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retirement

75% of People Not on Track for Retirement

A new study shows that three in four Canadians are not on track for retirement. With the recent economic turmoil, many working Canadians are struggling to make ends meet as it is. The same survey indicated that half the population is living paycheck to paycheck, and very few have any emergency savings built up. Living in the moment means that they’re not focused on retirement goals, and many expect to be working several more years as a result.

Although workplace pensions, the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), Old Age Security (OAS) and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) can provide funds, it’s often not enough. Moreover, the higher your income is now, the less likely you are to have your future needs met by these types of programs. If you’re among the 75% who are not on track to retire, here are the changes you need to make now:

Take a Hard Look at the Money Coming In

You’ll need to set a budget, but long before you get to it you must have a full accounting of how much money is coming into the household. Then, you’ll need to deduct between 20% and 30% of the gross for emergency expenses and retirement. Focus on building emergency savings that will cover you for three to six months first.

Eliminate Bad Debts

Carrying a balance for a mortgage or vehicle isn’t usually a problem, but more and more Canadians are maxing out credit cards and racking up other smaller debts. These things should also be knocked out of the way first.

Say Goodbye to Luxury Spending

While the older population is much better at assessing value and affordability, the younger generation is geared toward luxury items. Expensive cars, lavish clothing and trending technology add to debt. If you aren’t on track for retirement, and you’re carrying unnecessary debts, you should get yourself back on track and only purchase essential and value-oriented products.

Reevaluate Your Investment Choices

Unfortunately, many investment firms take a chunk of payments, and they fail to deliver in returns. Do a cost-benefit analysis and see if you need to consider moving your money to another firm or program. Diversification, both on a local and international level, is essential, as it provides a kind of insurance in case the economy falters. Think beyond stocks, as well. Bonds, commodities and real estate holdings can provide extra layers of security.

Use a Budgeting Program

There are numerous options available, but they all serve the same essential function. Using software or an app to track expenses takes the brainwork out of it and enables you to stick to your budget without having to work so hard.

Incrementally Increase Retirement Savings

As you pay off your debts and eliminate your mortgage, and your children become self-sufficient, you’ll obviously have more money to spend on yourself. Many people jump into doing the things they’ve been holding off on, like vacations and home remodels, but this becomes a slippery slope. As you find yourself free of expenses and debts, it’s imperative to increase your retirement savings, as well. During your last decade or two of work, your goal should be buildings toward setting aside 60% of your income for retirement. Some of the cash should go into savings, but a fair amount should be invested into dividend-paying stocks, which will add a steady trickle of supplemental cash as your non-working days progress.

Reevaluate Your Goals and Get Expert Advice

Even though most people can benefit from visiting with a financial planner, very few people do. You don’t have to be wealthy to benefit from one, either. A financial planner can help you figure out ways to minimize debts and how to save and may be able to help you get lower interest rates on the debts you already carry. If you choose not to visit a financial planner, you should still reevaluate your budget and strategy on a regular basis. This way, you can find ways to increase your savings if you aren’t setting aside enough, or enjoy more of your income now, provided you’re on track for retirement.

There was a time when a person could outright retire at a certain age, but it’s not like that any more. Today’s workers have to contribute more on their own to be able to maintain the same standard of living, and they have to work longer to be prepared. It’s still possible to retire at about the age your parents and grandparents did, but it requires more planning on your part.

Unclaimed Funds Can Lead to Data Breaches

When it comes to privacy, not all states are alike. This was confirmed yet again in the 50 State Compendium of Unclaimed Property Practices we compiled. The compendium ranks the amount of personal data that state treasuries expose during the process by which individuals can collect unclaimed funds. The data exposed can provide fraudsters with a crime exacta: claiming money that no one will ever miss and gathering various nuggets of personal data that can help facilitate other types of identity theft. The takeaway: Some states provide way too much data to anyone who is in the business of exploiting consumer information.

