Financial advisors often miss the opportunity to speak to their clients about the important role life insurance products can play in financial planning, according to a recent survey conducted by Saybrus Partners, Inc.
According to a release, the survey found that more than half (56 percent) of financial advisors do not speak regularly to their clients about life insurance. The survey polled advisors at the 2012 Financial Advisor Retirement Symposium in Florida held earlier this month.
Surveyors said only one third (34 percent) of financial advisors said they were "very comfortable" recommending life insurance to their clients. Nearly one in five (18 percent) advisors admitted to being "uncomfortable" or "very uncomfortable" recommending life insurance policies to their clients.
"Our experience has shown that clients are looking to their financial advisors for comprehensive financial planning. Standard practice is that the planning process should begin with a foundation of protection and conclude with a wealth distribution phase," said Kevin Kimbrough, national sales manager for Saybrus Partners. "Therefore, it is critical for advisors to consistently include life insurance in their clients' financial plans."
The reluctance of financial advisors to speak to their clients about life insurance is consistent with consumer perspectives that were found in a survey conducted by Saybrus Partners in 2011.
Regular Policy Reviews Lacking
The company noted that even if a client has a life insurance policy, financial advisors don't necessarily make it a part of their annual review. Less than half (47 percent) said they review existing life insurance policies with their clients on an annual basis. Twenty percent said they only assess their clients' policies when they become aware of a major life change, such as marriage or the birth of a child. That review is most often narrowly focused on whether the policy is adequately meeting their current needs.
In addition, some financial advisors (10 percent) discuss clients' policies only if clients raise the issue.
"Advisors are constantly reviewing the performance of their clients stocks and other investments. By contrast, they are reviewing their clients' life insurance policies far more infrequently, based on life events or client requests," said Kimbrough. "This means that many of their clients may be lacking essential protection for themselves and their families or missing opportunities to more effectively transfer their wealth to the next generation. Life insurance is not a set-it-and-forget-it product. It should be monitored and adjusted, if needed.
"For example, market volatility can have a strong impact on the performance of variable life insurance products, and fixed products can suffer in a low interest-rate environment, potentially leading to unintentional policy lapse. Other issues include the possibility of missing out on more affordable rates and newly available features like long term care riders," Kimbrough said.
Life Insurance Specialists Strengthen Financial Advisor Confidence
When asked what would contribute to making them more comfortable discussing life insurance, 42 percent of financial advisors said they would be interested in either working with a life insurance specialist who can help identify solutions for their clients or attending a life insurance seminar aimed specifically at financial advisors.
"Advisors are clearly interested in integrating life insurance into their practices," said Kimbrough. "For example, by partnering with a life insurance specialist, they can offer a fuller range of portfolio options, solutions and overall advice to their clients without having to invest the time and effort needed to become experts. In many ways, the advisor is akin to a primary care physician performing an annual check-up and calling in a specialist for a second opinion. Through this type of partnership, advisors can ensure clients' needs are properly addressed, without exceeding the scope of their own expertise."
Saybrus Partners, Inc. is a life insurance partnership firm.
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