By Cyril Tuohy
CNO Financial Group, the parent company for three middle-market insurance companies and an investment advisor group, said its plans for 2014 include growing the financial advisor program, advance life sales training, branch office expansion and sales force automation.
Formerly known as Conseco, CNO Financial owns Bankers Life and Casualty, Colonial Penn Life Insurance and Washington National Insurance. The carriers have different distribution models.
Scott Perry, chief business officer for CNO Financial Group, said in a conference call with analysts that the company would begin shifting efforts toward increasing agent productivity. Agents will have access to life sales training and the company is planning a new branding and digital marketing campaign.
“Lastly, we plan on making investments to drive growth in agents that are also registered as financial advisors,” Perry said.
The initiatives at Bankers Life are part of a $55 million investment to improve the experience of middle-market customers with all three insurance carriers. Edward J. Bonach, chief executive officer of CNO Financial, announced the investment during a 2014 outlook conference call in December.
Perry said the improvements in the Bankers Life distribution network would generate sales growth of between 6 percent and 8 percent in 2014.
At Washington National, Perry said the company will introduce group supplemental insurance products. “In addition to our own expansion plans, we will drive growth in our own agency distribution initiative to increase sales in the individual market,” he said.
The company plans to do that by recruiting agents with primary skill and experience in marketing supplemental health insurance. “We will also continue to develop new field leaders to relocating talent in underserved areas to increase geographic coverage,” Perry added.
At Colonial Penn, which distributes simple life insurance products to consumers through direct mail, TV, telemarketing and the Internet, Perry said the company would closely monitor its advertising spending.
Higher marketing costs in the fourth quarter dampened Colonial Penn’s lead generation and conversion ratios, and that affected sales, he said.
CNO Financial reported fourth quarter net income of $106 million, compared with $101.2 million in the year-ago period. Full-year net income was $472 million, compared with $221 million in 2012, the company also announced.
CNO Financial’s latest results, Bonach said, “is confirmation that the investments in agent productivity, branch expansion, new product introduction and enhancing the customer experience are working.”
Founded in 1982, CNO became a public company as Conseco three years later and rebranded to CNO Financial Group in 2010.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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