Friday, December 03, 2010

Fewer families buy life insurance; fewer agents work; raising questions "can techies sell?"

Sandra Block has a front-page story in USA Today on Friday Dec 3, “Millions of families missing safety net: fewer people are buying life insurance”; online the title is “Households with life insurance hit the lowest level in 50 years”, link here.

The economy is one reason: families have less “discretionary” income, even though there are more low priced term products, and some companies like PrimeVest launched a campaign to convert people from Whole Life to Term. (I got a call from a recruiter about this two days after 9/11, when I wasn’t “looking.”)

Another reason, according to the article, is fewer agents. I have been contacted in retirement from my IT career, the last twelve years of which were spent at ING-Reliastar-Uslico, by a few companies, including New York Life, which I interviewed in 2005. I actually went through some of the interview process, including a “personality test” that asked if you bought things or services from sales people and thought it was OK to do so. The company described a training bonus system, and a need for a “fast start” for new agents, which included an exercise building 200 leads. I still get occasional emails about leads from that experience. There was a Sarbannes-Oxley requirement that new agents not have any other income if they got a training bonus.

I suppose you can make a particular “moral” argument regarding my karma. If I earned a living off of the life insurance industry for 12 years, so which shouldn’t I prove that I can sell it, especially to prove that I can support OPC (other people’s children) if I don’t have my own (the Phillip Longman stuff). Now, I don’t like personally manipulating people to buy anything.

I can see an anti-matter calling, that figuring out how to make Internet advertising “safer” (without the unintended consequences of “do not track” – see the main “BillBoushka” blog the past few days) and selling the “solution” could be a marketing-related job for some people, including me. There’s no reason that life insurance companies couldn’t do behavioral advertising, too (except for the fear that they could use the information they “tracked” to charge higher premiums).

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