Tier One: Whew! One Year Down....
July marks the first anniversary of the official launch of Life Insurance Strategies Group. When I tell the story of how LISG came to be, I always start with how it was an accidental and mostly unplanned venture which has become, in hindsight, unsurprisingly successful. Today, with a year under my belt, I can reflect upon where I thought things might go and where they ended up and share how I believe this business will grow.
The Happy Accident
LISG is not a company where I can say, “Gosh, I wish I had done this earlier,” because the success we have enjoyed is based on the diverse and unique backgrounds and experiences of its founders, myself and Pete Dziedzic. Five years ago, we would not have had the necessary foundation in all of the skills needed to make a go of a life insurance consulting company which serves affluent individuals. Pete and I launched LISG at the right time in our professional lives as well as the right time for the market we serve.
Up until the end of 2018, my career after law school could be summed up as one where I distributed U.S. or U.S.-style life insurance products to very wealthy people around the world. First, by selling life insurance to fund executive benefit plans as part of a M Financial Group member firm and then to running international distributions and life insurance companies inside and outside the United States where the products included private placement policies as well as foreign policies and traditional U.S. contracts. This career path gave me unparalleled access to major law firms and wealth management organizations around the world and helped me to see two glaring problems which screamed for a solution.
When high-net worth individuals are considering life insurance, their needs are often extraordinarily complex and must take into account not only traditional estate, business and wealth planning scenarios but also cross-border issues, alternative investments, distinctive family dynamics and the adherence to the need for a high level of privacy and security. The first problem for these clients is what my co-founder, Pete, refers to as life insurance being a black box and becoming increasingly difficult to grasp. “It is hard to concentrate conceptually on life insurance when the person explaining it to you is trying to sell you a policy,” says Pete.
The second problem crying out for a solution in the industry is one of which I was probably guilty at one time or another. Throughout my career, I routinely noticed that many wealthy life insurance buyers had their life insurance solutions ‘square-pegged’ for them.
The solution presented to a client often depended upon the licenses a producer had or did not have, the familiarity or a lack of familiarity to particular products, carriers and producer group allegiances, etc. For example, a producer might not have a license to sell variable products, so those products where never considered. A client seeking to create tax efficiency might not be told about life insurance products for U.S. clients issued from Bermuda because the producer did not have access.
What these clients needed is what we do at LISG – provide unbiased and independent life insurance advice based on decades of experience in working with wealthy individuals. We do not sell products and have no loyalties in our work except to the client. This permits us to offer one or more solutions without regard to a product, a producer or a carrier, or really, if life insurance is placed at all.
In the Beginning...
Immediately upon departing from my last life insurance distribution venture in the private placement market, attorneys and wealth managers I had met during my career began calling and saying, “Since you aren’t selling anything, can my client engage you to walk through a life insurance transaction?”
These calls became more frequent and involved transactions ranging from a full analysis of what a client’s life insurance need might be to helping clients make decisions about premium financing and even to explaining the difference between whole life and indexed universal life products.
While this was a good start to our consulting practice at LISG, what happened next was unexpected and a part of our practice I really enjoy. Top tier producers, some I had known for as long as twenty years and some I did not know at all, began reaching out. They often found themselves involved in trying to place a complex transaction with a wealthy client and had reached some sort of impasse.
These producers would say to their clients, “Look, I can see you are not fully comfortable. I would like you to consider engaging LISG to validate our proposal and to do so on your behalf. They are fee-based consultants who regularly work with folks like you and can speak with you about how these matters are typically handled. We will abide by the outcome.”
Having some of the most successful and reputable life insurance producers refer LISG to their clients speaks volumes. Not only do these producers trust us with their treasured relationships but also must believe they have acted appropriately to call for an independent review. In these situations, LISG is perceived as a ‘arbiter’ to help bring a case to conclusion. Working only with top tier producers who act with integrity, we have yet to encounter a scenario where we were referred in and found the producer was not on the right path for that particular client.
An Unexpected Turn
Since Pete has a law background and had run a retail and services skincare company for a decade, his role might not be apparent to our consulting clients. This is because he runs LISG’s completely unplanned and wildly successful other business unit – content and marketing. Pete does a good job of explaining this unit in this month’s Tier One Interview but I will try to do it justice here. Given my life insurance technical knowledge, I was approached to do a little ghost writing for a handful of producers. What started as writing pieces on split-dollar plans or charitable uses for life insurance for a producer’s local estate planning newsletter or to be published on-line, exploded as an opportunity.
Today, our content and marketing area does much more than frequent ghost writing, it produces marketing pieces, creates websites, advises on social media and updates ‘brands’ for producers. Our industry is full of Type-A producers who like to interact with clients but do not have the time and knowledge to address their own marketing efforts. Pete has built the infrastructure at LISG to give these producers a fresh, youthful and knowledgeable brand and he leverages my background to incorporate life insurance-specific elements. I am enormously proud of the work Pete has done. There is nothing like seeing him walk through a mood board with a client and having that client finally being able to express what they want their brand to exude.
Where do we go from here? Both of our business lines have succeeded because of referrals and we do not see that changing. Our marketing efforts will continue to concentrate on the advisors to high-net worth clients as well as to top tier producers.
The biggest hurdle we face is having those associated with our industry understand what we do and how those who work with affluent clients can best position us to add value. We are getting there and will continue to share our story of how our consulting arm helps high-net worth and ultra, high-net worth individuals and families make good decisions regarding life insurance and how our content and marketing area strives to improve and promote how the life insurance industry is perceived.
Read our companion Tier One Interview with Pete Dziedzic, COO & General Counsel of LISG by clicking here.
Since its inception, Life Insurance Strategies Group has solely focused on the individual high net worth life insurance market. We do not sell products. This allows us to offer unbiased, pragmatic advice. Visit us at www.lifeinsurancestrategiesgroup.com.