for April 2020
Here is a quick run-down on what you will find in this bulletin:
These topics will be dealt with in more detail throughout this
Business as Usual
I am sure everyone else is wondering what everyone else is doing during the coronavirus shutdown, and while we are sure it has impacted some of our subscribers, it's business as usual for those of us at Compulife. Compulife U.S. and Canada have a total of 6 employees: 2 in Canada, 4 in the U.S. We have ALL been working from home for the last 6 years and before that 3 of us had been working from home longer than that. This "crisis" has certainly reinforced the wisdom of that strategy.
What if it's NOT Usual For You?
A few subscribers who operate from their offices have contacted us to ask if employees now working from home can have a copy of Compulife on their home computers. A couple of things about that:
1. If you have a "personal use" subscription to Compulife, the one where the agent name is locked into the software, the rules are unchanged. You, the licensed insurance agent, can have the software loaded on ANY computer that YOU use or that an assistant (who doesn't sell insurance) uses for your benefit. You may not provide the software or the quotes from the software to any other agents. So if you have an assistant working from home, then you can have Compulife on that assistant's computer and the rules regarding that remain "as is". Frankly, I don't know how more flexible we could be.
2. If you have a "standard license" for "agency use" the rule is that you can have Compulife on a maximum of 5 computers in a single office location. OK, that's obviously a problem right now and so we are temporarily happy to loosen that up to include a total of 5 computers outside the office while folks are stuck working from home. Those needing MORE than 5 computers can add a sublicense at a discounted price. Normally a standard license for 5 in a single agency location is $299 per year, a second sub-license is $199 per year and gives you another 5. Prices can go down with higher volumes.
Depending on how long all this lasts, and depending on how agencies modify their operations following this crisis, we may need to rethink the agency subscription to deal with "work at home" employees.
Generally there are two types of "work at home" employees, those who are licensed and sell life insurance, and those who are not licensed and who provide support service to other agents. Those who sell life insurance are really "personal users" who benefit in sharing an office. We have emphasized that they can be included in the 5 computers that are in the office, but that the computers must be "in" the office. Typically an agent will use a laptop that goes where they go and so that would not be covered by the standard license. In order to keep prices low, we feel it is important to be compensated for every agent who has a copy of Compulife and who uses it to make sales. When you compare the cost of Compulife with the benefit of using Compulife to help make a sale, we think this represents an excellent return on investment and charging a reasonable amount on an agent by agent basis makes sense.
Non-licensed employees who produce quotes and send them to other agents are less critical in our pricing strategy in that an agent who needs a person to do his or her quotes for them is not very likely to be a prospect for our software. By contrast, an agent who does a lot of quotes would see the value in doing their own quotes and having their own quote system.
Think of personal use versus a standard license as the difference between a cell phone and a land line. If your office has a land line, it can be shared by a number of staff through a phone system. If you have a large office, with a large number of staff, you will likely need two or three land lines that any extension in the office can use. If that office has agents who identify as part of the office, they can have the office take messages for them and call them back later when they return. You would not have phones connected to that system located outside the premises. That's the standard license.
By contrast, a cell phone is like our personal use subscription. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, and need a phone that goes with you wherever you go, and you are the only person who uses that phone and phone connection, then the cell phone is the perfect solution. But the cell phone is your personal phone. You would not share that same phone with other people. Further, if others are like you, and they also need a phone that goes with them, then each will have their own cell phone with their own cell phone number. That's the personal use license.
Anyway, for the time being we are going to loosen our rules for "standard licenses" until the coronavirus threat is over and we can all get back to our normal lives.
How is This Affecting You?
Clearly agents who sell face-to-face are seriously impacted by this situation. What percentage of your business is still face-to-face? We would like to hear about it. Drop us a quick email at:
For those of you who are doing business by phone, and mailing applications to your customers for signatures, what have the complications been? Are paramedical companies still going out doing parameds? What have you seen life insurance companies doing in response to this situation? Have there been companies who have introduced you to new procedures or rules regarding the situation. Are there any new forms to complete? We know John Hancock had a new form for Covid 19 for New Mexico. Here it is:
We have not yet seen a form like that outside New Mexico, and we have not seen any other company (to date) with that form. If you see other forms like that, can you let us know?