For those who take their privacy seriously, the baseline of our compendium—inclusion in a list of people with unclaimed funds or property—may in itself be unacceptable. For others, finding their name on an unclaimed property list isn’t a huge deal. In fact, two people on our team found unclaimed property in the New York database (I was one of them) while putting together the 50-state compendium, and there were no panic attacks.

Free IDT911 white paper: Breach, Privacy and Cyber Coverages: Fact and Fiction

That said, there is a reason to feel uncomfortable—or even outright concerned—to find your name on a list of people with unclaimed property. After all, you didn’t give anyone permission to put it there. The way a person manages her affairs (or doesn’t) should not be searchable on a public database like a scarlet letter just waiting to be publicized.

Then there’s the more practical reason that it matters. Identity thieves rely on sloppiness. Scams thrive where there is a lack of vigilance (lamentably, a lifestyle choice for many Americans despite the rise of identity-related crimes). The crux of the problem when it comes to reporting unclaimed property: It’s impossible to be guarded and careful about something you don’t even know exists, and, of course, it’s much easier to steal something if you know that it does.

The worst of the state unclaimed property databases provide a target-rich environment for thieves interested in grabbing the more than $58 billion in unclaimed funds held by agencies at the state level across the country.

States’ response to questions about public database

When we asked for comment from the eight states that received the worst rating in our compendium—California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin—five replied. In an effort to continue the dialogue around this all-too-important topic, here are a few of the responses from the states:

— California said: “The California state controller has a fraud detection unit that takes proactive measures to ensure property is returned to the rightful owners. We have no evidence that the limited online information leads to fraud.”

The “limited online information” available to the public on the California database provides name, street addresses, the company that held the unclaimed funds and the exact amount owed unless the property is something with a movable valuation like equity or commodities. To give just one example, we found a $50 credit at Tiffany associated with a very public figure. We were able to verify it because the address listed in the California database had been referenced in a New York Times article about the person of interest. Just those data points could be used by a scammer to trick Tiffany or the owner of the unclaimed property (or the owner’s representatives) into handing over more information (to be used elsewhere in the commission of fraud) or money (a finder’s fee is a common ruse) or both.

This policy seems somewhat at odds with California’s well-earned reputation as one of the most consumer-friendly states in the nation when it comes to data privacy and security.

— Hawaii’s response: “We carefully evaluated the amount and type of information to be provided and consulted with our legal counsel to ensure that no sensitive personal information was being provided.”

My response: Define “sensitive.” These days, name, address and email address (reflect upon the millions of these that are “out there” in the wake of the Target and Home Depot breaches) are all scammers need to start exploiting your identity. The more information they have, the more opportunities they can create, leveraging that information, to get more until they have enough to access your available credit or financial accounts.

— Indiana’s response was thoughtful. “By providing the public record, initially we are hoping to eliminate the use of a finder, which can charge up to 10% of the property amount. Providing the claimant the information up front, they are more likely to use our service for free. That being said, we are highly aware of the fraud issue and, as you may know, Indiana is the only state in which the Unclaimed Property Division falls under the Attorney General’s office. This works to our advantage in that we have an entire investigative division in-house and specific to unclaimed property. In addition, we also have a proactive team that works to reach out to rightful owners directly on higher-dollar claims to reduce fraud and to ensure those large dollar amounts are reaching the rightful owners.”

Protect and serve should be the goal

While Indiana has the right idea, the state still provides too much information. The concept here is to protect and serve—something the current system of unclaimed property databases currently does not do.

The methodology used in the compendium was quite simple: The less information a state provided, the better its ranking. Four stars was the best rating—it went to states that provided only a name and city or ZIP code—and one star was the worst, awarded to states that disclosed name, street address, property type, property holder and exact amount owed.

