Annuities

Chasing Product


Annuities

Now that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Conflict of Interest rule is completed, we are beginning to hear rumblings of how advisors will react to the proposed changes. Most frequently, I’m hearing that advisors will remain focused on growing assets under management and distributing retirement income from assets using a systematic withdrawal plan. In this manner, they feel they won’t interrupt their ongoing revenue stream.  

This attitude is exactly why the DOL proposed the rule. If revenue (and form of compensation) is the top priority, you are not acting in the best interest of the client. Instead, we need to identify the reasons why many consumers might be best served by fixed annuities, not just accumulating assets or variable annuities. For many years, fixed indexed annuities have provided similar, if not better, income riders for clients. Due to the stability of the accumulation value, carriers can better price the income benefit for clients.  

When I hear annuity producers will change products because they can’t earn a commission, I become concerned about where those producers might look for solutions. In recent years, the variable annuity industry has made their products more like commodities instead of their benefit-driven solutions of the past. By transitioning to fixed indexed annuities, I fear the industry will once again relent to irrational pricing that hurts all of us in the long term.  

It appears that producers who are squirming for a viable solution didn’t use the variable annuity chassis for upside potential, tax deferral, and asset allocation strategies. Instead, they probably sold the product for its secondary guarantees on income. If the client needs income alone – and not the potential for cash accumulation, tax deferral and asset allocation – then they might be best served with alternative guaranteed income solutions like single premium immediate annuities or deferred income annuities.  With tax-favored distribution on nonqualified assets, the after-tax income level can be higher in these income solutions versus the typical variable annuity.  

We have to change our focus. It’s not about our old, antiquated business model anymore – it’s about serving the client in ways we might not have looked at previously. The industry of tomorrow requires open-mindedness, unbiased discussions with clients, and a continued willingness to learn new strategies to affect our clients’ lives. Let’s look at the fundamental shifts that the DOL wants our industry to comply with and make positive changes for our clients. 

Winning Strategy

We’re already seeing financial professionals scrambling for the next best solution to earn a commission. Let’s start by dropping our biases toward solutions we are not familiar with and looking at new ways to solve client needs – even when we might not have done it before a fiduciary standard.  

About the Author

Mike McGlothlin is the Executive Vice President of Annuities at Ash Brokerage. His strength is helping advisors become more efficient and effective in their businesses. He and his team provide income-planning solutions focused on longevity and tax efficiency, and they also assist advisors with entering defined-benefit termination planning and structured settlement markets. 

 

DOL Department of Labor

My Fears of Change (or the Lack Thereof)


Annuities

With the U.S. Department of Labor’s rule still fresh in our minds, it’s hard to think much beyond the changes our industry will face in the next 12 to 18 months. But, if we step back and look at the bigger picture, we have more important challenges ahead. We might be afraid of change, but I’m more worried about what will happen if we if don’t. 

 

Lack of Advisors

In the United States today, we have only one financial professional for every 1,000 citizens. And, we have the largest generations of Americans leaving the workforce for retirement, relying on the assets they’ve have saved for the rest of their lives. No way can a single professional provide the necessary advice to 1,000 people, especially with a low-interest environment, unstable global economy and the most complex tax coded in history. We must develop a better system to recruit, invest in, and train new professionals in our industry.  

 

Commoditization of Technology

Technology can do great things for our industry, but it can also do some damage if we aren’t careful. In his book, “End of Jobs,” Taylor Pearson discusses how just a little over a decade ago, Loudcloud, an early cloud hosting service, hosted applications for $150,000 a month. Today, those same hosting services cost $1,500 a month.1 

With today’s appeal of the robo-advisor, I expect the same revenue compression over the next decade in our industry. Our current climate is to look for the least expensive way to provide a service instead of providing a service with the most value. Asset allocation can be found everywhere; however, managing the sequence of returns makes all the difference in whether a client runs out of money. We must redefine ourselves from asset managers to client-focused advisors – and customize it with scale.  

 

Changes in Income

Pearson also points out that the American population faces a major shift in income generation – and he’s not referencing the loss of earned income by voluntary retirement. Instead, more Americans will turn to entrepreneurial opportunities in the future. Because between 1948 and 2000, jobs grew 1.7 times faster than our population – since the turn of the century, however, our population has grown 2.4 times faster than jobs. 

