Annuity Distribution Should Seek Share Of Mind And Wallet

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Las Vegas

“If you are not aggressively managing your distribution channels, it will be difficult to compete,” said Janet Deskins at an annuity conference here.

The senior vice president of marketing resources at National Financial Partners, New York, Deskins exhorted the annuity industry not just to sell annuities but also to give advice.

“People want consultation,” especially high-net-worth individuals, Deskins explained during a session at the annuity conference sponsored by LOMA, LIMRA International and Society of Actuaries.

Gary Taiaroil, chief financial officer-wholesale distribution for ING U.S. Financial Services, Atlanta, raised another aspect of distribution success. He said carriers should adhere to a 5-point value proposition: have strong people, products, relationships and teamwork, training, and delivery.

Carriers need to convey their strengths to producers, which is important, he said, because if producers have a bad experience with, say, a companys product, customer service representatives or wholesaler, it raises the question: “Will they come back?” (See box for some suggestions Taiaroil offered for working with producers.)

“Find a way to help the producer,” he concluded. “Provide value to them. These people are on their own.”

Deskins pointed out that companies employ various combinations of distribution strategies in order “to maximize share of mind and share of wallet.”

They cant just focus on the producer or the customer, she said. Companies need to ask, what are they going to do to reach both producers and customers?

For example, producers often worry about competition. So companies can respond with sales and marketing support. “Give them a reason to get back in front of the client,” she suggested.

Some producers are concerned about transitioning to fee-based approaches, she continued. “So give them the ability to do this, to show they are worth the fee. Arm them with all the information they need.”

Customers, meanwhile, want instant information, any time they want it, and they also want financial security, Deskins said. In assessing these wants, “dont underestimate brand. Its very important to them. Those advertising dollars are important.”

Products can become a commodity in the producers viewpoint, she cautioned, so companies should differentiate themselves by offering top service. For example, “get the information [the producers need] to the producer better and faster,” Deskins said.

In her own firm, which targets the high-net-worth market, Deskins said, “we do everything possible to help producers do their job better.” For example, she said, the firm stores audio and PowerPoint presentations that producers can access at any time.

To gain share of mind with producers, it takes a holistic approach, she contended. Help them with sales ideas, alliance formation, and arm them with information about what is happening in the marketplace, she suggested.

Finally, she urged companies to give producers “convenience and technology”things that will help them differentiate themselves and grow their business. For example, “we offer a search engine to help producers narrow their options to 2 or 3 products that they could present” to a client.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, June 4, 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.