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Executives at the world’s life insurers have been bragging for years about efforts to sell small or underperforming units and focus on core operations.

Consultants at McKinsey & Company have come out with a conflicting idea: That maybe life and annuity issuers should consider trying to poach some business from competitors in nearby business sectors.

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The consultants have included that suggestion in a new review of the state of the life and annuity industry.

The McKinsey consultants’ views matter, because life insurers often hire consultants from places like McKinsey to tell them how to fix and improve their businesses.

The consultants make the points that the life business looks better in emerging markets than in the United States and Europe, and that life insurers need to do a lot more to cut costs.

The consultants also talk about several ideas for increasing growth. One is forming alliances with, or acquiring, companies in adjacent industries.

Companies known primarily as asset managers, health insurers or property-casualty insurers account for about 16% of the world’s life insurance profits, the consultants write.

Life insurers, meanwhile, account for only 4% of the profits in the health insurance, P&C and asset-management markets.

Life insurers have to work especially hard for their profits, because the amount of capital needed to generate a certain amount of revenue is about 35% higher in the life market than in the asset-management market, and about 10 times higher than in the health insurance market, the consultants write.

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