LIAM Is Gone, Long Live LIAM!

September is gone and Life Insurance Awareness Month is history. Long live Life Insurance Awareness Month!

A lot of time and effort went into making the promotion, spearheaded by the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education, a success. There was a lot of advertising and publicity activity in the consumer media, and LIFEs efforts were joined by numerous life insurance companies that did similar promotions of their own.

For a campaign like this, it is necessary to compress a lot of activity and effort into a definite amount of time in order to make a splash. But it seems to me that the whole purpose of LIAM was to raise the publics consciousness about how important it is for them to have life insurance. Or, I should say its purpose was to start to raise the publics consciousness. So, this needs to be looked at as a long-range project, not a one-month deal.

The simple fact is that while the promotion may have had a definite beginning and end, the underlying reason for it has to generate ongoing efforts. If it doesnt, if LIAM is looked at as something that necessitated effort for one monthand one month onlythen its purpose will have been defeated.

I hope that companies and industry groups dont judge the success of LIAM by whether or not there was an immediate spike in sales of life insurance. That would be nice, of course, but it also would be short-sighted. Immediate increased sales would be like icing on the cake, but shouldnt be mistaken for the cake itself.

Taking the long view means a number of things for producers and companies. But most importantly, the ongoing effort will need to be the equivalent of that formerly hip expression, “taking it to the streets.”

If all that LIAM accomplishes is to increase sales to the affluent market, then I believe it will have failed in its mission. The great need, as industry leaders have been saying with increasing frequency, is for the mid-market to buy coverage.

The middle market is woefully underinsured. According to Richard Wecker, president and CEO of LIMRA International, some 40% of American households, mostly in the mid-market, dont have any individual life insurance.

In LIMRAs Market Facts Quarterly, Wecker writes that he is disturbed by “the perception that as an industry we no longer care about average Americans and that we therefore no longer deserve to operate as we have in the past.”

David Woods, head of both the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education, has been voicing similar concerns.

These industry leaders are not doomsayers by any means, but their concern is justified. Life insurance cannot afford to be perceived as only one in a long list of investment products with advantages mainly for the well-off.

Some companies and agents have found a way to make a good living by serving the middle market. Yes, commissions and margins may be smaller on policies sold to the middle class. But if the industry cannot get back in touch with the essential rationale for life insurance as a protection product that is widely needed, then it may as well throw in the towel.

I hope you read the winning essays in our “What life insurance has meant to my clients” contest that we ran in support of Life Insurance Awareness Month. They were published in the Sept. 20 issue. You wont find anything in them about fancy tax uses for life insurance or navigating tax loopholes with the product.

The story they told was all about protection, pure and simple. And what they prove is that its a good story and worth the telling.

Steve Piontek

Editor-in-Chief


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, October 7, 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.