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Life Insurer to Sell Groceries to Policyholders

November 15, 2011
OK, not really, but I hope I got your attention. You might remember a few postings back, I wrote about Whole Foods stores creating “wellness clubs” that customers could join (for an annual fee, of course) to learn how to live healthier – and presumably happier – lives. My take on it was that Whole Foods was beating fraternals at their own game by transforming their “customers” to “members” and organizing them into local groups who shared a “common bond” of living a healthy lifestyle. The benefits of these “wellness clubs” for life insurers – particularly fraternals – seemed pretty obvious to me. On the fraternal side of the ledger, happy and healthy members are much more likely to give (as in direct financial contributions) and to give back (as in volunteering). And on the financial side, people that live longer, healthier lives have a greater need for the kinds of financial security products and services we provide. Evidently, Aviva USA, a large commercial life insurer headquartered in West Des Moines, Iowa, feels the same way. You may have seen Aviva’s television ads recently, touting the fact that it views its customers as “people, not policies.” The company is backing up that claim by promoting its “Wellness for Life” program that promises to reduce customers costs and “encourage healthy living with an emphasis on wellness.” Like the Whole Foods program, there is a cost to this. Policyholders must purchase an optional rider that requires them to meet health-conscious criteria (maintaining the same weight established at policy issue and going to the doctor for regular check-ups, for instance) in order to earn future premium reductions. Think the customers of Whole Foods and Aviva feel good about spending money to participate in these programs? Think they feel less like customers and more like members? Think they may be more willing to buy additional products and services from these companies – and tell their friends about them? I sure do. So here are my questions to you, dear readers:  Why are we allowing grocery stores and commercial insurers to be better at providing “membership benefits” than us? And why are we hesitant to bundle a wide variety of benefits (beyond an insurance policy or an annuity) and charging a fair price to current and prospective members (people who should have a real affinity with our societies) to access such benefits? In my next posting I’ll share my thoughts on affinity – why it exists and why it doesn’t. Until then, the floor is yours…