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From M&A to LTCi: Seven Topics That Crossed My Radar Screen

In recent weeks, I have spoken at numerous company meetings, offering insight on the importance of insurance products for clients at every economic level. Such forums also provide an opportunity to listen thoughtfully to producers and general agents about their perspectives on a wide variety of subjects.

Because of compliance and company proprietary rules, it is difficult for an active producer to have the same kind of radar screen that benefits pilots, in the air and on the seas, every day. Although they are imprecise, here are seven topics that I jotted down as I recalled various conversations. The quotes are summaries and are my best attempt to recapture “the buzz,” but I found every one of them to be important, even though I do not necessarily agree with all of them. Let’s hit the radar.

 

[1] “I miss Joe Belth already.” Dr. Belth retired as editor of Insurance Forum a few months ago. He is one of the insurance profession’s most insightful and brutally honest analysts. Over several decades, he had the courage to tackle questionable tactics employed by the A.L. Williams organization (now Primerica). He spent thousands of hours reading court cases, company reports and various filings in order to create a higher level of transparency and accountability by insurance executives. He ensured his editorial integrity by refusing to accept advertising. Now when we want to learn about industry transgressions, we can rely more than ever on InsuranceNewsNet to speak out on behalf of the honest agents and a noble profession.

 

[2] “I’m quitting, and my general agent doesn’t care.” This beauty was heard by one of the top three agents at one of the four largest mutual companies. His story: “I have several hundred agents whom I recruited and groomed. We are the engine that fuels the company. Because I am a successful baby boomer, no one believes I will retire at age 59. They are ignoring the long-term consequences of our agency’s not having a succession plan. That’s crazy. All they (home office) think about is this quarter. So, they will break apart my agency, and they assume the same level of commitment will continue. It’s a bad bet when you don’t tell people in an agency what’s ahead.”

 

[3] “Get ready for some major mergers and acquisitions.” It’s a well-known fact that a few notable carriers are struggling because, among other reasons, they sold annuity products with 6 and 7 percent interest rates as late as 2010. If the boards of these companies can extract themselves from these untenable contracts in a discreet and safe manner, the public will be well-served, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

 

[4] “No woman has made a major charitable donation like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or any of them.” Ouch!  I politely reminded this person that one of the reasons for this may be that “the glass ceiling” delayed the inevitable donations that will certainly flow to charities, and that many women have made sizable donations that are the percentage equivalent of those by these fabled entrepreneurs. Sexists don’t necessarily listen to logic, so I leave you to ponder that observation.

 

[5] “Long-term care insurance is coming back.” Between 2008 and 2013, several major companies, including MetLife and TIAA-CREF, among many others, essentially exited the LTCi business. The cost of payouts on existing contracts was out of whack with optimistic projections. As a result, the industry was in a freeze frame until a new Federal Reserve chair emerged, Obamacare was somewhat settled and the large health care companies determined where they would fit in a world of exchanges. With much of that now in place, we are seeing more companies introduce smart, well-designed and higher-premium products that can help consumers fill important gaps in protecting their families. If you haven’t followed the LTCi market for some time, you may be surprised at many new policies are being written right now.

 

[6] “Carson is one of the few rock stars in the business.” Barron’s latest list of the top financial planners in the country appropriately featured Ron Carson, ChFC, of Carson Wealth Management. At age 49, Ron is the Peter Lynch of his generation. He and his team have more than $4 billion under management and an insurance practice that’s sizzling. Every one of Ron’s clients can listen in on staff meetings via phone, the ultimate act of confidence and transparency. All services are included in one fee. He is the real deal.

 

[7] “Obama will use an executive order to destroy cash buildup.” Well, if you’re a conspiracy theorist type and an insurance agent, this makes total sense. To the rest of us, it’s fiction that has no basis in fact.  I’m hardly a fan of this president. His profound lack of interest in job creation and his obsession with income redistribution are absurd. Without wealth and the reinvestment of such, free enterprise fails. However, a swipe of the pen on this one would be so patently illegal and trigger such massive criticism from the insurance industry and policyholders that even the few Democrats who still want their picture taken with the president would fade behind the curtain at any photo opportunity.

Keep serving your clients with energy, honesty and discipline.

Larry Barton, Ph.D., CAP, is Chancellor of The American College. Larry may be contacted at larry.barton@innfeedback.com. larry.barton@innfeedback.com.


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