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Portfolio > ETFs > Broad Market

HNW lapping the middle market

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It’s no wonder so many producers target high-net-worth (HNW) clients and forsake the middle market. Same reason robbers favor banks: Because that’s where the money is.

Prolific bank robber Willie “The Actor” Sutton says he never actually responded to the question about why he robbed banks with that famous answer; it was just credited to him by an imaginative reporter. “Sutton’s Law” about considering the obvious first is followed nonetheless by a large percentage of insurance producers.

While average Americans who make up the sizable middle market remain in desperate need of any or increased life insurance coverage, I can see why it’s hard for a good producer to focus on that hard-to-reach demographic when the salary disparity between the haves and have-nots keeps widening.

An article on the front page of the Sunday Denver Post business section got me thinking about this, right from the headline: “On the Upswing: As state’s wages stay dormant, pay for officers jumps more than 50%. The article reported that Colorado’s 50 largest public companies boosted executive compensation by more than 50% in 2010, “with much of that driven by big pay increases for officers other than the chief executive.”

According to the Post‘s survey, compensation for the two highest-paid executives at the 50 largest Colorado companies averaged $4.7 million each last year. The executives who were also on the 2009 list received an average 51% increase in pay.

Non-C-level employees certainly are not seeing pay increases anywhere near this vicinity. The Post article pegged the average hike in pay for private sector workers at 1.9% in 2010, barely outpacing inflation at 1.6%.

Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant at the Securities and Exchange Commission, was quoted in the article as saying: “Execs are getting much larger pay increases at the same time they are telling their employees the company can’t afford increases for them.”

Remember all the outrage about executive compensation during the height of the financial crisis? It’s fair to say that has faded away. One of the changes enacted when the Dodd-Frank Act took effect a year ago was that shareholders have an advisory vote on compensation. As of mid-June, only 1% of Fortune 500 companies lost the “say on pay” votes, according to the Center on Executive Compensation. One percent.

I think it’s safe to say the wealth gap between the HNW individual and the average American will continue to widen. As long as this is the case, the vast majority of experienced producers will continue to focus their efforts on HNW, and the middle market will continue to be largely ignored.

Can’t blame ‘em — that’s where the money is.

For more on the middle market, see:

How to reach and teach the middle market

How to attract middle market clients

Panel: Middle market key to industry growth

To read more from Brian Anderson, click here.


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