An Insurance Detective Tale, Or The Thing About Index Annuities
By Jack Marrion
She entered my office with a stride that made her look like potatoes fighting in a burlap bag sliding down an icy sidewalk.
I could tell she had trouble. From the top of her blue tinted hair to the bottom of her mary janes, she quivered like an electric transformer guide wire caught in a windstorm. Still, she projected the aura of a classy dame. Maybe it was the way she wore the AARP pin on her lapel, but I could tell I was in elite company. I opened the parlay.
“How can I be of service, Ms.?”
“Dame,” she responded, “Dame Ethel of Topeka.”
I was right about the class, she was Kansas royalty. “How can I be of service, Dame Ethel?”
“My advisor, Ira Tacscut, is missing and I think theres been foul play.”
“Perhaps youd better start at the beginning,” said I.
“Well,” Dame Ethel began, “I was talking to my friend Betty last week about how the bank wasnt paying enough interest for a body to keep the larder full and she said that she used to have the same problem but that her advisor, Ira Tacscut, had positioned some of her money in an indexed annuity.
“And I asked Betty what an indexed annuity was and she said it was a savings vehicle offered by insurance companies that provided a minimum interest rate plus the potential for additional interest if the equity index increased.
“And I asked but what happens if the market goes down and Betty said that with an index annuity neither the principal nor credited interest was subject to market risk and I asked what kind of interest could I earn and Betty said that an index annuity had the potential to provide a higher return than other savings vehicles so I said”
“And why do you think theres been foul play?” I interjected so Dame Ethel could draw a breath and not turn a darker shade of blue.
“Well,” she said quizzically, “I called Mr. Tacscut and made an appointment to see him this morning. But when I arrived at his office the door was ajar. There were papers strewn everywhere and Mr. Tacscut was nowhere to be found. I wasnt too concerned at that point–Ive heard advisors can be somewhat eccentric–until I noticed an A&Z Federal Bank pocket calendar lying in the hall, as if someone had dropped it.
“I then remembered that yesterday when I was at the bank visiting my money, Id told Mr. Lowratte, the bank president, that I was going to be seeing Ira Tacscut. “When I said the name Tacscut Mr. Lowrattes face turned a little green. I dont believe Mr. Lowratte wants me to see this advisor.”
Dame Ethel and I conversed a little more and I told her Id look into it.
My 30 years of detective work convinced me I should talk to Mr. Lowratte; that, and the fact that Dame Ethel said she heard Mr. Lowratte mutter as she left “Ill get Tacscut if its the last thing I do!”
I left my office and walked the three blocks east to A&Z Federal Bank. It was the dog days of summer and my dogs were feeling like red hots at Fenway by the time I eyeballed the statue in front of the bank. I always admired that statue. It was a paper mache model of Treasury Secretary Ogden Mills made of old passbook savings booklets.
I pushed through the revolving door and lolled over to the receptionist. After she finished adding more voice mail options to the banks phone system, she asked what I wanted. I told her I was there to see the president about a missing person.
She relayed the message and within an hour and a half, Mr. Lowratte appeared with a too-tight smile he probably used with bank examiners when loan reserves were low. He took me back to his office.
“What can I do for you?” queried Mr. Lowratte. I told him I was there about the disappearance of Ira Tacscut. Lowratte turned as white as a gallon of milk sitting on an iceberg in the Arctic during a blizzard in January, but he quickly recovered, saying he knew nothing about it.
“You were aware that a lot of your bank customers had been seeing Mr. Tacscut, werent you?” I sagaciously inquired. Lowratte allowed that one or two of his customers had met with Mr. Tacscut.
I continued. “I bet youre also aware that index annuities provide the potential for higher interest crediting than customers could earn from bank instruments and index annuities protect principal and credited interest from market risk.” Lowratte grudgingly agreed this too might be true.
“In fact,” I orated, “isnt it true you were afraid of Mr. Tacscut? Afraid his message about the benefits of indexed annuities might lure away too many bank customers? Afraid that if your customers knew about the growing popularity of indexed annuities, theyd question the low rates your bank instruments are paying?”
“It isnt true!” Lowratte screamed. “I had no idea of the growing popularity of index annuities.”
“Youre lying,” said I, and with that I leapt up and flipped over the magazines stacked on the corner of his desk. Sure enough, under copies of Banker Geographic and Bank Illustrated was the current issue of the world famous journal National Underwriter. Its headline shouted, “Second Quarter Index Annuity Sales Set New Record.”
“You got me,” surrendered Lowratte. “Tacscuts tied up in the basement and Im forcing him to watch Human Resource department training videos.”
“You inhuman monster,” I cried. “It would have been more merciful to kill him.”
After Ira Tacscut was released and the savings police took away Lowratte, I made my report to Dame Ethel. She asked what lesson is to be learned from all of this. I told her: “The weeds of banks bear bitter fruit, CDs do not pay. Buy an index annuity instead.”
Jack Marrion is president of The Advantage Group, an EIA tracking service in Maryland Heights, Mo. You can e-mail him at [email protected]
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, August 20, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.