Industry Leader Forum: Ohio National Financial Services
It seemed that the only constant in 2011 was constant change. Today’s global economy has our world interconnected like never before. The economic underpinnings of foreign countries have long-reaching impact for businesses on Main Street, USA.
With interest rates at historic lows, many in our industry—even our government—have experienced pressures and ratings actions. While there are no crystal balls, there is little doubt that 2012 will bring continued uncertainty. Yet at Ohio National, we look back to lessons learned in the recent years as we move forward. Because we are strategically focused, we’re built for times like these.
At Ohio National, our opportunities just keep getting better because we are financially strong, and we’re committed to product excellence. Ohio National has consistently maintained a conservative investment approach, views risk management from a total enterprise perspective, and doesn’t manage around a quarterly earnings report. Ohio National is positioned for healthy, manageable growth amid the changes of our world. For 20 consecutive years Ohio National has maintained its ratings, and at the end of the year was positioned for 22 consecutive years of unparalleled individual life insurance sales growth.
Industry Challenges. This environment of change is the “new normal.” It has left the economy volatile, uncertain, sluggish, bumpy and reactionary. The result is significant economic headwinds that have caused stubbornly high unemployment, and consumer confidence, while up from the 2008-2009 recession, remains at low levels. Additionally, the continually evolving European sovereign debt crisis has far-reaching effects. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low, and the rating agencies have been busy. The challenges continue with recent headlines of continued downgrades in the banking sector. Ohio National has been able to keep its ratings since 1991, with A+ (Superior) from A.M. Best, AA (Very Strong) from Standard & Poor’s, and A1 from Moody’s.
These negatives have a silver lining. Amid the turmoil, corporate profits have never been higher, and low interest rates mean borrowing opportunities are extremely attractive. As the economy recovers, corporations will again begin to hire.
Products. At Ohio National, we’re committed to product excellence, and our producers consistently tell us that the number one reason they affiliate with our company—and stay with our company—is our product lineup. In today’s uncertain economy, consumers want products with guarantees, and at Ohio National, we take great pride in building affordable, solid products that offer the protection our policyholders need to protect their families and their businesses.
Our Prestige Whole Life series employs a non-direct recognition dividend scale and features four distinct products, including the lowest premium participating whole life policy in the industry today. Our whole life portfolio offers solutions for those looking for value, stability and long term dividend performance.
Our life portfolio stacks up well against any company in the industry. Whether clients need the lifetime coverage offered by our #1 current assumption universal life insurance or the entry level protection provided by our highly competitive term insurance, Ohio National has a solution.
This January, we launched our latest innovative variable annuity riders, the GLWB Plus riders. The GLWB Plus riders feature higher income percentages for withdrawals, along with a number of other benefits and protection features. In addition, our GLWB Plus riders require the contract owner to invest in selected investment funds which are designed to manage risk and volatility. These risk and volatility managed funds are also available investment options for all of our individual annuity contracts. These portfolios have been designed specifically to help reduce the effects of market volatility on clients’ portfolios. The objective is to seek to produce more consistent returns over time, eliminating the see-saw effect that volatile markets can have on retirement portfolios.
While Ohio National has long been known for its strong life and annuity product portfolios, we have chosen to broaden our competitive stance in other product areas as well. Two years ago we retooled our group annuity offerings, and last year we completely revamped our individual disability income insurance portfolio.
In a time when many insurance companies have exited the individual disability income market, Ohio National has chosen to reenergize and recharge our DI portfolio. With products designed to help families and small business owners protect against the financial damage that can come from losing the ability to earn a living, the ContinuON Income Solutions Series is an excellent complement to our other products.
Distribution. Ohio National’s commitment to a diverse and competitive product line is just part of our strategic vision to grow our distribution organically. As a result, our ever-growing value proposition has positioned us as a “flight to quality” leader. We’re focused on growing our distribution and providing long term value to our customers. At Ohio National we call our relationship-centric producer-focused approach “Delivering More” because we’ve aligned our operations with the value proposition we offer producers. It’s all about giving producers what they need and growing this vital relationship.
In Ohio National’s distribution system, all producers have access to the same leading and competitive product lines, direct access to underwriters, call centers for case help, and an advanced sales department for assistance with the design of estate and business cases. We want our agents to succeed and thrive. One of the greatest strengths of our distribution system is the communication and relationships established between all parties. Our producers have direct access to key areas because more touch points create a higher consistency of relationship. We continue to understand that people do business with people, and at the end of the day we know our mutual success is inseparable.
I remain optimistic about our company and our industry. Why? The basic needs of our clients don’t change. They search for guarantees, safety, value and security—regardless of the economic climate. I’m convinced that ours is the only industry able to fulfill these needs. As I noted last year, Ohio National is well-positioned, prepared and energized. We will stick to our established strategy, and we will execute every day. We look forward to “Delivering More” to our network of producers, both the established and the new. [GTH]
January 2012 Issue of Brokerworld Magazine. Author’s Bio Gary T. “Doc” Huffman, CLU, ChFC President and CEO, Ohio National Financial Services