This summer, the National Underwriter research team conducted a comprehensive research exploration of life insurance product sales. The purpose of this research effort was to identify opportunities, challenges and common obstacles shared by advisors selling life insurance; the expectations and needs advisors have of their distribution partners, such as insurers and marketing organizations; advisors’ product preferences and their perceptions of client needs; and the support advisors need in order to sell life insurance more successfully.
According to survey respondents, life insurance continues to serve an important societal function. Income replacement in the event of the death of a breadwinner remains the chief driver of consumer interest in life insurance. However, advisors are having difficulty contending with consumers’ general lack of awareness of the need for life insurance. They are struggling with how to overcome client procrastination when it comes to financial planning and consumer perceptions about the affordability, or lack thereof, of life insurance.
Most life insurance sales professionals are independent or non-captive career agents running multi-faceted practices. Seventy percent of advisors selling life insurance products are chiefly focused on an area apart from life insurance, such as investment advisory, employee benefits or property & casualty insurance. Further, the large majority (nearly three-quarters of respondents) derives less than half their income from life insurance product sales.
Most respondents wrote between $25,000 and $100,000 in first-year life insurance premium in the past year. Term life is by far the most commonly favored product among advisors of all kinds, followed by whole life, universal life and index universal life.
The survey indicates that life insurance remains a male-dominated profession. Seventy-eight percent of respondents were male in their 50s or older, though most are selling insurance to clients in their 50s or younger. Fewer than 1 in 5 advisors report having a client base that’s at least 50 percent female.
Overall, the survey revealed a group of advisors who are generally optimistic about the coming year, though they are coming off of a fairly stagnant year of sales and are keenly aware of threats to their business.
The majority of advisors (44 percent) report stagnant life insurance sales in the past 12 months (Figure 1; click to enlarge). Forty-two percent report a substantial or slight increase in sales, and only 15 percent report a decrease of any kind.
Younger agents, especially those in their 40s, report a better year than their counterparts. Likewise, respondents whose primary focus was life insurance or financial planning tend to report higher life insurance sales than advisors focused on annuities, health insurance, property & casualty insurance or employee benefits. There is no discernible difference in the reported life insurance sales activity between male and female advisors.
See also: 20 women in insurance you need to know