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Luminaries Awards

Life Health > Life Insurance

2007 Readers' Choice Awards

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When it comes to keeping an eye on the pulse of industry product and service offerings, we figure there’s no one more qualified to give us a report than our readers. After all, you are the ones who are out in the field choosing from these products and services every day. Your opinion matters. And so we present the second annual Senior Market Advisor Readers’ Choice Awards.

The categories mirror last year?? 1/2 s awards, as do some of the winners. But despite repeat winners and runners-up in the first two categories, by and large the results this year from nearly 300 voters paint a different picture, with a few newer products and companies making exceptionally strong showings.

Envelope No. 1
Which carrier offers an LTCI product with the most value for seniors?

Winner: Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America

Allianz Life won this title last year, and maintains its status with our readers in 2007. The Minneapolis-based firm, a primary company of Allianz SE, one of the largest corporations in the world, has been in the long term care industry since 1990. Allianz Life offers LTC offerings with innovative benefits, headlined by the Generation Protector series of products, designed to keep the insured in control of how and where they receive care.

Runner-Up: John Hancock

John Hancock retains this title thanks to its LTC product line with a combination of built-in benefits and optional riders that address the needs of consumers. Between Custom Care, Custom Care II, Custom Care II with FamilyCare II benefit, and the newer Leading Edge, John Hancock figures to remain a leader in the LTCI market.

Envelope No. 2
Which LTCI product offers the most value for seniors?

Winner: Generation Protector

Another repeat winner from last year. Billed as a comprehensive, cost-effective solution to long term care needs, Allianz’s Generation Protector and its follow-up products, particularly Generation Protector II, was the most frequently mentioned LTCI product in our reader voting by a wide margin. Designed to keep the consumer in control of his future long term care, including where he receives it, Generation Protector offers lots of flexibility at a moderate price.

Runner-Up: Custom Care II

Often referred to as John Hancock’s most comprehensive LTCI policy, Custom Care II once again finishes as runner-up in this category. It features built-in benefits that are key to comprehensive long term care and the flexibility to select additional benefits based on both individual and family needs. It offers enhanced home care protection, as well as traditional coverage in assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

Envelope No. 3
Which carrier offers an annuity product with the most value for seniors?

Winner: American Investors

We have a pair of new winners in this category, led by American Investors life Insurance, which is now part of Aviva USA. Topeka, Kan.-based American Investors sells annuities and life insurance through nearly 4,000 independent agents and brokers across the U.S., including many SMA readers who obviously appreciate the products. They include the Income Select Plus fixed indexed annuity, which finished as the runner-up in our next award category.

Runner-Up: The Annexus Group

It’s no secret that the popularity of the BalancePlus Annuity is behind this award going to the Annexus Group. The Annexus Group has teamed with the visionaries responsible for the invention of the equity index annuity and the death benefit rider, resulting in the creation of the BalancePlus Annuity, which it bills as “the next generation of fixed annuities.” You can read more about the BPA in our next category.

Envelope No. 4
Which annuity product offers the best value for seniors?

Winner: BalancePlus Annuity

The BalancePlus Annuity, a first-time winner in this category, is frequently billed as the most successful product rollout in the history of the industry. The unique and interesting product design is the brainchild of Ron Shurts and Don Dady, co-founders of the Annexus Group.

“The big idea behind the BalancePlus Annuity,”says Dady, “was the development of the patent-pending Balanced Allocation Strategy that allows ?? 1/2 for the first time ever ?? 1/2 contract values of an indexed annuity to be tracked on a daily basis. This breakthrough allows BPA to create never-seen-before benefits from an indexed annuity product.”

For instance, Dady says, many clients don’t understand that if they take income from a traditional indexed annuity (free-withdrawal or otherwise) on any day other than their contract’s anniversary date, they lose any interest they would have earned on the withdrawal amount. With the BPA, the client automatically captures any appreciation on the free withdrawal amount on the withdrawal date. This can have a profound impact on the client’s beneficiaries as well.

Technology and design innovation also allow BPA to eliminate complicated and confusing modifiers (i.e., caps, participation rates, averaging, etc.) commonly used today. A patent-pending guaranteed minimum death benefit rider is another industry first.

Runner-Up: Income Select Plus

Income Select Plus, issued by American Investors Life Insurance Company Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aviva USA, is an FIA that gives the consumer choices of four interest crediting strategies to take advantage of stronger market conditions while providing guarantees that protect retirement savings during down market conditions. Strategies include a fixed strategy, which works like a traditional fixed annuity; a one-year monthly cap index strategy; a one-year uncapped average index strategy; and a one-year point-to-point index strategy.

Other popular features of Income Select Plus include a first-year premium bonus, death benefit for heirs, free withdrawals, and the flexibility to move money between strategies.