In the majority of states in the U.S., the current approach to unclaimed funds doesn’t appear to be calibrated to protect consumers during this ever-growing epidemic of identity theft and cyber fraud. The hit parade of data breaches over the past few years—Target, Home Depot, Sony Pictures, Anthem and, most recently, the Office of Personnel Management—provides a case-by-case view of the evolution of cybercrime. Whether access was achieved by malware embedded in a spear-phishing email or came by way of an intentionally infected vendor, the ingenuity of fraudsters continues apace, and it doesn’t apply solely to mega databases. Identity thieves make a living looking for exploitable mistakes. The 50 State Compendium provides a state-by-state look at mistakes just waiting to be converted by fraudsters into crimes.

The best way to keep your name off those lists: Stay on top of your finances, cash your checks and keep tabs on your assets. (And check your credit reports regularly to spot signs of identity fraud. You can get your free credit reports every year from the major credit reporting agencies, and you can get a free credit report summary from Credit.com every month for a more frequent overview.) In the meantime, states need to re-evaluate the best practices for getting unclaimed funds to consumers. One possibility may be to create a search process that can only be initiated by the consumer submitting his name and city (or cities) on a secure government website.

Insurance Risk in Latin America

Latin America’s compound growth remains attractive and yet, overall, insurance penetration rates still remain low in many countries. Particularly in life insurance, despite continuing economic growth and reduced poverty levels, penetration is low, suggesting there is still significant growth ahead for the insurance sector. We have seen significant reforms across the region from both a fiscal and regulatory standpoint, in everything from capital and exchange controls to consumer protection. We believe a key challenge for insurers over the next decade is navigating this rapid acceleration toward modern regulatory and operational realities.

Around the world, regulators are setting the expectation that insurers will raise their game. The trend is clear, toward better risk management, better governance, more precise measurement of capital in a risk sensitive way and more detailed and transparent reporting to regulators.

We presented our first report for Latin America in 2012, focusing on risk-based capital (RBC) and emerging regulations in four markets: Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico. We have expanded our coverage and also added Colombia, Peru and Uruguay to our new overview.

In the past two years, each Latin American market has faced a different journey to a risk- and economic value-based solvency framework. More open markets in the Pacific Alliance (Chile and Mexico) have enhanced their risk management processes, while Brazil is seeking Solvency II equivalence by 2016. Mexico’s new law, modeled on Solvency II, is likely to be implemented ahead
of the rest of the world. Peru and Uruguay have no immediate plans to pursue a Solvency II approach. Although both countries are attracting foreign investment, the market size and number of players are impeding regulation. With Argentina’s high inflation and economic concerns, adopting an RBC framework in the short term is unlikely.

The challenge to understanding Latin America remains that most insurers in the region are not well-prepared for the expected changes in governance, risk management, capital requirements and reporting. At EY, we believe that effective risk management and the ability to quantify and price risks accurately are a core competence for a successful insurance company. We also observe globally that the leading insurers will typically look to define their own vision for their capabilities in these key areas, rather than simply following the iteration of each piece of regulation. Leading firms will also typically go on to deploy these capabilities more quickly and effectively across their businesses at the point of decision making, and being ahead of competitors in this way is a source of clear commercial advantage.

Argentina

The Argentine insurance market has made minimal progress in its approach to RBC in recent years. As other Latin American countries take steps toward Solvency II equivalence, Argentina is only superficially addressing this issue. In a country experiencing high inflation, tight regulation and fluctuating economic market concerns, RBC is only one in a long list of initiatives on the regulatory agenda of the Superintendencia de Seguros de la Nación (SSN).

Nevertheless, insurance is a fast-growing industry that continues to show resilience in premiums and tolerance for expansion in a challenging environment. Annual growth percentages are measured in Argentine pesos, so the inflation rate has a significant impact on those figures. As of 30 June 2013 (last fiscal year-end), there were 184 companies (108 in property/casualty) writing insurance in Argentina – with 29 new companies added in the past two years. International players continue to make acquisitions to enhance their positions in the industry. Growth has been most prominent in workers’ compensation and motor insurance, producing increases of 42% and 35%, respectively, from June 2012 to June 2013.

