CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Banks trying to sell insurance to young professionals are finding that it takes unconventional tactics just to make an offer, let alone complete a sale.
"There isn't one particular way to reach them, which is why you have to market yourself in the branches, on statements, at the ATM, and on the Internet," said Gary Warden, vice president of financial institutions marketing at CGU Life Insurance Co. in Boston.
Mr. Warden, speaking at the Financial Institutions Insurance Association meeting here this week, added: "The argument from prognosticators was that 30-to-45-year-old customers wouldn't need brick-and-mortar because they'd do everything via ATM. But they want both, and you have to be ready for them whether they run into the branch or stop at the ATM."
"It's not easy to sell to a consumer with a full plate from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.," said Carmen Effron, president of the consultant C.F. Effron Co. in Westport, Conn.
But she added that "opportunities are there. If you examine the schedule of someone with 'no time,' you should find quite a few."
For example, a bank could partner with an auto dealership and send auto insurance information to the dealership's customers when their lease is up or have material handed out when people bring their cars in to be serviced.
Ms. Effron also recommended that banks get a better handle on their customers' activities and their use of different channels.
"Many of the busiest people bank online because they don't have time to go to a branch," she said. "Follow their banking patterns. Are there opportunities to offer business insurance or personal life insurance? What if a customer writes a $100,000 check to Fidelity? There's a perfect opportunity to offer annuity information."
If customers do not bank online, insurance pitches can be made by tellers. "When a teller enters an account into a retail workstation, it should show recent insurance purchases. When she sees that, she should be ready to make other recommendations," Ms. Effron said.
Teller machines could be used in a similar fashion, she said. An ATM might print a note about insurance on the bottom of a receipt that's targeted specifically for the younger client.
CGU Life's Mr. Warden said drive-through windows can also be put to use: Just post an "Ask me about low-cost life insurance" sign.
"Half the battle is saying, 'Did you know?' " he said.
For Kevin Crowe, chairman and chief executive officer of the third-party marketer Essex Corp. in New York, the best way is branch marketing. "The term life insurance we sell through banks is easy to apply for," he said. "You can fill out the application in two minutes. If someone young walks into the branch, just give them the application."
But Gregory Vacca, first vice president at California Federal Investments, a unit of $60 billion-asset California Federal Bank in Sacramento, said money spent marketing to this elusive segment is money wasted. "If they come in and ask for it, we have it," he said. "But why should we spend our marketing dollars on them? An organization has to look at how to market to the greatest mass."
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