“At Jackson…we believe that disciplined investing consists of these 3 ingredients,” says Greg Cicotte, a national sales manager at Denver, Colo.-based Jackson National Life Distributors. “(1) It is formula-based; (2) it is consistently applied; and (3) it is low in cost. If the concept of disciplined investing appeals to you, click on the attached link featuring a client-approved multimedia presentation. Then give your wholesaler a call and learn how to use this effective tool during your next sales call.”
That little plug for JNL’s portfolio of investment solutions might not strike you as unusual until you consider the method of delivery: video e-mail. JNL-affiliated advisors are getting lots of them these days. And, says Dan Starishevsky, a senior vice president of marketing for the company, the messages are having a big impact.
“During the pilot test of our video e-mail, we added a feedback button, and we now get hundreds of messages from advisors telling us they love it,” says Starishevsky. “There’s something about a video that brings a message to life. We now rely on heavily on it.”
Video presentations, whether delivered through an e-mail, CD or web portal that users click to, is but one among a growing plethora of methods that life insurance manufacturers are using to bring educational and training content to advisors beyond the traditional classroom setting. From online universities and video conferencing to Web-Ex’s and podcasting, insurers increasingly are leveraging technology to impart technical and sales concepts, practice management techniques, regulatory guidance and other information to get advisors up-to-speed.
Some reasons: low-cost and convenient. Compared, for example, with the price of flying advisors to an all-day seminar to learn about advanced planning concepts and to secure continuing education credits–an endeavor that can run to hundreds if not thousands of dollars–delivering the content via an online webinar is far more efficient and cost-effective, sources say.
Indeed, several insurance executives interviewed by National Underwriter say their companies–AXA Equitable, Guardian Life and Transamerica–are kick-starting or beefing-up online universities, in part to streamline the efforts needed to satisfy state continuing education requirements.
Transamerica, for example, is now migrating some 26 CE courses to an out-of-the-classroom (OTC) web portal, where advisors can learn about such topics as the 2006 Pension Protection Act, tax pitfalls on life insurance planning and–the company’s most popular course–the use of estate planning techniques, such as bypass trusts and dynasty trusts.
Often, advisors first learn about these techniques through recorded webinars presentations that advisors receive as a URL link via e-mail. In addition to introducing the concept, the presentation may direct producers to a home office representative who can describe the concept at length and/or to the company’s intranet portal, where information pertaining to the technique–courses, CE credits, products and marketing materials–is posted. Later, advisors might also navigate to Impact Online, a web tool they can use to develop an estate plan or do a financial analysis based on the technique.
“All of this began with a 5-minute freshman class about the strategy,” says Michael Babikian, a 2nd vice president of strategic marketing services at Transamerica. “We’re getting very positive feedback on all of the online resources, but especially on the Impact technology, which is new and getting hundreds of users. What the tool allows us to do is work collaboratively with producers online, which is really powerful.”
AXA Equitable, too, offers an online university, which features topics on company products and regulatory requirements. Supplemented by periodic webcasts and teleconferences, the online content is integrated with AXA’s selling system. So when producers learn about, say, a new tax technique, the online instructional tool has them apply the knowledge gained using a case study.
At Guardian Life, producers can log onto a Center of Learning and Professional Development, where the company stores downloadable educational content, including training videos webinars with voice-over and “WebEx’s,” mini-Power Point presentations that last 4 or 5 minutes and are conducted in tandem with a live audio conference.
“We get between 350 and 450 people on a Web-Ex at any one time,” says Kathy Readinger, a 2nd assistant vice president at Guardian Life, New York. “It’s a great way for us to communicate with advisors and for them to view sales concepts and ask questions.”
While Guardian Life records the Web-Ex’s for online archiving and self-study, the technology is ideally suited to short or impromptu conference calls between parties where a visual component is desired.
A manager in an advanced sales department, might, for example, use the software to deliver “just-in-time” information about a technical or sales concept to an advisor who is preparing to meet with a client.
Chris White, a manager of life, education and training for the national sales support team at ING Americas-U.S. Financial Services, Hartford, Conn., says the company’s internal wholesalers use similar technology to host short (“pick-up”) meetings with advisors. JNL, too, sponsors “a ton of Web-Ex presentations” to acquaint advisors with new products or techniques before meeting in person with a manager or wholesaler representative to discuss the information in-depth. The educational value of the face-to-face meeting, says Starishevsky, is thereby enhanced.