Registered investment advisor (RIA) firms are the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. wealth management market. RIAs have seen 12% annual growth in assets since 2016. This compared to 7% growth in most other types of traditional firms. Though there has been plenty of consolidation among the largest RIAs, more than a third of current retail-focused RIAs started in 2016 or later. Every year, around 700 new RIA firms spring up and more than 1,600 advisors join the RIA channel.
All this growth has gotten insurers’ attention. The RIA marketplace is a complex one for insurance carriers to play in successfully. But, high growth potentially awaits those willing to wade into its waters.
A Complex Ecosystem
RIAs are made up of investment advisor representatives (IARs). One type of IAR—known as a fee-only IAR—may not be insurance licensed. Even if they are, the IAR may not be appointed by the carrier to sell specific products. But, when a client shows interest in an annuity product, the IAR still wants to do their best to serve their client’s needs. This is where outsourced insurance desks (OIDs) come in. They are a way for a non-licensed IAR to include these registered products in their clients’ portfolios.
An OID is essentially a desk of licensed advisors, typically inside an IMO or BGA, who can facilitate the sale of license-required products for clients of fee-only IARs. OIDs receive referrals from RIAs. OIDs help these clients by providing insurance advice, evaluating the client’s needs, recommending products, ensuring suitability, and providing the writing agent on the contract.
Many carriers have begun to offer fee-based products to appeal to fee-only IARs and help grow their presence in the RIA marketplace. Even in these cases, the RIA must rely on an OID to sell the product.
You can work with OIDs to manage sales of your products within the RIA space. This ensures seamless handoffs of leads from RIAs to the OID. And, it makes working with you much more appealing to the RIA.
While OID partnerships are one way you can start tapping into the RIA market, a more recent trend offers even greater efficiency.
In-House Concierge Desks
Some carriers have set up RIA concierge desks—effectively carrier-managed, in-house OIDs—to take full advantage of the growing RIA market. In addition to giving carriers more control, a concierge desk creates new efficiencies on the carrier’s side.
It cuts out the middleman. You can reduce costs significantly and make your processes more efficient by selling directly to RIAs rather than through a third-party OID.
The future of the carrier-RIA relationship likely includes both models. Many carriers will have relationships with OIDs as well as their own in-house concierge desk.
At the end of the day, this competition is good for everyone. RIAs have more options to facilitate annuity sales. Clients enjoy a faster and more flexible sales experience. Carriers have a presence in a growing marketplace.
Streamlining With Automation
Like we said, this is a complex ecosystem. Work must flow efficiently between the RIA, the OID and the carrier. Even in cases of a carrier concierge desk, these processes must be fully ironed out to provide a seamless experience for the client.
Many carriers are turning to digital solutions to facilitate RIA-specific workflows and automate as much of the process as possible. The right digital platform can save you from a tedious paper-driven process.
Some insurance sales platforms facilitate an automated RIA-specific process. The right digital solution can handle everything from RIA onboarding to e-application submission. Individual IARs are tied in the system to their RIA, and work flows seamlessly to either the carrier’s chosen OID or its in-house concierge desk.
These insurance platforms simplify the referral process. An IAR in the field can submit a referral, sending the request directly to the OID or concierge desk. A licensed advisor then picks up the ticket and can make recommendations without leaving the system.
These solutions also help with an essential part of the process: the client authorization form. This form must be completed before the IAR is able to access information about the client’s account. And it is an easy one to forget. If it is missed, it needs to be completed on the backend, which requires the client to sign a form granting authorization to their IAR. This creates a disjointed and confusing process for the client. Suddenly it no longer feels like their IAR services every aspect of their account. It adds up to a more challenging process for both the IAR and the client.
Some digital sales platforms include the client authorization form inside the e-application process. This ensures it is never overlooked, requiring unnecessary steps on the backend. The client receives a streamlined and cohesive application experience every time.
Growing With the Times
The growth in the RIA space should be seen as an opportunity for carriers to reach new markets and grow their business. Though establishing OID relationships or setting up an in-house concierge desk can seem complex, the opportunity it presents is well worth your time. And with some of today’s top digital platforms offering automated RIA-specific solutions, you can benefit from efficient workflows that help your business operate more efficiently and give your end customers a streamlined sales experience .