Brazil

The Brazilian insurance market continues to achieve double-digit growth. The industry is witnessing a series of mergers and acquisitions and the arrival of multinational insurance and reinsurance companies, mostly from Europe. In addition, the sector experienced the largest initial public offering in the world last year, when BB Seguridade raised approximately US$5.75 billion in the BOVESPA stock exchange.

Although national bancassurance players dominate the Brazilian insurance market, international insurance companies continue to grow at a higher rate through M&A and strategic alliances.

Given the continuous growth in the market, the Brazilian regulator, Superintendência de Seguros Privados (SUSEP), is working with the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) to achieve Solvency ll equivalence in Brazil. This will facilitate the investment of European insurance companies in Brazil and Brazilian companies in Europe. SUSEP will sign an agreement that will adopt Solvency ll rules partially or fully by 2016, based on a comparative study that EIOPA will perform to measure Brazilian regulation against the Solvency II regime.

Chile

The insurance market in Chile continues to shift from its present regulatory framework to a more sophisticated RBC approach to solvency assessment that better reflects current industry risks. New methodology proposed by the Superintendencia de Valores y Seguros (SVS) is an important step toward building an integral and holistic RBC model.

The Comframe capital framework implementation requires each risk category to be managed individually, with most supervision on a product-by-product basis. Most insurers will need to improve their risk function or implement a holistic approach to risk management. Also, local skilled resources are scarce for the level of technical knowledge imposed by this regulation. Many will need to develop better data analytics, systems and precise risk measurement if they are to increase capital efficiency and profitability.

Chile is one of the more stable markets in the region, primarily because of tight controls over insurance products and asset portfolios. This stability is essential in a market that offers rich growth potential. While the ease of doing business in the country presents an opportunity, product expansion remains an emerging challenge due to a lack of insurance product awareness and consumer perceived value.

Colombia

Colombia enjoys strong economic growth and enormous potential for financial stability over the next three to five years. GDP growth is about 4% a year, ahead of the average for the region. This is driven by stronger activity from foreign investors, a stable macroeconomic environment and a growing middle class. The free trade agreements that Colombia has engineered with major world markets are one example of the tremendous potential the country offers.

Insurance regulation is moving toward a more risk- and economic value-based solvency framework, with tightened capital market regulations. As a result, Colombia is ahead of many global rapid growth markets in reforming regulatory processes, protecting investor rights and cross-border trading to increase the ease of doing business for small companies.

Recent rules that allow foreign insurance companies to establish branches and operate as local insurers have changed the complexion of the Colombian market. Global industry players are entering, buying local insurers or considering start-up companies. This should encourage increased capacity, product diversification and greater competition. Colombia’s premium growth was US$8b in 2013, and rate reductions of as much as 10% were expected for property and life/accident insurance in 2014.

Mexico

The Mexican insurance market is the second largest in Latin America. As of December 2013, gross premiums totaled $334.19 billion Mexican pesos or approximately US$25.6 billion, an increase of 11% over the prior year; this increase includes the effect of a large biannual policy of the government. Despite having one of the lowest proportions of insurance penetration in the region (almost 2% of GDP), Mexico continues to grow above the country’s nominal GDP. New insurance laws and Solvency II regulations are leading to market consolidation, as well as growth in specialty and consumer product lines. The high demand for life insurance is reflected in individual life premiums, which rose 23% in 2013, following a 19% increase in 2012, basically for the success of some savings products.

The regulatory framework in Mexico is evolving toward a more sophisticated risk-based capital approach. A proposed Solvency ll – type insurance law has been under review by the Mexican regulator, Comision Nacional de Seguros y Fianzas (CNSF) and the Mexican association of insurance companies, Asociacion Mexicana de Instituciones de Seguros (AMIS) since the second half of 2008.
The Mexican Congress approved the new regulation in April 2013. Quantitative impact studies and qualitative impact studies are moving forward, and new accounting principles are under discussion. Legislation in the country continues to advance and is likely to be implemented ahead of the rest of the region.

