The May issue of National Underwriter Life & Health will mark the inaugural “Insurance industry product innovation” feature. Within it, we profiled innovations in the life, health and annuity markets. Below are the life industry innovations we selected.
The American College’s RICP Program
With more than 10,000 baby boomers turning age 65 on a daily basis since 2011, retirement income planning has taken on added urgency among life insurance and financial services professionals. The growing pool of boomers exiting the workforce has prompted many advisors to complement their traditional focus on asset accumulation with expertise in asset decumulation—the drawdown of retirement accounts.
Enter The American College’s Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP) designation. Launched in April of 2012, the continuation education program boasts a rigorous three-course curriculum to helps advisors master retirement income planning.
Why a designation tailored to this specialty? Don’t other programs offered by The American College, including the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) programs, also cover income planning? Indeed they do, but not in the depth provided by the new curriculum.
“Unlike other coursework offered through the American College, The RICP program is laser-focused on retirement income,” says Jamie Hopkins, an assistant professor of taxation at the school. “It’s all about best practices and techniques for drawing down assets, be they annuities, life insurance, IRAs or Social Security.”
Students enrolled in the RICP coursework gain proficiency in a range of areas unique to the specialty. Among them: retirement portfolio management techniques; mitigation of plan risks to the proper use of annuities; employer-sponsored benefits; and determining the best Social Security claiming age.
The program’s three courses include (1) “Retirement Income Process, Strategies and Solutions;” (2) “Sources of Retirement Income;” and (3) “Managing the Retirement Income Plan.” Most advisors will require about a year to complete the program, according to the college.
In selecting the RICP program for inclusion in our May feature on innovations, the NU editorial staff considered not only the depth and breadth of the coursework, but also the high-tech method of delivery. The instruction is provided through online video lectures and interviews —a departure from the traditional college textbook — plus supplemental material and a comprehensive study guide.
And because of the digital component, coursework can be easily and quickly updated to integrate new developments that might dovetail with the instruction. Example: a video focusing on President Obama’s proposal, debuted at his State of the Union Address earlier this year, to offer a retirement savings program for workers whose employers don’t offer a 401(k) plan.
For continuing ed students desiring coursework that better reflects what’s happening in the real world, such curriculum developed on-the-fly is about as good as it gets. The MetLife Wall
To help a gain competitive edge, MetLife is investing more than $300 million in information technology initiatives that, the company promises, will “transform the customer experience” and fulfill unmet needs. Among solutions resulting from the IT effort is the “MetLife Wall,” a Facebook-like software app that aims to ease and speed interactions between service agents and customers.
To that end, the software platform provides a complete timeline of customer’s transactions — claims, records, status, etc. — enabling MetLife agents to quickly retrieve and cross-sell solutions (e.g., marketing auto or homeowner’s insurance to life insurance policyholders). To strengthen the data capability, the company is also looking at integrating other sources of customer info, including social media and mobile apps.
Built on a MongoDB open-source (NoSQL) document database, the MetLife Wall gathers data from more than 70 legacy systems. The software connects to six application servers in two data centers and twelve database servers carrying a storage capacity of 24 terabytes.
The MetLife Wall integrates into one data record, and makes viewable on a single screen, “all related and linked customer information.” Result: a “360-degree view” of policyholders, the software displaying interactions with different customer-facing reps, including call center and field agents.
MetLife has paired the Wall with an enterprise-wide implementation of Salesforce.com, a cloud-computing based customer relationship management solution. The objective is to consolidate all data onto two screens: SalesForce.com serving as the platform for sales and service transactions; and the MetLife Wall retrieving customer records from the company’s application servers.