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4 of the biggest insurance stories this week

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This week, we bring you advancements in technology that will help both advisors and consumers by providing better access to understanding benefits and customer service from Guardian, Insurance Technologies, Independence Blue Cross and Accolade. On page 2, MassMutual has launched a social initiative and FPA has launched a campaign focused on increasing volunteerism and engagement from their members. Also, take a look at the new designations on the IRI board of directors on page 3.

Finally, get all glammed up because on page 4 you’ll find everything about the industry’s awards and recognitions: Guardian has been recognized by JD Power for their call center program in the 401(k) industry, IRI honored inaugural leadership award recipients, LIDMA presented Genworth with their inaugural Pacesetter Award and Dave Seager received Northwestern Mutual’s National Award. Congratulations!

1. New technologies help both advisors and consumers to better understand benefits, improve their health care experience and support the growing market

Guardian video series helps employees navigate benefit options during open enrollment season

As open enrollment season gets underway, employees begin the process of selecting their workplace benefits for 2015. Many are at risk of over or under insuring due to confusion and a lack of understanding of their coverage options. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian), a mutual life insurer and provider of employee benefits, is launching an online video series on Guardian Anytime and YouTube that explains how to optimize your workplace benefits coverage to avoid coverage gaps and achieve your financial goals.

According to the 2014 Guardian Workplace Benefits Study SM, employers are shifting more costs and responsibilities to their employees at a time when these benefits are becoming more critical to the workers’ overall financial security and well-being. Forty-seven percent of employers surveyed planned to ask employees to bear a greater portion of the benefit cost, but only  22 percent said they felt “well prepared” to discuss the changing benefits environment. And only one in four employees said their company’s communications are very helpful in choosing what’s right for them. Guardian’s video series helps employers and their employees understand the various benefit options available so they can select the most appropriate coverage for their unique needs.

Independence Blue Cross and Accolade collaborate to transform the consumer health care experience

Independence Blue Cross (Independence) has formed a strategic relationship with Accolade to offer an innovative, highly personalized health assistance service designed to help members make the most of their benefits and get the right care. Accolade’s Health Assistants® are now available to the employees and families of a select number of employer groups insured by Independence.

Accolade Health Assistants serve as a single point of contact to help members and their families access the benefits and health care they need and smoothly navigate the often complex health care system. Health Assistants — supported by a team of nurses, doctors, social workers and other specialists — build relationships with individual members and develop highly personalized and integrated plans that factor in not only the member’s health status but also the emotional, financial and social issues that affect the member’s decisions about care.

Launched in July, Accolade’s services are available to a preliminary group of 40 employers at no additional cost to participating members. Accolade Health Assistants help members understand their benefits, and they discuss treatment options and provide referrals to the Independence case management or disease management teams.

Insurance Technologies expands

Insurance Technologies, LLC, a provider of sales and regulatory automation solutions for the insurance and financial services industries, announced its expansion to accommodate a 30 percent increase in its life and annuity customers in the last 12 months.

Driven by an increase in client growth for both ForeSight® and FireLight®, Insurance Technologies has strategically expanded its technology and industry expertise to continue to provide clients with innovative products supported by the level of customer service its customers expect from Insurance Technologies. To support its growing life clientele, Insurance Technologies has grown a strong team of six actuaries and 20+ senior actuarial software engineers.

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2. Social campaign and volunteerism initiatives

MassMutual launches “Love Is A Gift” social initiative

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) launched “Love Is A Gift,” a social initiative that encourages people to make a statement about the transformative power of love and share a picture of themselves with those who matter most to them. For every photo story uploaded to, MassMutual will donate $1 to Easter Seals — up to $50,000. The initiative will run through Nov. 30.

“We are thrilled to join with Easter Seals again to celebrate the work they do in providing help, support services and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, their caregivers and veterans,” said John Chandler, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, MassMutual.

To participate, go to

FPA launches Volunteer Engagement Initiative to increase member activity, satisfaction

Volunteerism is the lifeblood of any professional association, which is why the Financial Planning Association (FPA) has created an initiative to engage more members in organizational leadership roles. The Volunteer Engagement Initiative, which was officially introduced at the FPA Annual Conference – BE Seattle 2014 – will enable the FPA to enhance how the organization engages with a wide number of volunteers in varying capacities. The goal is to have a profound impact on the organization and the profession through the combined effort of passionate, involved volunteers.

This initiative will help FPA increase awareness of the vast opportunities to volunteer within FPA; support and empower a volunteer culture where members are educated about the volunteer opportunities that fit their skills, passions and time constraints; provide appropriate recognition for volunteers; and better track volunteer activity and engagement.

