VAs today may do exactly what clients really need, want and appreciate

There is, it seems, a growing disconnect between many of us in financial services and our clients.

This disconnect creates a potentially dangerous situation since it can rock the foundation of our so-called “Value Proposition.” We tell our clients we will provide value in various ways, and then use our talents to achieve that.

However, the disconnect surfaces in the definition of value. Too often, our value proposition defines what is valuable to our client based on our own perceptions, not the client’s.

True value only can be determined from the client’s point of view, not from ours. We may educate them regarding the usefulness and appropriateness of various financial solutions, but ultimately, it’s the client’s assessment as to the value.

Let’s look at some examples of value disconnects:

1. A retiring client’s stated primary goal is to protect assets from loss of principal. We may look at and offer solutions that provide varying degrees of protection–perhaps 10%, 20% or 30%. But if clients were asked what percentage of assets they expect and want protected, what would they say? If asked, most clients with this goal would want to protect 100%. That’s what retiring clients want.

The value disconnect happens when clients want or need one solution and we provide another.

2. An investor is seeking immediate income for his retirement. If you ask how long he or she wants to receive income at a comfortable rate, with the potential to increase over time and protection from decreases, how would he or she likely respond? Most clients would say they want this income stream to continue for their entire lives. But realistically, how much of this type of income planning have most planners been doing?

Again, this is a value disconnect between what the client wants/expects and what planners currently are providing.

In our defense, the industry in the past hasn’t always given us the tools to achieve these ends. We could offer clients solutions that met some of their needs, often providing limited value.

Now, there are no excuses.

Variable annuities today can be innovative, powerful and, in many cases, they may do exactly what clients really need, want and appreciate.

In the case of the retiring client who is looking to protect assets, many variable annuities have ways of insuring a greater percentage of principal. While the product still can’t protect 100% of the assets from loss, today’s variable annuity guarantees (based on the claims-paying ability of the issuing company) can offer clients greater protection of principal than other solutions.

Clients seeking immediate income, but who are unwilling to give up control of the assets, may value a variable annuity for its ability to provide a guaranteed minimum lifetime income stream while allowing the ckuebt to maintain control.

Those looking to maximize their retirement income potential may value variable annuities’ ability to keep them invested in the equity markets while offering guarantees against the risk of market downturns.

Clients concerned about the risks of longevity or rising health care costs may value the ability of variable annuities to provide regular income with growth potential, to help their income keep pace with inflation.

In short, variable annuities may deliver the most value by the client’s definition.

The world of retirement is changing. Don’t be left behind.

George MacAllister is the advanced sales consultant for Lincoln Financial Distributors, Inc., based in Plymouth, Mass. LFD is the wholesaling distribution organization of Lincoln Financial Group, the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation and affiliates.