As a life insurance consultant I am in the business of helping policy owners and their advisors understand what is almost universally deemed to be a very complicated product which offers little transparency. While we are experts at gathering the required information, making sense of it and clearly relating what is going on, there is an unfortunate reality which occasionally hinders progress even for us.
While there are carriers which operate in the best interest of their clients, others make proactive attempts to confuse their policy owners and are even openly belligerent in their attempts to keep information out of their hands (information is power and we wouldn’t want informed consumers). It’s gotten to a point where one can’t take at face value the information obtained.
Beyond the situations where the information is presented in a way which is unintelligible and there is no meaningful ability for the typical policy owner to make any sense of it, we regularly have to deal with plain old fashioned mistakes.
While you may be tempted to think I am being facetious, on a regular basis the inner office commentary goes something like “if we call home office and ask the question five times and get the same answer three times and it makes sense, we’re going to run with it”. However, many of us understand the lack of training and commitment from customer service personnel which is why we demand information in writing.
Now comes the scary part; there is a disconcerting number of times the black and white information sent to us is a mistake. We’ve been sent in-force, computer generated ledgers which are factually in error. This isn’t just our perspective but is conceded by the company once we prove the point. It’s not that they are hiding it, it’s just that no one before us has ever noticed it and we’ve worked to force carriers to find fixes for entire blocks of business. (This is an extremely long process.) In the past year we’ve single handedly forced one of the largest insurance companies in the world to make changes to their systems when we discovered that years ago their software was unable to account for certain funding scenarios. Consequently untold numbers of policy owners who understand their contracts to be guaranteed for life do not have contracts which illustrate such today. How many policy owners would be able to discern this and force corrective action on their own?
We have asked for simple cash value and loan numbers which, upon our research, were proven to be wrong and clients were on the verge of making significant decisions on the basis of inaccurate information. We’ve questioned basis and gain calculations only to have carriers resend something different… multiple times. We’ve been told a policy was no longer convertible and after more research found contrary information.
The moral; take little at face value and work with someone who knows how to cut through red tape and determine when something just isn’t right and has the ability and tenacity to fix it.