Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance
Chairperson: LTCI panel discussion, Master the difficult sale, Thursday, Sept. 28
Senior Market Advisor: What can our Expo attendees expect to gain from your panel session?
Jesse Slome: This session will feature a panel of top LTCI sales pros who will share practical marketing and sales tips that help them generate a recurring stream of prospects and sales. This isn’t a theoretical session on how to sell. It will be a hands-on session loaded with ideas that you’ll be able to use immediately to build your business.
SMA: What are a couple secrets of the best LTCI producers?
JS: Consumers perceive long term care insurance as expensive, and cost is the No. 1 reason people hesitate to plan. Producers are successfully capitalizing on consumers’ misperceptions by marketing readily available ways to reduce the cost of protection. Other very successful producers are establishing alliances with financial planners and investment advisors. Planners have access to clients and their money, but they take a very different approach to LTC planning. The secret is knowing how planners think and how to work successfully with them. We’ll dig into that during the session.
SMA: Do you think having some recognition like Long Term Care Awareness Week will improve sales of LTCI?
JS: The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance projects that sales of LTCI will double within the next five years. Consider that for the first quarter of 2006, four LTCI companies reported 20 percent or higher sales increases compared to the prior year. Growth isn’t something to look forward to; it’s here for many. Long-Term Care Awareness Week, Nov. 5-11, is an annual event that will give the media another reason to share information with millions of American consumers. It’s an opportunity for producers to gain media exposure for themselves.
SMA: What are your thoughts on the industry’s future?
JS: In the 1980s, Americans started to realize they needed to take responsibility for their own retirement planning. Twenty years later, you have billions of dollars invested in 401(k) plans. The same is taking place today as Americans recognize that living a long life means you have to plan for the eventual need for long term care. Long term care insurance is certainly a most viable way to protect everything one’s worked for. Federal and state governments recognize the need for individuals to plan and are increasing their awareness campaigns. Products are changing to better address clients’ needs at different stages of life. More employers are offering group or voluntary long term care insurance plans to their employees. From where I sit, the future for the industry and those agents who market and sell LTCI is very positive.
Dean Zayed, president of Prizm Financial Advisors
Presenter: High-power secrets for attracting high-net-worth clients, Friday, Sept. 29
SMA: What is a big issue advisors are going to face as the boomer generation ages?
Dean Zayed: Advisors need to acquire the skills and expertise necessary to actively re-shape a client’s portfolio as the aging boomers’ needs and goals change. Boomers will move from an accumulation stage to a distribution stage and eventually to a preservation stage. A static portfolio will fail to successfully take a boomer through these stages. Advisors need to stay on the cutting edge of strategies and solutions to dynamically adjust a client’s portfolio. Many advisors are excellent at managing assets in one of the stages, such as the accumulation stage, but have very little experience in transitioning portfolios through the other phases of a client’s life cycle. As the saying goes, “The person who took you to the dance may not be the one who takes you home from the dance.” The successful advisor will need to add the expertise that will allow him to make constructive changes to a client’s portfolio as the client matures through the different phases. This will ensure that the relationship is sustainable and mutually beneficial.
SMA: How is the boutique model set up to meet the needs of clients best?
DZ: The boutique model is set up to delve deeply into a client’s life so the advisor may ultimately provide thoughtful solutions to all of the key issues affecting clients’ financial affairs. As an example, I have developed a proprietary process … that eliminates the fear, anxiety and hassle pertaining to our clients’ financial affairs. This process helps our clients see the tremendous value in working with a boutique, multidisciplinary practice. Most of our clients are facing a plethora of issues, such as asset protection, risk management, IRA distribution planning, investment counseling, tax planning and income planning – of course there are many more. Who better to counsel them on such diverse and sophisticated issues than a professional team comprised of attorneys and financial advisors who can coordinate the planning across all disciplines? Our ultimate goal is to provide superior, value-added advice that will positively impact their lifestyle and their peace of mind as they progress through their retired years.
SMA: What have you seen change in the area of practice management since you entered the industry?
DZ: The most important development in our practice has been in the area of data management and reporting. We utilize data aggregation software that allows us to consolidate all of a client’s accounts across multiple platforms and custodians onto one statement. As an example, this might include brokerage accounts, mutual fund accounts and annuities held with different institutions. We are able to do sophisticated performance reporting for all of these accounts and present it as a consolidated report. Clients love this tool, as they get a much better sense of what their portfolio is doing as a whole and how each account fits in the overall portfolio.
SMA: High-net-worth clients are the prime catch for most practices. What does the boutique model offer them that other business models don’t?
DZ: The boutique model allows the advisor to become the most important professional relationship for the client – a one-stop source built with highly specialized advisors who offer total customization and a personalized approach to the client. Therefore, the boutique model does not serve solely as an asset management firm or estate planning firm. It serves as the client’s strategic partner – as the client’s chief financial officer who will advise on all pertinent issues the client faces.
