Last year, the global pharmaceutical industry pulled out all the stops as they took on the once-in-a-century threat represented by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, life insurers accelerated rollouts of digital solutions to ensure consumers could continue to purchase policies to protect against the financial risks associated with health and mortality events.
In 2021, the industry’s focus on moving in a digital direction showed no signs of dissipating. But as Jim Virtue, president and CEO of PPI noted, that focus has certainly widened in scope.
“In the beginning, the flurry of activity among insurance companies was about being able to continue to write new business and processing business,” Virtue told Life and Health Professional. “To the carriers’ credit, I don’t think anyone did it in a way that created any problems. The industry really stepped up and accelerated positive changes.”
That flurry of activity led to a snowballing of improvements across the industry. Companies that improved advisors’ and consumers’ experiences saw their investments pay off, with those offering the best digital experiences seeing their sales increase. Competitors took notice, and followed suit to improve their processes as well.
Fast forward to today, and one sees the industry taking in a much more methodical approach. As Virtue tells it, the industry is taking a step back, taking in a broader view, and really reflecting on the right way to move forward.
“I’ve said that insurance companies should make sure their solutions work for all participants along the distribution chain – the carriers, the distributors like MGAs, the advisors, and their clients – and that’s as true today as it was back then,” he said.
At PPI, Virtue said the digital focus has swung from the administrative side of the business into the sales side. To that end, the firm is developing an ecosystem of tools for its advisors that includes a new suite of digital products, collectively called the Stratosphere, that covers prospecting, presentations, analysis, and more.
“Within the suite, we’re complementing the tools we build with exceptional third-party tools, enabling professional integrated presentations that can be branded by the advisor. One tool we’re introducing in the Stratosphere suite is called AmpLiFi,” he said. “It’s specifically designed to help advisors sort through their existing clients and in-force policies.”
A simple but powerful application of the tool is to highlight clients who are due for a term rewrite or conversion, which is particularly important for advisors who have either just purchased a book of business, or have a large book of business but don’t have a good CRM package in place.
“We recently launched AmpLiFi to a small group of advisors, and we're going to be rolling it out broadly in 2022,” Virtue said. “Our goal here is to serve up the best possible sales tools for our advisors, and take a step further by linking them up and making them work better together. Other pieces of the Stratosphere suite include PPI’s ToolKit Direct, which helps advisors perform advanced insurance needs analyses and financial planning, and Cascades, a tool to help advisors with clients’ who need to draw down assets in the most tax-efficient way possible.”
The need to provide integrated life insurance-oriented solutions has never been greater. According to Virtue, PPI is seeing a lot of interest from wealth firms across both the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (MFDA) to enhance their insurance offering. That’s come as the broad wealth industry moves toward a more holistic planning model, with advisors looking to work with insurance professionals to ensure they’re providing the best insurance solutions.
PPI is supporting that growing market as well by setting up a new strategic relationships division. With dedicated resources to service both firms and their advisors, the new unit is aimed at providing specific training and support to let advisors capitalize on opportunities to enhance their practice with insurance products and solutions.
“The world is moving toward holistic financial planning, including insurance,” Virtue said. “I see this as more of an industry trend than a COVID-related one, though COVID has been a great accelerant.”
Moving forward, there’s no doubt in Virtue’s mind that successful insurance professionals will embrace new technology to elevate their levels of service and efficiency. Beyond that, he expressed bullishness on the future of the profession as they continue to fulfill a vital role in providing financial security to their clients.
“There's always going to be more work to do, and the pandemic has really given us the burst of momentum needed to improve the way we do it,” he said. “I think that this isn’t going to stop, and we're just going to see incredible improvements in the next couple years. We’re not going backwards.”