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MetLife Launches Online Life Insurance Calculator

Web-based calculator breaks down the amount of life insurance an individual will need to provide survivors on a monthly basis. The carrier hopes the tools will help agents boost life insurance sales.

To help boost life insurance sales, New York-based MetLife (total assets of $481.2 billion) has developed the online Guaranteed Survivor Income Benefit (GSIB) calculator along with a life insurance rider for its individual universal life product.

The Web-based calculator breaks down the amount of life insurance an individual will need to provide for his or her family on a monthly basis—calculating life insurance out like a monthly paycheck—instead of basing the lump sum on uncertainties such as interest rates, the way it has been traditionally calculated. The calculator reinforces the universal life product's GSIB rider, a provision in the contract that ensures the life insurance will be distributed monthly to the survivor instead of the traditional way of receiving the benefit all at once.

"Historically life insurance has been sold through lump sums," explains Damon Bates, assistant vice president of life product marketing. "We were developing our current generation of universal life products and decided to develop GSIB to enable us to really change the way life insurance is sold and use the rider to facilitate the purchase."

MetLife started developing the GSIB in 2004 after Metlife's research discovered that the average American is underinsured. According to Bates, given the way traditional lump-sum life insurance was sold, a consumers typically only purchased two-and-a-half times their salary in life insurance. Consequently, survivors would often outlive the income left by the insured. "Research showed that people don't understand how much life insurance they should own or how to figure it out, and that people are afraid to make the wrong decision about life insurance," says Bates.

In August of 2004 Bates' staff figured out that with the age and gender of the beneficiary, as well as the desired monthly income the consumer wanted to leave behind for their family, they could calculate the total amount of life insurance they should leave behind—making insurance needs easier for consumers to understand. "We wanted to develop a tool to make it easier for clients to understand how much life insurance they need to protect their families in the long term," explains Bates.

Later that year MetLife decided to build a tool to take the rider to the Web to help representatives to sell the universal life product. MetLife worked with NaviSys' (Edison, N.J.) Front Office illustration system to customize the carrier's own illustration system, called MetWins, and used the methodology to help representatives explain the rider to customers. Then MetLife's illustration team and Web developers incorporated that tactic to design the online calculator.

MetLife went live with the product at the beginning of 2005 and the calculator was released on the Web at in February. Within the first month the site has received 4,000 clicks. So far, agents like the product because it is easy to understand and, therefore, easier to sell, explains Bates. "Our average face amounts for term life insurance have increased largely do to our focus on human life value," Bates affirms. "We expect GSIB to help drive similar results on our permanent products. So far this has been the second most frequently utilized rider on our permanent UL contract."

Because the GSIB calculator is convenient for the agents to use, it also allows the agent more time to cross sell MetLife's other products. "It helps facilitate the cross sell on other products such as disability because it frees up time in the sales process to discuss other products the client may need," says Bates.

MetLife has applied for a patent on the GSIB product and eventually intends to incorporate the rider into all of its individual life products.

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