NOTE to Canadian subscribers: Compulife has been providing a forms library to U.S. subscribers for years. The service is FREE to our subscribers, and FREE for life insurance companies. In fact we use that same forms library to provide CI specimen policies for our Canadian subscribers so they can examine and compare coverages for different CI company/products. Unfortunately we have never had a Canadian life insurance company provide use with their forms for our Canadian subscribers. Sad really.
Low Interest Rates Are A Problem
We are seeing persistent and historically low interest rates having an impact on the U.S. term and permanent market, and U.S. subscribers will see that as we move through April. There are changes coming in the U.S. this month that I think reflect that impact but we cannot be specific until the companies actually announce those changes. I did write in the U.S. midmonth bulletin:
Compulife has just been notified by one of the
life insurance companies selling 30 year term,
that due to the ultra-low interest rate environment,
and the current uncertainty about the future of
interest rates, that they intend to temporarily
cease offering 30 year term as of mid-April.
When that information is public, we will let you
We have no idea how long this embargo will last,
or if any other companies will follow suit, but
now would be a very good time to let your customers
know that low interest rates may very well lead
to price increases for longer level term products
and no lapse GUL products. This is definitely
an excellent time to buy 30 year term and longer
That is the extent to which we can talk about that now. Subscribers will know more as actual changes are made public and they appear in our midmonth bulletins. And yes, there are signs that the same thing will be happening in the Canadian life insurance market.
What I do think is that it would be smart to start communicating the impact of this to your clients and prospects using it as an opportunity to reinforce the value of recent purchases of competitive term life, and the need to get longer level term while prices are still low. I realize that some insurance buyers are hurting financially and that may not be possible, but for those with the means now is a good time to buy. Prices are not going to be lower for a long time.
This is Actually An Opportunity
This crisis has reminded us all that we are mortal and that death can come calling anytime, and on short notice. We have seen panic in gun sales and toilet paper sales. People are frightened and the media has been magnifying and exagerating the fear. Personally I think 20% of the fear is about the problem, and 80% of the fear is about the media trying to "get Trump". Have you been seeing the same "panic" in the Canadian press?
Regardless of why the fear, it's out there and people need to answer a simple question, "What will your family and children do if you are no longer there?" And no one can provide a more cost effective solution to that problem than you can. After all you shop the life insurance market with the best life insurance comparison software available in the U.S. and Canada. Your customers won't find lower prices elsewhere.
But there is one more opportunity I think you should consider. With so many people worried about losing their paycheck, now is a great time to connect that "lost paycheck" to the problem created by the death of the paycheck provider; the breadwinner as we used to call them. The biggest life insurance problem facing anyone is the loss of a paycheck if a breadwinner dies.
In your Compulife is a quoting option called "Income Calculator"; look for it on the Red Menu. If you have not used or tried it, please do. The purpose of the option is to "capitalize" the cost of an income stream for a period of years. MUCH more important is that it will produce a year by year illustration showing how a lump sum of money pays out an indexed income over a period of years while earning interest along the way. The key is to show a person the year-by-year process which results in the original money being gone in the end.
Do NOT underestimate the impact of this illustration on your prospect. Most have no understanding of just how much money it takes to replace an income for even a short to medium period of time.
Agents who routinely use the option talk about the ease of making much bigger face amount sales. If you have not tried it, start by trying it on yourself. Once you get the idea, incorporate it into one of your sales and watch the reaction of your prospect. I think you will find it leads to a much easier sale, with less reluctance to buy a larger face amount. The proof is in the pudding - try it.
Term4Sale - Raw API quotes
While the work of implementing our new API at our U.S. term4sale.com is not finished, we are closing in on the end. To demonstrate what we are talking about, our programmer has set up a "simple" test page at our U.S. term4sale.com that lets you see the API actually function. The Example/Test page is producing quotes by calling the new API service. Here's that test page which has been VERY simply formatted (not made to look pretty).
If you visit the page and click the Compare Now button you will see the results displayed below the page.
I expect the immediate reaction to be, "So what's the big deal?"
On the current home page of our U.S. term4sale.com, when you click the "Compare Now" button, the page sends the client data directly to the "Internet Quote Engine" which is resident on the same term4sale server. The client information is directly received by the engine which returns the quote results to the user in a page that has been formatted by a template file that is also resident on the term4sale server.
That is not what happens when you see the quote displayed in the new API Example here:
On that page, when you click the "Compare Now" button, a request is submitted to the API service which is located on a completely different website/server. The raw data (results) are then shipped back to the API Example page/site where they are formatted on the term4sale site. Once again, the results are not formatted and displayed by the server that contains the quote engine, they are formatted and displayed back on the server that made the request for the results.
To summarize, the server that is operating the API service will be receiving and processing requests coming from other servers. Before processing the requests, the API checks the request against a database that determines if the request is legitimate and authorized. The database "counts" and records the request (for the purposes of volume/billing). The database will notify Compulife if the request is unauthorized or if the request is a series of requests that represent unusual or peculiar volumes. If the request is determined to be legitimate, the API communicates that request to the Internet Engine which is on the server where the API database is located. Once the quote results have been obtained from the engine, they are then assembled into a file format that uses JSON standards, and ships that back to the server/site that made the original request.
While there is a lot going on in this process, results (as you can see by trying it) are virtually instantaneous. Having said that, it will be (milliseconds) slower than having the Internet engine on your own server.
For those who want/need the absolute best response times for quotes, the internet engine option will continue to be the best option that Compulife offers. I believe that there will still be many customers who want complete autonomous control over their quoting process, which ensures maximum performance and ultimate security. What do I mean about ultimate security?
We Maintain The Product/Rate Files
If there is anything Internet Engine users do not like it is that they must transfer company and rate files from their PC to their servers. Compulife does NOT touch the customer's server. Personally I do all this updating of servers with data files at Compulife for our Term4Sale site, Web Quote options and the Compulife Basic product. None of this is hard to do and with modern internet connections it can be done in less than a minute. But it's a job that must be routinely done and some subscribers have trouble getting someone in their operation to do it with regularity. If you let the company and rate data get out-of-date, it can lead to problems.
With the API function that will all be looked after by Compulife (just one more server that we update). As I post monthly and midmonth updates to the web for our PC software, I obtain those same updates and transfer the necessary files to the various servers that we have. Once again, it's not hard but it must be regularly done and I am nothing if not regular.
API - You Will Still Need Someone To Do Programming
For those who want an easy/simple solution to add a quoting system to their website, the web quote option is still the simplest way to put quotes on your website. Most subscribers simply make a "iframe" on the web page (or pages) where they want the quote option displayed, and then put the link that we give them in that frame; DONE.
The API function will give you some rudimentary page examples, but you will still have to design and format how you want that to look and function on your website. And building web pages is "programming" and either you know how to program or you don't. And if you don't you will need to find someone who can do that programming.
Typically, when a prospective buyer of the Internet Engine inquires about obtaining the engine, we explain it is a CGI-executable program that they will need to placed into the cgi-bin of their server. We explain that the package we ship comes with sample/example pages and that whoever is tasked with setting this up needs to use our example pages and get the thing working on their server WITHOUT any modifications to those pages. The important first step is to get it functioning and producing quotes.
This will be the same process with the API, however it will not require any effort to make sure that the server is set up with the right environment to run the CGI-executable, because all of that will be handled on our end. The initial objective will be to place the sample pages we provide on your server, and ensure they are working as in this example:
After that, the pages that obtain client information and display quotes will be on your server and you will need to have someone design and create the solution so that it works the way that you want it to. And there the devil is going to be in the details. What we have noticed over the past few years is a growing number of programmers, that agents have retained to do their sites and who want to implement our internet engine, are being told by those programmers that they need an "API". Those programmers may not have worked with a CGI executable before and seem to have no interest in learning how to do so (even though it is easy). Some actually INSIST they can only work with an API.
