Tier One Interview: Farah F. Rehman, CLU
In our premier Tier One interview, our CEO, Jay Judas, spoke to Farah F. Rehman, CLU, Senior Vice President for Zurich Affluent Markets Group. They cover everything from Indexed Universal Life to favorite spot for an industry dinner.
Jay: Tell me about your role and responsibilities with Zurich?
Farah: Depending on the day, half my role is dedicated to the traditional life space and half is dedicated to the Private Wealth Group. While I’m part of the sales group, I end up serving more as a link between our sales group and other functions through Zurich. I credit that to our group’s ability to collaborate well in cross-functional teams. Much of my time is spent working on strategic initiatives that span across Operations, Underwriting, Product, Marketing, and Project Management.
Jay: What was your educational and career path that led you to where you are today?
Farah: Interestingly enough, I actually have a Bachelor’s in Management Information Systems. I was an intern at American General and worked in the copy room making copies of reinsurance treaties. Before I graduated, I moved into the Competition Unit, primarily to use programming skills to automate benchmarking reports. After a couple of years, I moved into the Sales group. I went back to school to get my MBA from Rice University, and took a rotational internal consulting job while at American General. When I ended up at Zurich a year or so after graduating, I was thrilled to have a job that was a little bit of each function I supported at American General, along with something most MBA graduates would want – the opportunity to build something new.
Jay: You are known as a strong advocate for Zurich’s marketing programs. What are you most excited about right now?
Farah: Our team often says that our interests align well with where the industry is headed. We’ve seen steady increases in Index Universal Life sales, and that has been our primary focus since almost the beginning. You can imagine that with the AG49 buzz around IUL over the past couple of years, that is definitely an exciting area as we watch the industry develop and innovate – and it’s equally exciting (who gets excited about regulations!?) to see the industry come together to try to protect clients from potentially aggressive illustrations.
Jay: Indexed Universal Life is certainly a versatile and popular life insurance product at the moment. What selling points do you want producers to know about?
Farah: One of the things I love the most about our IUL products is that we focus on simple, transparent and easy-to-understand products. We had a moment – earlier this year when we were developing our newest IUL product – where we had to pause and wonder whether we needed to follow suit and develop a multiplier-type product or be left behind. It was a fleeting moment, as we realized it was important to stay the course we had been on for years. And so we developed what we consider a compelling IUL product with some unique features, but still simple, transparent and easy to understand. We also, over the past couple of years, have focused on building IUL products that really put the design capabilities in the advisor’s hands where possible. Each client has a unique risk and return profile – we wanted to be able to offer riders and options that help advisors tailor products to their clients’ unique situations.
Jay: Selfishly, given my own career, I have historically known Zurich in the United States as a top private placement life insurance and annuities provider. Can you share bit about why Zurich has invested in this area and where you see your products fitting in this market?
Farah: This has definitely been an exciting space for us. When we began working on this business on the traditional side, we targeted the affluent markets segment. We also had expertise in private placement through a legacy block of business. It seemed like a natural next step to expand into the ultra-affluent markets segment and leverage the expertise and systems we already had. We also were able to focus on two key distribution channels – private banks and the independent advisor.
Jay: If you consider the affluent part of the life insurance market, where do you see the most opportunities for growth?
Farah: Traditionally, when we focused on the affluent market, we focused on high-touch customer service. Our representatives have been known for their exceptional service from both the insurance brokers we serve and our clients. We know now that for us to grow, we need to complement the human interaction with technology. While our high-touch service is valued, affluent customers – and their advisors – want real-time, 24/7 access to their policy just the same. I think many companies focus on technology as a way to reduce the need for true customer service and in order to reduce expenses. But to us, it’s about providing the customers with both – human interaction when they need it and technology when they don’t.
Jay: In life insurance industry, I always joke that I can ask someone about their favorite steakhouse for business meals and they will have an instant opinion. But you and I both are not meat eaters so I feel like I can genuinely benefit from your answer to what your favorite restaurant is the U.S. for a business meal.
Farah: I feel that I tricked you during our seafood-focused dinner – I must’ve felt healthy that night! It’s hard to pick just one, but there is a lovely Italian place that our team loves to go to in New York called Da Claudio.
Read our companion Tier One Blog to this interview on Understanding IUL here.