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Friday, Feb 23, 2024

Boomers Breathe Life Into Insurance Products

The San Fernando Valley office of New York Life Insurance Co. is making a big bet on growth. With the aging of baby boomers, insurance companies around the country are pushing more investment products. And the greater Valley region is no different, so the office is in the process of hiring 15 additional agents, with plans to add 100 or so over the next five to seven years. What’s more, it will move in January into larger Warner Center offices that will have space for all those agents. This comes as life insurance policies have become less popular in recent years, with Americans moving their money into mutual funds and other non-insurance financial products. But Jeffrey T. Dyson, managing partner at the Valley office, said the business is far from troubled. And with strong demographics in the region, Dyson sees an opportunity for growth. “People here are incredibly underinsured,” he said, adding that office sales are up about 10 percent year-to-date. “There’s a huge demand. We have more people that need our services than we have people that do them.” One of the financial products that has siphoned money from insurers is the 401(k). But there is a widespread concern that many will outlive whatever savings they have in the account. So Dyson said New York Life is seeing growth in its “longevity insurance,” the company’s guaranteed lifetime income annuity. The annuity-like product allows buyers to convert their existing retirement funds, such as a 401(k), into guaranteed fixed payments that vary for each individual depending on factors such as age, gender and interest rates in effect at the time. The company is betting on a large pool of buyers that will minimize the risk of exceeding their life expectancy. “The baby boomer generation certainly will drive product innovation in the coming decades,” Dyson said. Vincent Lui, an analyst covering life insurance companies for Morningstar Inc. in Chicago, said other major insurers also are seeing an opportunity in more investment products. “I have heard that large-cap insurance companies such as MetLife and Prudential are getting back in the annuity game, now that rising rates seem to be on the horizon as the economy continues to improve and the unemployment rate continues to drop,” he said. “I also think that individual life insurance is a growth area, albeit not a fast-growing one.” New York Life has signed a lease to occupy nearly 20,000 square feet at 21255 Burbank Blvd. in Woodland Hills. The company has been in Warner Center for years, currently in 18,000 square feet at 6320 Canoga Ave. The office has about $5.5 billion in insurance in the Valley and some $750 million in assets under management. Crossing the Border A Woodland Hills company that provides cross-border payment services for businesses is doubling down on Toronto. Last month, AFEX announced its second acquisition in the Canadian market this year, purchasing GFX Partners, a company that provides payment and foreign exchange services to both personal clients interested in foreign mortgages or school tuition, and corporate clients that handle foreign currency transactions. The move follows an April purchase of Jameson Bank, which provides similar services. “We did our research and decided instead of having to start up operations, we found these companies and it was the perfect marriage,” said Christian Spaltenstein, general manager of the Americas for AFEX. “They gave us a perfect set up in this country. They’re perfectly placed from a client and geographic perspective. Now we can grow more organically.” Both companies were small players and would have needed to invest significantly in new technology to grow. However, the deals gave AFEX well over 3,000 new business clients who now will have access to AFEX’s proprietary Internet platform. AFEXDirect provides online navigation, flexible payment options and the ability for clients to conduct multiple payments at the same time. Founded in 1979, AFEX is a global payment and risk management company with more than 24,000 clients. It offers an array of services, including foreign currency drafts, wire transfers and risk management. Money Moves The Valley Economic Development Corp. has opened new offices in Bakersfield. The non-profit small-business lender received a $2 million loan from Rabobank N.A. to lend in Kern County. VEDC expects to spread the money between at least 50 businesses… Bill Boatwright and Craig Diamond have joined the Woodland Hills branch of Wells Fargo & Co. as senior vice presidents and financial advisors. The two previously spent 16 years as financial advisors at UBS AG. The Woodland Hills office now has 54 advisors. Staff Reporter Elliot Golan can be reached at (818)316-3123 or egolan@sfvbj.com.

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