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The 10 biggest announcements from life and health insurers this week

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Maryland-based startup, Kivvik Incorporated, has begun a preview with 14-day trial periods of its platform, Kivvik Wealth, which allows financial advisors to send their clients surveys that provide real-time updates on financial life events. Kivvik Wealth’s surveys offer clients a variety of possible developments to update their advisors with, from buying a new car, to selling a house, to retiring. Presently, advisors must take the time at standard touch points to call and email individual clients, asking for information that might impact their financial futures. However, with Kivvik Wealth, financial advisors will know their clients through fast and painless communication, allowing them to save time, and become more competitive in their field. “We saw how stretched thin financial advisors were with their huge numbers of clients,” said Chike Nwankwo, co-founder of Kivvik.

In 2015, the average financial advisor has over 100 clients to manage. As a result, to advisors, time is valuable, and the ability to manage time effectively is paramount. Kivvik Wealth aims to organize and simplify at least one aspect of a busy financial advisor’s life so that more time can be spent on finance, rather than on phone calls and emails.

The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian) announced that the company continued to deliver strong performance across the board, ending 2014 with $6.8 billion in capital, marking its sixth consecutive year of capital growth. As a result, Guardian policyholders received a $787 million dividend payout. For the year, on a consolidated basis, Guardian earned $1.3 billion in operating income before taxes and dividends to policyholders. The company took in $17.3 billion in premiums and deposits, paid out $5.3 billion of benefits to policyholders and had $529 billion life insurance in force. Additional details regarding Guardian’s 2014 financial performance are available in the company’s annual report available here.

New York Life Insurance Company announced a 14.7 percent increase in 2014 operating earnings to a record $2.02 billion, and record surplus and asset valuation reserve, which reached $21.9 billion for the year. “Despite continued low interest rates, competition from a strong stock market, and low growth in the life insurance market nationally, New York Life exceeded $2 billion in earnings for the first time and reached a new high in surplus and asset valuation reserve, a key measure of our financial strength. I want to thank our agents and employees for a remarkable year, and for showing once again why millions of families and businesses choose New York Life as a steward for their financial futures,” said chairman and CEO Ted Mathas. “I also want to thank our policyholders for placing their trust in New York Life. Our company’s founders set forth a singular objective for New York Life 170 years ago – to operate for the benefit of our policyholders – and we will not waver from that course,” he added.

Northwestern Mutual distributed nearly $48 million in permanent life insurance dividends in 2014 to policyowners who work with the company’s Washington, D.C. network office that includes locations in the District of Columbia; Rockville, Md.; and Fairfax, McLean and Reston, Va. “Our annual dividend payout is money that goes back into the pockets of our policyowners, and can have a tremendous impact not only on them and their families, but in their communities as well,” said Leo Tucker, managing partner for Northwestern Mutual – Washington, D.C. He added that, “The nearly 42,000 policyowners we serve are the driving force behind our success, and this dividend payout shows why more people put their trust in Northwestern Mutual than in any other financial services company.”Northwestern Mutual expects the dividend amount to increase in 2015 as the demand for the company’s comprehensive financial planning approach grows. The company recently announced it expects to distribute an industry-leading $5.5 billion in total dividends to its more than 4 million policyowners across the United States. The payout will be the largest in the company’s history, according to a press release.

The U.S. business group of Sun Life Financial hosted its third Sun Life Wake Up Summit to shed light on important and complex issues surrounding health care reform. The Summit gave perspectives on how employers are taking control of their health care benefits and analyzing solutions like self-insurance. Keynote speakers — Dr. Jonathan Gruber, MIT economist and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act expert, and Michael Cannon, director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute — shared opposing viewpoints on the current state of reform and tackled questions about the implications of the King v. Burwell Supreme Court case and the impending Cadillac tax.

Following their session, two panels explored the pros and cons of self-insurance and shared experiences and pragmatic advice for those considering self-insurance. Paul Fronstin, director of the Health Research and Education Program at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, pointed to a number of advantages companies have when they self-insure, including uniformity of benefits across states and access to health plan data that can help tailor wellness programs to the needs of employees, which can directly lead to the bottom line. He explained, “The growing interest in self-insurance among large-size firms pre-dates the Affordable Care Act. Yet as a result of health care reform, we may see smaller employers evaluating, for the first time, if self-insurance is right for them.”

