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Matt Gray (Photo: Allianz Life)

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Workers Want Guaranteed Lifetime Income: Allianz Life's Matt Gray

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What You Need to Know

  • Gray started out at Allianz Life as an intern.
  • He sees global issues adding to the retirement savings gap.
  • In his free time, one of the high points is high points.

Matt Gray runs a major effort to add guaranteed lifetime income features to 401(k) plans and other defined contribution retirement plans.

He hopes to help close the gap between what people have and what they’ll need.

He’s hoping the new lifetime income push will improve retirement security for hundreds of thousands of people.

Gray is the assistant vice president for worksite and middle markets at Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America. Allianz Life is one of the biggest individual annuity issuers in the United States, and he now leads the company’s expansion into employer markets.

He has a bachelor’s degree in math from the University of Minnesota. He is both a fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a member of the American Academy of Actuaries.

He started out as an intern at Allianz Life and has been with the company ever since.

We asked Gray a set of questions about his professional knowledge and 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?

At a high level, we look at the retirement savings gap or the shortfall between how much people have saved for retirement and how much they will actually need.

The gap in the U.S. was an estimated $28 trillion in 2015 and is projected to surpass $100 trillion in the next 30 years, according to the World Economic Forum. That increasing gap is a huge problem.

At Allianz Life, we want to address it in a material way, and, as a leading provider of guaranteed lifetime income solutions, such as annuities, we can actually do something about it.

2.  How has it been changing recently and how do you expect it to change?

Global issues like the pandemic have exacerbated the retirement savings gap.

For many people, saving for retirement has taken a back seat to meeting basic expenses.

New legislation such as the Secure Act 2.0 and the LIFE Act along with advancements in technology, education, and emerging products and services will hopefully help slow or reverse the trend.

At Allianz Life, we recently introduced a guaranteed lifetime income solution designed specifically for defined contribution plans. Our analysis shows that a solution like this can help plan participants significantly narrow their personal retirement savings gap.

I think all of this together can have a big impact.

3.  What would you suggest advisors do now or consider doing in the future about it?

Advisors should continue to listen closely to their plan sponsor clients and plan participants.

Recent research by Allianz Life found that 73% of employer-sponsored participants would consider an option that offers guaranteed income for life in their plan, if available.

We also found that more than 8 in 10 employers that do not offer in-plan guaranteed lifetime income options are at least somewhat likely to offer this option within the next two years — 30% said they are very likely to offer it.

Other industry studies have shown similar preferences.

Given this, advisors need to ask their plan administrator partners to make them available.

4.  Who or what critical source of information do you track, or follow online, to keep up with this or other trends?

We have an in-house research team here at Allianz Life and they do primary research.

We also look at studies from our affiliated companies and our peers, support the efforts of industry groups like the Alliance For Lifetime Income and analyze data from other sources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Employee Benefits Research Institute.

5.  Are you changing any of your work habits at this stage of the pandemic?

I moved from Minnesota, where Allianz Life has its home office, to Southern California in July 2019 to be closer to family.

At the time, I was one of just a few fully remote Allianz Life employees, so there wasn’t broad familiarity with video conferencing tools.

However, due to the pandemic, everyone has become a total pro at virtual meetings.

So, my work habits haven’t really changed, but the world around me has changed a lot.

This has made it easier to get the work done efficiently and to be able foster relationships with my co-workers and partners across the country.

6.  What’s your biggest hobby and what was the last event/activity you did related to it?

I have five young children so the majority of my time outside of work is with my family.

Still, I have a life goal to climb all of the highest points in each state. So far, I’ve reached the summit of 21 state high points, including Mount Whitney in California at 14,505 feet.

If I keep my current pace, including checking off number 22 in 2022, I will complete my goal in 2050!

7.  How about your latest community/charitable activity/event/cause?

I get to work with high school students in a seminary program through my church.

It’s inspiring to see young people age 14 to 18 come at 6 a.m. to study the Scriptures each day before school.

8.  What book are you reading now and why?

I’m reading “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World.”

I also finally finished Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” I had started it several years ago and made it about halfway through but was lost in all the characters and their multiple names.

A few months back, I heard a story about how a political prisoner’s life was saved in part by hearing “Anna Karenina” tapped out letter by letter through the wall by a fellow prisoner.

I was inspired to give it another shot.

So, maybe there’s a theme with these two books — slow down and appreciate the beauty that is right in front of you!

9.  Any special plans for this year?

I will represent Allianz US in beach volleyball at the 2022 Allianz Sports event in Barcelona, Spain, in July — where I will compete with other Allianz employee athletes from around the world.

10. Any other update/fact about you or piece of advice/wisdom you’d like to share with our advisor audience?

Moving to San Diego three years ago was a big change for my family.

I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out for us, but we’re really happy and we love it here.

Anyone who wants to make a change to do something they love should go for it, even if it means taking a few risks or letting go of what is familiar.

Matt Gray (Photo: Allianz Life)


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