Without the retirement plans of “normal” employment, we must help our clients find vehicles to meet long-term savings demands and educate them on the impact of self-employment versus paid wages. Our clients started the mind shift, so our industry must adapt to keep up.  

 

Moving Sooner than Later

It’s been said many times, but it’s worth repeating: We have to do a better job working on our business instead of in our business. It’s is time for us to make a fundamental shift, which requires thought and decisions on how we will capture market share in a largely homogenous product set.

I challenge everyone to critically think about their business first thing, every day. In his book, “Triggers,” Marshall Goldsmith discusses a 2011 study that followed 1,100 decisions of an Israeli parole board. Seventy percent of the prisoners were granted parole when they appeared before the board in the morning, while only 10 percent received parole when they appeared in the afternoon. By human nature, we get fatigued and worn down by making decisions throughout the day, and we default to status quo. My suspicion is that financial professionals end up with the status quo simply because we don’t pay attention to our business until after we are too tired to think about our future. 

We face a multitude of challenges in the next 12-18 months. All the while, the American population moves toward the need for more advice, more education, and a renewed industry full of fresh ideas and deeper client relationships – all energized by new technologies. We need to take time to think about how we exceed customer expectations – not by rates of return, but by experience. 

 

Winning Strategy

Cost-conscious prospects looking for more advice create opportunities for the right business model. Have you spent enough time on your business so you can focus on its biggest assets – your clients?

 

Learn More

“End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom Without 9-to-5,” by Taylor Pearson: http://www.amazon.com/End-Jobs-Meaning-9-5-ebook/dp/B010L8SYRG 

“Triggers: Creating Behavior that Lasts – Becoming The Person You Want To Be,” by Marshall Goldsmith: http://www.amazon.com/Triggers-Creating-Behavior-Lasts-Becoming-Person/dp/0804141231

 

About the Author

Mike McGlothlin is the Executive Vice President of Annuities at Ash Brokerage. His strength is helping advisors become more efficient and effective in their businesses. He and his team provide income-planning solutions focused on longevity and tax efficiency, and they also assist advisors with entering defined-benefit termination planning and structured settlement markets. 

Annutities DOL Department of Labor Change

Winning with New Regulations


Annuities

The proposed rule from the Department of Labor takes up a lot of conversation these days. While we await the final rule, it’s clear that we are likely to be acting in a fiduciary role soon. Many have predicted lower sales and as much as 25 percent of the sales force shrinking. However, with any change, there is opportunity to capture additional market share – even with increased regulation. 

A large advice gap exists in the United Kingdom, where similar legislation went into effect in 2012.  Many financial institutions moved up market as they did not find the mass affluent market profitable.  Unlike in the United Kingdom, we will still be able to write commission-based products. Let’s not lose sight of that fact in the conversations surrounding the Department of Labor. For those financial professionals who can work efficiently in the mass affluent, there will likely be opportunity to thrive in the post-DOL world.  

It will take efficiency and effectiveness – two business building blocks – in order to succeed in this market with the proposed regulations. Professionals earning a commission must be able to repeat a sales process with every client to assure the planning process remains holistic. In order to capitalize on the opportunity that involves key components in the proposed rule, in 2015-16, you must think about strategic maneuvering: 

  • What level of staffing will help me in the post-DOL era?
  • How can I easily document all of my client interactions, client conversations, client goals, and case-specific data that leads to my recommendations?
  • What software will I need to show I am working in the best interest of my client while remaining carrier/fund/investment agnostic?
  • How can I repeat the sales process efficiently, and with care, to create scale in my office?

Bottom Line

New regulation does not mean you automatically have to change your business plan to a fee-based or assets under management model. However, it will require some thought about how to take advantage of some of the opportunities. I urge everyone to begin the thought process around a post-DOL Conflict of Interest era. The plans you make today are likely to help you and your clients succeed in the future.   

 

Mike McGlothlin is the Executive Vice President of Annuities at Ash Brokerage. His strength is helping advisors become more efficient and effective in their businesses. He and his team provide income-planning solutions focused on longevity and tax efficiency, and they also assist advisors with entering defined-benefit termination planning and structured settlement markets. 

 

Regulation Department of Labor