Will the sales force be with you? Primerica faces big hurdle with annuity launch

Company plans to roll out its first fixed indexed annuity but must pre bulk of 82,000 reps first; ‘large universe of salespeople’

By Darla Mercado
Investment News, November 8, 2011

As Primerica Inc. prepares to add a fixed indexed annuity to its platform for the first time, the company faces the tall task of prepping its 82,000 reps on the complicated savings product.

Primerica has teamed up with Lincoln Financial Distributors Inc. to offer the Lincoln New Directions and OptiChoice seven‑year indexed annuities to Primerica’s target audience, middle‑market investors. The rollout is big enough for Lincoln to put together a team to work specifically with Primerica. The insurer also elevated John Chidwick, a divisional sales manager for Lincoln, to national sales manager working with Primerica and its legions of independent‑contractor reps – some of whom work part time.

Schooling the Primerica reps won’t be an easy undertaking. About 15,000 of the company’s brokers are Series 6 and 63 certified – that is, versed in mutual funds and variable annuities, and are familiar with the corresponding suitability standards and processes, said Glenn Williams, president of Primerica.

But fixed annuities will be new to the remaining brokers who sell insurance products. Those reps will now deal with heightened state suitability standards on indexed annuities. While the products aren’t securities, they are subject to state standards that are similar to what the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. requires of variable annuities.

“It’s a large universe of salespeople who have never sold these before, and that’s a significant part of our effort: communicating with and managing the sales force,” Mr. Williams said. He added that the firm has a suitability and supervisory structure for insurance sales, and that it will merely be adding indexed annuities to the mix.

The effort will include the use of roadshows and in‑person training in conjunction with Lincoln, he added. Reps also will have to obtain annuity and product‑specific training in accordance with suitability rules from state insurance regulators, noted John Kennedy, head of Lincoln’s retirement solutions distribution.

“The training’s not going to be a whole lot different [from training given to other distributors], but it’s on a much larger scale,” he said. “Instead of being in front of 20 people, you might have 200 to 1,000 people at a time.” Primerica will be able to offer the indexed annuities nationwide in January, according to Mr. Kennedy.