SBLI of Massachusetts

Is it possible for an agency to make term insurance a profit center? We think–Yes!

It’s not news to anyone in our market segment that we are going through a major distribution re-alignment. Today’s environment is evolving more quickly than we imagined and, in response, both carriers and distributors are re-examining how to “tool–up” based on the imperative to deliver value, convenience, and speed to agencies, agents and consumers alike. Agencies are re-examining their term sales platforms as they recognize that price-driven models, particularly for lower premium business, are not profitable and the search for new, more efficient approaches is paramount.

Technology is the key and it is upending workflow and processes in the financial services industry. Many tasks once handled with bulky computers and human interaction are now being completed entirely on digital interfaces. To this point in particular, we are seeing increasing amounts of “dot-com” style start-ups, activity and funding.

This dynamic environment has required a rapid response to ensure companies like SBLI remain relevant to its independent distribution customer base by offering real world business practices and helping them sell term insurance profitably. As a result we have re-energized our core mission, “to provide an exceptional customer experience that drives enhanced sales profitability to our partners,” with the goal of making us a progressive partner of choice in the term space.

To deliver on the SBLI Brokerage mission, we have instigated a range of initiatives to enhance the agency customer experience and help maximize their business efficiencies. The initial phase was to move away from a regionalized wholesaler model to a centralized sales support team with the purpose of aligning specific account groups with dedicated specialists. Building on this foundation we have been introducing a range of new tools, platforms, and additional resources to help minimize agency costs and maximize their efficiencies. These include:


Innovative Accelerated Underwriting Process

  • This underwriting process, available with our level term product, replaced the need for an invasive paramedical exam with a simple telephone call. Our approach, in this emerging space, is unique and we continue to monitor the market closely to ensure we align with the market’s needs. It is offered currently for all term cases, whatever the risk class, ages 18-60 for face amounts $500,000 or less. It provides a guaranteed experience via which no case gets redirected to a traditional underwriting path.

No-Cost Drop Ticket Platform 

  • ZipApp™, our drop ticket program supported by ApplicInt, a new innovator in this space, was introduced providing agencies with a no-cost option. It handles both our accelerated underwriting and our traditional underwriting business and streamlines the administration process for agents. This platform has proven very successful with an ever increasing number of tickets being dropped reflecting the first-class experience agents have with the process.

Enhanced Upsell Program

  • As part of our continued strategy to enhance our value, we have, thanks to our Operations teams’ progressive operational stance, introduced a fully automated Upsell Program that helps agents sell term policies with larger face amounts. We now offer increased coverage options for all eligible customers with no additional underwriting requirements and a requisite increase in commissions for agents.

In addition, we have a number of significant innovations planned for this year. These include LegacyShield, a digital legacy planning platform, which we believe to be a significant product differentiator and one which will provide distinctive value to our partners. SBLI has teamed up with LegacyShield to offer SBLI customers access to a secure digital vault, enabling them to safeguard their legacy assets at no additional cost. It is planned that from Q2, 2017, onwards, SBLI policyholders will be provided with “Shield”, a digital platform that provides secure digital storage for a customer’s key documents, financial information, photos, videos, stories, and final wishes in one location. The platform will also benefit agents by helping them to engage and communicate multilaterally with their customers and provide the opportunity to upsell LegacyShield, providing additional revenue opportunities.

We also plan to introduce in 2017 other cutting-edge technology solutions. These include an updated e-delivery process to complement our Upsell Program and enable consumers to make the increased coverage decision directly; and an agent quote engine, CustomerConnect, providing agents with the opportunity to generate qualified leads on their own webpage. In addition to these sales-orientated tools we plan to introduce various term product and underwriting process enhancements to keep our competitive advantage in play. 

We are very excited about the initiatives we are implementing at SBLI in response to the reality that term sales margins are getting increasingly slim, and the market’s recognition that streamlining agency and agent involvement in the administrative processes is imperative. Our number one goal in 2017 is to partner with our target relationships and demonstrate that profitable term is not an oxymoron. We look forward to making it happen together. [DC]

Senior Vice President and Chief Distribution Officer at SBLI of Massachusetts | 781-994-4266 | 781-994-4266

Denis Clifford is senior vice president and chief distribution officer at SBLI (The Savings Bank Mutual Life Insurance Company of Massachusetts). In this role, he is responsible for the company’s Independent Distribution channel which operates in both traditional brokerage and alternative distribution markets. He oversees the development of key business relationships, the growth and expansion of insurance sales, and the delivery of a market-leading customer experience.

Clifford joined SBLI in 2000 and held a variety of distribution-related management positions within Sales and Marketing. In 2007, he was named SBLI’s vice president and director of Brokerage and Independent Distribution. As the architect of the Independent channel, he was instrumental in the company’s nationwide expansion and rapid growth in the brokerage general agency and direct marketing agency marketplace.

In 2010, Clifford joined Ash Brokerage Corporation in Fort Wayne, IN, as executive vice president. In this key innovative role he was responsible for managing institutional accounts, brand marketing, and strategic projects. He returned to SBLI in 2013 as senior vice president and chief distribution officer.

Clifford is a member of industry trade associations NAILBA and NAIFA, and is a member of the board of directors of LIDMA.

Clifford can be reached by telephone at 781-994-4266. Email: