NAIFA is proud to welcome Underwriters Marketing Service, our newest NAIFA 100% agency!
When Mary Ann Lacey-Gray, CLTC, began working in 1965, there weren’t many career options for women. She joined the insurance and financial services industry as a secretary at Fireman's Fund Insurance Company (FFIC) and quickly rose through the ranks. Driven to succeed, she seized every opportunity she could to learn and grow. She took on more and more responsibility and soon became an area sales manager.
When FFIC changed its business model, removing salaried positions in favor of commission-based income, Lacey-Gray was one of the few who stayed. She describes her mindset at the time, saying, “I can do it. I've already led the way. Because I've had a very successful pattern, as long as things continue the way they are, I'll be fine.” Lacey-Gray ended up being more than fine, earning a six-digit income soon after and winning Eagle Awards year after year.
One of Lacey-Gray's greatest pursuits has been trying to help break the glass ceiling for women in business. She calls her mantra “skirt power” (updated to “shirts and skirts power” for the 21st century), summed up as “There are a lot of women that thrive in the business. We can make our own way.”
A Winning Business Model
Lacey-Gray founded Underwriters Marketing Service (UMS) in 1984, providing back-office support for agents and advisors. It was a small operation at first. As Lacey-Gray explains, “I decided to start Underwriters Marketing Service from scratch because there wasn't going to be space for someone like me [in the corporate world].” UMS started on the second floor of a storefront in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, with Lacey-Gray and one part-time employee. They used the space’s bathtub for filing and the 5’8” ceiling meant that many of their clients had to stoop when they entered.
Rising from these humble beginnings, UMS began to grow and thrive. Lacey-Gray utilized her connections from her time with FFIC and quickly built a portfolio that was more expansive than just one company. From personal experience, she knew that the best way to ensure stability was to work with professionals across several companies. From the beginning, her goal was simple: she wanted to make sure that none of her employees ever had to worry about their job. Today, all of UMS’s leaders have been with the company for over 25 years.
Changing With the Times
Lacey-Gray built UMS on providing support for life insurance, annuities, and individual and group health insurance. As the industry changed, UMS changed with it, offering support for more disability and long-term care insurance options as they became more popular. UMS has also adapted to changing technology and business management practices over the decades, now operating an entirely paperless business. As the industry faces challenges with staffing due to early retirement and movement toward remote work, UMS perseveres.
Lacey-Gray has high hopes for the future of the industry, currently serving as secretary and treasurer of the Federation of Americans for Consumer Choice (FACC), and UMS embraces the opportunity to help main street Americans.
We’re #NAIFAproud to welcome Underwriters Marketing Service as our newest NAIFA 100% Agency.