New challenges, new commitments highlight an ambitious path forward for advisors
by Randy Scritchfield, CFP, LUTCF
After almost 40 years in the financial services profession, I’m incredibly honored to have become the 2022 President of MDRT, the premier association of financial services and insurance professionals. So many incredible men and women have held this role in the past century, and I look forward to adding my own contribution to that legacy.
The spirit of the MDRT community, and its members’ drive for unending growth, has always inspired me. Despite a challenging past two years, our members have continued to aim higher and achieve more. This is the ethos I plan to tap into as President to deliver even more resources to our members.
As we head into 2022, MDRT has a bright future ahead. Our members are ready to rise to the challenges of digitalization, handle the continuing impacts of the pandemic, use the latest data to bolster their practices and share even more of their knowledge with each other in the year ahead.
For all the expected or surprising challenges awaiting us in 2022, MDRT is prepared to support financial advisors and insurance agents in every way they need. MDRT recognizes that 2022 will be another year of transition, as we look for ways to move back into our pre-pandemic day-to-day routines.
To that end, MDRT has extended its Productivity Action Plan (PAP) into 2022. Originally deployed in 2020, the PAP uses a computer-based algorithm to adjust membership guidelines for each country, allowing MDRT to get much more specific and attuned to member needs in different countries than we could in the past. During the pandemic, production standards were lifted for 2019 and 2020 new members and adjusted for 2021 new members. In 2022, all MDRT members will have to meet adjusted production standards as we continue to support financial advisors across the country and world.
MDRT members will continue to have a plethora of resources available as they meet the challenges of next year. Members of MDRT or the MDRT Academy have access to MDRT study groups, the MDRT Mentorship Program, the MDRT or MDRT Academy apps, regular webinars and more educational content. These resources will help MDRT members guide their practices and clients into the future, and the new MDRT website provides personalized offerings tailored to individual needs and areas for growth.
We’re also looking forward to further rollout of the MDRT Family of Brands, which consists of three MDRT-driven associations tailored to help members reach new heights at all stages of their career. Beyond the core MDRT organization, the MDRT Academy aids advisors looking for the support and resources they need to reach MDRT-level production. MDRT Global Services, which will beta in 2022, provides immersive leadership development for home and field office leaders, empowering them to enhance their employees’ careers and the potential of the entire profession.
Finally, while MDRT will pay close attention to global and local conditions, we sincerely hope to revive our in-person, cutting edge member gatherings for all members around the world. After successful hybrid experiences for the 2021 Top of the Table and EDGE gatherings, MDRT currently plans to have a fully in-person 2022 Annual Meeting in Boston and 2022 Global Conference in Sydney.
Among the pandemic’s many challenges, there are also silver linings, including the accelerated digitalization of our profession. Even after the pandemic has fully abated, virtual meetings, expanded webinar options and cloud-based computing will no longer be niche offerings – they will be essential tools for any advisor looking to grapple with the additional changes the 21st century will bring.
Both new and experienced advisors can expect technology to continue disrupting their lives. These disruptions will alter, then, eventually, upend traditional ways of doing business, and financial advisors will need to adapt to a more quickly changing professional environment. In particular, there are four major technological shifts that will substantially impact our profession in the next decade: big data, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and cloud computing.
Big data has already revolutionized work processes across corporate and government sectors, and that revolution has arrived on our doorstep. Computers today can process and find patterns in data more accurately and faster than any human can, and this will change how we approach underwriting, claims handling, pricing and more. By applying machine learning to our profession’s enormous historical datasets, insurers will be able to better identify policyowner needs, offer more popular policy options, remove process bottlenecks and detect fraud.
Machine learning also opens the door to artificial intelligence (AI). In the coming years, more insurers and advisors will hand off basic tasks like providing billing information or answering frequently asked questions to AI chatbots. This will allow human advisors and staff to spend more time on complicated challenges that still require a human touch.
The Rise Of Big Data
The rise of big data and AI will necessitate more data collection from our clients. With digital privacy concerns growing, our profession will trend more toward transparent, transactional agreements with our clients on this topic. Specifically, wearable fitness devices will allow insurance providers to collect accurate, real-time data on clients’ health and well-being, allowing for better pricing and underwriting. Policyowners will expect incentives like premium discounts to be offered in exchange for allowing this data collection.
