Once a hot-button issue, it seems agent interest is dwindling 

 

Last Wednesday, prominent members of the insurance industry gathered in Washington for a fly-in to gain support for two bills which would define indexed annuities as non-securities products and put a stop to the SEC’s controversial Rule 151A. After an opening breakfast and remarks from the bill’s House and Senate sponsors, fly-in participants talked to lawmakers and urged them to support the legislation. ASJ, along with sister publications National Underwriter, Senior Market Advisor, and Life Insurance Selling, encouraged our Twitter followers to participate in a live discussion of the event as the National Underwriter team sent updates.

It seemed to be going well. Although no huge decisions were made, the industry definitely made its mark on Washington.

And then Sunday came, with its landmark health reform bill, and any other legislation that had been discussed in the previous week seemed to get pushed to the wayside. After a weekend of history-making votes, is it possible that any legislator influenced by remarks made at the fly-in will remember anything they were told? More importantly, do insurance agents still care about this issue?

I remember when I first started working for ASJ, back in August 2008. Rule 151A was the hot topic of the hour, and I was instantly told I needed to learn everything I could not just about annuities but about the SEC and this huge piece of legislation that was literally going to make the industry explode. For someone who had never so much as considered buying an annuity, it was a tall order. But nearly two years later, I feel confident that I understand the issue. It definitely helped that agents I talked to were passionate about the subject, and eager to help me learn. Many of them were outraged that something like 151A was even being considered, but scrolling through the comments on the SEC’s Web site showed me that the issue wasn’t as cut-and-dry as people were making it out to be. I got up the learning curve pretty fast, and enjoyed hearing the arguments on both sides of the debate. Unfortunately, now it seems that interest has waned.

Results from our 2010 Annuity Market Study (available in our April 2010 print edition) showed that 13 percent of agents who sell annuities have still never heard of 151A. Though 13 percent seems like a small number, for an issue that’s been on the table for several years now, it’s actually quite a big percentage. And recent searches for 151A-related articles turned up almost no content. Even our Web analytics are showing readers are less interested – recent 151A-related content hasn’t done as well in terms of generating reader interest and comments as it did when the issue was newer.   

What happened to the impassioned debate on this issue? Is the slow-moving discussion fatiguing people on the issue? Did the health care debate overshadow 151A? Do agents still care, but aren’t talking about it as voraciously anymore? Or are they talking about, and I just haven’t seen it? What do you think? Comment below and let us know!   

Heather Trese is the associate editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal.