Last month, I attended the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting annual conference in Washington, D.C. This was not a meeting of typical life insurance salesmen, but a meeting of sophisticated financial planners using insurance products in estate planning and wealth preservation strategies.
While the number of attendees seemed small to me, the attendees' financial planning expertise seemed expansive. And the topics discussed were equally sophisticated and complex. The subjects ranged from the “intentionally ‘defective’ irrevocable grantor trust” to QPRTs to private annuity transactions.
Rodney Owens, of Meadows Owens Collier Reed Cousins & Blau LLP in Dallas, made technical information pleasantly digestible for the financial advisers taking copious notes. And SEI Investments presented recent research on high-end insurance professionals expanding their practices to provide asset management to high-net-worth clients. The study found insurance counselors have a solid place in the market.
Although I found the event valuable, I hesitate to mention it. It is yet another indication that the bar is being raised when it comes to serving high-net-worth investors. However, I'm not sure that surprises you. It doesn't surprise me.
Together, we've witnessed significant changes in the financial services industry in just the past 3½ years I've been publisher of Registered Representative. The term “stockbroker” has lost some of its shine. Plus, a crop of other financial services disciplines is now encroaching on our territory. Accountants, bank trust departments, attorneys and insurance professionals all want to manage the assets of your clients. And many think they will do a better job overall than you.
Maybe it's true and maybe it isn't; I'll not debate the point. My point is simply that you must become better educated to compete for the business of high-net-worth clients. Their needs and demands today are far greater than just a few years ago. They expect you to know all about the advanced planning strategies the insurance professionals were learning at the meeting.
When I asked for details on your relationship with CPAs in my column last month, I stirred some interest among readers. Many of you were kind enough to respond, sharing how you've formed alliances and learned to work together with accountants. I make a similar request this month. Tell me how you are collaborating (or not) with insurance professionals to preserve or grow your clients' assets. Sharing information among your colleagues benefits our industry and your clients.