Pulling The Pieces Together
Many talk the talk, but few walk the walk when the talk turns to global full financial services. Among the latter is ING, the Dutch giant whose recumbent lion has long since pounced and landed on all fours in the cross-selling arena.
These days, the hungry cat is on the prowl in the U.S. market, where, says Keith Gubbay, president and CEO of investment products distribution for ING U.S. Retail Financial Services, the strategy is to build a prominent position through mergers and acquisitions. These include, most notably, Aetna Financial Services and Reliastar–deals which augmented the group’s broad product range.
Gubbay points to a full range of life products, annuities, mutual funds, qualified plan products, and banking products through ING Direct. He points as well to broad distribution, from third-party health sales distributors to career agents to direct operations. He also lays claim to the largest independent broker-dealer network (10,000 reps) in the U.S. ING, he adds, has scale in all its businesses and is in “the top handful” in e-sales and in new sales overall.
“These are the building blocks of our integrated financial services strategy,” says Gubbay. These, along with branding, technology, and, most importantly, “pulling the pieces together to build a better proposition for the customer and the distributor.”
Today’s customer, he says, dislikes the industry’s historic product-push approach and favors broad planning advice and information on how products fit into their overall needs, a holistic approach requiring agents and companies to change their behavior.
The first trick, he says, is to hook up distributors with available products, often a hurdle because of brand and distribution conflicts, real or perceived, as well as internal and regulatory barriers.
For many years, he explains, the industry has operated in “narrow silos,” single channels that create cultural and organizational barriers to cross-selling.
“The first step in making all our products available to all our distributors has been to decouple the manufacturing and distribution functions,” says Gubbay. “Although this sounds easy, it has challenges. It requires organizational change, different scorekeeping methods and incentive plans and a different way of thinking.
“In ING, manufacturers now make their products available to as many channels as they can, subject to the manufacturers’ own quality and volume constraints,” he says. “This allows the distribution channel to access the full range of ING products.”