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Regulation and Compliance > State Regulation

Fast Vs. Wow

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Someone recently asked for ideas on a quick way to build something in my area of knowledge. My quick answer: Which law are you willing to break?

“What?” asked the caller, clearly puzzled. “I just want to do something simple, get it out fast.”

Don’t we all?

Simple is a definite plus, but it’s rarely achieved quickly. It takes painstaking work to develop a winning insurance product that gleams with simplicity but also has all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed–i.e., the customer experience, legalities, infrastructure, systems, training, distribution, budget, etc.

On the other side of the business–in conservation of existing accounts–it takes equally painstaking work to develop programs that work for the customer, producer and company. The developmental processes are much different than for product development, but the care and follow through are certainly equivalent.

This raises the ire of people who have a clear and pressing need–or who may have just been told by a higher-up to “do something–fast.” Why mess around with all this process, they ask impatiently.

Why? Because failure lurks at every speed bump. Consider:

Brand new products have been pulled just days after rollout because the intended distribution, seeing them for the first time, said they would not fly. Others never make it to daylight due to legal issues that come to light too late in the game for fixing. Some are slapped together so “quickly” that they still bear verbiage from their developmental templates but with no relationship to the new design.

In conservation programs, some go straight to the customer without ever involving the advisor, who is the chief touch point for the customer. If these offers involve re-entry or new purchases, some do not discuss potential tax or other ramifications. “KISS, fast” is the modus operandi, and professional counsel is out the door.

Fortunately, the industry has its share of “wow” stories. I’ve heard of companies that have full teams coordinating on product initiatives right from the start: design, systems, legal, admin, marketing, sales, customer care, etc. Likewise, at some firms, conservation gets kid glove treatment, with all parties at the table.

These wow firms aren’t exactly laggards, either. Many can debut a same-field new product or program in 6 months or so, with all i’s dotted and t’s crossed. If it’s a major tweak of an existing plan, it could happen in just a few months. For from-scratch efforts, it might take a year for complex renditions of existing designs or longer for true innovations. All this is a far cry from the multi-year-process-for-all that was routine 1 to 2 decades ago.

Unfortunately, the do-it-now people do not consider such numbers to be fast enough or the processes involved to be simple enough. From stories I’ve heard, these “go-getters” will bristle over how long it takes to ensure compliance with federal and state laws, regulations, directives, guidelines, and rulings or, where conservation is concerned, the time it takes to bring all players in for collaborative enterprise. They can barely tolerate the timeline on research and development, systems, marketing and rollout. They apply enormous pressure to cut corners.

Their view is, if the insurance departments don’t block it, via disapproval or intervention, that’s good enough for them. But is that good enough for the customer? Or for the advisor? Or for the company professionals who manage the business?

The answer should be obvious, but, in the first blush of a new product or program, all can look rosy: There is no backlog, no list of customer complaints, no angry advisors calling for explanations, etc.

But look to the later-on. Will this hold up to competitive inroads, legal challenge, or bad word of mouth about faulty provisions, misleading statements, or poor communication and service? By then, the do-it-fast people may be long gone. It is current staff and field that will bear the brunt of damage to brand. It is current management that will blamed for revenue downturns, rating downgrades, lawsuits and other dark rivers that flow from this.

A word to the field: When reviewing a new product, look for the wow. How was it built? Check the content for fit, appropriateness, logic, clarity, etc. How many states–and which ones–have approved it? When evaluating whether to sign on with a new company, look not only at the products but also the service, support, renewals, conservation programs and more. If it’s a class act, you won’t be sorry.

For everyone else: Find the wow companies and emulate their developmental processes. If it takes more than 2 minutes, remember, you have everything to gain.