To kick off the annual NAILBA 33 conference in Hollywood, Florida this year, a panel of industry experts joined together to discuss the changing landscape of the insurance industry, including evolvement of technology, changing consumer behavior and the new generation of brokers and agents.
Speaking on those matters were:
- Garth Garlock from North American Company for Life and Health Insurance
- Jim Kerley of LIMRA
- Melinda Meyer from ValMark Securities, Inc.
- Kent Sluyter with Prudential
- Michael Tessler from Brokerage Unlimited, Inc.
- Gene Koster of DCG Corporation (moderator for the panel)
Koster: Ok Jim, there is a lot going on right now, between consumers, buyers and general agents. Can you start us off with some of your thoughts on the matters?
Kerley: We are talking about two important factors in our business: families and needs. There are 70 million households in the U.S. that are underinsured. Life sales are down 1 percent — we just announced 3rd quarter results. Thankfully, the independent channel was the largest writer of life insurance measured by premium in 2013.
All of that said, there are two or three factors that we ought to consider as we think about this channel — maybe warning signs. First, buyers can buy life insurance pretty much anywhere today. The studies we do at LIMRA show they want to buy in different ways. Still, 60 percent say they want to work with a professional to get the recommendations they need. Your role is critically important in what you do.
Second, the agent population is getting older and we’re not bringing in new agents.
Third, there is a huge opportunity to garner more business. It’s just too big to ignore. Our research tells us that, on average, about 39 percent of brokers place 1 policy per year. There’s a huge growth opportunity to get more business.
Further, 41 percent of the advisors working with us today are over the age of 60. We need to replace the machinery that drives our production — that is the advisor and the agent. We need to do it for the future generation.
Another point, there are 600 million individuals nationwide that earn more than $100,000 a year. Those people seek advice from family and friends more so than advisors. There’s a huge market opportunity out there for that as well.
The question is, what is your role in the future? What’s your value add? Now is the time to face the issues and get change going.
Koster: A lot of info there — not all new — but is seems some pictures are becoming a bit clearer.
Tessler: When you first listen to that data, you can go one of two directions. You can ask where the bar is because it was pretty depressing. On the other side, you can say, there’s a huge, huge opportunity here. The question is, how will we seize that opportunity? In the past there’s been an awful lot of entrepreneurial spirit in the room. But you can’t help but look at this and say, this is such a global situation. Maybe it’s time we start to consider that maybe there’s a different way to deliver what we deliver.
Maybe it’s time to shake up the whole system and approach it differently from ways we’ve done in the past.
Sluyter: I truly do believe we are at a point in this industry where we have the opportunity and the need. Distribution is NOT the issue. Yes, we need to grow it, but it’s not the fundamental problem. If we fix the relevance issue, the distribution will come.
Kerley: The retirement industry has done a great job of getting the message out. Where do our products for retirement fit into our message?