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Corey Walther. (Photo: Allianz Life)

Life Health > Annuities > Fixed Annuities

Clients Need Help With the Bad Days, Too: Allianz Life’s Corey Walther

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What You Need to Know

  • Walther has been focused on helping financial advisors integrate risk management into their long-term strategies with clients.
  • To stay competitive, he says financial professionals need to become more data-driven, and add tax and legal professionals to their teams.

Corey Walther says retirement advisors need to understand that hurricanes are coming. And advisors should build risk management into a client’s retirement planning strategy long before the winds pick up.

Walther is the president of Allianz Life Financial Services, a Minneapolis-based broker-dealer arm of Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America that notes that it does not provide financial planning services of its own, but does work with many financial professionals who do offer some combination of life insurance, annuities and financial advice.

Allianz Life is an affiliate of Allianz S.E., a German insurance giant. The company reported $7.2 billion in U.S. individual annuity sales for the second quarter. It ranked second in terms of non-variable indexed annuity sales, and third in terms of sales of registered index-linked annuities.

Walther has been in his current position since 2019 and at Allianz Life since 1998. Before he moved to Allianz Life, he was a financial planner at RBC Wealth Management.

He has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Minnesota State University Moorhead and a master’s degree in business from the University of Minnesota’s management school. He also holds the Chartered Financial Consultant, Retirement Income Certified Professional, Wealth Management Certified Professional and Chartered Life Underwriter professional designations.

He’s a co-chair of the Annuity & Insurance Solutions Community at the Money Management Institute and a board member of the Insured Retirement Institute.

Here are some of the things Walther said about inflation, risk management and technology in a recent email interview.

The interview has been condensed and edited.

THINKADVISOR: What took up the most time and energy in the first half of the year, and what did you learn from that?

COREY WALTHER: The stock market has been on a roller coaster, while interest rates have risen rapidly.

At the same time, gas prices are at record levels and inflation jumped in June to a new 40-year high, breaking a record dating back to November 1981.

As a result, people’s purchasing power has eroded significantly across the board, from basic needs such as groceries, utilities, gas, rent and other services to discretionary items such as leisure travel.

That chaos is putting stress on the financial plans of retirees, pre-retirees and investors looking to build wealth. This, in turn, puts stress on financial professionals.

I’m trying to help financial professionals successfully navigate through this market environment and address the many challenges facing today’s investors, including risk in their clients’ portfolios.

We have to dig in deep and build resiliency by incorporating a risk management perspective — to help clients either stay on or get back on track.

Risk management takes time, and it is not a one-size-fits-all solution, which really allows financial professionals to amplify their value proposition to their clients.

What we’re learning during this time is the importance of building a holistic financial strategy that’s based on the client’s particular risk tolerance and helping to create resilient portfolios that seek to improve a client’s probability of success without jeopardizing their standard of living in retirement.

Financial professionals should be integrating strategies and products that address both the known and unpredictable risks in retirement from the start.

As the old saying goes, “you can’t fix a ship in a hurricane.” The same is true with retirement strategies.

Scenarios like our current market conditions can and will happen. It’s better to plan for the unexpected and be prepared by integrating risk management strategies.

What are you focusing on the most right now?

My main focus has been helping financial professionals to integrate risk management into their long-term strategies with clients.

The idea is for financial professionals to help clients do more than accumulate assets. We want to help people build and protect wealth and then transition that into sustainable guaranteed income streams in retirement.

At the end of the day, the big thing that many people want is assurance that they will have enough money to last their lifetime.

Over four in 10 (44%) respondents said making sure they have enough money is one of the most important things financial professionals can do to help, according to the latest Allianz Life Retirement Risk Readiness Study.

We want to ensure that people can live in retirement prepared and retire on their own terms.

By integrating risk management, a financial strategy can account for the many known and unknown risks that arise during the decades after someone leaves the workforce.

We’re really focused on promoting, educating, training and developing thought leadership around how advisors and investors can complement their financial planning process by incorporating a level of risk management.

What forces out there are helping, and what forces are hurting?

Financial technology is helping advisors better serve clients with new tools to improve decision-making.

This is especially important for helping clients figure out how they can optimize their Social Security benefits. Social Security should be a cornerstone of a retirement strategy that you then stack on other income streams.

Increasingly, clients want financial professionals who use these kinds of tools.

Our recent study found that the majority of people more than 10 years away from retirement (58%) expect their financial professional to be tech savvy, offering interactive tools to understand their finances under a variety of scenarios.

This expectation is a trend that we believe will continue.

The speed of innovation and adoption of new technology still needs to catch up with consumers.

Financial professionals leaned into digitalization during the pandemic to make the operational side of the insurance business a little less clunky, but more can still be done to make doing business easier. To succeed with tomorrow’s customers, financial services must become a data-driven, differentiated, and hyper-personalized experience.

What do you think your market (or your specialty, or the world) will look like five years from now?

We are moving toward a more holistic view of financial wellness. It’s not just about picking an individual stock, ETF or mutual fund. Wealth management is being reframed to be cost-smart, tax-smart, and risk-smart.

Financial wellness captures more than accumulation of wealth to give clients holistic guidance to deal with external factors like equity volatility, rising interest rates, sequence of returns risk, longevity risk, and other challenges in retirement.

We’re also incorporating more asset classes into retirement income planning like defined-outcome ETFs and annuities as an asset in 401(k) plans. Everyone’s financial picture is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Moving toward holistic advice will help financial professionals who want to grow. Many offices are expanding, using a teaming model, to offer more services in one place. As the world has become more complex, financial professionals have added tax management and legal resources to their teams.

Along with that holistic view, people want more tailored strategies with easier access to their current financial well-being.

Financial services is continuing to become more data-driven and hyper-personalized.

Consumer and investor expectations have increased. People want to be able to view the entire financial wellness picture on their phones.

What, if anything, should readers or other players, such as industry groups and members of Congress, be doing to bring about positive change?

One of the important ways people can bring about positive change is to promote and support financial literacy.

As a result of the shift away from defined benefit plans and pensions, individual investors now carry the burden of building a retirement portfolio that can weather different market conditions as well as deliver a sustainable income stream in the face of challenges such as longevity risk.

At Allianz, we partner with a variety of non-profit organizations to work with students of all ages to further this effort and invest significant resources in education for financial professionals and consumers.

Specific to our industry, there’s an opportunity to create more awareness of the different careers in financial services including career paths such as apprenticeships.

Lastly, we need to continue encouraging regulations that support innovation, accelerate the streamlining of digital capabilities to improve the ease of doing business and enhance the client experience.

Corey Walther. (Photo: Allianz Life)


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