Peter Kaplan, a senior vice president at Integrated Partners, runs the company’s new insurance arm and explains how you can change the conversation and make insurance a relationship-building tool with ultra-wealthy clients.
Russ Alan Prince: Tell me a little about your background.
Peter Kaplan: Well, I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, and I’ve always loved helping people. Growing up, I really wanted to be a medical doctor. As part of my love of all things medical, I joined St. John Ambulance, initially as a volunteer first responder. Once I qualified as an accountant, I realized that I loved the planning component of what we did rather than auditing. I then started my career in life insurance as I was able to combine my love of helping people and planning.
Since arriving in the United States, I have had my own practice management firm helping advisors be more process and solution-focused, I’ve worked for a fiduciary risk mitigation company, a firm specializing in wealth grants for leveraging life insurance for ultra-affluent families.
Prince: So from the beginning, you’ve been all creating solutions for wealthy clients. Why is it important, and how do you think about it?
Kaplan: I think about custom solutions for all clients. I believe firmly that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all financial plan or insurance solution. Therefore any solution implemented for that client needs to be customized or configured in such a way that it supports the desired outcome. Financial planners want those outcomes to have the greatest degree of predictability or, at the very least, outcomes in a very narrow range with sufficient flexibility to make changes as circumstances may change.
Every client is different, and trying to take a one-size-fits-all approach will lead to failure. The needs and ultimate desires of each client, their family, and or their business must be considered. Wealthy clients tend to have more complexity in their planning, so bespoke design is key. Once the planner and client have clarity around those outcomes, the underlying products are selected.
If insurance is considered, and remember it is just a tool, the type of product, amount of insurance needed, premium, funding strategy, policy ownership structure, and medical underwriting form the bases of the design considerations. The interplay of all of these will ultimately lead to product and insurance carrier selection. The outcome is a customized solution for the client.
Prince: How do you create a solution mindset?
Kaplan: This is easier said than done because many planners, CPAs and attorneys, and their clients have had a less-than-ideal interaction with a life insurance salesperson. Changing someone’s mind is harder than starting fresh, and as soon as they hear the word life insurance, they shut down and do not want to engage. Traditionally, insurance people were viewed just as transactional salespeople. However, there are many that do engage in true planning discussions with their clients and leverage their product, life insurance, simply as a tool.
Partnering with the planner, CPA, and attorney to craft a well-balanced plan and demonstrating expertise helps develop the mindset. Being the insurance professional with expert knowledge and knowing not only when to engage as insurance could be part of the solution and, most importantly, knowing when to say that it is not the right fit.
Not every problem is a nail, and therefore not every solution is a hammer. This builds credibility to ensure that the insurance expert has a seat at the table and rounds out the discussion by offering multiple solutions, potentially including insurance. The earlier the insurance professional is included in the discussion, the more value they can bring.
Prince: How do you avoid selling when it comes to insurance?
Kaplan: Leading with product is a surefire way to destroy credibility and derail the solution mindset. It is always about providing options and strategies to support the plan and the desired outcome rather than leading with product first and trying to make it fit.
Prince: How can this help advisors to engage better with CPAs and other centers of influence?
Kaplan: In short, it is all about adding value. For most of us, past experiences shape the decisions we make, and many have had bad interactions with life insurance salespeople. I firmly believe that if one can add value and, if appropriate, recommend insurance, it will give the client the best possible outcome and place the planner and CPA/professional partner in a very favorable light.
Knowing that there is an insurance professional with specialist knowledge and access to additional resources should give our advisers confidence in outlining the additional resources that Integrated Partners can bring. When they have these discussions, they can be reassured that they are not putting a pushy, product-focused insurance salesperson in front of their key relationships. This will help them build credibility, lead to deeper relationships and more client referrals.
Prince: How do you create an insurance review that really resonates?
Kaplan: Most clients already have purchased insurance from someone. Many don’t know what they bought, why they bought it, or how they currently own it. One aspect of the insurance solutions team is to help review these products and provide guidance around them. It answers many questions and checks certain boxes. Just answering these questions will make it resonate. Many professional partners, such as CPAs and attorneys, serve as trustees of irrevocable life insurance trusts. These trustees have a fiduciary responsibility. Ensuring that the policy remains suitable, correctly titled and funded is part of this responsibility. Completing a review at no cost to the client will fulfill help them fulfill this responsibility. Recognizing that this is not an opportunity to sell insurance but to re-affirm the client’s original intent and stability of the plan. This is the primary driver.
Russ Alan Prince is the executive director of Private Wealth magazine and chief content officer for High-Net-Worth Genius. He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs and select professionals.