CNO Tests Bankers Life Agent Sourcing Ideas: Earnings Highlights

Q3 earnings season

(Photo: Allison Bell/TA) (Photo: Allison Bell/TA)

CNO Financial Group Inc. is trying energize sales at its Bankers Life unit by experimenting with four different strategies for sourcing agents.

Gary Bhojwani, the insurer's president, talked about the Bankers Life efforts briefly last week, during a conference call CNO held to go over third-quarter earnings with securities analysts.

"I'm being very general, by designed, because some of this is a competitive issue," Bhojwani told the analysts.

(Related: Bonach to Leave Top CNO Post at Year End) 

The company is seeing good results from two of the four agent recruiting strategies it's been testing, and it's still supporting the other two strategies, Bhojwani said.

So far, however, CNO has been seeing faster returns on life insurance cross-selling efforts at the Washington National unit. Washington National, a smaller business than Bankers Life, has traditionally focused on supplemental health products, Bhojwani said.

Washington National is "a good example of some early results that are actually showing up today," Bhojwani said.

CNO as a whole is reporting $101 million in net income for the third quarter on $1.1 billion in revenue, up from $19 million in net income on $1 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2016.

Here's a look at earnings call gleanings for CNO and three other insurers that offer a mix of non-major medical health insurance products along with life insurance and other products.


CNO News

Bhojwani is on track to succeed Ed Bonach as CNO's chief executive officer at the end of the year.

Bonach, who became CNO's chief financial officer in 2007, and its CEO in 2011, said he's still bullish on CNO's leadership team. "It's been an amazing 10 years at CNO," Bonach said.

Bonach also said that CNO is continuing to talk to interested parties about transactions that could reduce the Bankers Life unit's exposure to long-term care insurance.

Erik Helding, the chief financial officer, said one way the company could use its capital would be to pay another company to reinsure some of its long-term care insurance business. 


Aflac Inc.

Aflac, a company best known in the United States for the Aflac Duck, sells cancer insurance and other health insurance products in Japan. It also sells individual health-related products, such as accident insurance, hospital indemnity insurance and critical illness insurance, at the worksite in the United States.

Aflac also has substantial U.S. worksite life insurance sales.

The company is reporting $716 million in net income for the third quarter on $5.5 billion in revenue, compared with $629 million in net income on $5.7 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2016.

Aflac has been trying to have its career agents focus on employer groups with fewer than 100 employees, and to use a broker sales team to reach brokers in mid-case and large-case market.

Fred Crawford, Aflac's chief financial officer, said the company saw higher-than-expected growth in the U.S. large-case market in the third quarter, and solid, 5% growth in other U.S. market sectors.

Both the U.S. broker and the U.S. career agent channels have been performing well, Crawford said.

"We believe that the bonus programs we've introduced in 2016 allowed the career agents to focus on sales in the small business market," Crawford said. "We believe that's working."

Broker outreach strategies, meanwhile, seem to be leading to higher broker sales results, Crawford said. 

Unum Group

Unum is a leader in the group disability insurance market and other group disability markets, and its Colonial Life unit is a major player in the worksite benefits market.

The company recently entered the dental and vision benefits market by acquiring Starmount, and it has edged toward the major medical market by starting a unit that will stop-loss insurance, or insurance for insurance plans, to self-funded employer health plans.

The company is reporting $252 million in net income for the third quarter on $2.8 billion in revenue, compared with $236 million in net income on $2.8 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2016.

Fluctuations in the large-case market hurt voluntary benefits sales during the quarter, but sales for other established U.S. products, price quote activity for all U.S. products and earnings for all established U.S. products were strong, Unum executives said.

Mike Simonds, chief executive officer of the Unum U.S. unit, said the company has been surprised by the strong level of market interest in the new stop-loss program.

"We'll have to wait and see how the fourth quarter plays out" in terms of actual stop-loss sales, Simonds said. "But we're excited about that as an extension of our brand and a new way to leverage our distribution relationships." 


Torchmark Corp.

Torchmark writes life, annuity and supplemental health products and sells them through several distribution channels.

The company is reporting $153 million in net income for the third quarter on $1 billion in revenue, up from $152 million in net income on $990 million in revenue for the third quarter of 2016.

The company depends heavily on recruiting agents to sell its products. Company executives noted that Hurricane Harvey hurt agent recruiting in September, but that recruiting has now started to get back to normal.

--- Read Non-Medical Health Earnings: Aflac, Unum, Genworth, CNO on ThinkAdvisor.


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