After my last column, concerning the possibility of creating The Annuity Partnership (TAP), an organization that would allow agents to finally have a united say in this whole annuity matter, I was stunned by the outrage and vitriol that resulted from an idea!
If you haven’t had time to take a look, I would encourage you to give it a quick read, “It’s time to tax all annuity agents” in order to get people to read the content. Let’s just say that the word tax always evokes the predictable emotion—anger—and knee jerk reactions that only that word can.
I received many responses from that column, mostly negative, but what I didn’t get were workable solutions to the problem. If there’s a different solution out there, I am actually very interested to hear something other than my proposed TAP non-profit thought, because the vast majority of respondents said that it would never have a chance of working.
In order to save time and to prevent the typical “annuity political speak” and “annuity cliché carousel”, I proactively provided a partial list of commonly voiced ideas that have proven over time to be little more than empty words.
Partial List of Ideas that will NOT work
- Waiting for the carriers to stop using the excuse that generic misleading ads, videos, seminars, and mailers are not their problem. “They don’t mention our company name, so it’s not something that we need to address.” Imagine if misleading ads were being spewed about the milk industry without mentioning a specific brand. I guess that if you close your eyes, you can’t see the problems, right?
- Waiting for the majority of FMOs to stop pimping their agents by focusing on just a few products, and not the whole lineup of annuity solutions regardless of commissions, overrides, or back end carrier bonuses.
- Embracing the status quo and doing absolutely nothing, and dreaming things will work out for the best eventually.
- Thinking that because good agents will continue to be good people and continue to sell ethically, this will overwhelm and counteract all the annuity cowboys and product slingers while we wait for those bad agents to suddenly become good annuity citizens.
- Funding The Annuity Partnership (i.e. agent organization) with voluntary dollars, and without a complete stand-alone organizational structure and mandatory funding mechanism.
- Dreaming that bad things will eventually happen to bad agents, and not caring how much damage is done until that fantasy ever/never occurs.
Doing nothing is not an option
The apathy amongst a vast number of agents has been the real shocker to me. I guess that I shouldn’t be surprised when you look at the voting habits of most Americans, or the overall national attitude of not giving a rip about things that really matter.
Look in the mirror and be honest with yourself as an annuity agent. Are you really happy with how the fixed product line has been branded? I’m talking all annuity products, not just the beloved FIA (oh, I’m sorry, “hybrid”!). Are you happy with the “hybrid” hype and misinformation going on? Do you really sign off on the Internet pop up ads and numerous unregulated videos and webinars? The fact is that the cowboys are running the rodeo, and somehow the annuity industry is letting it happen. Remember, the Titanic was never supposed to sink.
Put up or shut up
So many of you actually blame me and think I’m the problem, which is revealing and comical to say the least. Assuming, for a minute, that I am not the problem, then what is your plan to right any problems within the industry? If you were king of the annuity industry for a year, what specifically would you do to improve things? How would you propose regulating the Internet promoters and bad chicken dinner seminars? How would you frame the fixed annuity brand to the consumer?
Let’s see real ideas that could actually be implemented, and might be the impetus for all agents to rally around and aggressively promote.
Stop attacking and start thinking
If I tried to make up the “directives” that were emailed to me and some even posted as comments, I could never evoke that kind of creativity. Examples of these nasty missives ranged from “evil”, “need to go to prison”, “need to be put on an island”, “need to shut my mouth”, “need to be removed from LifeHealthPro”, and numerous versions of “need my rear end kicked.” Just to make those physical threats seem a bit funny, I feel the need to let those anonymous tough guys know that I am 6’6” tall and weigh 245 pounds. Bring on the “annuity octagon”! Now that would be something agents would be interested in. The ultimate “Annuity Fighter.” Someone please call a cable TV company!
There is an organization for carriers and FMOs, and that is called NAFA. Agents can be members and pay dues, but you have no voting rights and cannot attend the key meetings at the annual convention. That’s OK; I happily pay my annual dues because I believe in their cause. There is also an organization for all of the state insurance commissioners called NAIC. I’m all for it, and I hope the NAIC gets a little more proactive from an oversight and enforcement standpoint.
Now what was the name of that organization for annuity agents and other advisors who care about protecting and enhancing the annuity brand? Come again?
It’s time my fellow annuity agents. It’s time.