Finally, more data means more storage. The days of paper files are already slipping into the rearview mirror. Cloud computing will allow advisors to outsource digital data storage to vendors who have bigger and better-protected servers. Many advisors who did not have cloud computing before the pandemic acquired it when they needed to work from home, and that shift in working habits will stick around when we’re all back in the office.
Smaller-scale technologies will continue to grow in popularity too. From customer relationship and password managers to dictation software and digital signatures, new and revamped digital trends alike will continue to change our profession. It’s time for advisors to hop aboard the train, or risk being left behind.
Some advisors may be worried that these trends will make financial advising feel colder or less human. For successful advisors, however, nothing could be further from the truth. According to an MDRT survey of U.S. consumers in February 2020, 83% of Americans say a financial advisor’s ability to exhibit emotional intelligence is very important. You may have a few clients who don’t care about creating a personal relationship; they are out there. But most clients want to work with a person and feel like they’re working with a person, whether they’re sitting across a table or on the other side of a screen.
Survey insights like the one above will also be critical in the coming years, as advisors prepare for the largest generational wealth transfers in history. With younger, more diverse clients coming onboard, sometimes with new and different ideas for their finances, keeping up with survey data will be an enormous help to advisors seeking to cultivate a deeper connection with their soon-to-be clients.
Not everything will change, though. Some financial tools will retain center stage, including life insurance. One MDRT survey of U.S. consumers in October 2021 found that 18% of Americans own a permanent life insurance policy, with another 24% interested in owning one. A second MDRT survey in July 2021 found that 16% of Americans had acquired a new life insurance policy between March 2020 and July 2021. While the costs of COVID-19 to the life insurance market have yet to be definitively calculated, these statistics show that financial advisors can expect life insurance to remain a top priority for Americans in a post-pandemic world.
Long Term Disability & Long Term Care
However, advisors may need to put more effort into discussions with clients about the importance of long-term disability and long-term care insurance, both of which are owned by fewer than one in five American adults. One in four of today’s 20-year-olds will acquire a long-term disability before they retire, and seven in ten of today’s 65-year-olds will need long-term care before they die. Unfortunately, Americans drastically underestimate those chances: 69% of Americans underestimated the likelihood of disability, and 67% underestimated the need for long-term care in the July MDRT survey.
Worryingly, Americans with advisors were no better at identifying the likelihoods of disability or long-term care needs than their peers without advisors. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this knowledge gap even more glaring, with long COVID cases increasing the need for both types of policies. Advisors must equip themselves with strategies for discussing disability and long-term care with clients in 2022. MDRT members can learn these strategies using our educational resources available on our website.
Through The Generations
Some clients, especially younger ones, are heading in adventurous new directions. Our October MDRT survey found that 21% of millennials, 17% of Generation Z adults and 15% of Generation X adults said they owned cryptocurrencies, compared with just three percent of baby boomers. Perhaps surprisingly to some advisors, Americans with financial advisors are also more likely to own cryptocurrencies, not less. Many advisors have well-founded concerns about the risks of cryptocurrencies, but the days when advisors could avoid talking to their clients about them may be coming to an end.
The way advisors communicate with clients will continue changing as well. Millennials and Generation Z use the internet to learn about finance to an unprecedented degree. A full 41% of Generation Z adults said in our October survey that they use social media and streaming services to learn about finance and investing, followed by 36% of millennials.
Financial advisors with younger clients don’t necessarily need a TikTok account – and MDRT members can access a variety of resources on how to use social media effectively. But familiarity with the social media landscape of financial influencers will be of growing importance. Otherwise, these advisors may be caught unawares by the information – or misinformation – their clients hear online.
Survey insights like these will prove their worth many times over for advisors preparing for future and some current clients. MDRT will stay on top of the latest research trends in 2022, and all MDRT members can expect to receive a detailed report on our 2021 research early next year.
Now more than ever before, financial advisors need dynamic, supportive communities that provide cutting-edge educational resources, networking and mentorship for advisors at all stages of their careers. For tens of thousands of members in more than 70 countries and territories, MDRT is where they come to learn about future trends, find help navigating current challenges and forge lifelong connections and friendships to reinforce and further their success. We are so proud to have developed that legacy and reputation, and we are excited to carry it forward into the year ahead.