A Particularly Insightful Comment in Response to My Essay on Becoming an “Admired” Life Insurer

Northwestern Mutual’s Chuck Robinson responded with a lengthy comment to my essay on what it will take for a life insurer to become truly admired. Chuck’s response was typically thoughtful and insightful- and correct, in my judgment. I want to thank Chuck for his response as well as highlight it here. Chuck’s comments concerning the growth of mutual fund giants like American Funds and Vanguard should send a sharp signal to life insurance executives thinking about their own opportunities in Boomer retirement. His comments about prioritizing consumers’ interests resonate deeply. Here it is:


Fascinating essay!!! I enjoyed reading it. At the end of the day, I think insurance companies, as well as mutual fund companies, perhaps all companies) become most admired because: THEY DO WHAT’S RIGHT FOR THE CONSUMER.

Companies like Vanguard, for example, were never swayed by what was trendy, what was new or what produced the highest gross margin and largest bottom line impact. John Bogle had a vision and a passion for doing what he felt was right for the client. The American Funds is another great example of that principle. If I may be so self-serving for a moment, it is one of the major reasons Northwestern Mutual has been selected as the Most Admired Insurance Company every year the survey was ever done. Consequently, I think your focus on Confidence, Pride and Transparency are absolutely right on.

Executives at Most Admired companies conduct all business as though every conversation, every e-mail, every meeting and every Board Discussion was going to appear tomorrow on the front page of The New York Times or typed up and distributed to all of their customers…….so I think your NYT Test is absolutely accuarate. Moreover, Most Admired companies are driven to produce superior customer service, not because of what their legal contracts say, but because of their desire to do what’s right for the client.

Most Admired Distribution companies will, in my humble opinion, begin to move primarily to an advisory model because it will be impossible to deliver the type of holistic, comprehensive retirement planning advice that is contemplated by Moshe Milevsky and others without being an advisor. Moreover, the discipline of delivering a fiduciary standard of care will preclude pushing products that are too expensive and fail to meet consumer expectations. It will also require far more intensive and comprehensive training programs and technology platforms to make sure advisors are truly delivering on the promise of objectivity, expertise and integrity.

Most Admired Manufacturing companies will only develop products their actuaries and attorneys would buy, not those that can be foisted on a poorly educated public who lack the training or skills to perceive the inherent flaws in products like index annuities and/or annuities that fail to keep pace with inflation.

Obvisouly, I really enjoyed reading your article and it stimulated a lot of thought.

Best Regards,


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©Copyright 2007 David A. Macchia. All rights reserved.