“We need to get the sales momentum back,” says Nationwide Financial President and Chief Operating Officer Mark R. Thresher.
He is referring to sales of life insurance, particularly sales to the mid-market.
In many cases, the Columbus, Ohio-based executive told National Underwriter in a telephone interview, the mid-market is not even being talked to about life insurance. The agents somehow “didn’t get around to it,” he says.
His view is that the industry needs to make its products simpler and more transparent. Life insurance needs to be easy for the producer to sell and easy for the customer to buy, he says.
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This year, Thresher has been taking that message around the country, delivering it, for example, at the April 2007 Life Insurance Conference in Atlanta, which was co-sponsored by LOMA, Atlanta; LIMRA International, Windsor, Conn.; the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Ill.; and American Council of Life Insurers, Washington.
In the April presentation, he showed a chart, drawn from LIMRA’s 2004 Ownership Study, that displayed how life insurance ownership among all households had declined to 78% in 2004, from 83% in both 1960 and 1976.
In that same period, individual sales had risen, but group sales had declined.
At various industry gatherings, there has been a lot of discussion about how to increase sales, especially to the mid-market, Thresher says. However, he says he has concluded there has been more discussion in this area than action.
To serve the market profitably, firms need to develop “mass-customized solutions, supported by low-cost distribution,” he maintains. That includes use of technology-based solution platforms, he says, stressing that he means agent- and consumer-friendly platforms.