NEW YORK

In spite of flat-to-declining sales, there is a tremendous need for life insurance if carriers take the right approach, according to Robert Henrikson, chairman, president and CEO of MetLife Inc., Long Island City.

Henrikson made his remarks during the Seventeenth Annual Executive Conference for the Life Insurance Industry, organized by The Conference Group, a sister company of National Underwriter.

One reason for flat-to-down sales is poor marketing, according to Henrikson. Salespeople have not been given the support they need, he said.

This support is needed because the producer remains an important part of selling life insurance products, he added.

“People like to face people when they are buying,” he said. “People will not part with money without talking to someone.”

But that can be difficult, he explained, because consumers usually want to do some research before they take the next step toward buying a life insurance product. So companies need to make that information available to help consumers take the first step, Henrikson said.

“The life industry has made it difficult to get information,” he maintained.

The agent continues to be an important channel for selling, he said. MetLife is increasing the number of agents, but the focus is on profitable business and not just on agencies, he declared.

Companies need to focus their agents around more profitable business, and they need to be aware of how they structure their products, he said. For example, some companies are exiting the 70+ market because it is “infested” with investor-owned life insurance, he explained.

Henrikson also said that the combination of an aging population, less reliance on social programs and defined-benefit pensions, and a low savings rate will make it more important for insurers to provide income-planning products and assistance to consumers.