Industry Leader Forum: National Western Life

Launching a new era in 2012. Excitement and anticipation is everywhere at National Western Life (NWL) as we usher in a new year and with that a new era at the company.
In the first quarter of 2012 the 30-month, multi-million dollar “Project Connex” will go live! This represents a culmination of multiple projects and a complete system conversion to the new windows-based LifeCycle 2.0.
Every facet of the company will be upgraded as a result of this effort. New business systems complete with state-of-the-art automated case management capabilities; a new commission system full of enhanced reporting features for both producers and distributors; the launch of our new website that will serve as the hub for access to information at the client, agent, distributor, and carrier level; additional sales process enhancements to the successful e-App platform and soon to come e-Policy delivery; and three different illustration interfaces to give you choices. The actuarial department goes live with Arcval valuation software, a new claims system will be up and running, and even the accounting departments will be working with a new general ledger.
What a project! My hat goes off to the hard-working employees who have persevered and succeeded in a mission that represented a second job to many over the course of the past two and a half years. Our partners at FAST Technologies, iPipeline, Ebix Exchange, and Solutions 3000 will work closely with us for years to deliver cutting-edge technologies that will help you be more successful in your business and keep NWL as your long term partner.
While all of this planning and preparation was going on behind the scenes at NWL, our national marketing organization partners and agent representatives achieved another fantastic sales year! Goals were met and exceeded in the domestic life and annuity divisions as well as in the international life market.
We launched the Impact Annuity series, representing three new products and the first post 151(a) products introduced to the marketplace. The Impact Annuity series consists of a 10-year and two 7-year contracts featuring multiple crediting methods, including the four index look-back method—option K, big vested client bonuses, and top producer commission. This product launch has created new opportunities in many states for NWL and continues to exceed sales projections.
In spite of the historic low rate environment (that has no end in sight), our annuity business will continue to thrive. The current rate environment, spread compression, limited investment opportunities and falling portfolio rates will be a challenge for all insurance carriers in maintaining financial strength and desired profitability goals, and will continue to impair future product offerings. But with our mix of guarantees, product choices, product innovation like the unique Global Lookback, along with a competitive fixed annuity and single premium immediate annuity menus, NWL tax-deferred annuities will continue to make the insurance market the best choice available for many consumers.
We have seen a big change in the annuity world during the past year with the new suitability regulations. More and more states are adopting the regulations that require agents to be in compliance with the general annuity training component of the “Suitability in Annuity Transactions” regulation. This typically includes a four-hour continuing education class and then carrier product-specific training for each product you represent. Essentially this transfers the responsibility of suitability from the producer to the carrier. This is a new regulation for all parties involved, and the goal at NWL is to work with our agents to help them write suitable business.
We do not want to be the annuity police or turn your cases away, but we are required to work together to ensure we are writing appropriate business. We expect most states to adopt this regulation in the near future. Training is required before solicitation, so be aware and don’t get caught having to go back and re-write a case due to these new agent requirements.
The biggest success for NWL in the past year was the wealth transfer market. The Lifetime Returns Select & Solutions single-, five- and ten-pay products led our complete portfolio of products to new heights. The partnership with Elite Sales Processing (ESP) has allowed us to create an instant approval underwriting process that is both fast and efficient. Done in concert with an electronically submitted application, turnaround times in policies and commissions are surpassing even our own expectations. This will serve as the platform for entry into the bank and ­broker/dealer market space where the newly formed National Western Life Financial Distributors (NWLFD) entity will work with the top distributors in the country to brand this type of sale “Asset Based Insurance.”
Watch for the launch of new living benefit riders on all NWL term policies in the form of critical, chronic and terminal illness benefits. The introduction of the Living Benefit Term product will incorporate the ESP instant approval underwriting process and be available for e-Application submission. This will represent our new “life insurance for life” platform that will soon be available on all NWL life policies.
We are extremely excited about these new life insurance initiatives and markets as continued growth in the life side of the house will only fuel the annuity business and put us in position to write even more.
In closing I want to thank you for the business and your part in one of our most successful years at NWL. I want to acknowledge NAFA, the National Association for Fixed Annuities, for all their efforts in tirelessly battling the politically motivated bad press our industry is constantly faced with, and for creating a presence with the lawmakers in Washington to advocate for our business.
We are committed to your continued success. Give us an opportunity to earn your business in 2012. We have a lot of exciting things happening at National Western Life and want you as our partner. Good selling. [SCJ]

January 2012 Issue of Brokerworld Magazine. Author’s Bio S. Christopher  Johnson Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, National Western Life

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