For roughly the last dozen years, MetLife has been an integral part of our operation. We are wholesalers in disability insurance. We only do one thing, and we do it very well. At DIBroker East-Eskra & Associates, we add value by providing access to nine or so insurance carriers (the number changes a bit depending upon the year—Pan American also exited the market a few years back and we do very little business with Guardian at this point), by providing expertise in case design and approaches to selling, and by providing consistent top quality service. We make it as easy as possible to complete what can be a complicated sale. We focus on the professional, the small business, and the executive markets, but provide products for all walks of life and all circumstances related to disability insurance.
DIBroker East-Eskra & Associates represents nearly all of the carriers in this market (at least nearly all of the one’s willing to work with a wholesaler, so not NML for example). MetLife, along with the Principal Financial Group and the Standard Insurance Company together have made up approximately 80% of our business. Most years we have been the highest producing independent wholesaler for MetLife (we also lead Principal and are usually in the top five with the Standard). So what does the loss of MetLife mean to us?
MetLife was seen by us as something of a lumbering giant. Slow to roll out new products. Slow to fix silly little things like the software to run their Buy-Sell quotes. Too often willing to reorganize a working org chart into something that made no sense. And lacking in creative, useful marketing materials. But in the most essential ways, they had figured out how to be a major player in the IDI market.
Met has had an excellent product the last few years. Their product has sold very, very well for us in the physician market (especially with surgeons) and they have also had the most aggressive participation limits with Group LTD—participating all the way up to $40,000 for their top occupation classes at a time when most carriers would only participate up to $30,000 (Principal goes to $35,000 and the Standard just matched that amount this week).
MetLife also had developed in house expertise that puts them among the best in the industry. We have had excellent underwriters and sales reps there and we had developed relationships with many levels of management at MetLife. We felt as if we were partners with them in this great field of providing the undersold and very important product know as IDI. When they announced the spin-off of the domestic Life, Annuity, and IDI products, we had calls and visits from them to assure us that nothing would change in our world. I believe that these assurances were genuine at the time, but nonetheless somehow they made the reality of their announcement to suspend all non-GSI related sales even more of a shock.
MetLife’s departure is not good for the industry in my opinion. There are so few carriers in the industry already; we need more carriers, not fewer. Our biggest source of competition is not the NML agent or the Guardian agent trying to take business we have quoted, rather it is the reality that most people in the country do not even know what disability insurance is and have never been asked by an agent or a financial planner about their need for it.
So, we are saddened for our friends at MetLife who have had to scramble to find new jobs and we will be slightly less competitive in certain occupation classes than before. But we are ready for the challenge. Our production with Ameritas has lagged that of our previous big three for a variety of unique circumstances, but that will change. They have an excellent product (True Own Occ, very strong Residual Benefit, a Cobra Benefit—and they include a Good Health Benefit that reduces the elimination period and a non-Disabling Injury Benefit) and we have a very good underwriter with them.
Standard just announced that they will launch their new product, the Platinum Advantage, early next year. They assure us that they will be very competitive in the physician market again. The Platinum product is clearly one of the very best on the market and we are very happy to hear that they will be price competitive in the physician market. And there too we have an excellent underwriter and we love their electronic policy delivery.
Our relationship with Principal is as strong as ever. We have sent more production to them than to any other carrier and we do not expect that to change. They have a way of doing business that makes things easy and underwriting that is as good as it gets in the industry,
We were growing our production with all three of these carriers this year before the MetLife announcement and now we look forward to giving them even more production.
DIBroker East-Eskra & Associates will continue to prosper as far as we can see and our brokers who relied upon MetLife will feel only the slightest of bumps as they adjust to selling Principal, Standard and Ameritas. We still have great products and great service to offer. In fact, compared to where we were a dozen or so years ago when MetLife become a player for us, we are much better situated.
*Please note that MetLife will continue to offer GSI and buy-ups to GSI and will continue to service existing policies, including purchase options.