Even after the gold medal was draped around his neck, Australian Steven Bradbury was still shaking his head and smiling sheepishly. Steven won the gold medal in the 1000-meter short-track speedskating event not because he was the best skater, but because he was the only one left standing.
Steven was in a distant fifth place until a crash left the top four skaters sprawled on the ice. He is the first to admit circumstances delivered the gold to him on a silver plate.
Selling fixed annuities through banks in 2001 presents similar good fortune.
Some insurance companies achieved gains of 161%, 277%, 528% and 879% (yes, those are real numbers). Of the top 20 fixed annuity providers through banks, 18 had increases of at least 19%. Did 18 insurance companies crack the code at the same time? Perhaps. But I imagine most fixed annuity providers are still shaking their head and smiling sheepishly.
Many of us have experienced such good fortune first hand. “Right time, right place” plays a greater role than most of us care to admit. And in 2001, providers of fixed annuities found themselves squarely in the nexus of right time, right place.
So what has 2002 brought so far?
Just like the stock market of the past few years, I imagine we will see a return to the median. Just like tech companies that could no longer deliver 1000% returns to investors, the fixed annuity market is not likely to watch sales jump another 78%. Insurance companies and financial institutions will be rewarded not for simply being at the right place at the right time but for having the right products, the right training, the right marketing, the right wholesalers, the right sales support, the right continuing education and the right pricing.
The time to make certain you have all that in place is right now. Why? At a recent industry meeting, I found myself in the midst of a love fest. High fives all around as bank after bank, insurance company after insurance company, all congratulated themselves on a great 2001. And it was well deserved. The scary part was that the same backslapping was taking place around first quarter 2002 results. Theres the problem and potential danger.
In the first quarter of 2002, fixed annuities accounted for 58% of revenue with bank retail investment programs. So whats wrong with such extraordinarily high numbers? Nothing at all, until the next inverted yield curve. That is when we will learn who made strides in 2002 to make sure they won the gold in 2002 and beyond.
You wont be rewarded just because you didnt fall down. The gold medal in 2002 will go to the insurance companies who understand what the banks need and to those banks that have their house in order to respond to shifting markets when the wave hits the beach. And it will.
The gold will go to those who understand distribution because in the end, distribution is king, always has been and always will be.