Introducing the MDRT Agency Principal Series - this is the first in a five-episode podcast series recorded at NAILBA 34 for agency principals and advisors. In this series, industry leaders share their perspectives on the state of the industry, with tips and takeaways to help you thrive in the changing landscape.
- Moderator: James Douglas Pittman, CLU, CFP, MDRT Second Vice President
- Brian Winikoff – President and CEO, Crump Life Insurance Services
- Ben Nevejans – President, LifePro Financial Services Inc.
- Victoria "Tori" Van Dusen-Roos – Principal and Head of Operations, Diversified Brokerage Services Inc.
- Ryan Pinney – Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Pinney Insurance Services
- Gonzalo Garcia – Partner, AgencyONE LLC
Click the embedded podcast below to listen - or browse our show notes below.
The State of the Industry
Here are a few take-away points panelists brought up:
- The U.S. is grossly underinsured. Why? It has to do with perception. Our message isn't getting to the consumer. Think of the way other industries have changed the way people view their product - the pork industry ("the other white meat"), the milk industry ("got milk?"), and the used car industry ("previously owned"). Some of the most important places we can be are NAILBA, AALU, and MDRT because we have a voice there. We need that to help improve the communication from our industry.
- The nature of being a retail advisor is changing. There's great opportunity on the retail side to connect with the consumer and provide solutions, not products. First, we have to understand their needs. Then we have to grow that connection point. One idea is to focus on the institutional space because they have a large number of client relationships and trusted advisors. It's hard to get those advisors' attention, though, and it takes more effort and point-of-sale work.
- One of our biggest challenges is communication. Our industry has a huge problem communicating with the consumer and how our products and help support them, their families, their businesses, and their retirement. There are also communication issues with our producers. It's our responsibility to communicate complicated products to them in a thoughtful, easy-to-understand manner. How can we overcome this? By heightening our marketing and implementing better ways to communicate with agents.
- Because we know our industry is ripe for disruption, we can head it off. We can do things that help connect us to the consumer - focusing on solutions, not products. Education is the key. Consumers are used to products they purchase with cash or credit. Insurance is purchased with your health - by giving a blood sample, a urine sample, and your physical measurements. So what kind of solutions can help us with this problem? One idea is to develop analytics that can underwrite someone almost instantaneously. This only works, however, if there are enough consumers wanting to buy in the first place, which brings us back to the problem of communication.
- Marketing is critical, but we need to fix the process of how people buy life insurance. A 30-page application and a 90-day process isn't consumer-friendly. That's why this industry will be disrupted by someone who isn't it in it today - someone like Amazon or Google.
What Advisors Can Do to Succeed
Here are a few take-away points panelists brought up:
- If you look at the stats, there are something like 10,000 Baby Boomers entering retirement every day for the next 20 years. There's a lot of awareness among them about issues like taxation, longevity, inflation risk, and market risk. What products suit all those needs? Our products. A successful advisor is going to get this message out. Yes, insurance is now sold at Costco - but that fact makes it a commodity now. Agents need to become advisors and work through a client's problems to find solutions.
- We need to make the process easier. Today's advisor might be great - but if the buying process is long and complicated, most consumers aren't willing to sit through it. We need to balance the solution and the process to make it more efficient and streamlined. Technology plays into that with things like eApplications and eSignature, but they're not the be-all end-all. You buy life insurance with your health - and you can't buy it if you've already had a health issue. We need to educate consumers, but also lawmakers and politicians. Organizations like NAILBA and NAIFA help with that. For developing sales skills, MDRT is at the forefront, helping advisors look at the market from a solutions-based approach, not a product-based one.
- The successful advisor needs to put a lot of effort into this business. Embrace technology. However, most of the emerging technology in our industry, like drop-ticket processing and ePolicy delivery, are for the benefit of the broker. They haven't necessarily made processing that much easier. Advisors must be willing to learn and educate themselves on new processes and products to support their clients.
- The successful advisor will think like an advisor, not an insurance specialist. Two specific recommendations I have are:
- Align with an organization that's embracing emerging tools, techniques, and technology that will facilitate their ability to reach consumers and do it in an effective, efficient way. These organizations have relationships with pools of consumers.
- Leverage big data. Predictive models can tell you who's interested in buying, who has a need, and who may be healthy enough to buy today. Use this as a lead-gen prospecting tool. Combine big data with a pool of consumers and you can prospect predictively. Also, leverage simplified underwriting. Can you get to a fully underwritten product using mostly publicly available information? If you can wrap this in a customer service delivery method using things like fillable forms and drop-ticket processing, now you're thinking like the consumer. This is a more productive consumer experience.
- Most consumers want advice. The idea of the robo-advisor - consumers aren't gelling to it. This is a great opportunity for us. Long-term care is growing like crazy. There's a great need for longevity and retirement solutions. People need help with these things, and it all points to our industry.