Two pieces of news provide a flicker of hope amid the doom and gloom.
By Cyril Tuohy
MetLife has announced the release of a tablet-based app for iPads and iPad minis to help agents and advisors explain the benefits of whole life coverage.
The launch of the app is the latest example of a major life carrier moving to mobile-based platforms in an effort to capture the attention of consumers with a “dynamic” analysis of the advantages of life insurance.
“Through its interactive capabilities, the app allows financial professionals to bring their conversations with clients to life by showing how whole life products can help clients meet their individual financial goals,” said Matt Quale, vice president of U.S. retail marketing for MetLife.
Quale also said the app is more effective than “static printed product materials and policy illustration ledgers.”
Whole life, a policy which offers a death benefit and builds cash value, covers an insured for the whole of his or her life.
It is more complicated than term life because it builds up cash value against which a policyholder can borrow. The app can help advisors “clearly articulate the product features,” Quale added.
Industry technology analysts say life insurers and the advisors who sell their products need to adopt mobile platforms quickly if they want to keep up with customers, particularly younger buyers who are used to shopping through smartphones and tablets.
A snapshot of mobile applications permeating the North American life insurance market in 2011 found that life insurers were moving more cautiously into the mobile space than their carrier counterparts in the property-casualty sector.
The survey by Celent analysts Karen Monks, Craig Beattie and Craig Weber found that because life insurance doesn’t readily lend itself to apps, insurance carriers were better off investing in apps for producers and distributors than they were in designing apps designed to appeal directly to consumers.
Quale said Whole Life Up Close is a proprietary tool designed for use with consumers, but available only through certain MetLife websites for financial professionals.
Apps offered by life insurers vary. Some apps allow users to view product information and calculators. Others offer what Celent calls a “virtual service center.”
Life insurance carriers have been slow to adopt apps. The reasons don’t have to do only with the uniqueness of the industry and its long product cycle times, for instance, but with the plethora of mobile platforms in need of integration with carriers’ network systems, analysts have said.
Carriers who staked their mobile future on Research in Motion’s BlackBerry platform, for example, made the wrong call.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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