CEO Corner - Advancing Digital Solutions to Deliver Protected Lifetime Income

Posted on August 19, 2020

By: Wayne Chopus, President & CEO, Insured Retirement Institute

Like most people, the pandemic has changed many things for me. I’ve traded my commute into the city for a walk into my home office. Coffee breaks are taken at the kitchen table rather than at a neighborhood Starbucks. And any number of interactions most of us have conducted in person have gone virtual including even some doctor visits and discussions with our financial advisors.

In this time of crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical for consumers to access Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) members’ products and services while complying with social distancing mitigation strategies to protect their health and safety. Our industry’s products are distinctive in the ability to protect retirement savings from market volatility and to deliver protected lifetime income. And they’re needed now when so much in our present and in our future seems uncertain.  

Let’s face it, given that so much commerce is transacted online, and consumer expectation is to do so more often, our products need to be safely, quickly, and comfortably purchased and serviced virtually to remain competitive. Procedures that have required in-person interaction must be modernized and implemented to ensure that our industry is proactively responding to consumers’ ongoing needs.

With the onset of the pandemic, social distancing was adversely affecting the day-to-day functionality of IRI members’ operations and sales, requiring the adoption of alternate solutions. Operating during the pandemic became a laboratory for deploying certain digital solutions.

In my many years working in our industry, improving technology was always a challenge, particularly given how quickly technology changes and the many issues that come with upgrading to new systems. So, I am particularly proud of the leadership role IRI is playing to lead the industry in the modernization of the annuity transaction process. IRI’s ability to harness the perspectives of all stakeholders across the retirement income industry supply chain is a distinct advantage to addressing these issues.

Over the past three months, we have made significant progress. We developed, and our Board of Directors approved, a set of four Guiding Principles to propel the retirement income industry toward practical, digital solutions that will improve the advisor-client experience across the lifecycle of the annuity. These principles set best practices to enable sales, portfolio updates, advisor-consumer communication, and the transfer of confidential materials without face-to-face interaction.

We also have made initial progress among members to adopt systems and technologies that allow for seamless operations in a remote setting. Also noteworthy is the collaborative spirit that has underpinned this work, with members regularly coming together to share ideas and troubleshoot issues. This is an all-hands effort led by IRI with a firm commitment by our members to advance tangible, lasting solutions to improve the delivery and service of retirement security products that consumers value.

We are now driving universal adoption across all IRI members while encouraging other industry partners to follow suit. Our primary focus will be on e-signature and electronic document delivery capabilities that facilitate transactions in a manner that is safe from both a public health and an information security perspective. We continue to advocate for permanent long-term adoption well beyond the current social distancing measures.

These guiding principles will enable improved customer outcomes by driving consistency in the advisor and consumer experience now and in the future, as well as drive efficiency into our members’ operations.

Our industry serves a vital and growing need in our nation to assist consumers in planning for and achieving a secure, dignified retirement. The can-do attitude exhibited by IRI and our members to advance this initiative holds great promise that we will make additional significant progress in the coming months. IRI and its members will now lead the industry into a new era that will deliver the retirement security products, advice and services that consumers need in the modernized, digital structure that they expect.