Fred Saracino

Fred Saracino

After 44 years as a State Farm agent in Emmaus, Fred Saracino’s clients often tell him to take time off and enjoy himself—and he does. But he’s in no hurry to retire. While Fred loves to have fun, he loves his work as well.

“I don’t want to retire,” Fred says. “My clients are my friends and no longer just my clients. It’s a pleasure for me to worth with them. They come in and say, ‘You taught me how to save this money!’ and ask what they should do with it now. I don’t want to release [them] to someone new in the business.”

They just don’t make ’em like Fred Saracino anymore.                 

“New agents today are not getting the opportunity to sit down at kitchen tables with their clients, to learn that they are people with families who are giving you their lives to take care of,” Fred says. “The online agents call you a policyholder. I want you to be a client. I want to know the name of your dog. I want to know about your mother-in-law’s health. I want to know everything about you. And I want you to know how things operate and work.”

Fred started working for State Farm in 1970 as an auto underwriter in the Pittsburgh area. But the job just wasn’t the right fit. He asked the insurance company to teach him how to become an agent and began his career as an agent in 1973, selling home, auto, property, life, and commercial insurance, among other products. “My office is a mile of where it’s been since the day I started,” he says.

He started as a one-man operation. Today, he has five full-time employees, all licensed agents, including his nephew, Andrew Perkins, who runs the business when Fred takes time off. “In my career, I’ve had staff with me as long as 30 plus years. Now my longest-term staff member has been with me just 10, but that’s because the others retired,” he says.

He’s also on his second—and even third—generation of clients. “A large percentage of my clients go way back,” he says. “And new generations come in, saying, ‘I remember when my father brought me in and now I’m bringing my son.’”

Jack Hilbert is one of Fred’s earliest clients. He had just graduated from college and was starting out on his own in 1973 when Fred was taking over State Farm’s Emmaus territory. His father, a client of Fred’s predecessor, referred him.

“I started out with just a life insurance policy,” Jack says, adding that he’s purchased numerous other policies over the years. “We just had a chemistry that works, and I was very happy with the result. I never shopped around. Maybe I could have gotten better rates, but I always felt Fred was really looking out for my long-term interests. It’s always been very personal service, not just professional. I absolutely consider him a friend at this point. We’ve worked together in fund-raising activities for Camelot for Children, we get together for lunch, we’ve gone through family issues. We’ve known each other in good times and bad times.”

That personal touch is key to both Fred’s success and his love of his job. “I have created an encyclopedia of friends,” he says of his clients. “These are the people that make me successful. One of my goals on any given day is to get a hug from one of my clients.”

Fred believes there still is a need for face-to-face relationships in the insurance industry.

“The industry is changing,” he says. “The internet is a good place for buying, but the online insurance companies are trying to turn our business into a commodity that is convenient to buy online. But people who buy insurance online may not know much about the coverage they’re buying, only the price. You can’t buy insurance without having knowledge. It’s very dangerous. It’s not a supermarket. You don’t pick and choose like buying cereal.”

A good agent can suggest, advise, and explain. “There’s still a place for old-fashioned service,” he says. “If people will sit down and listen, they will begin to understand that face to face is still one of the best ways to do business.”

That’s what he taught Andrew and the rest of his staff. “He’s doing what I used to many years ago. He’s always on the phone. If the phones are not ringing, you have to make them ring,” Fred says of Andrew. “I get compliments all the time on my staff. I hire on personality. You can’t teach personality. I can teach them everything else.”

“I’ve had fun cultivating my business,” Fred says. “I’ve walked down the streets of Emmaus carrying balloons. I do a fair amount of advertising. I’m very involved in the Lehigh Valley and have been very active with Camelot for Children. There is still a place for agents who are willing to talk to people and hold their hands and spend time with them.”

A past president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, a professional organization, Fred has been named to State Farm’s Chairman’s Circle and is a lifetime member of State Farm’s President’s Club, which recognizes the top 50 agents annually in various product lines (from about 18,000 agents).

To become a lifetime member, an agent must have received the award five times. He is also a past president of Camelot for Children and has volunteered for the National Ski Patrol for more than 20 years.

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