Could successful annuity producers face harsh regulatory sanctions and see their professional reputations destroyed if they continue to use marketing strategies that regulators may deem to be “misleading,” “unethical” and “dishonest?”
In Massachusetts at least, many annuity producers are probably asking themselves just that question.
The reason: On March 6, 2007, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin released complaints against 2 Massachusetts agents and a broker-dealer concerning their market practices. The reputations of these agents may never completely recover after having their allegedly dishonest behavior reported widely in Boston-area mass media.
The complaint against one of the agents illustrates why this so. (See the box for examples of the charges.).
Reading through all of this made me think back to the time when I entered the life insurance business in 1977. I joined the ranks of career agents who then represented approximately 80% of all licensed agents.
The first thing my company gave me was a box of business cards that described me as a “Field Underwriter.” Of course, I had no flexibility to alter my title, use a “Doing Business As” (DBA) name or even advertise my services except within a very narrow framework supplied to me by my company.
Looking back–although I didn’t realize it at the time–with my company’s approval, that card said I was presenting myself to the buying public as something other than what I was: a life insurance agent. After all, what practical meaning did the term “Field Underwriter” have to my life insurance prospects? None at all.
Now, 30 years later, the world of agents is very different.
It has reversed itself in the sense that independent agents now account for 80% of all licensed agents, not the career agents. Furthermore, the effort to recast agents’ images away from an accurate portrayal of what they really do has been on steroids for the past 20 years.
In particular, agents have sought to re-image themselves away from the term “agent.” They have done this because they feel the public wants something different. Consequently, with no employer to prohibit their image making, they have taken their identities further and further away from the activity that provides most of their income.