Where has all the commission gone?

Where has all the commission gone?

About 5-6 years ago the Life Offices Association (now ASISA) made the claim that up to 35% of the cost of new business was due to the commission paid on the products (http://www.busrep.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=2627965&fSectionId=552&nld=2005-07-18&t=html&f=d) and that was one of the reasons life insurance products were “expensive” and heavy penalties were levied when these were cancelled before maturity.

As a fee-based financial planner it has always amazed me then that when we dont take commission on life insurance products we never see a 35% reduction in the cost of the cover. There is a reduction but it is nowhere near 35% and not all companies are equal either. So where is the commission going to?

Consider the following case:

R4million life cover for a male age 35 would cost ±R506 per month and the commission that the advisor would earn would be almost R7000. If the commission is removed from the policy (yes it can be done) the premium would reduce to ±R372 pm – that’s a saving of R134 per month (26%) for the duration of the policy. Over 5 years that means you would save at least R8040 in premiums. The question I have is why is it only 26% – where is the “other” 9%?

So I did a bit of comparing and it turns out that 26% is a really good reduction and that most of the insurance companies are only reducing the cost of the cover by 15-20% (see table below – these figures are based on quotes for life and disability cover on my own life):

Company Std No comm % Diff
Liberty R 997 R 801 20%
Discovery R 862 R 732 15%
Myriad R 985 R 822 17%
Sanlam R 524 R 445 15%
Odyssey R 778 R 631 19%
Altrisk R 1 153 R 850 26%
OM R 951 R 761 20%

From the table above it is pretty clear that none of the companies is giving the full 35% reduction that the LOA spoke about  and many of the companies also appear to be “holding back” some of the commission that would have been paid (I can only guess where it is going).

In my experience, Altrisk, which has a 26% reduction,  is consistently the best company when it comes to reducing the cost of the cover when the commission is removed (they also have a really simple but highly rated product).

So where to from here?

My advice to you is the next time you consider taking out some life insurance, ask your advisor what the premium would be if there was no commission on the policy and then ask him/her what fee they would charge you to do the business – you could end up saving quite a bit of money if you are prepared to pay a fee for the work that is done (typically we would charge between 2 and 3 hours for the implementation of a life policy). So on the above R4million example, you would pay a (maximum) fee of 3*R750 = R2250 to us (we allow our clients to pay this off over a few months if necessary) and you would have the lower premium for the life of the policy – this way you can also be satisfied that if the advisor recommends any additional benefits (such as disability or dread disease cover) they are not doing it to increase the premium and thus increase their commission – they are doing it because it is in your best interest. Under the commission model, the greater the premium, the greater the commission paid – whereas the premium has no bearing on the advisor’s earnings under a fee model.