As an editor I receive quite a few PR pitches. Many go into the trashcan, as they don’t fit our idea of news or are deemed not a benefit to financial advisors.

One that caught my eye recently was an email from Genworth announcing that after “having been out of (the index annuity) market for a number of years” they were getting back in. Yes, my eyes opened wide, particularly in light of recent articles our site had published on companies jumping off the annuity bandwagon, particularly variable annuities.

So I went back to the source and spoke with Pat Foley, (left), president, U.S. life insurance distribution and marketing for Genworth, to get insight on their bullishness about annuities, specifically fixed indexed annuities (FIAs).

LifeHealthPro: What was the impetus for jumping back into the annuity world because it looks like some players are vacating the annuity space?

Pat Foley: From a general perspective we’re focused on serving Main Street America. We’re the industry leader with long-term care and have a significant place with life insurance. It made sense from overall product perspective to build a strong presence in FIAs, since so many of our distributors work on that product line. And, with Main Street America, people want security and we believe our role is to help with security.

LifeHealthPro: What are the thoughts on hybrid products? They’ve been a hot topic lately.

Foley: We have a linked benefit product tied to life insurance and we believe that market will continue to grow. And, we are looking to enhance our products in that line. Our customers are saying they’d like to see us have more presence there.

LifeHealthPro: We’ve also heard that non-traditional playersbanks, wirehouses, broker/dealersare getting into the annuity business more and more. What are your thoughts on that non-traditional competition?

Foley: As it pertains to FIAs, I’ve been involved in this marketplace since the late ‘90s. What I see is that these players have realized that the consumer has spoken. They like the value proposition of the FIA. They give guarantees and have an upside. Those distribution entities see their clients are buying these products so they’re now putting FIAs on their shelves. Also, it’s great for consumers. It gives them more options. And for us, FIAs give us a chance to broaden our distribution base.

LifeHealthPro: What are the biggest issues/challenges you hear from the agents in the field and what can be done to help them?

Foley: For producers the problem never changes. It’s always a challenge to get in front of enough quality clients. What we’ve tried to do is partner with distributors to train agents to help them get in front of more clients. We tend to focus on how to provide new educational opportunities for agents to emphasize the benefits to the customer.

LifeHealthPro: In surveys we’ve conducted, we’ve noticed that consumers are savvier and that, at times, it’s changed the role of the agent.

Foley: Yes. Consumers are more educated and more value conscious and looking for products that can provide more value for them. This is good for the agents in this business since FIAs can provide the type of guarantees that so many consumers are looking for.