Be a game changer. Be flexible. Embrace change. If I had to identify the keys to being a successful distributor of long-term care insurance, those are the things I think of.
When I started in the industry 26 years ago, I thought I was part of something big - part of an industry destined to be huge. I was wrong. After the initial boom of long-term care insurance, no one could have foreseen the circumstances that would cause a decline - essentially cutting new business sales in half over the last six years.
The 2008 financial crisis, low interest rates, frequency of claims with lifetime benefits and the necessity for in-force rate increases are just some of the factors that led to the contraction of new business sales from over one billion per year to less than half that.
So now what? We start by acknowledging the fact that the business of long-term care insurance has evolved in the last 10 years. It has become a totally different industry - almost unrecognizable.
That being said, the need for long-term care isn’t going away. So, how do you set yourself apart from the others? What do you need to do to stand out in that pool of distributors that represent our industry?
What I’ve learned is that our customer is the potential policyholder, not necessarily the advisor who works with the consumer. This is a major shift in my perspective.
In my old way of thinking, I used to think that the best advisors were compensation driven. However, in my years of experience I’ve found the best advisors were simply focused on doing what was best for their clients – period.
These advisors are looking for a partner who’s not afraid to look at things in new ways; someone that they can trust and someone that can help them make the most of their talent and resources.
Of course, I don’t mean that to imply we don’t provide great responsive service to the advisors we partner with or provide quality products and compensation. However, we’ve decided that we are a focused specialist and need to get as close to the prospective client as possible. Those advisors who don’t trust us dealing “direct” with consumers on long-term care planning might not be the best fit for us.
Another big change has been the expansion of options in how to pay for long-term care. The older traditional LTC products were relatively affordable and underwriting was fairly straightforward. Now, all that has changed. Standalone, linked life/ltc, life with chronic care riders, and self-insurance strategies complicated the options.
Advisors need to have a high level understanding on the need to plan for healthcare in retirement and the options for planning. They then should partner with a specialist distributor who can assist with specific product and underwriting information.
The best approach to getting someone to secure their future is a three step process. First, learning about the options. Next, picking a plan. Finally – completing an application. After several years of “almost” - electronic applications are finally here and almost everyone can now complete applications online.
I’ve learned that getting people insurance for long-term care is incredibly satisfying as a career. Protecting assets and helping families is a great way to lead a life and leave a legacy. I’m looking forward to the future with optimism and hope that we can build a system in which nobody has to fear aging.
Thomas Long was raised and educated in Minnesota. After attending Duluth Business University he started his career in the insurance industry with Aetna Life and Casualty, where he was made "Rookie of the Year". After accepting a managerial position Tom moved to Madison, Wisconsin with his wife Mary and two daughters.
In 1981 he started Wisconsin Insurance World, a highly successful regional brokerage agency. This agency merged with The Heartland Group in 2001 to form LTCI Partners, LLC.