TIAA-CREF, the predominant annuity and retirement fund provider for educators, is turning its attention to distributing its insurance and investment products through fee-based financial advisers.
Last month the New York company set up a page on its Web site specifically for such advisers.
They are an increasingly important group to us, said James Harkness, TIAA-CREFs vice president of integrated Internet communications services. Our customer base is using them, but we havent engaged with them until recently.
The new target is fee-paid rather than commissioned advisers because a commissioned agent wont be interested in taking a look at us, Mr. Harkness said. Our products dont have commissions or surrender charges, and the sales charges are small.
Until 15 years ago the companys customers were mostly educational institutions sponsoring retirement plans, which still make up 90% of its business. Then TIAA-CREF began to reach out to individual customers and developed its own insurance and investment products for them.
Not until last month did it start offering the products through financial advisers. Over the last decade, theres been a growth in the millionaire next door, Mr. Harkness said. Theyre saying, I need some help with this.
He said he expects some difficulty getting the campaign off the ground because most advisers still think of TIAA-CREF as the teacher retirement plan company. The company must interface with a community of reps who dont know about us, he said.
The product line includes term, whole and universal life insurance, fixed and variable annuities, a family of 11 mutual funds, section 529 college savings plans, and its two newest offerings: long-term-care insurance and trust services. Mr. Harkness also said that TIAA-CREF intends to bring out a variable universal life product this year.
The company is also looking to sell more of its mutual funds through outside distributors. Some are already available through Charles Schwab & Co., Mr. Harkness said.