Basically you have to look in the mirrow and decide what kind of person you are. Going Captive is basically operating more or so like a employee that will answer to the boss. Now a lot of people need this if only as a transition period to build up the needed ability to be your own boss. To go Independent you best know how to be your own boss! Get up in the morning and do what is needed to be done, make calls, mail out your mailings make more calls. Be prepared fully when you go out to appointments, have all needed paperwork and be upbeat and motivated.
No doubt about it being Independent is the way to go for the most part but it takes a certain type of personality, a personality trait that isn't taught at schools but by your parents and enviroment, only you know that answer!
Education of products, I really don't see how being captive helps out on this except you'll have less products or less diversification of products, yet you can do that yourself. Go out and pick a few companies to offer, such as Term by AIG and WL by Mass Mutual and UL by whomever. Learn those products like the back of your hand!
Selling, read books, forums, blogs etc etc.. If needed find a fairly succesful agent in your area and offer him/her a split if they will run appointments with you and take the lead till you are confident to be the lead agent. You make the appointment and they sell, make it a 50/50 split.
There is more to consider than just the compensation schedules at first glance. I'm independent and started in the independent channel. That being said, I started much slower as a result. Not only will the captive channel provide training, but the compensation schedule can be close to the independents if your producing. The general commission schedule will be lower, but after office space, production & persistency bonuses, trips, benefits, deferred compensation, and expense allowances, you may find a competitive contract. If I was to do it all over again, I would probably look at Mass Mutual due to the training and ability to broker through a GA at a later point than loose all my business if I left a shop like Northwestern Mutual. Make sure you ask a lot of questions!
Product knowledge in a captive agency comes with experience, you learn as you go. I started my insurance career at Northwestern Mutual and had 3 weeks of training, which consisted of 2.5 weeks of sales training and developing my marketing plan and 3 days of product information which gave me the tools to learn the product, but I had to do it on my own. IMO, captive agencies give great sales training and are great to learn the business.
Captive agencies are also a farmhouse for "orphan policies" Most agents sell to their family and friends and can't sell anything past that low hanging fruit and fail out of the business...leaving the policies they sold with no agent, but still making money for that captive insurance company.
Yes. Some carriers offer them individually and some FMO's offer them as well. One FMO I use offers two trips per year. And this includes all life, disability, annuity and long term care business from multiple carriers. This year the trips you qualify for (2008) are The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs and Switzerland.
There are other FMO's that offer similar trips. As I stated above, some carriers offer trips individually as well. The great thing about FMO's offering trips is that you can earn the trip using multiple carriers and multiple product lines.