I’ve been to more than my fair share of industry conferences over the past six weeks – some sponsored by the Alliance and some sponsored by other industry groups (A.M. Best, LIMRA, the NAIC) – and I’ve come away with some pretty interesting (and overwhelmingly positive) information. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the key lessons I’ve learned…
- We are not alone – Not even the biggest and best-capitalized insurers have the solutions to making their organizations, their products, and their delivery systems relevant to the next generation of consumers. This leaves the door wide open for agile, adaptable and innovative competitors (like fraternals!) to grow their share of the market by figuring out how to serve clearly identifiable consumer niches.
- The link between governance and sustainability – Regulators have figured out that there is a direct link between the quality of an organization’s governance structure and the ability of that organization to sustain itself (and protect its consumers/members) over the long haul. Fraternals that don’t understand this connection and spend their time, energy, and resources fighting to preserve antiquated (and many times self-serving) governance structures, are in for a rough regulatory road ahead.
- Growth opportunities are almost overwhelming – We’ve all heard that the percentage of consumers who own a life insurance policy is at an all-time low. Which means that there are more folks than ever who need (and, based on all the research I’ve seen, know that they need) our products. Let’s figure out how to go and get them before someone else does!
- Are you talking to me? – The tried and true life insurance sales process (sold by an agent over the kitchen table, followed by the drawing of various bodily fluids) doesn’t make sense to most younger consumers. They still want professional financial advice (as opposed to being “sold”), but on their own terms and only after they’ve had a chance to do their own research on the financial advisor and his/her organization (generally via the Internet). Fraternals need to have a place where younger consumers can “check them out” – because, believe me, they will.
- Products vs. education – Most younger consumers, who earn less than previous generations and are saddled with more college tuition debt than any generation in history, can’t afford life insurance, especially whole life insurance. What they need is education and information on how to plan for their financial future, which will likely include life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, and annuities sometime down the road. Bring them into the fold with the information they are looking for – not the products you’d like to sell.
- Generation Gap – Boomers (another lucrative pool of prospective fraternal members) want to feel that they are part of a team; Gen X and Y want you to “make them happy as an individual.” Are you and your field force aware of the differences in the way these key demographic groups think and act? One size does NOT fit all.
- Big Data is a big deal – You don’t need to be a supersized organization to start collecting data on your current membership that can help you unlock the keys to providing them with additional products and services and identifying the characteristics of your best possible prospective members. Some things you might want to know: email address, income level, children living at home, grown children living outside the home, retirement funding, behavioral patterns (i.e. regular church attendance, membership in other service organizations).
- Reward member loyalty – I fly on United and stay at Marriotts whenever possible (i.e. when the price is competitive to other vendors) because they reward my loyalty with some terrific benefits. How do you acknowledge and reward your most loyal members?
- Fraternals are like breweries – As one fraternal CEO recently explained it to me, “I don’t want to be Budweiser, Miller, or Coor’s; I want to be a craft brewery, consistently providing a high quality product that a certain group of consumers will seek out once they know about it. There is plenty of room in the marketplace for the big brewers and the craft brewers – just like there is plenty of room in the marketplace for large commercial insurers and fraternals.”
Stay thirsty, my friends…