Life Insurers Move to the Future, the Old-Fashioned Way

In a sea of specialized products with increasingly complex rules and fee structures, it might be surprising to know that industry leaders themselves favor a more streamlined approach.

But in listening to the thoughts of the CEOs of MassMutual, ING Insurance U.S. and Protective Life Corporation at Monday’s LIMRA conference in New York City, you get the idea that simpler might be better – especially for the increasingly cynical and befuddled consumer.

Prompted by moderator Robert Kerzner, CLU, ChFC, president and CEO of LIMRA, LOMA and LL Global Inc., the powerhouse trio was surprisingly candid in their assessment of what should (and should not) be done to help build industry success.

“We’ve had the greatest growth in the past 18 months, over our entire 104 year history,” said John D. Johns, president and CEO of Protective. “But considering that the average American has only 15 months worth of retirement savings, I see a huge opportunity for all of us.”

A return to tradition

Roger Crandall, CFA, president and CEO of MassMutual, says he sees a future built on a return to some traditions that the industry may be forgetting in its rush for innovative products and the newest social media selling tools.

“I think we could see some good success in some old-fashioned sales training and tools,” he said. “Instead of more products, we need more innovation on getting to the market and serving our customers. Using those old-fashioned concepts may appeal to people who’ve seen enough and been burned enough by other products. Maybe simpler is better.”

Robert Leary, president and CEO of ING Insurance U.S., agreed that the push for newer and better may not appeal to everyone.

“We need to stop with the new products,” he said. “Instead, we have to help educate consumers on how these products work. We also have to take a look at what happens to all of our products when interest rates finally go up. People have an interest in less volatile products, especially as Social Security is becoming more of a question mark.”

Even Kerzner admitted he recently applied for life insurance and said the experience left him befuddled. “It was way worse and much more complicated than I remember from the past,” he said.

Johns said he also believes in a more basic approach.

“It’s not really innovation when your products are more complex … it’s more about simplifying the process,” he said. “How do I get through this minefield to our particular product?”

As for new opportunities for the industry, the trio agreed that more emphasis needs to be placed on growth in products and services for small business and diversity markets such as America’s growing Hispanic population, and adopting new underwriting to reach those consumers.

And while all three say that 2011 has been a banner year for business, they see the ever-mounting federal deficit as the one political issue which absolutely needs to be addressed to protect America’s future.

“The only way to tackle these financial issues is a discussion where everything is on the table,” Leary said. “If we get that right, we can get everything right.”

By Andy Stonehouse for LifeHealthPro

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