Here's a little perspective as we roll this out. I believe that many programmers who tell our customers they need an API were using that as an excuse, not an objection. Programmers who are not willing to follow our well laid out instructions to set up the internet engine on our customer's server, and work with that, will more than likely balk once they get our new API package. Why? Because these same folks are NOT very capable programmers. They can design pages for websites, but when it come to interfacing those pages with internet programs they have not worked with before, there is a learning curve and some programmers stall out because it's something they have not done before.
I have often told prospective customers who obtain our Internet Engine for the first time, that they need to INSIST that the web programmer they have hired, put the engine and sample pages on their sites, WITHOUT making ANY changes and get the quoting system working first. If the programmer cannot accomplish that simple task, which should take no more than a couple of hours, then they need to shop for a new programmer. The advice I give to new customers of our API option will be the same. If the web programmer can't get the basic API sample page functioning on your site, then you can assume that they really don't know what they are doing.
As an aside, some wonder why Compulife markets to new customers using a 30 Day Free Trial and a 4 month free subscription for those who do a tutorial. I consider the process an "aptitude test". Is the prospective life agent smart enough to follow instructions? Some are not. We want to know that because we don't want those folks as customers. Through the years I have had some agents who insist they don't want to do the tutorial, they just want to buy the software. It seems like anytime in the past that we let someone buy the program without going through the tutorial process it ended up badly. Either they demand we refund their money or they complain that the program is not something they use. All that is sorted out by the tutorial and the 4 free month reward. In a similar way our Internet Engine and API technologies are great aptitude tests for internet programmers. If they can't work with the technology, you don't want them working on your website.
To summarize, the new API will not be a "programmer in a drum". Web pages will not program themselves and you will need someone to do that. And, just as with the Internet Engine, none of Compulife's existing staff is available to do custom work for customers.
The API service will be volume based. Here's a tentative pricing schedule:
1,200 or less quotes per month - $396 per year (includes Compulife Basic)
6,000 or less quotes per month - $780 per year (includes Compulife Personal Use)
30,000 or less quotes per month - $1,200 per year (includes Compulife Standard Use)
All of these prices are less than the current cost of the Internet Engine, which is $1,499 per year (including Compulife Standard Use). The price for the engine will remain the same for customers doing 60,000 or less quotes per month. Any customer doing over 60,000 quotes per month will have the price of the Internet Engine increased to $2,200 per year (in addition to their Standard License of $299).
Some current subscribers to the Internet Engine, who are doing smaller volumes of quotes, will probably want to switch to the new API version of the software because their volume is relatively low and they will save money with the API version of quotes. The API customer will still be able to produce the very same quotes that they are producing now and still be able to fully customize their user interface and quote functions. Instead of delivering pages to the customer's website, the API delivers raw output: company information and premiums. The user takes that data and imbeds it into their web pages and systems.
The other advantage of the API over the Internet Engine is that Compulife will take over the updating of rates and software, which means the user has less maintenance. The downside is that quotes will be coming from our server, and if our server goes down, so do your quotes. Having said that, reliability seems high. We have not had many issues with the web quote option for customers, and so we hope the same is true for the API (I should add that I don't trust the internet).
Those doing over 30,000 quotes per month will need to buy the Internet Engine. First, we don't want their high volume use dragging down our server performance. Second, anyone doing that kind of volume needs to pay for the server that they are running the quoting software from, and depending on volume they can get whatever type of server service they want/need, from shared hosting to stand alone equipment.
Our Current Programming Plans for 2020
The following is the current order for new work that we will be doing in 2020:
Complete API Introduction
Overhaul Of Current Product Data Files
Introduction of New PC Version: CQS.EXE
Introduction of Compulife Basic Plus (with Pick 12)
Anyone with questions about any of these upcoming projects can call Bob Barney to discuss:
Please don't email me essay questions, just call. If I'm not in, email me your phone number, I'll call you.
These planned objectives will easily consume our programming time during 2020. The good news is that once the product data files have been converted, and we have introduced the new CQS.EXE, and upgraded our internet engine to use the new data files, Compulife will be turning it's full attention to our web based, Compulife Basic software. The long term goal is to have a web based product that does everything our PC based software does.