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How CUNA Mutual Uses Gamification To Improve Annuities Sales

The provider of financial services to credit unions and their members deploys game-design techniques to improve customer experience and transform the sales process.

Adoption of gamification techniques is enabling CUNA Mutual Group to better support the ability of its financial advisers to sell a complex annuity product -- resulting in improved productivity and customer engagement as well as a significant increase in sales.

[A number of insurers are using Facebook as the platform for their gamification initiatives: Insurers Play Around on Facebook: 5 Examples]

The impetus behind the August 2013 launch of the Zone -- an iPad-optimized web application that allows adviser and customer to customize a "zone" of risk and reward aligned with investment goals using the company's Members Zone Annuity product -- was recognition that a sizable segment of potential customers was underserved by traditional sales methods, reports Leslie Hensen, VP of information technology at Madison, Wis.-based CUNA Mutual (2013 assets of $17.4 billion), which serves credit unions and their members. "Many of the members are represented in a 'middle market' demographic -- between ages of 50 and 75, they reside in six out of 10 households. They have households that control more than $2.5 trillion in investable assets," she says. "These folks need help and advice in planning for retirement."

Leslie Hensen, CUNA Mutual Group
Leslie Hensen, CUNA Mutual Group
But there are lots of challenges in selling investment and retirement products to this segment. "It's heavily regulated, there's a lot of market volatility, they are selling complex products," Hensen says. "It can take a lot of time to educate the consumer on what the product does, the downside and risk." The complexity can discourage advisers from pursuing this customer, she adds: "It may not be profitable for advisers to serve this middle-market segment."

Seeking Process Simplification

CUNA Mutual sought to simplify the process of educating potential customers about the features and benefits of a new and "fairly complex product," Hensen says. "We looked to create a tool that would enable this conversation and quickly help with giving the customer a higher level of interaction with the process, along with [resolving] how we can shorten the time frame from awareness to understanding of what the product can do."

Accordingly, the company analyzed the sales process -- how advisers traditionally worked, how that aligned with customer needs, and how it might have to change. "If you think about traditional sales tools in the financial services and annuities space, [an adviser] sits across the desk from an individual, asks a question, and does a data-gathering exercise: 'What are your goals? What would you like to do after you retire?' You gather many pieces of information, go through an evaluation process, and make a recommendation. Then the customer decides whether they want to implement or not," Hensen says.

CUNA Mutual was determined to move beyond the traditional methodology, according to Hensen. "How could we make it a more engaging process, where alongside that information gathering, we could really help folks go from feeling processed to feeling valued?"

The result was the Zone, an internally developed application that "enables advisers and customers to have a conversation about risk and reward, and to help align those investment goals," Hensen says. Adapting gamification techniques already in use at CUNA Mutual as part of its Retirement Radar dynamic illustration platform, the ZONE lets advisers and customers interact with animated graphics and icons. The fingertip-maneuvered graphics demonstrate how a client's "comfort zone" translates into an allocation between the annuity's two investment accounts. "This piece of the tool is about facilitating that first part of the conversation. We've got built-in educational tools that help shorten the learning curve," Hensen says. Typically, "when asked, 'Are you a conservative, moderate, or aggressive investor?' the first thing people ask is, 'What does that mean?' This tool helps facilitate that conversation." The Zone's slider feature lets customers see the upside and downside of different choices. "What this tool does is help put in pictures part of that conversation," she says.

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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