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Making Annuities Friendlier, With Insurtech

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Robo advisors and chatbots can definitely provide value to advisors. Though they can’t yet replace these financial professionals and the value they bring to the table – a unique combination of relationships, trust and personalized service – today’s advisors do need to effectively engage through digital channels with their customers, whether digital natives or members of any generation.

Right now, annuities advisors have several engagement channel options. All channels include digital advisement platforms that enable advisors to help customers determine the suitability of different products and evaluate multiple options to find the best fit for their individual goals and needs.

(Related: Digital Technologies Help the Customers)

The platforms can also streamline the sales and purchase process, inspire client confidence and establish the financial advisor as a trusted professional. These platforms typically offer educational tools for both advisors and their customers. And digital platforms also provide some self-service options so customers can take care of simple address or beneficiary changes and check their account status at their convenience.

There are four basic annuity sales platform options that help advisors more effectively engage with their customers and provide better service and advice. Each has its own unique benefits. The appropriate option – or options – comes down to the advisor’s business model and requirements.

1. Adopt the carrier’s platform.

Many large annuity carriers have developed and offer their own platform to distributors. For example, in 2018, Brighthouse Financial launched Digital Desk to support fixed and income annuity sales. The firm wanted to offer its advisors tools they can use for needs analyses and customer support.

Carrier platforms are typically feature-rich, robust, intuitive and easy to use. This option works best for captive agents or advisor groups which focus solely on a single carrier. However, advisors that sell more than one carrier’s products will need to deal with multiple carrier portals, which can get onerous and inefficient.

2. Use a single-advisor portal.

Envestnet developed an insurance network that integrates insurance solutions into the wealth management process. The platform, Envestnet Insurance Exchange, provides a single portal that’s like a marketplace for advisors working with multiple carriers. As of March, 2019, the platform includes financial products from six carriers and offers advisors tools to help educate clients and assess product suitability and submit applications.

Providers like Envestnet offer tools in a single place so advisors don’t have to work with different carrier portals. However, if an advisor works with carriers that are not integrated out of the box, he or she would still have to use multiple portals until such integrations are established.

3. Build capabilities in-house.

Some advisory companies opt to build their own capabilities. Large advisory firms leveraging third party portals or through in-house development have established their digital channels for their advisors. They work with the different carriers or third-party administrators (TPAs) to enable straight-through processing.

While this is a great option, it can only work for companies of sufficient size and volume and the platform is limited to advisors of that firm.

4. Go the insurtech route.

Insuretechs take the engagement model to the next level. One company, Status Money, created a platform that enables individuals to anonymously compare finances with people with similar profiles. Consumers can see how they’re doing on their own and set their own goals. They can then consult with their advisors, who develop a plan to meet the customers’ individual needs.

Insuretechs offer a wide and expanding range of options for advisors. Firms can use these capabilities in varying ways, and each must be evaluated individually. Often these offerings could be a great complementary service that could be integrated with any of the above three options.

At the end of the day, the choice comes down to two main things. First, the advisor must be able to provide products that meet their customers’ individual needs. They would need the different product options and digital tools to model personalized service, using data and technologies like AI/machine learning. Second, the advisors must be able to engage with customers through the channel of their choice and whenever they want. This is where technologies like chatbots, robo advisors and insuretech offerings can drive the engagement enabling the advisor to support through the digital channels.

—Read 5 NAILBA 36 Tech Attractions on ThinkAdvisor.

Thiru Sivasubramanian(Photo: SE2)

Thiru Sivasubramanian is the vice president for architecture and technology strategy at SE2, a technology and third party administration company that serves the North American life and annuity insurance industry.