2016 was another great year for the Independent Marketing Group at American National Insurance Company (ANICO) with double digit growth in both our life and annuity lines of business. We are proud of the continued steady growth of both product lines. We owe a great deal of this success to focusing our efforts on Individual Marketing Organizations (IMOs) and a select few National Marketing Organizations (NMOs) which understand the ANICO value proposition and want to partner with ANICO.
For 2017, ANICO will continue to focus on building partnership relationships with IMOs and a few NMOs. The reason we continue to focus on IMOs and not brokerage general agencies (BGAs) is the typical BGA offers little value other than access to multiple insurance company product rates through spreadsheets. The normal IMO deploys a forward looking value proposition which offers independent agents sales ideas, education and access to markets or market access strategies. The value of being able to spreadsheet a sale will continue to be diminished as virtually every agency on the face of the earth has a similar stable of insurance companies in their portfolio and can produce spreadsheets. Many NMOs are simply commission aggregation clubs which increase insurance company expenses, reduce margins and bring little more than additional bonus compensation to its members. In addition to the continued focus on IMOs and NMOs, ANICO will continue the process of reducing the total number of top level contracts across the country, thereby increasing the value the ANICO contract. ANICO is not a fit for everyone, but those agencies who understand our value proposition are being rewarded with a partner who truly understands what it takes to help the agency grow their business.
On the product front, the news will continue to be dominated by indexed universal life (IUL) sales. More and more advisors will offer this product going forward due to the sales momentum over the last several years and continuing tough market conditions for fixed rate products. ANICO will continue to focus on a simple, easy to understand, easy to present product design. The combination of IUL and accelerated benefit riders (ABRs) makes good financial sense for many consumers. Although ANICO has had ABRs on all of its life products including term for over five years, insurance companies without ABRs will continue to add them to their product portfolios in 2017. The challenge, to an advisor offering ABRs from multiple insurance companies, is in understanding the huge differences between the riders from one insurer to next. A chronic illness rider with one insurance company can be vastly different than the chronic illness rider with another insurance company. It is important to pay close attention to the fine print regarding the benefits of ABRs from each insurance company. Many ABRs are very restrictive in their application, access and amount available to the consumer.
One continuing industry dilemma is the shrinking advisor population which will continue to have a negative impact on agencies and insurance companies alike. During the last NAILBA convention in Dallas, there were many side meetings where the primary focus was to find solutions to increase the number of next generation advisors. It seems no one at this time has the answer, although there are a few marketing organizations which have begun new marketing strategies to increase the number of young advisors.
Along the same lines is the huge concern regarding successor ownership for independent agencies. This has been on the minds of every insurance company in independent distribution for many years. A large portion of NAILBA members have no successor ownership in place and are looking for ways to transition into retirement over the next five years.
Lastly I hope you have one more space left for a 2017 New Year’s Resolution. That final resolution would be to make more money by bringing your clients and prospective clients quality products and innovative solutions from ANICO. ANICO is one of the few insurance companies offering a full portfolio of products where you can place 80 percent or more of your business knowing you have one of the most competitive products with consumer friendly benefits from a company with solid financials since our founding in 1905. We have the full slate of term products (ART, 10 Year., 15 Year., 20 Year., 30 Year.), an extremely competitive GUL with return of premium, indexed universal life, universal life, whole life, simplified issue, multiple deferred annuities options, a single premium immediate annuity with a cancellation feature and a pension department focused on small businesses’ opportunities which are not impacted by DOL regulation. There is no need to spread your business among 20 different insurance companies for minimal difference in premium only to be frustrated by different forms for every sale and weak relationships with the insurance companies. By placing the majority of your business with ANICO, you will save time by knowing the products, forms, people and processes. This will lessen the hassles of new business processing while generating more income for the agency and advisor. Hopefully you will experience the value-added relationships, products, processes and people available to you from ANICO in 2017.
Everyone at American National Insurance Company wishes you the best year ever in 2017. Let us know how we can help make your resolutions come true and how we can earn your business. [CK]