September 29, 2011

Insurers’ Financial Strength Growing Concern for Insurance Agents

Competitive product line is top priority among insurance agents

More than one-quarter of producers consider an insurer’s financial strength when choosing which firm to place annuity business with, a report released Tuesday by LIMRA found. Although it’s not the top factor in their decision, the number is up from 16% in 2008 and 2003.

“While awareness of insurers’ financial strength has increased for producers, a competitive product line remains by far the number one consideration for producers when choosing a company with which to place their traditional fixed life insurance business,” Denise Marvel, assistant research director for LIMRA Distribution Research, said in a statement.

According to the study, “What Producers Value: From Companies and Independent Intermediaries in 2011,” the most important type of service or support provided by carriers is training, especially product training.

Technology support was also important, including online access to client records, new business status and commission reporting, and consolidated client statement reporting. Sixty percent of producers rated their carriers as good or excellent in this area.

Producers indicated point-of-sale support, business development support and operational support were valuable, but LIMRA notes that these areas individually don’t represent a large portion of producers. Together, however, half of producers said they were “most important.” Companies will need to consider their distributors’ business models to know which programs to develop that will be most useful, according to LIMRA.

While business support is important to agents, this is a relationship-driven business. Half of producers said they prefer working with a local firm to allow them to work with staff face-to-face. Almost one-quarter said personal attention and good communication were important and 21% said frequent contact was important.

“In short, many things can bring producers and companies together,” Marvel said. “The relationships that develop can determine whether a company will get only one or two cases, or a constant flow of business. Producers value a carrier that they can proudly represent to their clients, and companies value good partners in the field who write quality business.”

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