Envelope No. 5
Which carrier offers a life insurance product with the most value for seniors?

Winner: Indianapolis Life

Indianapolis Life, part of Aviva USA, took top honors in this category thanks mainly to its Indexed Survivor Universal Life product, which predictably took top honors in the next category as the life insurance product with the most value for seniors. The 102-year-old company provides insurance products and financial instruments for estate planning, wealth transfer, retirement income and business continuation to policyholders throughout the U.S. The combination of long-term stability, product innovation, and quality performance consistently earns Indianapolis Life a position among the country’s top insurers.

Runner-Up: Allianz Life

As life spans continue to increase, consumers are counting on life insurance policies to do more than merely offer the protection of a death benefit and a cash value with optional riders. Today people want policies that grow along with their changing needs. Minneapolis-based Allianz Life offers a wide variety of innovative life insurance products designed to do just this, created by listening to the needs of consumers.

Allianz Life’s GenDex portfolio of products remains extremely popular with advisors and consumers alike. The GenDex equity-indexed universal life insurance policy, which features a return-of-premium guarantee, is complimented by products for additional needs, such as GenDex II, GenDex SP, and GenDex Survivorship, which offers comprehensive estate and business planning solutions.

Envelope No. 6
Which life insurance product offers the most value for seniors?

Winner: Indexed Survivor Universal Life

Indianapolis Life’s Indexed Survivor Universal Life easily outdistanced the competition in the minds of our voters, with more than double the votes of the runner-up. The Indexed Survivor Universal Life policy insures two lives and pays the death benefit upon the second death. The policy is designed to provide an efficient and cost-effective way to cover estate taxes and other expenses that arise during the transfer of assets. It is also an effective tool for businesses to address management succession planning.

Because it has an indexed crediting feature, the ISUL also has the potential to accumulate cash values based on the movement of a stock market index, yet comes with a guaranteed minimum interest rate to protect the policy from downward movements in the index.

Runner-Up: MoneyGuard

Lincoln Financial’s MoneyGuard series, a repeat runner-up in this category, is a prime example of products for seniors that offer a long term care component. With MoneyGuard, a single-life, single-premium product, LTC expenses are covered, but if LTC is never needed, MoneyGuard pays a death benefit. Around since the late 1980s, MoneyGuard is a well-established leader.

Envelope No. 7 Which marketing organization offers the best selling system?

Winner: Advisors Excel

There were no repeat winners or runner-ups in any of the marketing organization categories this year, but that didn’t prevent a sweep of the categories from two companies: Advisors Excel and Financial Independence Group.

Topeka, Kan.-based Advisors Excel was our top vote-getter in all four marketing organization categories. President Cody Foster, CEO Derek Thompson and CFO David Callahan started Advisors Excel after working together at another national marketing organization, deciding to take a different approach by focusing on helping higher-end producers write more business rather than mass-recruiting agents.

Two primary selling systems led to the victory in this category: The IRA College, where agents can learn every aspect of IRA planning geared toward the 60-and-over client; and Infinite Income, an income planning program geared toward the 65-and-under client. Both systems offer complete sales and marketing programs ?? 1/2 they just take two different approaches.

Runner-Up: Financial Independence Group Inc.

Since 1976, FIG has strived to find ways for agents to get in front of prospects. “While there are no silver bullets, we think that our Mentor Program has really been a home run,” says Bo Johnson, Chief Marketing Officer at Financial Independence Group. “There is no successful packed system for everyone, or everyone would be doing that system. The Mentor Program matches personalities with advisors that have done more than $15 million annually of annuity premium. We even have a women’s program for a producer who wants to go after that market. The best part of the system is the hands-on training it provides.”

Envelope No. 8
Which marketing organization offers the best direct mail?

Winner: Advisors Excel

Advisors Excel has built direct mail programs around both of its successful selling systems ?? 1/2 the IRA College and Infinite Income.

Advisors Excel President Cody Foster says the entire company is based upon three common traits that most top advisors share: A constant stream of new prospects; an effective selling system; and money invested into their business.

With the proliferation of do-not-call lists, direct mail is as crucial as ever in helping advisors garner a constant stream of new prospects, and SMA readers think Advisors Excel does it pretty well.

Runner-Up: Financial Independence Group Inc.

When asked what he thought was the best feature of FIG’s direct mail program, FIG CMO Bo Johnson says his company long ago decided that researching the marketplace was the best for the agent concerning direct mail.

“We advise several mail houses on what advisors need as well as content. Again, there is no silver bullet, just consistency,” Johnson says. “FIG believes that each advisor needs four distinct marketing programs ?? 1/2 two aggressive and two secondary. Our internal marketing consultant team, lead by Jimese Orange, is extremely helpful in making sure the advisors get what they want out of this secondary type of prospecting.”

