Will Fuller, president of Lincoln Financial Group Distribution.

The Insured Retirement Institute presented Will H. Fuller, president of Lincoln Financial Group Distribution, and Kerry Geurkink, manager of annuity distribution for Securian Financial, with IRI’s first annual leadership award on Monday in Williamsburg, Virginia.

IRI President and CEO Cathy Weatherford presented the awards during IRI’s second annual conference, saying in a statement that “Kerry and Will have been selected by their peers in recognition for their outstanding contributions to the IRI and their efforts to advance its mission. It is clear that the IRI would not be where it is today without the contributions of our dedicated leaders like Kerry and Will.”

In an interview following the ceremony, Fuller said he accepted the award on behalf of the entire Lincoln team. Fuller was elected to the IRI board of directors in 2011. Prior to joining Lincoln Financial, he led product distribution for the global wealth management division at Merrill Lynch.

“Lincoln was unique because we were [a] fully consistent provider throughout the business cycle” when it was “very difficult to advocate on behalf of variable annuities,” Fuller told ThinkAdvisor.

“Lincoln is proud to support the IRI and its emphasis on advocacy and education,” Fuller said. “Together, we are working to ensure that consumers continue to have access to a broad range of guaranteed income solutions, delivering wealth protection that only the insurance industry can provide.”  

However, Fuller said that there is “not one silver bullet” when it comes to investor education on annuities. “There’s a massive need for consumer education. Our entire brand campaign is centered on having the individual take responsibility” for their retirement, said Fuller.

He added that technology is important because it gives consumers more choice. “One thing we’ve seen with technology is its ability — if applied properly — to offer choice and to simplify” the options that consumers have when planning for retirement. 

The millennial generation has an opportunity to start saving early, Fuller added. “The sooner we can help to facilitate their [millennials'] engagement the better,” Fuller said. “They have the advantage to identify the need far earlier.”

A big focus for Lincoln Financial has been on the middle-market segment that is underserved by the industry, Fuller said: “In less than 24 months, we created a multibillion-dollar market in the middle market.”

This growth came, he said, from a 2013 partnership with Primerica Financial, which incorporated more Lincoln Financial annuity products into its retirement offerings.

Fuller adds that the guiding principles of Lincoln Financial are protecting wealth from taxes, moderating the cost of long-term health care and monitoring retirement income and longevity.  

“Our North Star is all the research we do with consumers and advisors [that] tells us that protecting wealth is far more important today than it was before,” Fuller said.  

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