One of the greatest rural America sayings is, “that dog won’t hunt.” Growing up in North Carolina, I’ve heard teachers, coaches, grandmas, grandpas, mothers, fathers, and even preachers use this nebulous phrase to explain why something obviously isn’t going to work.
In my constant quest to figure out why the fixed annuity industry continues to be so disjointed from a message standpoint, I have a new phrase that I’ve come up with to explain our current communication dilemma: This annuity “dogma” won’t hunt. For those of you that need a tutorial on the word “dogma,” let’s take a closer look at the definition.
According to Merriam-Webster, dogma is “a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted.” Another meaning is “something held as an established opinion.”
So what annuity “dogma” am I talking about? The “annuity dogma that won’t hunt,” in my opinion, is the ongoing fractured messages that continue to not only confuse people and label our industry in a negative light, but seem to be accepted by the majority without being challenged.
How could such a fantastic fixed annuity product line be so maligned? How could an industry have products that the public needs and are actually looking for, and not be looked upon favorably? This ongoing hatred of annuities, unless addressed and solved for, could be the biggest financial conundrum ever. Universities will give classes on it. Studies will be published trying to explain it. Let’s beat them all to the punch and solve the dogma problems right now.
It’s time for us to stop accepting how the annuity industry does business, and start questioning, doubting, and changing current opinions and practices for the better. Below are just a couple examples of what I am talking about.
Current annuity “dogma” that won’t hunt
Trying to keep up with “the market.”
For whatever reason, the annuity industry always compares itself to the securities industry. I hear it all of the time, especially with the indexed agent army. The first thing the fixed annuity industry needs to do is totally separate itself from “the market.” The 151A fight should be in everyone’s rearview mirror by now, and we should separate ourselves as far as possible from the risk-related securities industry. We want to be the exact opposite in my opinion, and trumpet the transfer of risk guarantees that fixed annuities provide.
Industry ads direct to agents
Without naming the sender and trying to be kind, I recently received an email promoting how agents can sell more annuities with the example being a person that used to drive a vehicle professionally (i.e., truck) and just made six figures in a few months selling annuities. Who in the world is this ad targeted to? Really! The first thing that hit me is that whoever wants to attack the annuity industry would definitely use this ad (and many others like it) as ammunition against us. And by the way, they would have a good case.
The Wild Wild Annuity Internet West
I keep banging this drum, but I feel like the tree falling in the woods. Does anyone hear it? With no regulation, no oversight and no enforcement, anything and everything is said about fixed annuity products (primarily indexed or the overused word “hybrid”) on the Internet via fear-driven pop-up ads and hype-and-sizzle videos. Because these organizations keep misleading the public with no recourse, I think a lot of agents (including myself, sometimes in frustration) have given up any hope of cleaning this mess up. By the way, this needs to be completely cleaned up and enforced before the class action lawyers start catching a whiff.
Future annuity “dogma” that can hunt
Public service ads to the public
The “Got Milk?” ad keeps haunting me as I see our industry with so many fractured messages. Is it dreaming to think that the fixed annuity carriers could all get together to coordinate one consistent message to the public that we could all be on board with without question? Other industries do this all of the time: the citrus industry, the beer industry, and Apple (representing the mobile industry). We should be next.
Why not “Got Guarantees?” If the word guarantee scares you from a legal standpoint, then how about “Got Certainty?” The current no-uniformity-of-message theme isn’t working. Somehow, our multibillion dollar industry is allowing others to create and define our message. This is truly unbelievable if you really think about it.
It’s time to have one large pool of money that comes from everyone in the industry to buy national public service ads to correctly promote the fixed annuity genre. Everyone is making enough money to donate their part, so there are no excuses not to do this. How about a per-ticket tax on the agents, FMOs and carriers to raise the money? What’s your excuse? Answer…there is none!
Carrier & FMO message coordination
This one has to happen. Hopefully, at the upcoming NAFA IMO gathering in lovely Aspen, Colo. someone will stand up in the main meeting and yell at the top of their lungs, “Please stop this madness!” The madness I am referring to is the constant quest to “out sizzle” each other from a product promotion and agent giveaway standpoint. I know that each carrier and FMO is trying to separate themselves to attract agents and more sales, but a consistent core message would be welcomed relief from current archaic marketing practices. I know that I’m dreaming again!
So the next time you get a call from someone who just bought an “8 percent annuity” or describes a too-good-to-be-true sales pitch they saw on the Internet, your answer from now on should be “that annuity ‘dog’ won’t hunt.” Let’s stop settling for the current annuity dogma, and let’s start questioning and changing these currently accepted and damaging practices. It’s time for all of us to be proactive once and for all.
For more from Stan Haithcock, see: