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Update News for March 2011
Here is a quick run-down on what you will find in this bulletin:
These topics will be dealt with in more detail throughout this bulletin.
I think I have done a pretty good job of avoiding insurance industry politics in these bulletins but there is a recent development which I think should be of great concern to independent life insurance brokers. I have followed this discussion over the past two months and I believe it may lead to a downturn in the evolution of the independent life insurance broker in Canada.
I'm also not confident that the existing insurance agent/broker associations will do much to protect the interests of brokers and their clients. I suspect that many in the leadership of these groups may think this is a welcome change, simply as they may be in a position to make political and business gains over individual brokers. For that reason I believe it is incumbent upon individual agents/broker to take a special interest in this matter and place pressure upon their associations and regulators.
To sum up the problem, I think the days of independence may be coming to an end.
For me the whole thing began with this Globe and Mail article:
If you can read the article without cringing, then go back and read it again. For me the article sent off all kinds of alarm bells and I thought it needed a quick response, which I attempted to offer in Canadian MoneySaver. Here is the article I wrote:
Incidentally, if you did not see that article because you are not a Canadian MoneySaver subscriber, then I would strongly encourage you to subscribe; it's a great magazine for the money. Personally I favor the online version because you will get the electronic copy of the magazine each month (which you can print), together with access to the history of past articles among other services at the site. For example, there is a library of my past articles at the site.
For more information about subscribing to Canadian MoneySaver, go here:
To summarize where I think this is all going, the opinion (not mine) appears to be developing that life insurance brokers in Canada are not being adequately supervised (apparently you need a new mommy) and that the people failing to do the supervision are MGA's. And while you're thinking about the argument that there needs to be such supervision, please tell me who supervises accountants, lawyers, doctors, etc. But I digress...
As I suggested already, some MGA's may not be that unhappy with this line of thinking. If, as I think this will go, regulators begin passing rules that require MGA's to oversee the sales activities of brokers, then MGA's will be arguing for rules that require brokers to be placed under their direct control and supervision.
For those of you who are relatively new to the business, this is not much different than the good old days when agent licenses had to be "sponsored" by life insurance companies. Companies argued that this was necessary so that they could oversee the activities of the life agent (sound familiar). And, as the logic flowed, they could not oversee the activities of an agent unless they also controlled where, when and how the agent did business.
For example, if you wanted to sell a life insurance policy for a life company other than your sponsoring life company, you had to get permission from the sponsoring company (they could say no). After all, if you could sell without their permission, then how could they be responsible for you?
If regulators go down the road of making MGA's responsible for individual life agents, then you can expect that agents will once again become "sponsored" agents. The difference this time is that the people you will need permission from to do business will be the MGA and not the company. If you are an independent broker that does business with more than one MGA, then your days of doing that will be coming to an end.
In my view this is a return to a less than free market approach to the sale of life insurance. The ultimate loser will once again be the consumer. Agents will be more concerned about keeping their MGA's happy, than their customers.
And, as I say in my article:
You will have to read my article to see what I think is the real problem. If you have any thoughts or comments, feel free to email me at:
As far as software development goes, February seemed to be a month full of interruptions, tangents and side trips. A number of relatively minor issues cropped up and each one required that we break off time from our development work at Term4Sale while we resolved those issues.
For example, we took about a half a week implementing a change to the program which allows waiver of premiums to be included in the base premium. Actually, that part was easy. The problem was what to do when the user actually wanted to add the waiver, which was already included in the base premium. In essence the waiver rate was zero. The problem was that a zero value in a waiver rate table had in the past been interpreted to mean that there was no waiver of premium. To permit a zero premium we had to modify the software which we did.
The product this applied to was the new Pruco Term to 65 which has the waiver included in the base price (it also includes an unemployment waiver; no, we are not going there).
With the change that was made we now have a mechanism to quote and show a zero waiver where it is applicable, meaning that the waiver is already included in the base premium.
Another company expressed concern that we were not rounding up premiums to the next cent when dealing with fractional pennies in premiums. This problem occurred when asking for fractional per thousand face amounts, such as $346,250. That would leave fractional pennies in the premium and we had been truncating the premiums rather than rounding up to the next cent. Of course such changes may seem minor but we end up going to significant efforts to ensure the changes are applied throughout the quotation engine.
In Canada we seemed to hit a string of joint life quoting issues that demanded attention. Joint life can be a more complicated process as in some cases the program itself has to be modified to handle a particular set of joint life age calculations.
On a side note we have for some time been willing to do joint life last-to-die quotes (survivor policies) in the U.S. However, and to date, not even one company has been willing to give us the necessary details/information to produce such quotes. We're ready to move forward with that project when the companies are.
All in all, we seem to have a constant interruption in our efforts to wrap up work on the improvements to Term4Sale.
One of the interruptions/changes that we made this month was to the on-line forms library. Subscribers to the online forms option have been asking us to only show those companies that they do business with in the list of forms for their web sites.
Given that there are now over 25 customers using this option, we felt that the time was right to get that job done. We have now modified the software so that subscribers ordering the on-line forms library for their web site (a $120 per year option) can control which companies are included in their list of company forms. If you order this option the same companies that you selected on your control panel for quotes will be the same group of companies that appear in your forms library list.
This does raise another problem. While Compulife has over 100 companies in our quoting system, we only have about 25 companies in the forms library. In that regard we received an email from a subscriber who asked:
There are a few carriers that we are missing. We really need Assurity, Aviva, and Fidelity.
Is there anything we can do to help get those carriers on the forms engine? Should we talk to our contacts at the carriers?
To which we responded:
To summarize, we do need a company's permission.
But beyond that we also need the company's participation. Some companies have hundreds of forms. Replicating their library at any one point in time is not that difficult but what happens when the company modifies/amends/replaces one particular form? How do we know that has occurred?
Some companies are very, very good about documenting these changes and passing along the information. It makes our job very simple. Other companies are notoriously bad at documenting such changes and expect that we are going to do a complete inventory from time to time - a ridiculous waste of time for us. We do that now for a couple of companies but there is no way that we can add any more companies under those conditions. To date, we now keep the forms of about 25 companies and so the work load is significant even with companies helping us.
Therefore, in order to add a new company, we need their assurance that they will keep us advised of the changes to their forms. While that does require some work on their part it is often not additional work as they are already doing it for other forms providers. If often means adding us to the cc in their email alerts.
The good news for companies is that we do not charge them anything to have their forms in our system. Some of our competitors actually charge the companies in order to have the company's forms in their software, and some actually make the companies do the work of updating and maintaining the forms in those database. I am simply amazed that companies actually pay and do all the work.
Once again, the Compulife forms technology is FREE for the life companies and we will even give them our forms software (entry/retrieval) technology, for their own use, if they agree to provide us with their forms.
Your help in adding companies would be greatly appreciated and I would further appreciate it if you would call them and ask them why they do not have their forms in Compulife. I would be more than happy to give you some free software use/credit in exchange for any success that you have in adding a company.
On a final note, some companies do insist that we sign agreements before we use their forms. Under no circumstances does Compulife enter into any such legal agreements with life companies. We are a third party, independent provider of information and Compulife is not under the control of any life insurance company. Signing such agreements would make us subservient to the life company and that is not acceptable. In response to such requests I point out that Compulife does not publish forms without permission, due to the copyright issue, and so no agreement is necessary should the company later come back and tell us to cease using their forms. Some reply that I should therefore not have any problem signing an agreement because the agreement merely says that, but the problem is that the company can later construe the agreement to also apply to the rates for their products. The right to publish that public information is not something that I can risk giving up because a life company might decide to litigate on the basis of a civil contract. If there is no contract/agreement, there is little chance of civil litigation with the life company.
There are a couple of companies who have said they will not give me their forms without an agreement, although they are not on your list.
Feel free to call and discuss it further should you have any questions.
Needless to say, we would encourage any Compulife subscriber to contact their respective life insurance companies who do not have forms in our system. As we always like to suggest, ask them, "What part of free advertising don't they understand?"
As we told you last month, you can monitor progress of the new zip code lookup system at:
The new geographic lookup function is now complete. We are now working on getting the email contact button to work.
A new button has been added to the agent listings and it appears between the name and phone number. The button is called "contact" and appears under the title "Email". You can see that at www.termterm.com by doing a comparison and clicking on "Find An Agent".
If the consumer clicks on the "contact" button an email form comes up. You can see what that looks like by going to www.termterm.com, run a comparison, then click on "Find An Agent". Next to the agent you will see the "Email" column with the contact button. Click the contact button and the email form will appear.
NOTE: The email form is not yet sending an email to the agent, but we hope to have that working in March. Remember, this is a work in progress and is by no means finished (which is why it is at www.termterm.com). Any comments, suggestions or questions are welcome.
