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Handle VA Client Inquiries Faster By Using Online Services

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Handle VA Client Inquiries Faster By Using Online Services

A few months ago, when anthrax was front-page news, a number of investment professionals e-mailed my company to request that we only send them product updates and sales ideas by e-mail in the future.

Doing business electronically has long been praised for being faster, cheaper, and more convenient. Now, sadly, it seems health safety must be added to its list of virtues.

Nielson Net Ratings estimates that nearly 170 million Americans use the Internet today, with about a quarter of them using the Internet at work.

Yet many investment professionals still conduct their variable annuity business by telephone and mail. Just last year, for instance, the variable annuity sales support and service teams at my company took more than a million calls from investment professionals.

Consider all the hours you spent in the past year wading through automated 800-number call routing systems and waiting to speak to “the next available representative” at your product providers.

This may convince you it’s time to take a fresh look at increasing your productivity by exploring available online service tools for variable annuities.

One of the most popular of such online service capabilities, offered by a number of leading VA product providers today, is contract value inquiry.

This allows you to quickly handle your clients’ inquiries about their current annuity account value, or the annuity account value as of a date in the past.

Generally, these online account inquiry tools can enable you to review your clients’ current asset allocation, thus helping you monitor the effects of market performance on your targeted allocations. Some product providers also allow you to review your clients’ past annuity transaction activity.

Note: Since online service functionality is fairly new, product providers may require additional client consent, authorizing you to access their accounts or to perform certain transactions.

At some annuity provider Web sites, you can also track the status of your pending 1035 exchanges and IRA trustee transfers.

Still other annuity providers now let you review summaries of all your clients’ annuities and the total assets under management they represent in your practice.

Some Web sites even allow you to direct the product provider to send your copies of client transaction confirmations and statements electronically in the future. That can cut the filing workload in your office significantly.

Another potential timesaver offered to investment professionals by several variable annuity providers is the ability to submit online investment option transfers for your clients’ annuities.

Some firms allow you to schedule your clients’ variable annuities for periodic re-balancing via their investment professional web sites.

You may even be allowed to submit an investment option transfer on a group of your clients’ variable annuities with just one transaction via the online service capabilities at some firms.

Determining whether any of your variable annuity clients are eligible for a free death benefit step-up is yet another online capability.

It’s not too late to make a resolution for 2002 to give these online services a try. If your office is not already equipped with high speed Internet access, adding it is a smart, efficiency-boosting first step.

Next, ask your product providers what online service capabilities they can offer you and how you can sign up.

You may find that all those client account inquiries and transfer requests are a lot more convenient to handle when you can do them right in your office whenever you like–and without waiting for “the next available representative” to take your call.

Jacob Herschler is vice president-variable annuity marketing at American Skandia, Shelton, Conn.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, February 4, 2002. Copyright 2002 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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