UBS Americas hires in-house experts to spur life insurance sales

Wed May 15, 2013 10:34am EDT
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By Jed Horowitz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After years of urging its financial advisers to sell more life insurance, UBS Wealth Management Americas is bringing in full-time experts and offering financial incentives to prod its tradition-bound sales force outside its comfort zone.

Most advisers are more comfortable dealing with stocks and bonds than life insurance products, and they resist the notion of delivering their clients to the insurance specialists at third-party firms that work with most brokerages, consultants say.

But UBS and other big U.S. firms want to expand sales of insurance as well as mortgages and other bank loans because the products can lock in client loyalty and generate fees that are often higher than in conventional investor advisory programs.

"They are trying to gently push advisers into a more holistic planning-style relationship," said Bing Waldert, a director at Cerulli Associates, which specializes in wealth management.

Financial plans often include insurance components.

To push the process along, the U.S. brokerage arm of Swiss banking giant UBS AG UBSN.VX - for the first time - has hired a half-dozen in-house agents, each with 10 to 25 years of experience in insurance.

UBS believes its insurance business is not growing as fast as it could because the outside agents it uses have been stretched too thin, said David McWilliams, head of "wealth management transformation," a position that UBS Wealth Americas created to encourage a shift to financial planning.

To be sure, UBS will still use outside agencies to help its 7,000 brokers identify prospective insurance customers, and to explain the tax intricacies and cost trade-offs of complex products such as healthcare trusts, long-term care and second-to-die policies.   Continued...

People stand on a terrace of an office building of Swiss bank UBS at the Paradeplatz square in Zurich April 18, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann