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CUNA Mutual Group Triples Annuity Sales With Gamified Sales Platform

The Retirement Radar application has eased the guaranteed income conversation between financial advisers and clients, letting the insurer expand marketing of lifetime annuities beyond its captive distribution force.

Retiring baby boomers need financial products to take them from the accumulation to the distribution phase of their financial lives, but financial advisers typically find annuities difficult to sell. CUNA Mutual Group's (Madison, Wis.) Retirement Radar dynamic illustration platform applies gamification techniques to make choosing the right annuity easier for financial advisers to explain -- and for customers to understand.

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About 10,000 baby boomers will retire every day over the next two decades, and one in five is not confident about retirement income, given greater longevity and volatility in investment markets. CUNA Mutual offers annuities to help those at greatest risk from running out of money -- retirees with smaller savings and income streams. However, relationships between customers and their financial advisers typically weaken after retirement, a point when many key financial and life decisions already have been made, says Leslie Hensen, VP of application development at CUNA Mutual.

"Many financial advisers struggle to shift the sales process from a traditional discussion on accumulation to a more complex one about spending in retirement without running out of money," Hensen explains. "Many financial advisers don't present annuity products because they are not easy for advisers to sell or for consumers to understand."

A traditional discussion about a lifetime annuity might begin with a review of a brochure showing the various elements that need to be considered, followed by writing key figures on paper and making very complex calculations on a calculator. During such a process, customers can easily lose track of the relationships between the different factors to consider and their respective impact on retirement income, Hensen says. To address that communication difficulty, CUNA Mutual took an "Xbox-like" approach that uses gamification to illustrate how each factor influences retirement income.

Launched in November, CUNA Mutual's Retirement Radar application provides a graphic user interface (GUI) that lets financial advisers dynamically show the effect of key factors on a customer's retirement income and make a recommendation to purchase a guaranteed income product.

"We focused on a clear and comfortable experience for both customers and advisers," says Hensen.

Retirement Radar facilitates an interactive process that begins with the input of five factors: the customer's age, assets, estimated longevity, selected risk tolerance and whether the customer chooses to leave an inheritance. The GUI features icons, sound and animated graphics that emphasize a clear progression as the adviser and client input information corresponding to the five factors. Once inputs are made, the adviser triggers a scan illustrated by a radar "sweep." Once the sweep is complete, a screen displays a recommendation to purchase guaranteed annual income corresponding to the customer's needs. A "Take Action" page lets advisers take customers into the sales process.

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CUNA Mutual began developing Retirement Radar late in the second quarter of 2012 and was able to deliver it within about six months, according to Hensen. A business team worked on the design of the user interface, and then a development team worked on putting together the necessary functionality to perform calculations and work on multiple user platforms. CUNA Mutual developed Retirement Radar with Microsoft's ASP.NET MVC framework and used software from the jQuery JavaScript library and Apple. "It works best on a tablet, Web browser or normal monitor screen and is optimized for the iPad," Hensen says.

An ongoing rollout plan includes scheduled training for CUNA Mutual's sales force, which so far has been very receptive to Retirement Radar, according to Hensen. The company saw a significant bump in lifetime annuity sales in the first month after Retirement Radar was launched. "In the last six months, we have tripled the number of financial advisers who are selling our lifetime annuity product," Hensen says.

That early success has create some buzz among financial advisers, encouraging CUNA Mutual to expand distribution of its lifetime annuity product -- and the Retirement Radar platform to sell it -- beyond its captive force to new distribution partners, Hensen reports.

"Tools like Retirement Radar help financial advisers to offer advice to people who have been retired for a year and wonder what they should be doing," Hensen remarks. "I think the success of Retirement Radar will push us to provide other solutions in a similar manner."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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