NEW YORK CITY -- Image is everything -- or so goes the old Canon commercial starring tennis champion Andre Agassi.
When it comes to life insurance and annuities, the image factor cannot be overstated, said Eric Sondergeld, vice president of strategic and technology research for LIMRA.
Sondergeld discussed LIMRA's latest research on how the public views the life insurance industry. To be specific, he shared video clips of survey interviews LIMRA researchers conducted with regular Americans.
The results were striking to say the least. In one clip, a man picks three words to describe life insurers: "greed," "indifference" and "apathy."
The problems with this negative image are obvious. Some people automatically think negative thoughts about big companies, Sondergeld acknowledged; but on the whole, it's a real concern.
"If people have negative thoughts about our industry, it's going to make it harder to sell to them, first of all, but it's also going to make it harder to hire them," he explained.
Yet, it's a far different story for the seven in 10 households that own life insurance. Nine out of 10 customers feel good about their policies, Sondergeld pointed out.
"Consumers might have some negative things to say, but they also recognize the important things that we do," he said.
One of the problems trying to reach people is we don't know when their negative images were created, Sondergeld said. If someone has been carrying around a poor image of an insurance company for decades, it's going to be much tougher than someone with a more recent issue.
As one respondent said, insurers need to educate people on what they offer and how their products work. More Americans with families want things like retirement security and financial protection for loved ones.
One initiative the industry started earlier this year to promote retirement income planning and annuity products is the Alliance for Lifetime Income. Several major insurers came together to get the project off the ground.
"All this research so far is suggesting that they're on the right track," Sondergeld said.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH.
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