Once the email function is working, we will notify you in our midmonth bulletin. At that point you you will want to test the function at www.termterm.com to make sure that you are receiving the emails from the site, and that they are not going to your spam folder. We are running into more and more examples of service/support emails that we send to subscribers ending up in spam folders. The call comes in, "I didn't get the email you usually send out." We respond, "Check your spam folder.". The subscriber finds it there then asks, "Why did it go in there?". Good question, it's your email and your spam folder. The fact is that many virus/adware/spam software programs are throwing the baby out with the bath water. You still have to tell this stuff what's good and not good, and when it is in doubt, it will usually consider it NOT good.
IMPORTANT: We realize that that email address that you use for your Compulife subscription may end up being different than the one that you want these requests to go to. If you need to use a different email for www.term4sale.com, please advise us by email. You can send your request to email@example.com.
NOTE: Previously we were going to call this the "Buy Now" button but in keeping with the fact that www.term4sale.com does not sell life insurance, we think the "More Info" name for the button will be more appropriate.
The "More Info" button will be part of a change made to the www.term4sale.com results page. Currently, next to each individual product in the display you will see the same "Find an agent" button which does exactly what the "Find an agent" button at the top of the screen does. The button next to each product in the comparison will be replaced with the new button called "More Info". "More Info" will take the consumer to a new web page which will be a modified version of the agent listing page. It will state, the following:
IMPORTANT: Neither Term4Sale, Inc. or it's parent company Compulife Software, Inc. sell life insurance. Compulife provides life insurance comparison software to thousands of life insurance agents throughout the United States and Canada.
You have expressed an interest in the following life insurance policy:
NOTE: Not all agents sell for all companies. With that in mind we recommend that you complete the following email form. After you submit the request, an email will be sent to the following 3 Compulife subscribers:
Each of the above subscribers will be invited to contact you if they offer the company/product that you have selected, or if they can advise you of which comparable product(s) they do offer that would be a competitive substitute.
If you prefer to contact agents individually, feel free to call them or use the email contact button next to each agent's name which appears on the above list.
We recommend that you let agents compete for your business. We believe this is the best way to obtain the best advice and product suitable for your situation. Completing the following form will alert all three that you are shopping for a life insurance policy. We would also invite you read the important information that follows this Contact Form, which will assist you in picking the right agent/product:
IMPORTANT: The agents listed at this web site are NOT employees of Compulife Software, Inc. - they are subscribers to our life insurance comparison software. While we cannot and do not control their business practices, they have been forewarned to be polite, courteous and helpful in serving you. If you experience any difficulties in dealing with agents listed on this site, we appreciate hearing from you immediately. Please email any comments you have to Compulife President Robert L. (Bob) Barney at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call Bob at (888) 798-3488.
Following this will be the same information that now follows the list of agents in the "Find Agent" webpage...
The objective of these changes is to make it easier for consumers who use www.term4sale.com to connect with subscribers to Compulife. From time to time we hear from subscribers who are very pleased with the business that they have done as a result of www.term4sale.com. We also hear from time to time from subscribers who are unhappy because they believe that they are not doing enough business from their listing.
We believe that the new email/contact functions will result in more contacts for agents. Unlike phone calls, we think there will be less consumer resistance to making a contact by email. Some people find it stressful to pick up the phone and call a stranger. If the stranger is a life insurance agent that just adds to that stress. It will be much easier for the consumer to send their name and phone number and have the agent call them. This way the agent breaks the ice.
Further, you will know that it was your listing at term4sale that produced the contact because the consumer's contact will come by an email generated by www.term4sale.com, whereas a consumer may call you about life insurance and never mention that they got your name from the web site.
Compulife will also be tracking these initial email requests and using the information to determine what volume of calls are being produced by each zip code listing. The future value of a zip codes (for 2012 billing purposes) will be based upon actual email contacts that are generated by that zip code listing.
Further, by tracking the "contact" hits on zip codes, we will be able to provide you with that information later in 2011 - as part of the agent zip code search panel that lets subscribers review zip code listings. Of course zip codes producing more hits than average will cost more to renew for 2012.
All of this additional work will be going on at the same time as the email contact changes are being made.
Compulife's "Zip Code Analyzer" can help you determine which zip codes you should be listed in. The zip code analyzer can be found by clicking on this link:
Zip Code Analyzer
Subscribers who have used this new tool have had nice things to say about it. The Zip Code Analyzer provides you with important information about the relative value of one zip code over another. We think that with this new information a lot of subscribers are going to want to grab available zip codes that have more obvious value than others. In fact we think this will create a sort of land rush.
With that in mind: You snooze; you lose.