Peru

Peru’s steady economic growth and expanding middle class are attracting new business and opening doors for insurance companies. The Peruvian economy is supported by rapid growth in investment, low inflation, strong economic fundamentals and an annual GDP growth rate of nearly 6%. The country has an investment rating in Latin America that is second only to Chile and offers a favorable legal framework for foreign investors. The financial sector, including insurance, is second only to mining (gold, zinc and copper) in direct foreign investment.

In the last decade, insurance industry sales in Peru have grown more than 200%, from PEN2,700 million (approximately US$776 million) to PEN9.069 million (approximately US$3.36 billion) in 2013. As of December 2013, 40% of total net premiums were from general insurance, 14% from accident and health, 21% from life insurance and 25% from the private pension fund system. It is important to note that only approximately 16% of the urban population has private insurance and 18% has health insurance – and this number has stagnated over the past five years.

The insurance market is highly concentrated in Peru, with 2 of the 15 insurance companies accounting for 60% of total gross written premiums. Overall, insurance penetration rates remain low, as they are in many other Latin American countries.

Uruguay 

Uruguay is a small country with stable economic growth, expanding tourism and rising disposable income. It was one of the few countries in Latin America that was able to avoid recession in 2008, and it continues to grow, with an economy based largely on exports of commodities like milk, beef, rice and wool. Some of world’s largest banks and financial institutions maintain branches there, and it was fortunate not to experience the impact of the global financial crisis or ensuing government intervention.

Although the Uruguayan insurance market is highly competitive, it has no more than 15 companies competing for market share. The largest in the country is Banco de Seguros del Estado (BSE), a government-owned insurer with about 65% of the market share as of December 2013.

Gross written premiums for the insurance industry totaled UYU21.6 billion (US$1.1 billion) in 2012, with a CAGR growth rate of almost 19%. Motor insurance and general liability insurance were leaders in the non-life segment. An increase in demand for pension products contributed to the significant growth in the life segment.

For the full report from which this excerpt is taken, click here.

A Brave New World: Move Away From the Commodity Trap

A controversial McKinsey Report, “Agents of the Future: the Evolution of Property and Casualty Insurance Distribution,” compares the impact of the Internet on travel agents to the proliferation of online insurance websites and considers whether the local agent will disappear if he continues to do business as usual. The report says: “Local agents are not in danger of extinction, but the role they play will continue to evolve. Those who can adapt to a new set of circumstances will thrive.”

The report talks about the dangers of online commoditization to our industry. From the thousands of agents and brokers I’ve coached, I know that the enemy is not technology; it is the dominance of the insurance bid … a commodity force that must be removed as the focus of the customer experience. It must be replaced by the risk-management process — a consultative and diagnostic approach founded on risk evaluation and mitigation … strategies to protect a family and business properly with the goal of reducing claim frequency and severity.

What does this mean for the insurance industry in 2014?

Insurance producers are tired and frustrated with competing in the “commodity trap” — the 90-day insurance bidding process. They are beginning to lose confidence in themselves because they are playing a game in which they have little impact on the outcome.

Commoditization is a battle that insurance agents, brokers and carriers confront each day. It occurs when the consumer perceives little or no distinguishable difference between products, services and resources — and when price has become the primary differentiator.

Picture commoditization as a disease that is eating away at insurance producers’ knowledge, wisdom and professionalism. It is so cruel and debilitating that it is stripping away the value proposition of even the most seasoned producer by reducing professional purpose to a number.

Time for a Q&A

To determine if your agency is affected by commoditization, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you losing your passion and purpose for the insurance business?
  2. Are you able to change the consumer’s perception of you?
  3. Are you angry and frustrated with the 90-day bidding process?
  4. When you introduce yourself as an insurance agent at a social event, do people treat you with dignity and respect? Are you perceived as a professional, trusted adviser, like a CPA, attorney or physician, or do consumers perceive you as an order taker?
  5. Is the insurance transaction, the 90-day bid, getting in the way of your ability to learn the customer’s business and its issues?

