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Targeting RIAs, Ameritas Inks Deal with RetireOne

By Warren S. Hersch June 5, 2017

Count Ameritas among life and annuity providers that are bolstering offerings to gain a competitive edge serving fee-based advisors, a burgeoning distribution channel for carriers. Ameritas has unveiled a pact with RetireOne (Aria Retirement Solutions’ marketing brand) to distribute the insurer’s fee-based variable universal life and variable annuity products through the RetireOne Fiduciary Solutions Concierge Desk.

The service connects Ameritas-affiliated registered investment advisors with insurance-licensed, FINRA-registered reps who review products for suitability, provide illustrations, and complete and manage on the RIAs' behalf all insurance paperwork consistent with a fiduciary-level compliance standard. The RetireOne team also offers education and training on retirement needs and products.

“As a provider of fee-based insurance products, we understand the fiduciary mindset of the RIA community,” says Thomas Fink, national VP of institutional sales for Ameritas. “[The RetireOne] platform marries up very well with our offerings.

“The alliance represents a deepening of our existing partnership with RetireOne,” he continues. “It adds another layer to our partnership outreach to the RIA world.”

Ameritas is not alone among insurers with an RIA distribution channel in teaming up with RetireOne to secure concierge insurance services. Other carriers include Transamerica and Great-West.

On the product development front, life-annuity carriers are intensifying efforts to tailor offerings to RIAs: some 12,800 firms comprising fee-based asset and wealth managers who oversee more than $2.2 trillion in assets.

In May, Lincoln Financial unveiled Max 6 Select Advantage, an optional living benefit available on fee-based versions of two Lincoln variable annuities: American Legacy and Lincoln ChoicePlus.

Also last month, Allianz Life launched Index Advantage ADV, a fee-based “structured” or “buffer” variable annuity that offers greater participation in market gains, but less downside protection, than fixed indexed annuities. Voya Financial, too, debuted last month a fee-based fixed indexed annuity, Voya Journey, which boasts participation in the J.P. Morgan Meridian Index and the Citi Dynamic Asset Selector 5 Excess Return Index. This follows on the heels of Pacific Life's rollout of a fee-based FIA on May 3.

The Ameritas fee-based variable universal life and variable annuity products to be offered through the RetireOne platform include Ameritas Advisor-No-Load VA and Ameritas Advisor VUL. Ameritas also boasts several riders for its VUL chassis, including two built into the product (accelerated benefit and paid-up insurance benefit endorsement riders), plus options riders, such as a waiver of monthly deduction option.

Customers purchasing these variable products enjoy some 60-plus subaccount investment options. Mutual funds available include those from Dimensional Fund Advisors, Fidelity, RYDEX, Vanguard, among other funds that Fink bills as “RIA-friendly.”

Ameritas has engaged in other deal-making in recent months to avail partnering advisors of additional market opportunities on which to build fee-based practices. In June 2016, the carrier bought the 401(k) plan business of Guardian Life, providing access to business owners (in addition to the rank-and-file) with retirement investment needs.

In April 2016, Ameritas also acquired Security Life, which specializes in group plans for small businesses. The carrier also launched in February of last year a mutual fund platform for RIAs, Ameritas GPS, which bundles recordkeeping, investment options and investment advisory service from Mesirow Financial Investment Strategies.

A factor underpinning Ameritas’ expansion of RIA offerings, says Fink, is the Department of Labor fiduciary rule, the initial phase of which kicks in June 9 after a 60-day delay. But he emphasizes that the announcement is one of a series of “partner outreach” initiatives the insurer has undertaken in recent years to further its market penetration into the RIA space.

“Ameritas was a pioneer in RIA world,” he says. “So we’ve always had a fiduciary orientation. The DOL rule will help accelerates RIAs’ interest in our fee-based insurance products, but we’ve long had a strategic business focus on this growing distribution channel.”

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