Adding to those points, Booker Moore, president and CEO of L.R. Webber Associates, an employee benefits advisory firm, said, “We’re seeing a trend with employers of converting fully insured plans into a self-funded program as they seek to gain access to more detailed claims data to address long-term cost-control issues.” Members of the panel also emphasized that not all self-funding is the same, and with a lot of choices and ways to administer a plan, it’s critically important to have trusted, knowledgeable partners to help weigh the risks and tailor a solution.

Fronstin further explained, “Smaller employers that can absorb less risk have to look at how one large medical claim could wipe them out. That’s why having the right stop-loss insurance to protect against that is critical. To hear the insights from the following keynote speakers and expert panelists, go here.

Byron Udell, CEO & president of AccuQuote, has been named the new president of the Life Insurance Direct Marketing Association (LIDMA). With more than 25 years of industry knowledge, Udell is widely acknowledged as one of the nation’s foremost life insurance experts. In addition to a law degree, Udell has earned the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), and Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professional designations. Udell founded AccuQuote in 1994 as one of the pioneer services providing free life insurance quotes online.Udell received LIDMA’s Vision Award in 2012 for his contributions to the advancement of the direct response segment of the life insurance industry.

POWERS Insurance and Benefits’ CEO Pierce Powers announced the promotions of both his son and daughter at their family-owned and operated company. Their appointments coincide with the company’s 24th anniversary. JD Powers was promoted to company president, and Elizabeth Powers was promoted to director of agency development.

JD’s responsibilities include managing the company’s daily operations and future growth, developing the organization’s vision and implementing the procedures to accomplish its goals. JD will be an integral resource with new business solicitation, as well as ongoing communication enhancement between the company and its existing clients. Prior to his promotion, JD served as the company’s risk management advisor.

Elizabeth’s responsibilities include overseeing all strategic marketing efforts in terms of attracting and retaining clientele. She also will ensure the company’s productivity by monitoring the hiring of new agents. Prior to this position, she served as a sales and marketing representative at the company. POWERS Insurance and Benefits provides personal and business insurance, as well as employee benefits and risk management services. The company was founded in 1991 and is based in Clayton, Mo.

To further build its employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) team, the Principal Financial Group® hired Kim Blaugher as a vice president of consulting and Amy Hartnett as a director of business development. Blaugher and Hartnett round out the 30-person team dedicated to the firm’s ESOP business. Blaugher rejoins The Principal after serving as a vice president of consulting on the ESOP team for nearly 20 years. He most recently was a senior director for BDO USA, LLP, within its ESOP consulting group. Blaugher has a master’s degree in taxation from the University of Denver and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Earlham College. He is a member of the Employee-Owned S Corporations of America, the National Center for Employee Ownership, The ESOP Association and the Pacific Coast TE/GE Council. Prior to joining The Principal, Hartnett was a vice president in the ESOP Finance Group at Fifth Third Bank in Chicago, focusing on business development nationwide. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, with bachelor’s degrees in finance and marketing. Hartnett is on the board of the Illinois ESOP Association and a member of the National Center for Employee Ownership.                     

Prudential Individual Life Insurance, a business of Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), has named Chuck Anderson to the newly formed role of senior vice president, business development. In this role, Anderson will be responsible for identifying and implementing opportunities within new markets to expand life insurance distribution and product offerings. He will also continue his leadership role in representing Prudential with major industry organizations and deepening relationships with distribution partners. Randy Zipse will assume overall responsibility for the Advanced Markets team and will lead efforts to deliver innovative solutions, training, and thought leadership around complex life insurance solutions for sales professionals and their clients. Zipse’s title is vice president of Advanced Markets. In his previous role, Anderson led Strategic Relationship Management where he was responsible for strategy, business planning and communication with distribution partners. He is active with various industry organizations, holding leadership roles at The National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies, The Life Insurance Direct Marketing Association, The American Council of Life Insurers and The Association of Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU.) He is the Co-Chair of the AALU Brokerage Task Force.

adam goller

The Unity Financial Life Insurance Company announced that Adam M. Goller was named assistant vice president – marketing and technical services. Goller previously served as the company’s director of marketing and technical services. He has been employed by Unity since 2006. In his new position, Adam is responsible for agency administration, Unity Funding Company, voice and data solutions, disaster recovery and business continuity. Founded in 1964, Unity Financial Life Insurance Company is a privately held, national provider of life insurance for pre-need funeral funding and funeral trust insurance. The company serves customers throughout the United States with licenses in 46 states plus the District of Columbia. It has been recognized by Inc. Magazine as the fastest growing, privately owned life insurance company in America.