This was the question posed to two different panelsone consisting of agents and the other of life insurer CEOs–here at the annual meeting of the American Council of Life Insurers.
One of the concerns common to both groups was the aging agent force and the smaller numbers of new, younger agents coming into the business. As Michael R. White, president of GAMA International, put it, “Were not developing new growth in the agent force. The norm is taking experienced agents from other companies.”
White pointed out that in 1982, the average age of agents in the field was 37. Now it is over 52, he said.
Seymour Sternberg, president, chairman and CEO of New York Life, called the shrinking agent force “the most serious issue. Fewer doors are being knocked on.
“Fewer insurance companies are willing to make the commitment to recruit new agents,” Sternberg said. But there was another reason for the problem, he continued, which is that some years ago agents were being told they didnt need their company and were being encouraged to join producer groups.
“I called it a sirens call back then,” Sternberg said, “and were paying the price for it now.”
Bruce Boyea, president, chairman and CEO of Security Mutual Life, said his company spent “a fair amount of time recruiting new agents, but its a big investment if theres no commitment from the agent to stay with the carrier.”
Dermot Healy, an independent agent from Maine who is chair of the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education, said a major concern of his was that “agents face something new every day.
“We sell money for future delivery,” he said, “and we wonder whether those promises will be delivered on.”
Randy Kilgore, president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, was similarly concerned. “What will the industry look like in 20 to 30 years,” he said. “Will it be able to keep its promises?”
Another concern common to both groups was that the middle markets life insurance needs were not being served well. David Woods, NAIFA CEO, said surveys show that 60 million people say they need life insurance, but only 10 million policies were sold last year. “We have to assume theyre in the middle market.”
Kilgore tied this into the shrinking agent force. “We dont have enough foot soldiers out there getting to people,” he said.