By

Toronto

LIMRA International has borrowed from the biological sciences for the theme of its 2001 international annual meeting. Richard A. Wecker, LIMRA president and CEO, likened last year’s announcement of the deciphering of the human genome to cracking the code of the financial genome. While the human genome has not yet been entirely decoded, Wecker says the financial code has been.

In his opening remarks to the conference attendees he listed the “genes” on the financial genome which, if implemented, can help “crack the code” of one’s business. Intertwined in the list is the consumer, who should be the focus of any advisor’s business plan, according to Wecker.

At the top of the financial genome is individualism, which Wecker calls the key to focusing on the consumer. An advisor should understand his customers’ needs and concerns and develop a good relationship with them.

“The key is not necessarily to find more customers for your products, but to find more products for your customers,” he says. He adds that an advisor should “treat each customer as a market of one.”

Second on the financial genome is innovation. In order to achieve success in the future, Wecker says, a company must use innovative means to meet the needs of a changing population. Because the population is aging, financial services companies must think about retirement planning needs, long-term care protection and helping people not to outlive their income. Wecker mentioned creating a cash management plan at birth, which could cover any number of financial needs a person might have in a lifetime, including education, investment needs, long-term care insurance, Medicare supplements and the like, as an innovative approach to meeting the financial needs of the changing population.

Integration is third on the financial genome. Companies that sell multiple products must integrate their customer databases and customer and producer contact efforts, Wecker says.

An advisor must ask before completing any transaction whether it’s what his customer needs; whether it will be perceived in a positive or negative way; whether it’s good for the customer; and whether he acted with integrity. These are the criteria for the fourth item on the financial genome. Wecker says that following the golden rule should be mandatory, not only because it is morally correct, but also because it protects against bad publicity and lawsuits.

The Internet is fifth on the genome. Wecker says without a good Web site, a company will be perceived as old-fashioned and “stodgy.” A good site can provide consumers with information and cutting-edge service whenever they want it. As far as use as a sales tool, Wecker says the Internet still has a long way to go, but it is an excellent informational tool.

Next on the genome is internationalism. Financial services companies must be prepared to think globally, both to be able to sell products internationally, and to protect one’s customer base from foreign companies “with long arms.”

Independence is next on the genome. Financial services companies should factor independent financial advisors into their distribution strategies.

“Independent agents are an extension of placing the focus on the consumer,” Wecker says. He suspects the marketshare of independents will grow, which means that companies that do not have an independent channel must integrate the principles of the independent into its own sales strategy.

Next on the genome is inspiration. A leader needs to inspire her people to greatness through example, Wecker says. She must provide vision, enthusiasm and belief. Many times lofty plans to focus on the consumer fail because of poor leadership, Wecker says.

Last on the genome is insight. Wecker says the insight that LIMRA has into the industry can be an invaluable tool to financial services companies.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 5, 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.


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