The middle-income market is significantly underinsured when it comes to life insurance. So why aren't these households flocking to their bank to buy this product? After all, they should be open to recommendations from their bankers, where trust regarding financial matters already is well established.

Bankers are increasingly called upon to function as advisers and financial planners as well as traditional service providers. Life insurance can be an important addition to the array of products offered by licensed bankers and series 7 financial advisers, acting as a "protective wrapper" for savings, 529 plans, retirement products and debt.

So what defines the middle market for life insurance? Consumers with household income of $50,000 to $75,000 constitute a core segment of this market. Approximately 60% of the U.S. population, or 48 million households, are in this category.

Most consumers prefer to purchase life insurance face to face with a life insurance sales agent. What many consumers fail to realize is that many banks have competent life insurance-licensed agents available for this type of consultation. Bankers have a unique opportunity to solidify personal relationships, increase products per household and satisfy the critical protection need that exists among most middle-income customers.

And driving this opportunity is the ability of community bankers to position life insurance as a natural vehicle through which core savings and loan products can be protected.

Key elements of a successful life insurance offering to core customers must include:

•    The integration of life insurance as part of the bank product mix, supported by senior management.
•    A compensation program that makes selling life insurance attractive to the licensed agents and their managers.
•    An effective referral and marketing program that keeps a steady stream of interested customers asking for a quote.
•    A coaching and mentoring program that is well defined and linked to sales management performance appraisals.
•    An ongoing training and wholesaling program supported by the life carrier and managed and encouraged by the bank.

Craig Simms is a SVP at VantisLife Insurance Co. in Windsor, Conn.

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