The Analyzer gives you the opportunity to enter 3 values:
In last month's bulletin we provided you with a TUTORIAL/EXAMPLE to teach you how to use the zip code analyzer. That is now available on the actual site and you can check it out by clicking on the following link:
We have also published the rules for being listed on the Zip Code Analyzer. For a complete review of the rules you can click here:
Zip Code Listing Rules
If you don't have a web site, then this is a great opportunity to get one started. The first thing you need is a domain name. Good domain names are short and sweet, easy to spell and remember.
Avoid domain names with suffixes other than .com. When you say "something something DOT com", people know that is a web address. By contrast, when you say "something something DOT info" many people will think or ask "DOT info DOT com?" DOT com is much less confusing.
Avoid short forms for words. If you do use a short form, as we do for "Term4Sale" (registered trademark), also register the domain name that is the long form of the short form. For example, if you enter in www.termforsale.com it goes to www.term4sale.com.
Avoid dashes like the plague. In most cases people who have registered domain names with dashes are doing so because the domain name that they really want is being used by someone else. If you use dashes to distinguish your domain name from the name that you really would like to have then all that will happen is most of your customers will end up at the other web site; not good.
Your domain name is important. Once you build up traffic and recognition for a domain name it is a bad idea to change it, even if you suddenly realize the old one was not a good one.
With those basic principles in mind, Compulife has spent time searching for available short domain names and we have been buying up recently abandoned domain names that we think are good. A number of the domain names that we have registered are for sale.
To get a list of current domain names for sale click this link:
Domain Names FOR SALE
The prices listed are a one time fee to Compulife which currently owns the domain names (except for those otherwise listed, which are for sale by third parties; compare prices!). The price includes the balance of the current one year registration of the domain name. Typical renewal costs are $12 per year for .com domain names.
Once you have a domain name then we can set a quoting site up for you. You can get your hosting at GoDaddy or other low cost IP's for about $60 per year. Once you setup your web site account, we can put your quoting page on your site at no charge.
The annual cost of the Compulife quote service for your web site is only $99 per year. The good news is that you can get the first 4 months for free by applying here:
Website Quotes Application
To date we have about 400 of these out there and the numbers are growing. Remember, the first 4 months are FREE.
Call us and we will be happy to discuss it further.
Once our work on the web engines and Mobile Quotation software is complete, we will be turning our attention to some important maintenance work that is needed to the data entry systems. Those programs have not been updated for quite some time, and some need to be converted to take advantage of the newer programming compilers that we have been using for the Windows software that we already distribute to you. Our goal is to make it easier to program future software, which will ensure that we can roll out changes and improvements more efficiently.
Further, having reviewed where we are heading over the next few years, and the changes that we would like to be able to make in the future, we have decided to stop and do a much more extensive overhaul than simply changing our data entry software. We have determine that we would also like to implement a better data storage structure that will make maintenance easier on both a data entry basis, as well as a programming basis.
To achieve our goals in this regard, we will be spending a fair bit of time reviewing our new data storage needs, and then building conversion software that will convert our existing data files into our new data file structure. Once we have done that, we will then introducing new comparison software that does exactly what it does now, but which derives its results from the new data structure. In other words, you will end up with a new program that does exactly what the old program did/does.
Once this first stage is completed, we will have both old program and old data, with new program and new data. Moving forward we will use the old data entry systems to maintain the old version, then converting old data to the new data forms for general distribution.
The next stage is to create the new data entry systems that talk to the new data format. Once we are satisfied that the new data entry system give us everything that we have now, we will then switch to the new data structure alone. We will only do this once we have thoroughly tested the new software to ensure it gives us no problems in maintaining the date. This may take several months. As far as the part you use, by the time we make that transition, you will have been using the new software for several months.
To summarize, the current Compulife program is called "GOWIN.EXE". The new program, when it is ready for you to use, will be called "CQS.EXE". The objective is to have CQS.EXE do exactly what GOWIN.EXE does, and only after that has been thoroughly test, and we are certain we can maintain the new data structure directly, without the need for data conversion, will we move over to the new system. Until that happens, you will have both programs in your system. This is no different a transition strategy than when we took our DOS software to Windows. Those who have been subscribers for years, will remember that transition and how relatively smooth it was.
The point of sharing this with you is that the process will be quite lengthy and so from this spring throughout most of 2011, you will not be seeing many changes and improvements to the software that you use, even though the underlying foundation will be going through a massive change. Once the foundation has been reconstructed, and all the tools to work on the foundation have been built, the program will be in a position to make some substantial moves forward.
Think of it as transplant surgery, where you need to keep the patient alive and well, at the same time as you are swapping out the organs.