For advisers, navigating the field of annuities continues to be a daunting task, but many say that their greatest allies in learning more about the products and closing sales are their own broker-dealer and the carriers themselves.
Product education, a responsive annuities department at the broker-dealer and planning tools that advisers can put into practice are among the top ways broker-dealer firms and insurers can help navigate the annuities world, according to a panel of financial advisers affiliated with LPL Financial LLC at the Insured Retirement Institute's annual conference in San Diego on Monday afternoon.
“Even though the actual numbers of product sponsors has shrunk, as an adviser I'm completely overwhelmed and overstimulated with all the different product choices out there,” said Rose Greene, an adviser at an eponymous practice. “One of the ways the broker-dealer is helping me is by giving us tools, grids and comparisons.”
Indeed, advisers find that a broker-dealer with a responsive annuities desk that can readily answer questions on products is an important asset in the sales process, noted Carrie Streets, a senior consultant at Crest Financial Strategies LLC.
Advisers agreed that while they value client educational materials, they prefer that these tools be product agnostic and walk the client through what an annuity can do for them.
Carriers are also an essential part of the equation — namely in the form of responsive internal and external wholesalers. “Having humans I can call and have a conversation with is absolutely critical,” Ms. Greene said.
Still, there's more that manufacturers can do. Ms. Streets, who comes from an annuity research background, said it would help if carriers kept archived files on the web of every communication sent to clients – such as notifications that investors can't make any additional deposits or that there's a fund manager change.
Peer-to-peer networking and town hall meetings where advisers can get to know more about annuities from each other and from the insurers would also be helpful, said R. Mark Shepherd, an adviser at Shepherd Financial Partners.
“Peer-to-peer is the most effective way to get to the tipping point [of using annuities],” he said. “When you learn what others are doing, you're not just selling something, you're in a conversation.”