Envelope No. 9
Which marketing organization offers the best consumer seminar system?

Winner: Advisors Excel

Advisors Excel President Cody Foster says his company’s seminar system does a great job of priming the prospect’s mind to make a decision. From PowerPoint presentations and DVDs to scripts, Advisors Excel’s seminar system “gets them primed to do something,” Foster says.

Called “Tactics of America’s Successful Retirees,” Advisors Excel promises that no competitors will have the same presentation thanks to its exclusive territory program.

Runner-Up: Financial Independence Group Inc.

“The most popular topic of seminars is asset accumulation, but income distribution is steadily rising,” FIG CMO Bo Johnson says. FIG offers a variety of choices in its consumer seminar systems, highlighted by its Mentor Program and its Women’s Program.

Envelope No. 10
Which education provider offers the best CE courses/programs?

Winner: WebCE
Readers made WebCE a repeat winner in this category, again this year by an overwhelming margin. Nationwide availability on the Internet has made WebCE the premier insurance continuing education provider in North America, each year delivering more than 450,000 insurance CE courses. Most of the online CE courses also qualify for CFP CE, Adjuster CE and other insurance license designations. If online isn’t your thing, WebCE still offers paper-based courses as well.

Runner-Up: Kaplan Financial

This category garnered an extremely wide variety of responses from readers, including many who mentioned marketing organizations. Kaplan Financial came out as the runner-up, as it provides a single source for premier education and compliance solutions, brining together these leading brands: Dearborn Financial Services, BISYS Education Services, eMind, Insurance Achievement and Schweser, a Kaplan Professional company.

Offerings include license exam prep, continuing education and firm element, insurance designation programs, CFP Board-Registered Programs, and compliance management tools and services.

Envelope No. 11
Which carrier offers the best suite of senior products?

Winner: Aviva USA

When Aviva and AmerUs Group combined in November of 2006, Aviva USA significantly strengthened its focus on indexed life insurance and indexed annuity products. Aviva USA is the leader in U.S. indexed life sales and ranks in the top three for indexed annuities. Its parent company, London-based Aviva plc, is the world?? 1/2 s fifth-largest insurance group with 58,000 employees serving 35 million customers worldwide.

At the end of August, Aviva USA announced it had acquired 71 acres of undeveloped land in West Des Moines, Iowa, where it plans to build a campus for its U.S. headquarters facility, currently housed in three different locations in Des Moines.

Including American Investors and its Income Select Plus, Indianapolis Life and its Indexed Survivor Universal Life, Aviva USA won four of the 13 categories in this year’s Reader’s Choice Awards, and added three more runner-up awards.

Runner-Up: Allianz Life

A winner in this category last year, Allianz still fared very well among our voting readers. With wins in both LTCI categories and a runner-up award in the life insurance product voting, Allianz’s suite of senior-friendly products are a constant presence for advisors focusing on the senior market. MasterDex remains atop fixed annuity product sales figures, and GenDex products remain very popular in the life insurance arena. The company?? 1/2 s powerful portfolio represents a new generation of innovative products that emphasize long-term value and a variety of living benefits.

Envelope No. 12
Which company?? 1/2 s new products hold the most promise for growth?

Winner: The Annexus Group

Again it?? 1/2 s the BalancePlus Annuity paving the way for the Annexus Group to claim this award. The BPA is distributed exclusively through a hand-picked group of independent marketing organizations, a move intended to ensure a consistently high level of service. SMA readers seem to agree that the strategy works.

Runner-Up: American Investors

Now part of Aviva USA, American Investors targets the growing savings and retirement market with its life insurance and annuity products. SMA readers no doubt voted American Investors to this award due to their fondness for the company?? 1/2 s Income Select Plus FIA, which also garnered runner-up honors in the next category. With a dedication to quality products and sound asset management, American Investors figures to maintain its position as one of the top fixed annuity providers in the nation.

Envelope No. 13
Which product holds the most promise for growth?

Winner: Balance Plus Annuity

Another win for the Annexus Group?? 1/2 s BPA, which was designed to give clients a new standard for an innovative combination of guarantees, growth and flexibility. The patent-pending Balanced Allocation Strategy optimizes a client?? 1/2 s opportunity for long-term growth while still allowing their retirement savings to remain secure.

Runner-Up: Income Select Plus

American Investors?? 1/2 Income Select Plus lands here, and also landed at No. 5 on Beacon Research?? 1/2 s Fixed Annuity Premium Study for first quarter 2007. If you?? 1/2 ve read through the other categories, you know Income Select Plus fared very well in our second annual Reader?? 1/2 s Choice awards after not showing up at all in 2006.

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