Since annuities were created in ancient Rome, it seems fitting that the next step for the annuity industry is to have a collective focus revolving around the Latin word gravitas.
Merriam-Webster defines gravitas as “high seriousness (as in a person’s bearing or in the treatment of a subject)…seriousness, solemnity, or importance.” If something has substance and weightiness, then it can be described as having gravitas. Gravitas can also be described as acting in a dignified or serious demeanor.
Gravitas is one of the four Roman virtues, along with virtus (courage, character), pietas (duty, loyalty) and dignitas (dignity).
So what do I mean when I say “annuity gravitas”? I mean pride in the annuity story, and the solutions that annuities can provide. I mean understanding the importance of the potential defining role that annuities could play in America’s retirement future if we deliver the right message. I mean taking this opportunity seriously as an industry, and putting a dignified stamp on how annuities are created and sold.
Let’s look at a couple of steps toward achieving the goal of annuity gravitas.
One consistent message
I’ve written about this before, but the current “annuity message” is so disjointed and random that it would cause most ad agencies to pull their hair out. Is it growth? Is it safety? Is it income? Is it risk transfer? Is it a combination of all of these? We are creating our own confusion.
This is going to be a tough one because it seems that market growth is the impetus for most annuity sales pitches. Whether it’s variable or indexed annuities, potential market upside seems to be the dream that is sold. That is a huge mistake in my opinion.
The message should revolve around contractually guaranteed transfer of risk strategies. Boomers and retirees continue to tell us they want contractual benefits and guarantees, so let’s give it to them and tell it to them over and over. The growth story should not be part of the message. Sell the worst case scenario, and stick to that from a recommendation standpoint. Sell the guarantees only.
If we do this now, then when the next market correction happens, the public will immediately reflex to the need for contractual-type guarantees. If our message has been simple and consistent, then annuities will be where the public’s brain immediately goes to for a guaranteed solution.
Protect the brand