial Group took a lot longer than it should of, because the company is pretty anti-consumer when it comes to disclosure.
And what makes this particularly infuriating, both as a reviewer and a consumer, is that I know how complicated the MLM financial services niche is.
Perhaps more than any other niche, you need to have as much information about a financial services MLM company to make an informed decision.
If you’re after any detailed information, good luck getting past World Financial Group’s “locate an agent” barrier.
This in fact is the beginning of a marketing funnel, and is testament to an outdated marketing strategy (more on that later).
With respect to compensation, World Financial Group requires recruitment just to earn break into the compensation plan (three recruits for Associate).
Is retail a focus? Not based on World Financial Group’s compensation plan or their website in general.
I did note there’s no retail volume or customer number requirements. Given you need 20,000 PV just to qualify at Associate, I imagine it’s difficult to qualify for commissions solely on your own policy spend.
That said if your three required recruits’ own policy spend volume adds up to 20,000 PV, that paves the way for chain-recruitment.
I can’t stress this enough, World Financial Group need to do a better job presenting their products and business model on their public-facing website.
With respect to offered policies, here I expect some push back due to the highly competitive nature of the financial services industry.
If you do decide to “locate an Agent”, compare what’s on offer with what you’ve got and go from there.
For those of you that go ahead with the business opportunity, if you’re handed a copy of “Six Steps to Building a WFG Business System Manual“, do yourself a favor and toss it.
Seriously. There’s no better point of reference for how outdated World Financial Group’s approach to marketing is.
The manual begins by instructing affiliates on building a prospect list of
people who you can call regarding the WFG business opportunity and the services you offer.
Compiled lists should include “people with whom you have a natural trust and pre-existing relationship” and be no less than 100 names long “to start” with.
If you’re having trouble reaching 100 names, you can try “expanding your warm market” by “friendship farming”.
You may think you are too busy to have more friends, but this is the lifeblood of your business.
Once you have established friendships with these new acquaintances, they will be more open to an invitation.
Start with the intent of making new friends, rather than the intent of inviting someone.
That last sentence makes no sense, considering the whole reason someone is friendship farming in the first place is to expand a list of prospects.
And imagine being the poor sap who thinks they’ve made a new friend, only to be hit with a hard “wAnNa JoIn My MlM?” sell.
There are four things to keep in mind, in this order, when casually visiting with someone you just met. This is known as FORM (Family, Occupation, Recreation and Message).
Find something in common with this person. Discover a reason to connect again later. Obtain a business card or contact information.
If they inquire about what you do, give a brief, truthful answer and quickly turn the conversation back to them.
Because y’know, people love realizing their friendship has been abused for potential financial gain.
And as a last resort if you can’t bring yourself to pillage new friends, raid friends of your existing friends (if you have any left at this point).
Another way to build your warm market is through Friendship Borrowing.
Borrowing the warm market of people who already know and trust you is known as Friendship Borrowing, or the process of getting quality referrals.
Even though you don’t know them, these people are considered your warm market because you are “borrowing” the trust they have in their friend who referred them.
If you manage to somehow not send everybody you know running off screaming, here’s where World Financial Group’s “we’re not providing you with any specifics” approach comes into play.
Don’t get into extensive questions and answers.
For you, as a new associate, it’s premature to offer extensive answers as you may not know all the information, instead let them hear it from WFG’s experienced leadership.
In fact World Financial Group refers to having enthusiasm, creating curiosity about the business and attempting to answer questions as a “scenario of disaster” (page 14).
Avoid the Scenario of Disaster. If you start answering too many questions, it takes the edge off the prospect’s curiosity.
Honestly if you can’t answer questions about the products and services you’re marketing, maybe marketing isn’t for you.
And if that’s by design on behalf of the company you’re working with, demand better.
I could go on and on about the disaster that is World Financial Group’s “system manual”…
Just because someone has been contacted and declines does not mean you should never contact them again about the opportunity.
It stands to reason that the more times you make contact, the more they’ll learn bout WFG, and the greater the likelihood he/she will say yes to your invitation.
…but I’m going to leave it there. I’ve covered up to page 17 of the manual, there’s another forty-one pages to go through (god help you).
Oh and in case your wondering, the words “retail” and/or “customer” don’t appear anywhere in the fifty-eight page manual.
And remember, this is officially how World Financial Group recommends affiliates build their business.
What initially struck me as odd is that neither Transamerica or Aegon appear to be small corporations. Throw in World Financial Group being around for almost two decades now, how is it their approach to marketing feels so outdated?
While the obvious answer is poor management, I’m going to hypothesize it might have something to do with Transamerica’s financial services background.
When I’m considering a financial service or product (bank account, credit card, loan etc.), who is running the financial institution isn’t part of my research.
I want to know policy details, what I’ll be up for and, if possible, experiences from other customers.
From that perspective I totally understand why World Financial Group is set up the way it is. I’m not saying it’s a desirable approach, just that I get it.
The problem is World Financial Group itself isn’t a financial services company – it’s first and foremost an MLM opportunity.
That needs a personal touch, which as I hope I’ve demonstrated by now, is non-existent.
From the moment you try to understand what World Financial Group offers as an MLM company, you’re funneled into a horrendously outdated marketing system.
If you make it through that, you’re then expected to then adopt said system and cannibalize your own friends and family, their friends and family… and so on and so forth, until presumably someone punches you in the face and brings you back down to Earth.
Pending a complete overhaul of how World Financial Group approaches its MLM opportunity, starting with its website, consumer disclosures and extending through to their recommended marketing practices, I’ll leave you with this…
If anyone befriends you and then hits you with a “system manual” World Financial Group opportunity invitation;
For your own sake, run.