Our Wired World

How Do You Best Educate Clients About Annuities?

Top firms clear up misconceptions through digital best practices

by Colleen McGarry

Ms. McGarry is an analyst on the Life Insurance and Annuity Monitor teams at competitive intelligence firm Corporate Insight. Visit here.

With initiatives like the Alliance for Lifetime Income, more firms are recognizing the limited resources and knowledge surrounding annuity products, creating an industry-wide push for education about retirement needs. These efforts educate prospects about the benefits of wealth preservation and guaranteed income in retirement. Competitive intelligence firm Corporate Insight’s 2018 Annuity Monitor Awards report details the ways in which firms are making product education more readily available, providing more transparency to an industry often construed as complex.

Strong digital experiences empower customers to understand and purchase annuities. The five categories within the awards highlight ways firms provide annuity education and access through digital platforms. From the perspectives of prospects, account owners and advisors, each category measures the promotion and push for accessibility surrounding annuities. Corporate Insight ranks firms in individual categories through proprietary Digital Audit software, designating the top three leaders in each area with gold, silver and bronze medals.

Filters, Shopping Carts and Previews Streamline the Sales Process

To properly promote annuities for income preservation, advisors need sales materials in a centralized, easily navigable advisor site location. Brighthouse Financial’s advisor site, recently separated from MetLife’s platform, provides just that, dethroning a three-time gold medalist for the top spot in the category.

The comprehensive advisor site marketing center dashboard highlights featured resources and allows advisors to search or filter literature related to specific needs. By letting advisors narrow sales resources and product literature based on state, division and specific product type, they can find the most appropriate materials for educating clients about annuities. The ordering process must be efficient to ensure that advisors can quickly get resources to their clients.  Brighthouse’s UX would be familiar to e-commerce shoppers, including the ability to preview materials, download resources and quickly add to a shopping cart, all through an expandable menu on the center’s results page.

Clear Product Information in Centralized Sections Educates without Overwhelming

Oftentimes, the first place a prospect will look to educate themselves on a product is the public site, and product pages can provide valuable information on annuities and specific firm offerings. For such a complicated product, annuity firms must take care to educate but not overwhelm. Jackson National took home the gold medal in this category due to its well-promoted product performance information, beating out 17 industry titans for the title. The firm earned the top spot in this category for the fifth year, showing that strong findability, product details and organization creates an optimal user experience.

Jackson provides individual product pages for each of its annuities and uses an intrapage tab organization to compartmentalize details, softening the level of information and making sure to not overwhelm prospects. These include an introduction and a separate tab for product details, along with an educational library directly related to each annuity product. Offering specific sections for information with a thorough overview provides an opportunity for prospects to familiarize themselves with the foundation of the product before diving into more complex details.

Advanced Search Functions Make Information Accessible

A public site search function with actionable tips and predictive features is necessary for providing prospects access to all available product information and educational resources. Vanguard proved to offer the most comprehensive search feature, achieving the gold medal in this category for its valuable support around common search terms as well as its predictive capabilities.

Strong digital experiences empower customers to understand and purchase annuities. The five categories within the awards highlight ways firms provide annuity education and access through digital platforms...

The firm’s offering emulates familiar functions from search engines like Google, predicting inquiries as they are entered. When prospects type the second letter, a flyout appears below the search field with a list of potential searches that feature the letter within them. The suggested list displays related Vanguard funds on top, with general terms below. This not only provides a more efficient search process for prospects but can also guide them to related resources. Additionally, results suggest other terms and correct spellings when search queries do not turn up any matches. When a prospect searches for an individual term, such as “annuity,” results provide a definition above the list of resource matches, offering additional context for the complex products. Filters allow users to narrow down results based on product and resource type, further expediting the process.

Step-by-Step Application Guides Expedite Purchases

Ultimately, account owners will only gain access to steady income in retirement through annuities if they can make it through the application process. If an advisor submits a not-in-good-order (NIGO) application, it delays the purchasing process for a client. As more firms begin to streamline applications through online forms and submissions, it is imperative that they supply advisors with educational information and guides for a smooth transition from paper to digital. Corporate Insight found that firms still have a lot of work to do in this area, as few advisor sites offer outlines of the application process or offer in-good-order recommendations.

MassMutual is a clear leader in this area, earning the gold medal in this category for its extensive educational materials, including Brainshark presentations and application processing information. The firm features a dedicated page that serves as a central location for information surrounding the process, from illustrations to submission. Guides inform advisors how to check the application status and edit orders, while an annotated application and form uses highlights and callouts to help advisors filling in required information. Resources such as these will likely reduce NIGO applications and allow account owners to attain their guaranteed retirement income sooner.

Easy Login Supports Access to Account Details

Once a customer purchases an annuity, they should be able to easily access their account details and be sure that their personal financial information is secure. USAA narrowly beat out competitors for the gold medal in Corporate Insight’s account owner login process category. The firm supplies extensive customization options for login security, while supplying intuitive findability.

Account owners can opt in to one of three login options, directly managing access to their information. One of the options allows account owners to designate trusted devices, minimizing security measures slightly for recognized devices and allowing them to view their annuity information, including the accumulated value. At the time of the report, the firm provided a login flyout menu from its public site homepage, streamlining access to the login entry fields and creating a faster login process. The flyout was recently removed, requiring additional clicks for account owners to access their accounts.

Leaders Clear Up Misconceptions Through the Digital Experience

In each of these five categories, one leader stands out for making education, account information or resources more readily available to prospects, account owners or advisors. In doing so, these firms are clearing up misconceptions about annuities by providing more information on the benefits that they can provide. As consumers learn about, purchase and own an annuity, firms have opportunities to educate them through the digital experience.

With the foundation of the Alliance for Lifetime Income and the drive for annuity education, firms should seize the chance to provide guidance. The gold medal winners highlighted in Corporate Insight’s Annuity Monitor Awards report employ digital best practices that consumers are familiar with both within financial services and beyond. The industry can look to these leaders for inspiration when providing product information, search, a smooth sales and application process and accessible account details. ◊