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Heard in the Hallways

Question: Which distribution channel or solutions will take the lead in increasing penetration of the middle market for life insurance and annuities?

“Regarding solutions for the middle market, at Nationwide, we want to be sure the benefit for the customer is simple, clear, and understandable, so that customers will know what they are buying and are comfortable with it. This will have high impact in the middle market, because if customers don’t understand it, they won’t buy it. Also, use of alternative, more direct channels, working with our traditional distribution, will help us reach more of the middle market.”

--Jean Finnegan, cross product director-business development, individual products and solutions, Nationwide Financial, Columbus, Ohio

“I think the answer is independent distribution. At my firm, we’re moving toward that now with a strategy that we’re calling ‘the road to independence.’  We are a broker/dealer and we originally used more of a captive/career agency force model. But that model can be very expensive, so we are shifting to give producers the ability to get more compensation and get more benefit by going to the independent model. To impact the middle market, the industry has to increase the producer population in this channel. We need to focus on bringing in more young people in their 20s and on retaining them. The young recruits will sell to the middle market. Also, when the older population of producers retires, we will have someone there to fill the void. But some companies don’t do the Green-P recruiting anymore, so the key question is, can the industry do it?”  

--Paul Cappuccio, director-financial reporting and analysis, Signator Investors, Boston, Mass.

“Companies and organizations that talk to consumers about their personal responsibility and community responsibilities will make the biggest impact on middle market penetration. That’s because, in life insurance, it’s not just about you (the customer). It’s also about the next generation. I sit on a charitable foundation, and in the last three years, we have seen a drastic increase in people who are giving money and time because of this increased awareness of responsibility to others.  We even see more children giving, by helping others through volunteer programs. We see it in billionaire philanthropy, and in the growing number of charities for specific causes. The increase actually started after the market crash in 2008 and it has continued to grow. People are doing this because they believe it is what they should be doing, and the charities are making it easy to do. It will be the same in the middle market. Companies need to create products for this market that are simple and that producers can clearly explain in terms of how this product fulfills personal and community responsibility.”

--William Pienias, senior vice president, First Investors Corp., New York City



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