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.
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.