During the opening general session of NAILBA 33 in Hollywood, Florida, moderator Gene Koster, Managing Director at DCG Consulting, discussed the future of the industry with a group of industry panelists.

At one point, he asked them, “Where are you and your companies putting your money today and where do you think you should be putting it in order to invest in the future of this industry?”

Here are their answers: 

Melinda Meyer, VP at Valmark Securities

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“One of the things we decided to do was to invest heavily in our internship program. We work with the University of Akron and in the last several years, we’ve had 69 students go through our program. All but one of them is still in the financial services industry. We actually hired one 10 years ago who is now our chief marketing officer.

We believe these young people are our future. It’s a big investment of money and time, but this is an opportunity for us to do something good for the student, to help the university and to build our team internally. We want to put these young people on a trajectory to go out and be the next generation in our industry. So we’ve made a conscious decision to make a big investment of our time and money.”

Kent Sluyter, VP & Chief Actuary at Prudential Financial

“There are a few things we’re investing in. One is digital technology. I think any carrier at this point is investing and looking into that. But we need to do it well. Digital technology is going to change this industry, so we’re investing in that significantly.

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The second thing is intellectual capital with respect to consumers. Researching and trying to understand them and then sharing that with the industry. What do we know about them? What are they really asking for? What are their challenges?

The third area is talent. When all is said and done, our success is going to be driven by the talent we have in this industry. And there are some places where we’ve gotten away from some of the fundamentals in respect to developing people. It too often becomes all about price and we’ve lost sight of the value of the life insurance platform and the power of the product.”

Michael Tessler, President, Brokerage Unlimited, Inc.

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“For us, it’s all about helping advisors comfortably address issues with their clients. We build a lot of tools and processes and procedures that they can put into their own processes. Many already have processes in place so we try to integrate with those and make the process comfortable for them.

But there’s a certain stigma associated with [the life insurance industry’s] products. Addressing clients’ wants, needs and desires is different than trying to push a product at them. I think you have to develop processes with that in mind.”

Jim Kerley, LIMRA

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“When you think about the younger generation, what are they looking for? They’re looking to participate in social good; they’re looking to be part of a team; they’re looking to be part of an organization that’s generally doing good things. They’re less concerned with big commissions and things that we might have emphasized in the old days. The business we’re in is exactly aligned with the value proposition of many members of this generation. So, harnessing those things together will be a beautiful thing.”

Garth Garlock, CMO at North American Company for Life and Health Insurance

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“We’re also investing in digital and systems. But I think our biggest investment is in support of [those who work in the industry]. In helping to get the message to agents that we need to get back to the basics of really trying to discover the consumers’ needs. The art of questioning. We went from, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ and ‘What types of things do you worry about?’ to ‘How much do you want?’ and ‘What price do I have to beat?’ That’s an oversimplification but it sometimes seems like that.

So, getting back to solving real problems for real consumers is what we’re spending money on. 

For more of our coverage of NAILBA 33, go here.