Lincoln Financial Distributors (LFD), the wholesale distribution subsidiary of Radnor, Pa.-based life and annuities carrier Lincoln Financial Group, is proving that despite the disruptive impact of self-service and market awareness challenges on life insurance, there's still lots of opportunities for technological innovation in producer-distributed insurance products.
Last year, the company developed the Annuity Visualizer, a web-based program that helps distributors explain the complex financial product to their clients without depending on paper illustrations. This month, LPL Financial -- the country's largest independent broker-dealer based on total revenues according to Financial Planning magazine -- signed on to use the tool in its practice.
Michael Kazanjian, head of annuity and retirement plan services marketing for LFD, says that this kind of technology has the ability to make producers' lives much easier.
"They spend a lot of talking about the product specs and the mechanics of annuities," he says. "And a lot of those are hypotheticals that require multiple phone calls back to the home office to get updated. This tool helps replace that giant stack of papers with easy to read illustration, so people can rally get a sense of the impact an annuity could have on their retirement plan."
LFD launched the Visualizer with its wholesalers to see if the technology would resonate. When it did, they began offering it to the agency community. LPL and other independent agencies can use the browser-based version of the tool, while LFD's employed group of wholesalers also have access to an iPad version.
That doesn't mean that one version is strictly better than the other, Kazanjian says. The browser-based version requires an internet connection to work, but is continually updated to be in compliance with product specifications. Because wholesalers are using LFD-provided tablets, the insurer has the ability to push out updates dynamically and doesn't risk miscommunications. Independent producers could get access to an iPad version if the ability to push out app updates is improved in future versions of iOS, he explains.
"In a highly regulated world, we don't want our advisors going out there and talking about products that don't exist anymore," Kazanjian explains. "iOS 7 might have a way to do auto app updates -- it was one of the feature sets that was discussed [at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference this week]. That's the kind of tech that we could tap into."
The Visualizer, iPad distribution, and other tech tools speak to LFD's corporate goal to be as producer-centric as possible, Kazanjian concludes.
"Once we start asking, 'Are we being producer-centric or not?' it brings up opportunities that are moving toward digital application, he says. "The core idea comes from our sales and marketing organization, then we have a digital team that works hand and hand with the tech department to develop" new tools.
"Once everything is wrapped up, a key element is training," he adds. "We can't just release something into the ether and expect producers to use it -- we go out and do road shows and we train advisors on how to use this tool. We're always out there beating the drum for this. It's about ease of doing business with Lincoln."
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio