As president and CEO of F&G Annuities & Life, Chris Blunt runs an insurer that’s on track to generate more than $9 billion in revenue this year.
He previously was the CEO of Blackstone Insurance Solutions, an investment organization that helps manage assets for insurers. He has been in the middle of the fight to help life and annuity issuers cope with the effects of low interest rates on their investment earnings for years.
Blunt also helps shape how other financial professionals see the world, as a trustee of The American College of Financial Services.
Via email, we asked Blunt a set of questions that touch both on his professional knowledge and on what he does off the clock.
1. What market indicator, industry statistic, regulatory change or advisor trend are you watching most closely right now and why?
Chris Blunt: F&G just released the findings of our second annual Risk Tolerance Tracker, which keeps the pulse on concerns of American investors. The study found that investors saw inflation as one of the biggest concerns, with nearly three-quarters (73%) noting they are worried about inflation impacting their retirement. I was reflecting on the fact the last time people were this worried about inflation, I was listening to Led Zeppelin on my 8-track player! I look at wage growth as a leading indicator of whether or not inflation is becoming more systemic and less transitory. Hopefully, we’re not headed for 1970s-style inflation, but advisors would be smart to bone up on inflation-friendly investing techniques just in case.
2. How has it been changing recently (2021), and how do you expect it to change (2022)?
As I mentioned above, inflation is on everyone’s mind. It ranked as a top concern in our study, followed by high health care costs and market volatility. While investors still remain risk averse, there is increasing openness to new financial products, as more investors noted they’d be willing to explore new options.
We expect this trend to continue, and there’s a real opportunity for advisors to take advantage of this interest to introduce their clients to solutions they may not have previously considered, such as annuities that can give them some exposure to equities (one of the few investments that has the potential to keep pace in an inflationary environment) with some downside protection, which may encourage clients to stay the course.
3. What would you suggest advisors do now or consider doing in the future about it?
Listen more and talk less. Be explicit in connecting clients’ expressed hopes and fears to specific solutions (e.g., “Here’s how this product or strategy can help reduce this risk”). For example, we know from both our own and industry research that most clients approaching or in retirement don’t always bring up the subject of annuities to their advisors, yet we also know they worry about volatility as well as outliving their money.
Don’t present products in isolation, but rather as part of a holistic solution.
All products represent a series of tradeoffs and should be presented to clients as such.
4. Who or what critical source of information do you track, or follow online, to keep up with this or other trends?
Friends and neighbors are often my most insightful sources of information on consumer trends and real-life concerns. Regarding the financial markets, I look most closely at credit spreads, as I find they are pretty good indicators of how the markets are feeling about the health of the economy and the state of corporate balance sheets.