Succeeding in a volatile life insurance industry

By Anthony Vossenberg

Genworth Financial


​As the life insurance industry continues to undergo an extraordinary amount of change, distributors and producers are wondering how they can stay ahead of the turbulence and still serve clients’ needs.

Across the industry, companies are repricing some product lines and exiting others as they continue to alter their business strategies. At the same time, interest rates remain stubbornly low. All of this is putting pressure on today’s insurance products, as well distributors, producers and consumers.

Today, industry players are asking themselves: How long will this continue? When will things stabilize? And how can I best succeed in this ever-changing market? Unfortunately, many of us are being reminded of conditions in early 2009, when the industry was extremely unsettled. It’s as if we’ve moved backwards. This signals that volatile conditions may be with us for some time.

Here’s how distributors and producers should respond.

Accept the seismic shifts

The first step in navigating the changing life insurance industry is to get your head around the fact that the industry is different now. It’s not going to return to the way it was. It’s time to put thoughts of a full-fledged recovery and a return to 2006 behind you and accept that changes are here to stay. Admitting this will enable you to move on and build your knowledge of this new realm to use it to your advantage.
  • Pay attention to industry trends.
    Make sure you understand what’s going on in the overall market, and conduct your research and networking to gather a well-informed outlook of what may happen three or six months or 12 months down the line. This way you’ll be able to anticipate the next big changes, leaving you better prepared to power through.

  • Reevaluate the list of carriers you currently work with.
    Do your homework to gain a refreshed understanding of your carriers’ businesses, but be careful not to judge too quickly. Take the necessary time to get a good grasp on their future plans, and then ask yourself this: Do their plans line up with yours?

  • Consider adding a carrier or two.
    Based on the above research, you may find it’s time to drop some of the carriers you’re working with. Seize this as an opportunity to forge relationships with new carriers that have business strategies and future plans that align with your own.

Modify your business and nurture relationships

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with industry trends and reevaluated your carriers, it’s time to modify your business to stay ahead of the anticipated changes. It’s easy to play the victim in the changing insurance environment, but it’s vital that you don’t just take what comes your way. Now is the time to identify your most important business relationships and nurture them.
Diversify your expertise

Another important step to navigating these changes is to diversify. Traditionally, many producers have only dabbled in a few products, content to tell themselves, “I’m a life insurance professional. I don’t do annuities, disability or long-term care insurance.” But relying on one or two products is not a smart strategy in this unstable environment. Work to develop a multidisciplinary business plan to ensure that you miss as few opportunities as possible, and make a commitment to learn how to market a new product line.

Reach out and collaborate

Do not be afraid to ask for help, which may include doing joint fieldwork with an industry specialist. Develop the skills and habits necessary to be effective at cross-selling. To get started, invest time to talk to the advisors in your network that have the expertise and proven track record in the areas in which you wish to grow. You may find that expanding your business is not as difficult as you imagined it would be. After all, consumers are looking for a wide variety of solutions to today’s financial and life-planning challenges. Strive to be their source for more than just one type of solution. If you concentrate your efforts on becoming a specialist in one or two additional aspects of the business, you will be able to grow your practice without overextending your reach.

In the end, those advisors who succeed in this fluctuating market will be those who are able to take a step back and learn enough about the market to be nimble. Remaining nimble will be key to the real driver of future success: being able to provide the right products and solutions to the right people at the right time.