Art Williams returns and enlivens convention of Primerica agents

By Elliott Brack
GwinnettForum.com, June 21, 2013

You had to be at the Georgia Dome to understand the pent-up enthusiasm and emotions that were let loose at the 2013 convention of Primerica Inc. last week. The Duluth-based firm holds its convention every other year, bringing in top agents from around the country and rewarding them with recognition. The convention itself has a $25 million economic impact on Atlanta.

The company held the event over three days and let me tell you, it was rocking and packed when I visited at the Georgia Dome on Friday night. Earlier over two days, Primerica agents were in attendance at workshops, learning new techniques to keep the company growing through selling term insurance and mutual funds to friends and building their own teams for even more profit. Primerica says 35,000 were in attendance.

The sound was loud, the bright lights blinked, circled and illuminated the floor, the crowd was continually responding much like in a revival, and slogans flashed on screens.

At the Atlanta convention, Primerica launched its new corporate foundation, and it made its first donation to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at the Georgia Dome on Friday.  The company is making a $50,000 donation to the Centers of Hope, a program championed by Reed to give young people a place to go for educational and recreational activities. Reed presented Primerica with the Phoenix Award for the company’s contributions in metro Atlanta.

This year’s convention was particularly exciting for the company and its agents since Primerica had moved into their new international headquarters at 1 Primerica Parkway in Duluth just two weeks before. With 365,000 square feet, it is the largest office in Gwinnett County, housing 1,600 Primerica employees. Many of those attending the convention had an opportunity to tour the new headquarters for the first time.

The guy who started the firm and who preaches the technique of term insurance’s benefits, Art Williams, was the featured speaker on Friday night. Williams had the idea way back in 1977 to “buy term and invest the difference” of the term premium and cash-value insurance premium into mutual funds. This was the first time Williams had spoken at a company event since 1990, and he was welcomed as a savior might be.

It was Feb. 10, 1977, when Williams, with his zeal, recruited 85 members to be on his team “to kill cash value insurance,” aiming particularly at what was the number one insurance firm in the country then, Prudential. In 12 years, his team had recruited 225,000 agents, and the rest is history. “We took this team of new recruits to kill cash – no trash – value insurance,” he remembered. The audience loved it.

In his nearly hour-long appearance before the Friday audience, Williams first praised the current leadership, including CEO John Addison (along with Co-CEO Williams) as “Putting the heart and energy back in Primerica.” That was a backhanded reference to the time when, through several Wall Street moves, Primerica ended up as part of CitiGroup. Addison and Williams steered the company to a buy-out, and became its own New York Stock Exchange firm, independent of others, in 2010.

It was something of a triumphant return for Art Williams. Meanwhile, Primerica is on its roll, profitable, independent, with renewed vigor, and helping its many agents become themselves self-sustaining and profitable. You could feel the energy in the Georgia Dome. We anticipate those agents left there pumped-up, and willing to tackle another Goliath.