Here are some suggestions based on what I have seen resourceful brokers do about .

Review the RFP carefully. There will no doubt be things you want clarified, either about the process, the illustration guidelines, or both. Make your list and call the consultantpromptly.

In certain cases, particularly where the RFP gives you free rein on the types of products, you will be quite comfortable with the mission. In other cases, particularly where the RFP appears to preclude use of your proprietary product or your favorite carrier, you wont be so comfortable. I will not suggest for a moment that a resourceful broker whose proprietary product or favorite carrier may be precluded by an RFP will (in real life) just say, “Oh well, maybe next time.” I will suggest, however, that there are ways to approach this situation constructively and at least stay within the spirit of the process the company has established.

Knowing the types of products you will explore, choose your carrier(s) and divide the labor of between you and the carrier(s). Both this article and life itself are too short to delve into how brokers should choose the carriers on a particular case. But here are some thoughts:

Remember that you will have to justify your recommendations to the company, both in your response to the RFP and, hopefully, at the presentation. You will have to describe your metrics for evaluating carriers and show how you applied them. Experienced brokers know that the company is looking for metrics that include but are not limited to the carriers financial strength, track record in and commitment to the COLI market, administrative support, and the competitive position of its products in this type of case with this funding approach and this targeted outcome. These brokers are truly skilled at presenting these metrics and illuminating just how well the carefully designed product from their recommended carrier is just right for the companys plan and funding objectives–more on this later. And, as noted, you will be asked to indicate which carriers/products you considered but did not submit, and why.

Each of the competing brokers will be asked to do the same. Therefore, given the relatively small constellation of COLI carriers, it is highly likely that the carriers and products that you submit will be the subject of comments from the other brokers. Those brokers may have some pretty inhospitable things to say about the carrier(s) or product(s) you are submitting. Incidentally, among the most common potshots we hear in competitive situations are: “strong carrier, but expensive products,” “strong carrier, attractive product, but they have gone in and out of the COLI business like the tide so you cant depend on them to support the product,” and “strong carrier, but we have found that their products arent competitive in this particular type of case because”

At first blush, the bottom line would seem to be that you should submit only those carriers that will enable you to (1) establish your metrics with regard to financial strength, competitive product design and demonstrated commitment to the COLI market, and (2) defend your position in the competitive setting. But lets say that in todays evolving COLI market, it turns out that your best proposal will come from a strong supportive carrier that, although relatively new in the COLI market, offers a very competitive product that really fits the case. By all means, go with it! But tactically, think about how you would compete against that proposal; be prepared to shore it up with credible evidence that the carrier has made a substantive investment in the sale and support of COLI. And dont stop there. Show how that carrier has served existing policyholders well for years in the other markets in which it is prominent, like wealth transfer, for example.

Work collaboratively with each of your carriers to fashion a response to the RFP that is as crisp, informative and, well, responsive, as possible. Send each carrier an electronic version of the RFP and census so the carrier can work on it with you directly. You want the carrier to have every opportunity to tell its story and provide the kind of comprehensive backup you will need to support your recommendation. You also want each carriers product specialists, who know the product better than anyone, to help you design the product for utmost efficiency in this case with this funding approach and this targeted outcome.

Answer the questions in the RFP. This might sound kind of obvious, but its a real line of demarcation among brokers and carriers and often will be an early indicator of who will win and who will lose. Suffice it to say, the people at the company will read this stuff and discuss it among themselves. They note which brokers and carriers respond fully, completely and clearly, and which brokers and carriers do not.

The company also notices very quickly whether a broker puts forth its best proposal right away or seems to try to sweeten the offer on a weekly basis. An allied observation is that companies routinely say that they hear (or are visited) most often from the brokers who submit the least complete and competitive proposal or who show the least respect for the process. On the other hand, the companies rarely hear from the brokers who submit the most complete and competitive response and show the most respect for the process and the companys time.

Once the response is submitted to the consultant and the company, the consultant (and often someone from the company) will likely want to have a teleconference with you to review the response to the RFP. Be sure to have the right people on that call. For example, having the appropriate representatives from the carrier (such as the product specialists) on the call can be very helpful to the consultant and the company, and just as helpful to you and the carrier if refinements need to be made to the response.

–Charles Ratner


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, March 12, 2004. Copyright 2004 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.