As a leader of one of Canada’s largest managing general agencies, industry veteran Jim Virtue, president and CEO of PPI Solutions for the past 14 years, sees a few areas of concern in industry, one of them being a lack of insurance product education for advisors.
While this lack of product education is a concern for Virtue, he adds that it also creates a big opportunity. “If the industry can start to provide proper education and recognize that insurance advice is a profession unto itself, then we’ll be able to improve insurance sales dramatically.”
Trend toward generalists
Virtue says over the past 20 years there’s been a tendency for advisors to be generalists in insurance and investment, compared to specializing in one area. Virtue would like to see the industry develop a group of advisors that specialize solely in insurance.
“These are complicated products and we need to help advisors learn to be specialists in insurance.” Virtue says MGAs need to play a role in ensuring advisors are equipped with the right education and advice for their products.
“I think we as an MGA have a role to play in helping advisors to be both that skilled and knowledgeable advisor, as well as to educate them to be specialists in the insurance business.” He adds that it’s difficult for a lot of advisors to be knowledgeable across so many products when they don’t specialize in insurance. “There is more knowledge in that area than what people give credit for.”
Virtue says the insurance industry should consider changing their products to be more adaptable to the way Canadians live their lives in 2016. “We need to change the products that are being sold. Most of the products on the market today were developed with very little flexibility in them.”
Virtue has heard countless stories of people paying their insurance for 20 years to miss a few payments and lose their coverage. He says the industry needs to develop new products that allow people to take a premium holiday and that recognize people are living differently and shouldn’t lose their coverage.
“Twenty years ago, it was rare for people to take two years off to travel or volunteer, now a lot of people want to do that. Insurance companies require them to pay every month, which is not suitable to the way they live their lives.” PPI develops some of its own products and introduced a premium holiday product last year, which has been successful. Virtue expects other companies to follow.
Connecting advisors together
With respect to advisor succession planning, before the end of the year PPI is planning to launch a platform to connect advisors who are looking to buy with those who want to sell books of businesses via an internal LinkedIn type platform. “We will help with the financing and getting it together.”
Virtue says after a soft launch of the platform, PPI has been overwhelmed with the feedback. The platform is aimed at helping advisors find each other, who may not have been able to do so in the past.