3. IRI names board of directors members

LPL Financial president Robert Moore named new chairman of the IRI board

The Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) announced the election of Robert Moore, president of LPL Financial, as the new chairman of the IRI board of directors. As chairman, Moore follows John Carter, president and chief operating officer of Nationwide Retirement Plans, Nationwide Financial. IRI also announced the election of five new board members, the re-election of five board members, as well as the election of officers and executive committee members.

The new board members elected to serve three-year terms expiring in 2017 are: Erica McGinnis, president and chief executive officer, AIG Advisor Group; George Riedel, head of financial institutions, U.S. Investment Services, T. Rowe Price Inc.; and Larry Roth, chief executive officer, Cetera Financial Group. Additionally, two new board members were elected as replacements to fill unexpired terms held by former board members: David Cruz, senior managing director, head of retail annuities, New York Life Insurance Company and David Paulsen, president, Transamerica distributors, Transamerica Capital, Inc.

Board members re-elected to serve three-year terms expiring in 2017 are: Nationwide Financial’s Carter; Greg Cicotte, president, Jackson National Life distributors; Will Fuller, president, Lincoln Financial Group distribution; William Loehning, executive vice president, insurance relationship management, Fidelity Investments; and Thomas Streiff, senior managing director, head of retirement income and distribution integration, TIAA-CREF.


4. Awards and recognitions in the industry

Guardian Retirement Solutions recognized by J.D. Power

For the fourth consecutive year, The Guardian Insurance & Annuity Company (GIAC), a wholly owned subsidiary of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, has been recognized with the J.D. Power Certified Call Center Program distinction for providing “An uutstanding customer service experience” when serving their annuity and 401(k) plan customers. Guardian’s approach to providing outstanding service is founded upon valuing the entire customer experience, from initial marketing to an ongoing after-sale relationship. 

To become certified, Guardian’s customer service center had to successfully pass a detailed audit of more than 100 practices, encompassing their recruiting, training, employee incentives, management roles and responsibilities, and quality assurance capabilities. As part of its evaluation, J.D. Power conducted a random survey of Guardian Retirement Solutions’ customers who recently contacted Guardian’s call center in Bethlehem, PA.

IRI honors inaugural leadership award recipients

The Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) recognized Will Fuller, president of Lincoln Financial Group distribution, and Kerry Geurkink, manager of annuity distribution marketing for Securian Financial Group, as the inaugural recipients of the IRI Leadership Award. The award recognizes extraordinary contributions to IRI and the retirement income industry. Fuller and Geurkink were honored during a luncheon ceremony at Vision: IRI Annual Meeting 2014. 

At Lincoln Financial, Fuller is an advocate of IRI membership. He champions participation on IRI committees and during industry events, as well as encourages support for IRI’s priorities. He was elected to the IRI Board of Directors in 2011, and continues to serve the organization in this capacity. He currently is the chairperson of the Board’s working group on advocacy.

Meanwhile, Geurkink has been actively engaged with IRI for nearly 20 years, participating on numerous committees and holding several leadership positions. Among other contributions, Geurkink served on the board of directors from 2003 to 2005, and is currently the chairperson of the member services committee.

LIDMA presents Genworth with inaugural Pacesetter Award

The Life Insurance Direct Marketing Association (LIDMA) has presented Genworth with its inaugural Pacesetter Award at its annual conference held in September. Genworth was the first recipient of the award, which recognizes carrier and direct marketer innovation and leadership in adoption of key aspects of the LIDMA eProcess.

Genworth received the award specifically for innovation in the creation of PolicyBox, a new electronic policy delivery workflow. Genworth partnered with LIDMA Seal of Approval recipients Aplif (now iPipeline), providing financial investment and resources, to help in the development of PolicyBox, a multi-carrier eDelivery platform, that provides cycle time improvements of up to 70 percent, higher placement ratios, reduced costs and a very quick and easy consumer experience.

Seager receives National Award from Northwestern Mutual

Dave Seager, a Northwestern Mutual financial representative based in Fairfax, Va., is receiving the company’s Diamond award based on an outstanding year of helping clients achieve financial security.

“We’re proud of financial professionals like Dave who are helping so many people in their community to achieve financial security,” said Northwestern Mutual President Greg Oberland. “Our 2014 Planning & Progress Study shows that ‘personal finances’ is one of the top two priorities for Americans in 2014, ahead of things like ‘spending time with family and friends’ and ‘career.’ Many are seeking out professionals like Dave to develop distinct financial plans that stand the test of time.” 


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