7 Questions Your Client Assumes You'll Ask an Insurance Carrier
Life insurance is a long-term product. When a client buys life insurance, he or she relies on your judgement for choosing the best carrier and product to suit your needs. How and how often you evaluate the carriers could have a significant impact on the success and growth of your practice.
Stay abreast of industry and insurance carrier news. That way, you may get ahead of a consumer news cycle or a policyowner communication when needed. Consider putting a process in place to evaluate your insurance carriers at least annually. Significant changes or shifts should prompt a re-evaluation of your carrier relationships. Start with these 7 questions:
What are the carrier’s financial ratings?
Is the rating category consistent across the rating agencies (A.M. Best, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, Duff & Phelps, and Fitch)? If there is a rating outlier, ask, “why?”. Look for recent rating changes. Rating agency changes may reflect a change in the company. Who owns the carrier? Is the owner a domestic or international company? Rating and company information is generally available on the carrier’s website.
What is the carrier’s track record with inforce policy owners?
Has the carrier increased or decreased the cost of insurance rates on a classification of policies? How often? Are inforce policy crediting rates similar to current products or is there greater disparity between the inforce and current products? How has the carrier managed cap rates on indexed universal life insurance products? Are cap rates for inforce policy owners similar to the currently offered products or is there greater disparity between the two? How does the carrier intend to manage through this extended low interest rate environment?
What kind of support do they offer you and your staff?
Do they offer access to advanced market experts? What kind of training or tools do they offer? What types of tools or support to they offer to aid in explaining insurance to clients? How do they help with inforce policy management? Do they offer regional support or is the support centralized? What processes are now easier for you and your staff with new technology? What types of mobile apps do they offer?
What market segments does the carrier serve?
Does the carrier serve the same market segments as you do (i.e. ultra-wealthy, mass-affluent, multi-life executive benefits, workplace, etc.)? What market segments has the carrier recently exited, and why? What markets has the carrier recently entered? If the carrier is in a market that you want to enter, how will the carrier help you develop that market for your practice?
What type of carrier contract do you have?
Is your access direct to the carrier or do you work through a third party that shares in the compensation for the business you place? Do you have access to the carrier’s senior management?
What types of products does the carrier offer?
Are they heavily concentrated in a product type, or do they offer a diversity of products? How does each product’s features and pricing stand relative to the competitors? Do the products’ sales illustrations include non-guaranteed interest bonuses?
What is the carrier’s philosophy on product development?
Where do they get the ideas for new products? Do they have an innovation process? What kind of input do insurance and financial service professionals have in the products? Do they have in-house expertise on investing to support indexed interest products?
The insurance carriers you select will be with you and your clients for a long time. Your clients assume that you ask the carriers, you represent, these questions. Regular evaluation of your carrier business relationships will ultimately enhance your client relationships. With a developed carrier evaluation process, you have a routine to quickly gather needed information and evaluate a carrier relationship as needed. If you are a member of a producer group, check with them to see which questions they use in their carrier evaluation process. You may be able to leverage their data-gathering into your process. Ultimately, the client relationship is yours. So, regular evaluations of your carriers is in the best interest of your practice.
Michael A. Bell is a consultant with First Financial Resources, LLC (FFR) in Newport Beach, CA and his 35-year career in the industry includes Executive Vice President for Pacific Life Insurance Company. You can reach Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.