Thursday, November 19, 2009

(No.64) MORE insurance people email

This is a continuation of the most recent column (No.63) .

Since the inception of at the end of 2008 a number of the columns have involved my comments on aspects of the insurance business, Sun Life in particular -- the company with which I was associated until this year. It should come as no surprise that I have received emails in response from people in or associated with the business. Some are known to me, some are not.

I have reproduced in this column (below) excerpts from selected emails. I have withheld the identity of those whose views I have presented but I have preceded each with a brief reference to their role or industry connection.


[ continued from No. 63 ]

13. Crapspeak

from a former member of the Sun Life distribution system:

Your 'crapspeak' article [No.10 -- "Crapspeak in business"] was great and it really got me thinking and angry. I think the problem is much more than merely dreaming up euphemisms. It's that it's a veiled attempt to embed one's own values in another's world view, to moralize and to proselytize, and that's what offends me most.

"Legacy planning" indeed. ... And while I think that "holistic planning" is vitally important, mere cross-selling is not holistic -- the essence of the holistic approach is to weave together for the individual's benefit, based on the individual's needs, a comprehensive and workable plan. Calling cross-selling "holistic" is fraudulent unless it also looks at an individual's life needs in a holistic fashion. ...

Long may you blog!

14. Reactive Sun Life

from a Sun Life agent:

I agree with your comments, especially on staff reduction [in Sun Life's Canadian operation ]. I thought we acted 'reactive' instead of 'proactive'. However not my call.

We focus on so many products to bring in income [to Sun], like a cash register.

Are we selling for need is my concern.

15. Sad commentary

from a former insurance executive:

[Ref. "Part 3 - Sun Life: Comments on its performance"]

This is a very sad commentary on Sun Life's continuing strategy in the Canadian market place ... continue to reduce the investment (in relative terms) in the career system in favor of direct sales and inflating the actual results of the direct sales area.

16. New agents

from an MGA:

[Ref. No. 60 - "Pt 3 - Sun Life: Comments on its performance"]

On the new advisor front I agree it's a sticky mess. It's messy because it's too expensive to train and subsidize and it's messy because the compensation is built upside down with not enough trailers left to make it attractive to service.

But it is solvable if older advisors become more involved in selling their whole practice or at least pieces of the practice. I'd hate to be a client today where the advisor doesn't care to service and the insurance carrier only sends out bills and stuffers. To this end I'm exploring a new business idea. ...

It's sort of like capitalism: it's not very good but it's better than the alternatives.

17. The betrayal of mutuals

from an American of long experience with the life insurance business:

[Ref. No. 57 - " Me and mutuality: for whom the bell tolled"]

Well said, Al. As always!!!

When I think of the betrayal by executives and managers of so many fine mutuals, I'm reminded of the scene in "A Man For All Seasons" when Sir Thomas More is convicted on perjured testimony by Richard Rich, a man who formerly had sought More's support and had risen to high rank through treachery. Before leaving the courtroom More lifts up a new chain of office (Attorney General for Wales) dangling from around his betrayer's neck and says "Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give up his soul for the whole world .. Ahh, but for Wales."

Perhaps there were some justified demutualizations but most were driven by sheer greed.

18. A pang of sadness

from a Sun Life agent:

[Ref. No.57 - "Me & mutuality: For whom the bell tolled"]

I read this last week. Felt a pang of sadness promoted by the last few paragraphs. I realize that the 'milk has been spilt'. Still, as you say, there is more than financial results. I suspect this is what drives us old "Mutualists" crazy.

The pride I feel today is reflected in what happens to my client. I like taking care of them. ...

I enjoy your ramblings. Keep them up as I like it when you force me to think something other than the corporate line.

19. Never dared voice

from an industry executive:

Great article [ref No.29 - "Lottery tickets from life insurance companies"].

These reflect my sentiments which I never dared to voice as I thought I might be missing something .... I am thoroughly enjoying your articles.

20. Mismanagement to the brink of failure

from a former member of the Clarica/Sun career agency system:

Just wanted to comment on how much I have enjoyed reading this series [ "Sun Life: comments on its performance"].

Having been part of the [Mutual/Clarica] organization when the field force was a valued asset and actually had investments made into its success and sustainability, it is sad to see it being mismanaged to the brink of failure.

I applaud you for your frank analysis and my hope is that it has an impact on the outcome.

21. Sun recognizing mistakes?

from an American involved with the insurance business in the U.S.:

[Ref. No. 62 -- "Sun Life: a few conclusions about its performance"]

The chances of [Sun Life ] management recognizing their mistake and doing something is somewhere between 0 and 0.


Alastair Rickard