Every facet of the financial services industry is in the process of being reviewed, rethought, and rejiggered. Being in an operating environment of accelerating business and cultural change does that sort of thing to industries. The insurance industry and its distribution pipelines have been subjected to intense scrutiny and has led to an external technology revolution under the banner of “InsurTech”, as well as internal business model and client engagement innovation.
To better understand the underlying dynamics of some of the changes developing in the insurance distribution arena, we reached out to new CEO Brian Mann who has restructured C2P Advisory Group – a 10 year old Cleveland-based insurance marketing organization (IMO) – into Clarity Insurance Marketing. Our discussion explores how their changes embody a needed strengthening in focus, operations, and engagement strategy for the industry.]
Hortz: As an insurance industry veteran and entrepreneur, please share with us your perspectives on the insurance industry.
Mann: As the insurance marketplace evolves faster and faster, the insurance industry and our businesses will be challenged to adapt to new ways of delivering on the changing needs of our clients and the marketplace at large. Advisors and insurance companies will need to be able to adopt quickly to a rapidly changing business world. They will need to stay “process driven” and embrace technology to counter these rapid changes. The reality is that it is not a choice – it is a necessity.
Your partnerships and alliances should not only fully understand adjustments needed in this new environment, but they should also be able to swiftly enact changes that make regulatory adjustments and business innovation easy on your business model and protect you from issues. Some alliances may provide you with expert counsel on rules and regulation, while the best firms will be there with ongoing resources and processes to help make conducting business simple. During our IMO restructuring process, I believed in building a firm around the mantra, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” and, in turn, provide guidance to our advisors.
The important message here is that we can control how we respond to and embrace change going forward for the benefit of our customers, teams, and stakeholders.
Hortz: What are your biggest concerns today and how do you see the industry evolving into the future?
Mann: My main concerns are persistently low interest rates and the eroding of insurance “guarantees” due to the low rate environment. As well, an aging distribution force and the lack of succession planning is concerning, especially among independent advisors, coupled with a lack of new “talent” entering the industry.
As to industry evolution, I see product innovation to counter low-inflationary environment. I feel advisors will be adopting a more holistic planning model incorporating insurance and investment management as a “package”. Concurrently, technology will be reducing the need for a large field force. New and existing advisors will no doubt be joining larger “ensemble” practices to leverage economies of scale and centralize financial planning.
Hortz: How would you define the mission for innovation in the insurance distribution space?
Mann: The mission would be a marriage of technology, insurance product solutions and advisor distribution partnering. Technology and innovation will add efficiencies in everything from process competencies to the timing of transactions to how we communicate with clients in the future.
Hortz: How was your restructuring and rebranding of C2P Advisory Group IMO into Clarity Insurance Marketing specifically addressing some of these industry issues?
Mann: Our restructuring was focused on providing “Clarity” on how insurance products fit into a holistic plan and the correct product positioning and documentation to meet a Best Interest standard. As advisors decide how and whom to conduct business with, they need to be certain to have a plan for insurance selection and ongoing diligence. The future of financial services will get easier in some ways and tougher in others. As advisors face their valued client base, they need to be certain to have the very best team behind them! That was in our minds and our design as we went through our IMO restructuring.
Hortz: Can you further detail what is entailed in a “best-interest focused” insurance marketing organization? What does that look like and how is this focus designed into your firm and processes?
Mann: The bottom line is always keeping the focus on the client, not the advisor and not the IMO. At Clarity, our focus from a product, training & practice development standpoint is to simplify the best interest process for the advisor. Along with our training company, Clarity 2 Prosperity, advisors are trained on the Bucket Plan Best Interest Sales Process and the appropriate use of insurance products within the Bucket Plan process.
Hortz: What is your five-layer annuity screening process and how does that help identify the appropriate insurance product for a specific client’s situation?
Mann: Through our proprietary Best Interest Annuity Screening Process (recognized as the 2019 winner by WealthManagement Industry Awards for insurance innovation), we conduct an objective, thorough and analytical search of available products and providers to identify the best product fit for each case. Annuity products are screened by: carrier strength, fees & expenses, growth/accumulation potential, income produced and renewal rate integrity. We regularly screen more than 200 annuities to provide advisors with the strongest products available on the market based on a client’s needs and objectives.
Hortz: How is Clarity Insurance Marketing positioned to be a strategic part of C2P Enterprises collective service offerings for holistic advisors?
Mann: C2P Enterprises is all about simplifying the power of process for advisors. The connected ecosystem of companies - that includes Clarity 2 Prosperity (training), Clarity Insurance Marketing (IMO) and Prosperity Capital Advisors (RIA) - helps advisors with the use of best-interest focused, insurance-based solutions as part of an overall holistic plan. Together these companies provide guidance and pure recommendations, expertise in products and process, and regulatory and compliance comprehension.
This enables advisors to be hired for their superior advice as they establish and develop trusted client relationships. The growing complexities in today’s households place greater emphasis on objective guidance and education in specific household planning recommendations. Clarity was designed to be the Gold Standard for providing advisors and their teams access to proven processes around insurance products which are divided into simple steps for easy implementation.
Hortz: Any other thoughts or recommendations you would like to share about the changing nature of and working relationship with the insurance industry?
Mann: Insurance will be moving to more of an advice-based model in the future, similar to the shift we have seen in the financial advisor space. Not to mention, the demand for solid professional advice will increase as the financial marketplace becomes harder for households to navigate. This will require insurance professionals to select optimal relationships for every vertical of their business to continue to offer the best planning, products, and processes to their clients.
Clarity Insurance Marketing is knowledgeable and able to be diverse in our recommendations. Advisors must remain agile as new facts are discovered in the planning process. Any lesser result may cost time—and most importantly— the client relationship.
The Institute for Innovation Development is an educational and business development catalyst for growth-oriented financial advisors and financial services firms determined to lead their businesses in an operating environment of accelerating business and cultural change. We position our members with the necessary ongoing innovation resources and best practices to drive and facilitate their next-generation growth, differentiation, and unique community engagement strategies. The institute was launched with the support and foresight of our founding sponsors - Pershing, Voya Financial, Ultimus Fund Solutions, Fidelity, and Charter Financial Publishing (publisher of Financial Advisor and Private Wealth magazines).