The U.S. Census Bureau released information in 2005 telling us that the first of more than 77 million baby boomers would begin retiring in 2006. USA Today recently spotlighted the first boomer to apply for Social Security. The enormous airplay being given to the boomers entering the retirement phase of their lives has given rise to more frequent discussions of how the wealth they have accumulated will be distributed in retirement.
For many years, the financial industry focused on educating clients on the importance of retirement planning, with a focus on accumulation. Driven in large part by the boomers’ stage in life, that focus has shifted to knowing more about how these accumulated funds will be distributed to provide for their lifetime income needs.
In the variable annuity marketplace, the competition is lively. New products and new benefits are being launched at a pace that may have some heads spinning. For example, a recent study by Soleares Research found that through Nov. 21, 2007, 35 companies filed 45 new guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
These two factors alone–new, innovative products and benefits, and the speed at which they are being launched–are cause for more and better training and education. Add product complexity to the mix and you have a critical need for learning.
As leaders in the variable annuity marketplace continue to create innovative products and optional living benefits to help financial professionals meet the retirement needs of their clients, the top product manufacturers are finding that they must lead through education.
A new approach to educating financial professionals
Contrary to the needs identified earlier, many firms are moving away from providing continuing education programs or offering only online programs, leaving behind stacks of cards that provide continuing education credits online through a third-party provider. Market leaders recognize the opportunity that lies in educating financial professionals by building on proprietary programs, like continuing education (CE).
These programs offer courses led by a wholesaler or other industry financial professional. LOMA, a financial industry education provider, reported that leading insurers supported in-person CE because it gave them “control of the content, the quality of the instructor, and the participants.”
Financial professionals are finding CE programs offered by wholesalers to be valuable as an opportunity to ask questions and interact with knowledgeable representatives. And, as financial professionals continue to tell us that keeping courses current and topical is not only important, but necessary to keep their attention and drive attendance, companies offering CE programs are seeing a gradual increase in attendance year over year, reflecting the value that educational and training programs like these bring to the marketplace.
By offering a robust selection of courses in key categories like products and benefits, contract structure, investment fundamentals, retirement planning strategies and other industry topics, market leaders can educate financial professionals on new and emerging trends, enabling them to capitalize on the surging need for retirement-focused investment planning.
Partnering with marketing