Gordon Williamson, executive director of the Institute of Business & Finance
Presenter: Fixed-rate asset allocation solutions, Thursday, Sept. 28
SMA: What is the main thing SMAX attendees will leave your presentation with?
Gordon Williamson: They will understand why advisors should strongly consider using fixed-rate annuities as part of the asset allocation solution.
SMA: Do you think most of the misrepresentation of annuities is intentional, or is it due to lack of advisor education? Can you explain why?
GW: It is a combination of the two. In general, the financial press is not very well versed when it comes to annuities, particularly when it comes to living benefits and modern portfolio theory. There is also the issue of “group think.” It is hard to change someone’s mind when his industry has already made up its mind. The real culprit, however, is that there is a big difference between theory and reality. In theory, equities outperform fixed-income [products]; in reality, most investors lack the patience (e.g., look at the DALBAR studies … investors in equity funds end up with returns of about half of what the market has done because they are always switching for whatever reason).
We in the industry also are guilty. Advisor education in annuities has been rudimentary at best. Advisors need to sit down with their wholesalers and learn about new products and target audiences. Moreover, once advisors are properly educated about asset allocation and real-world experiences, the use of both fixed-rate and variable annuity placement should greatly increase.
SMA: How can advisors go about becoming more educated about the products they use?
GW: There are two ways. No. 1, have lunch with product wholesalers. No. 2, go through a certification program that focuses on an area the advisor is interested in. As an example, The Institute of Business & Finance has the CAS (Certified Annuity Specialist) designation. It is a 60-hour home-study program. There are also other certification bodies that do a fine job.
SMA: What do you make of the EIA controversy? Will they end up classified as securities or as insurance products?
GW: It will remain as an insurance product. There has been quite a bit of posturing by regulatory bodies, compliance departments and broker/dealers. EIAs have not been sold properly (just like other products), but the industry is beginning to come out with more investor-friendly products. EIAs are also a very complex product, so there is the issue of ignorance as well as being tempted by a high commission.
SMA: What do you see in your crystal ball for the industry in the next couple of years?
GW: Great things. Products evolve and increased competition makes things better for everyone, particularly the consumer. There are assurances and guarantees provided by annuities that are not found elsewhere. As advisors gain more real-world experience, they will see the great need for such investment vehicles.
Maribeth Kuzmeski, president of Red Zone Marketing
Closing keynote speaker, Friday, Sept. 29
SMA: What do financial advisors underestimate or not understand about good marketing plans?
Maribeth Kuzmeski: Even the best marketing plans still need to be implemented. Seems obvious, but most marketing plans go through periods of inactivity unless they are being driven by at least one person in the firm. A plan is not worth much unless it has an action plan associated with it, detailing each specific marketing activity, the date this activity should start and be completed, and who is responsible for implementation. Use an Excel spreadsheet that can be sorted based on dates due and/or add each activity to your contact management database program. Review your action plan weekly and implement with consistency.
SMA: What would you say to someone who says he doesn’t have the money to market well?
MK: Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. Depending on your current practice, marketing to your existing clients is often one of the most efficient and effective ways to generate referrals and new business. One of the best litmus test questions to help you evaluate how you are doing as a financial advisor is this: Am I getting referrals from my current clients? If you say, “Not as many as I could or should be getting,” then it may be possible that communicating with your clients in a different way may actually be a great source of new business.
SMA: What can attendees expect to take away from your presentation?
MK: Attendees will gain smart marketing ideas that will delight clients, build new business, differentiate, and create and strengthen their brand. I will share specific strategies used every day by top industry producers that have consistently resulted in more production and higher bottom-line profits, including how to generate 15 to 30 referrals every month. This definitely is not theory but ideas that can be implemented immediately. Attendees will leave with proven, tangible strategies they can put to work right away for more success.
SMA: For a financial advisor, is it more important he market himself or the products he can offer?
MK: Most financial advisors have access to the same products. The only thing unique about the financial advisor is the financial advisor, the way he does business, and the advice and service provided. Give the client product, but it is the ?something’ beyond the product that should be marketed and will ultimately close the sale – you, the advisor.
SMA: Why did you decide to use the language of football in naming your company and in the way you present your ideas?
MK: I grew up in Wisconsin, born and raised a Packer fan, and was literally schooled in football by my grandmother. She was a passionate football fan and insisted I become one. So when I started my consulting firm 12 years ago, I thought, “What better name to call my firm than Red Zone Marketing? Football fans know that the red zone is the final 20 yards before you score – the most critical and magnified area on the football field. It’s where teams win or lose. I believe there is a similar area in business called the Red Zone. It is the point through which you must cross to get to the next level. It’s where you close the sale or you don’t – and what you do in the red zone to develop trust with the client makes all the difference in closing more sales.