Over the past year, a lot of calls have come in from readers seeking sequential quarterly sales results–that is, quarter to previous quarter–followed by annual sales comparisons such as most recent quarter versus same quarter last year.
Some are looking for half-year results, also sequential. (Of course, at year-end, they want year over year, same as always.)
This attention to very recent results, quarter to previous quarter, is new.
In past years, most industry professionals seemed to be satisfied with data comparing the most recent quarter to the same period in the previous year.
The shift is worth noting because the inquiries are not coming just from data junkies. They are also coming from company researchers and executives, agency and brokerage heads, consultants and other business leaders–professionals who are mindfully scoping out something specific that they need for decision-making, sooner rather than later.
Their sense of urgency is palpable, and their comments about that are revealing.
As I understand it, the economy has been so volatile, and sales have been so bumpy, that some of these professionals have decided they really need to give more heed to current sequential data than before.
A big move, up or down, from the previous quarter means something to them. For instance, it may mean it’s time to decide whether to cut, curb, curtail, redirect, beef up, or otherwise change products and strategy. They feel they do not have the luxury of a long wait-and-see before taking decisive action.
Business 101 typically warns that acting only on recent results can create problems from which a firm may never recover. But in periods of big change, some insurance firms can, and do, move fast.
Consider: The recent recession officially started at the end of 2007. Variable annuity sales, which typically slow when markets decline, dropped 12% in first quarter 2008 compared to the previous quarter. They dropped a bit more the following quarter (compared to first quarter) but sank further in third quarter (by 10% compared to second quarter). This data is from VARDS, a service of Morningstar, Inc., Chicago.
Meanwhile, as the downturn deepened, many VA insurers grew concerned about the sustainability of their VA living benefit guarantees. Presto! By the second half, some of those insurers were trimming back, removing or increasing prices on those guarantees–moves that advisors said made VAs even harder to sell.