Do yearly changes in the commissions that producers receive fluctuate in tandem with CEO compensation at the life insurers for whom they sell product? That’s a question I sought to answer as part of my research on producer compensation. I’ve had limited success.
An analysis of changes in total CEO compensation and commissions paid to producers between 2011 and 2012 is problematic, at least for the Top 25 companies featured in this issue. One reason: 10 of the 25 companies do not disclose CEO pay.
Also to consider are the myriad variables that guide CEO pay, many of them only indirectly connected, at best, with products sold or premium dollars earned. These include, for example, the short-term performance metrics of Basel III capital ratios, customer retention levels, credit losses and key operational/strategic accomplishments.
Yes, gains in new annualized premiums and sales of life insurance and annuities do factor into the mix at certain companies. But for most insurers, the earnings-related metrics used to guide executive pay — return on equity, net operating income and total shareholder return, among others — embrace revenue and profit centers to which life insurance sales professionals contribute only a portion (investment income contributing another, for example).
All of which makes perfect sense. What’s less clear is why producer commissions is not among the scores of performance metrics I learned about while researching my recent feature on CEO compensation. Therein, I compared life insurers within Prudential Financial’s “peer group” (companies of comparable of financial strength and market focus), which collectively use nearly 30 long-term performance metrics and 90-plus short-time metrics to fix CEO pay. Though sales-related variables are among these, commissions are nowhere part of the line-up.