Explosive Shift to Hybrid Wholesaling & Agent Sales is Taking-Off

Explosive Shift to Hybrid Wholesaling & Agent Sales is Taking-Off

24 March 2021

This week’s LIMRA Distribution Conference only confirmed that the rapidly emerging Life and Annuity sales operation is going “hybrid”.

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If you missed the conference, you can read three wonderful articles debating the “Hybrid” trend in Insurance News Net, with reference to some fantastic research by LIMRA:

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– “Virtual Selling Might Be Here To Stay”

– “Hybrid Is The Future For Advisors, Says LIMRA Research”

– “Will Agents Ever Return To The Office”

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Of course, given our (Ensight) discussions with L&A senior executive sales leadership and digital transformation leaders over the past 18 months, this comes as no surprise.

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Indeed, I wrote about the coming transformation of the traditional life and annuity wholesaling model last year. Whether you call it “eWholesaling” or “Hybrid Wholesaling”, it makes no difference, digital sales enablement for wholesalers is the new English Longbow, changing the nature of ‘engagement’ in the sector.

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And, notably, the digital hybridization of the advisor-client discussion has already been underway for several years. It’s worth noting that the majority of financial advisors today already use some form of virtual meeting (Zoom; WebEx; Go To Meeting) in the client engagement repertoire.

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Whether you are a L&A carrier or distributor, if you are not putting a hybrid wholesaling and agent digital model into practice today – you simply won’t be able to catch-up tomorrow.

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But let’s also take a look at 7 additional dynamics at play in the panorama of market forces which are driving “The Shift”:

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1. Millennial “Digital Tools” Expectations – As a Gen Xer, it still shocks me that millennials now span up to 40 years old. As the first purely digital generation, millennial wholesalers, advisors and agents will expect digital tools to support a hybrid sales engagement model, if they are going to work for your company or sell your products.

2. The New Consumer Digital Expectation Bar – The client service model is in rapid transition. Informed by Vanguard, Robo-Advisors, new trading apps (Robinhood), and every VC-backed FinTech firm driving a simplified hybrid digital experience, the mandate now is to engage with clients both digitally and in a personal manner.

3. The “T&E” Transition – The old “Travel and Entertainment” cost centre is ripe for a rebranding exercise. I like to call it – “Technology & Education”. Given emerging Best Interest (BI) regulation and GenX / millennial advisor preferences, spending millions on travel and entertainment – while underfunding digital – is a recipe for disaster.

4. Growing Eyeballs on Sales Effectiveness – Every other sector in the modern economy focuses on sales effectiveness (funnel yield, productivity, efficiency and customer satisfaction) through a data-rich, digital approach. Carriers need to move fast to enable, empower and measure both wholesaling teams and agent channels. Winners and losers will be defined on this battleground.

5. The Rise of “Platform Distribution” – Today, digital “platforms” are the structure of the economy. And every platform is hybrid in nature. When was the last time you weren’t prompted to “chat” in your banking app. The emerging Life and Annuity distribution platforms are already driving the scale adoption of hybrid virtual selling. Many carrier wholesaling teams are at risk of falling far behind the norm.

6. The New “Hybrid” Workplace – The work-life balance trend has been underway for a decade now. And COVID-19 will permanently alter the vision and model of the “corporate office”. The new corporate office is “virtual”; and, the new internal sales desk wholesaler and captive agent is “Zoom-empowered”.

7. The New Power of Talent – As the Life and Annuity sector moves forward into the technology “Arms Race”, talent will define the winners and losers. And talent can demand how and where it works in today’s economy. Today’s emerging titans, upending Fortune 500 firms and sectors, at their heart, are built on talent alone. If you want to win in the life and annuity distribution game, recruit, retain and empower a hybrid top-talent sales force with empowering digital tools.

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We are now entering uncharted waters for the Life and Annuity sector. The “arms race” has begun. And the nature of this arms race is that the speed of digital change and competition will only increase with every passing year. It is Moore’s Law, now applied to the Life & Annuity sector.

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Whether you are a Life & Annuity carrier or distributor, if you are not putting a hybrid sales and service digital model into practice today – you simply won’t be able to catch-up tomorrow.

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Sail with the wind, not against it.

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