Solutions to combat commoditization

You may ask, “How can I stop being caught in this vicious game?” First, I remind you that you sell an intangible product. The less tangible, the more powerfully and persistently the judgment about the product can be shaped by packaging. You must position the package in a way to enable the consumer to change his or her perception about it.

Second, I ask you to consider three questions:

  1. To what degree does the small- and middle-market consumer have the time and ability to identify exposures? (0, low, to 5, high)
  2. To what degree does the typical insurance agent or broker assist his or her client with exposure identification? (0, low, to 5, high)
  3. To what degree does the small- and middle-market consumer enjoy the traditional insurance bidding process? (0, low, to 5, high)

Unless you’ve scored a 15 overall, your score gives evidence that you must stand out in a crowded marketplace!

Third, you must have a means to differentiate yourself by applying a consultative process focused on the identification, measurement and mitigation of risk. My personal formula is I3 (i.e., issues, implications and interventions).

When agents or brokers apply the I3 system, they improve their professional image, income and work-life balance. They discover a renewed purpose and passion for the business.

Fourth, if you are commodity-driven and chasing the 90-day insurance bid, you are headed toward extinction. Every day, consumers come face-to-face with transactional websites or agents. The surviving insurance agents or brokers of the future will transform themselves into indispensable, remarkable, trusted risk strategists.

The industry’s evolution?

Another industry study, conducted by Forbes for Zurich in 2013, supports the importance of a consultative process. In the study, 414 U.S. executives were interviewed. The study found that the majority of executives admitted that they were worried that they lacked knowledge of how to best mitigate risk; understand the sources of risk; and develop a sufficient risk-management budget. These are the same responses I’ve heard from small- and middle-market clients for years. The only difference is that most Fortune 500 organizations have fulltime risk managers, and middle-market consumers do not.

You can fill this void and serve your clients in a new, more consultative and diagnostic way.

When you serve as a risk strategist for your clients, you offer solutions that they cannot obtain if they purchase coverage online. As a risk strategist, you advocate for your client with the goal of designing and developing enterprise risk-management strategies. In other words, you find out what keeps your clients awake at night and take these worries away.

Secrets to success

Below are seven secrets to you help you implement future success in your agency.

  1. Value proposition. Summarize the reasons why a potential customer should buy your particular product or service, how it exceeds that of the competition and why it is worthy of the price she pays. Your value proposition of the future should be concise and appeal to the client’s strongest decision-making drivers. It must be an irresistible offer, an invitation that is so compelling and attractive that a customer would be out of her mind to refuse.
  2. Confidence. Wherever you are in your career, display the knowledge, skill and attitude to serve as a risk strategist for your clients.
  3. Criteria filter. Screen out price shoppers. Determine quickly if your prospective client meets or falls below your standards. Rather than taking a random approach to prospect research and qualification, make your approach disciplined and strategic. You know what is at risk!
  4. Unique process based on I3 — issues, implications and interventions. Focus on deeply engaging the client. Develop emotional connections with your clients that transcend price and product.
  5. Relational capital. Build long-lasting relationships. Understand that relationships rarely are pursued and captured. Rather, relationships are rooted in rich soil, consisting of a blend of mutual trust, respect and shared values. These relationships produce bonds and connections that enhance both parties’ opportunity to succeed.
  6. Servant leadership. Connect with others and find ways to make them more successful. Make your approach about generosity, not greed. Always show credibility, integrity and authenticity. The degree by which you practice relational capital and servant leadership will be evidenced by higher hit ratios, retention, referrals and cross-sell opportunities.
  7. Purpose and passion. Rediscover your purpose and passion for our industry. Love what you do, and touch your clients’ hearts.

When you begin to serve clients as a trusted risk strategist, you will climb out of the commodity trap. Using the I3 process is your best, most powerful tool to escape commoditization and thrive.

This article first appeared in Professional Insurance Agents Magazine.