Experts from the 2012 NAFA IMO SUMMIT

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Exclusive Interviews with Industry Leaders to Assist Your Business This Year. 

The weekend of October 17-19, 2012, NAFA held its annual IMO Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. This event, which focuses on the unique issues facing Insurance Marketing Organizations, is the largest one of its kind and is attended by IMO principals and executives.

The aim of this year’s Summit was planning and strategizing for the coming year, taking into consideration all of the changes which are taking place in the field of insurance sales. Over 50 IMOs were represented at the Summit and we had the opportunity speak with many of them. They know that these changes are daunting to the producers out there, many of whom are already struggling, and were eager to share their insights to help producers like you to not only survive in 2013, but to thrive. Below are some excerpts from our conversations.

What is your opinion on the state of the annuity industry in 2013?

“The market is changing from being about investments to being a savings plan that’s designed to produce the highest cash flow. You can’t sell return anymore. What the baby boomers need to know is that they need to have security in their lives, so that they can spend with confidence, and they need to have cash flow. As long as interest rates stay low, it’s good for us, and as long as the market’s volatile, it’s good for the indexed annuity industry.”

— Josh Mellberg, President, JD Mellberg Financial

“I think that we’re going to be in this low rate environment for years. I think you’re going to see that companies have to continue to be tight with the benefits that they offer, and I don’t think that we’re done with seeing product changes. If we are in that environment for a long period of time, it’s going to force people to look at ‘what do I actually need to live on to retire’”

— Eric Thomas, Senior VP of Sales, Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America

What would you say to an independent agent going into next year?

“The saddest line, the truest line, is that if you think comp has come down this year, wait. Overall, the comp is not going to go down, but it’s going to be spread out. How are you going to deal with that? One way is diversifying. You don’t have to diversify or die, but if you don’t, it’ll be a tough time in the next year or two.”

— Jack Marrion, President, Advantage Compendium

Do you see sales increasing, decreasing, or remaining flat next year?

“I think they’re going to be increasing, but I don’t think that they’re going to be increasing for the independent agent market. I think that’s going to be flat. It’ll increase on the bank channel and securities side”

— Jack Marrion, President, Advantage Compendium

“IUL’s will increase. I think the economic environment is perfect for it. People are afraid of losing money; they want stability. With the new products that are coming out for today’s IUL’s, not only do you have all the cash advantages and all of the tax advantages inside of a cash value policy, you have all the new living benefits. You have products that are coming out that are going to change how death benefits are paid to allow for even higher cash value accumulation. From the consumer’s way of looking at it, they’re tired of getting beat up. To know that they can have the security of the cash value of a life insurance policy with a guarantee that it can’t go down, is very appealing. Those 45-60 year olds all have young families, and their seeing what’s going on in the market. And they want to tap their 401K’s, because they’re getting hit with taxes.”

—Joe Zuccolotto, President/COO, AMZ Financial Services

People that I’ve spoken with have said that there isn’t going to be much of an impact from the election, do you agree?

“No, I disagree. What it’s going to provide is direction. People will know if it’s going to be pro-business, if the interest rate will trend up, that’s going to have a huge impact. Taxes are huge. The big areas, estate planning on the life side, the AALU has the three thin threads of tax-free death benefit, tax-free build up within life benefits, and the removal of the death benefit from the estate. If the election goes one way instead of the other, those could all be called into question. And on the annuity’s, if they go after life, annuity’s a first step. So, yeah, it’s scary out there.”

— Bob Phillips, President/CMO, ECA Marketing

What are agents saying about trails versus commission?

“We had some push back on the trails at first, a lot of agents stopped writing with us. But I’ve also had a lot of those same agents come back now. The guys that left us talked to other agents who didn’t leave us and realized its working, it works great. We’ve got guys that are now past that two-year period and they know that, whatever happens, they’re still going to have something coming in. If they hit a dry spell or something, they’re still going to have revenue coming in.”

— James Jones, VP-Marketing Services, American Equity

With agents switching over from comp to trail, do you think that they will have to change the way they do business in the New Year?

“My dad’s favorite saying, this is from Boon Pickens, “an idiot with a plan can outsmart a genius without a plan.” And so our agents sit down with seniors and say, ‘can you show me your plan?’ We need to continue to educate. Consumers need to be educated because their retirement plans are changing. At the end of the day, we come to work with a sense of mission and purpose for what we do. For us, it’s helping people have more secure retirements. The purpose of business is to help people. So, what we train our agents to do is to help the consumer. Making money is a byproduct of helping people. These macro changes are for good ultimately. Things go up and down, but some things never go out of style and education is one of those things.”

— M Tarkenton, Executive VP, Tarkenton Financial LLC

What is your advice to agents for next year?

“Allocate money for marketing. Don’t spend every dime that you make. Partner up with an IMO that has strong value added marketing propositions, access to solid product and carriers. But also, if you haven’t already, begin the transition from being an insurance peddler to an advisor.”

— Steve Kerns, CEO, InsurMark

What do you think the big opportunity will be next year?

“There’s tremendous opportunity in the 401(k) roll over market, tremendous opportunity with 10,000 people turning age 65, a third of American households unaware that annuities as viable options exist. There’s so much opportunity to solve client needs. How can we make consumer experience an easier experience and agent experience an easier experience? Straight through processing, end to end, taking the app, e-signature, that’s the way we want to go.”

— Rod Mims, SVP National Sales Manager, Athene Annuity & Life Assurance Company

What is one tip you would give our readers?

“Make sure you do frequent policy reviews, both with annual statements and at least one other time during the middle of the cycle. It gets you a new commission, a new bonus, introductions and referrals, and you’re not always calling about how to ‘find more money to give me.’ Build your sales on a relationship basis; by doing reviews, you can tell clients what’s changed, new products, new facts. There’s 9.4 trillion non-qualified money just sitting on the sidelines.”.”

— Mary Ann Lacey, President,
Underwriters Marketing Service INC.


NAFA, the National Association for Fixed Annuities, is a national trade association exclusively dedicated to promoting the awareness and understanding of fixed annuities. NAFA is the only association whose sole purpose is advocating for the fixed annuity product.

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