Since my previous two articles concerning the possible formation of an agent only organization I called The Annuity Partnership created such a negative backlash, I decided that some “baby steps” may be in order.
So many agents and industry elite told me the numerous reasons why an agent driven non-profit organization would not be effective, and most seemed to think everything will just work its way out of these current problems. I guess you are the same people that think Obamacare will be OK in the end, and to just wait it out. People like to buy the dream, and certainly resist changing from the status quo.
Let’s start the needed annuity brand protection movement with something we are all familiar with, the Surgeon General and FDA-type warnings we find on many consumer products.
Annuity Surgeon General (Internet-TV-Radio) WARNING
This is for the cowboy product slingers out there that run too good to be true sounding pitches and never mention the word annuity one time within the ad. We’ve all seen and heard local, regional, and national TV and radio ads using undefined catch phrases like:
- “reasonable rate of return”
- “market participation with no downside”
- “safe money strategies”
- “never lose a penny”
- “never lose money with market returns”
- “7% return…15% return” (see some the pop ups on this site!)
There is a TV and radio ad running in my state of Florida that tells the listener to take 50% of their portfolio and put in their “principal protected safe money strategy” (never mentioning the word annuity) and put the other 50% in the market. Huh? So everyone on the planet need this exact asset allocation without a conversation or consultation? FINRA needs to stop patting themselves on the back about Madoff and start focusing on the next round of obvious future issues!
If every ad had a short verbal disclaimer at the beginning or end for whatever dream scenario is being pitched, this would at least give the consumer a heads up to what product the ad buying dream slinger is really talking about. Please tell me what is wrong with that idea! It’s like the warning on cigarettes, you can smoke them if you want but do the research before moving forward. What’s the harm with telling the consumer that the ad is about annuities? Answer…nothing!
Annuity Surgeon General (Print) WARNING
Since my parents reside in St. Augustine, Florida and live in an agent salivating retirement community, I get to see weekly examples of the postcard pitches they receive. I’ve seen hundreds of them over the last 5 years, and not once was the word annuity mentioned anywhere on the postcard, even though I know that was the obvious endgame.
What would be wrong with a prominent disclaimer on every printed piece saying something like:
“This is a solicitation for an annuity product. Annuities are life insurance products, and are backed by the full faith and credit by the issuing company and are not FDIC insured. Annuities are not suitable for everyone, and you are encourage to read a sample policy and contact your state insurance department for clarification or any perceived consumer abuses.”
Come up with your own perfect verbiage, but you see where I’m headed with this. Who in their right mind would be against this? Agents need to stop hiding behind catch phrases and bullet points and be proud of what you sell. I sell annuities, and transfer of risk solutions, and I’m damn proud of it! Heck, I call myself Stan The Annuity Man.
Annuity Surgeon General (Seminar/Webinar) WARNING
This is a direct shot at the now popular Social Security seminars that FMOs and agents are now pushing to fill up rooms with buying units. I get the fact that Social Security is the ultimate baby boomer magnet and a topic (when combined with free food) that is too much for most senior citizens to pass up.
There needs to be a disclaimer on every seminar or webinar invitation as well as a reminder “warning” that annuities will be discussed in addition to the main advertised topic before the presentation begins and after the PowerPoint pitch is over. Once again, if you stand behind the annuity products you are selling and truly believe these strategies can provide a real value proposition, then there should be no hesitation to place the word annuity in the forefront.
One of the reasons my company name is Stan The Annuity Man is because my baseball fanatic father named me after the great St. Louis Cardinal, Stan Musial. However, the main reason for the company name is that I want people to know what I do from the get go. This saves time for everyone involved. If a person hates annuities, then they are probably not going to engage a person called Stan The Annuity Man. Pizza places don’t call themselves food emporiums. They want to attract people who like pizza! It’s time to force the annuity industry to do the same thing.
If the word “warning” is too much for you, then call it a “disclaimer.” The bottom line is that if nothing else is ever done from a brand protection standpoint, this is one thing that should happen. It needs to happen. It has to happen now. No excuses.