Monday, August 11, 2008

Retirees and the financial services industry: more analysts needed?

I get a particularly challenging question sometimes. “If you spent twelve years earning a good living from the life insurance and annuities business, even as a computer programmer (individual contributor), then why don’t you want to sell it now? Why don’t you want to justify your life for the past umpteen years? Is this a reenactment of Albert Brooks’s 1991 film “Defending Your Life”?

I understand where the financial services industry is. Even with all the layoffs, they could use the maturity and business knowledge base that someone now in his 60s might have built up over many years in an industry. Of course, the problem is the business model. To compensate the person, they have to base it on commissions and sales. So they need someone who has the social contacts (and can use them to generate more leads) to bring in the business.

The problem is that a lot of tech-savvy people are introverted, and don’t like to manipulate people. Call it a discussion of “The Polarities” if you must. Now, we’re starting to see this more in the baby boomer population as it ages into post-pseudo-retirement second careers. Another potential problem in some cases: non-compete clauses, or various other conflict-of-interest provisions; sometimes pensions have non-compete clauses, too.

The Internet has created a culture of “do-it-yourself” insurance purchase and financial planning, without people. But there is no question that there is a legitimate need for human beings to sit down with clients and go over options in a complicated environment, especially with newer products to deal with troubling issues, like long term care insurance.

Perhaps the financial service industry, out of enlightened self-interest, even as if picks up the pieces from the current credit crisis, can contemplate its need for mature business analysts who can sit with clients in-house without having to go out and fish for them. And perhaps they can be paid hourly. We shouldn’t have to “always be closing.”

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