Consumers and business people turn to financial advisors at financial advisory firms, broker-dealers, wirehouses and banks to manage their investment portfolios. But many of these financial professionals have an Achilles Heel: They lack expertise in life insurance products and life insurance-funded planning their clients need. Enter Saybrus Partners, a five-year-old company whose consultants help advisors fulfill these needs with insurance solutions for basic protection, as well for income, estate and business planning. To learn more about the company, LifeHealthPro Senior Editor Warren S. Hersch recently interviewed Kevin Kimbrough, the company’s principal of national sales. The following are excerpts.
Hersch: How has Saybrus Partners positioned itself in the life insurance space? What’s the company’s niche?
Kimbrough: I describe us as a life insurance partnership firm. We have 75 to 80 consultants nationwide to assist non-traditional producers make life insurance products and life insurance-funded planning a part of their business. If you’re a financial advisor at a bank, broker-dealer or wirehouse, you’re focused on assets under management and wealth management, but life insurance is not a core competency. Our folks explore how the needs of their clients — mostly the high net worth and the mass affluent, but also people in the middle market — can be addressed by life insurance. Then we help build a financial plan around the product.
Our clients mainly include advisors at the financial services firms Edward Jones, OppenheimerFunds, Wells Fargo and Farmers Insurance. Right now, we’re not active in the [registered investment advisor] space, though it is an area we’re examining. Given RIAs’ focus on investment advice, they’re good examples of people we can assist.
Hersch: Saybrus Partners is, I understand, is a spin-off of The Phoenix Companies? Do you sell their insurance products?
Kimbrough: No. Phoenix is an equity investor in Saybrus Partners, but we were not set up to drive sales of their insurance products. We distribute The Phoenix Companies’ annuities in other spaces, but we operate mainly as distribution partner of other carriers.
Thus, we assist Farmers in selling their insurance products. For Edward Jones, we sell John Hancock and Pacific Life solutions. At Wells Fargo, we represent John Hancock, Pacific Life and probably 6 to 8 other carriers.
Hersch: Do your advisors have a greater interest in certain life products than others?
Kimbrough: We tailor our life insurance offerings to our partners’ business models. Edward Jones has not approved indexed universal life products, so we sell only traditional fixed universal life and variable UL products to their clients.
Wells Fargo is comfortable with indexed products, so we do sell these solutions in their space. Farmers doesn’t don’t market an indexed product, but later this year the company will be introducing one. We also sell whole life solutions for Farmers. The majority of sales is fixed UL and, where approved, indexed UL.
Hersch: How is your product mix changing? What’s growing or declining in demand?
Kimbrough: Over the last five years, we’ve been selling fewer VUL products. Conversely, the growing popularity of indexed UL products has been reflected in our own increased sales.
The greatest demand is for UL products with optional long-term care, accelerated death benefit, critical illness and chronic illness riders. These riders are popular because they do multiple-duty: If clients need an LTC or critical illness benefit, they can access it; if they don’t need it, they still have the death benefit and the cash value.
The nice thing about having a multi-carrier platform is the ability to provide the products that best meet the clients’ needs, whether the focus is cash accumulation, the death benefit or additional living benefits. And by offering products from multiple carriers, we’re seen as objective in our product recommendations and focused on serving their clients’ best interests.
Hersch: Which companies do you regard as your main competitors in your space?
Kimbrough: A number of small, regionalized general agencies offer point-of-sale support for non-traditional life insurance advisors. In terms of a national footprint, we compete against Time Financial, Highland Capital Brokerage and Capitas Financial.
What distinguishes Saybrus Partners is our structure: All of our fields consultants are W2 employees registered with our own wholesale-only broker-dealer; none of have a separate retail practice. As employees, they report only to us: We manage where they go. If you’re working at Edward Jones, you’ll go work only with Edward Jones advisors to help them sell life insurance.