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Update News for February 2014    


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 bulletin.


Why This Bulletin Is Relevant to Canadian Customers

The rest of the subjects found in this bulletin are just as they appear in the U.S. bulletin, no changes. I personally think that the changes that we are making to the company information file, which will include improved information about life company ratings, will be of greater importance to U.S. customers than to Canadian customers. It's not that I don't think ratings should be important for Canadian agents, it's just that they aren't as important as ratings are to U.S. agents.

The proof about ratings is in the pudding. In the U.S., where most life insurance companies have ratings, all but 4 of the over 100 companies in the Compulife database have A.M. Best ratings. A significant number of those have Standard and Poors ratings and while most of our U.S. subscribers are content with the A.M. Best ratings that we provide, there are many who would like more ratings from more ratings agencies. Needless to say, ratings are a big deal for U.S. agents.

In Canada, where we quote for 26 life insurance companies, 10 life companies do not have A.M Best ratings. Further, we doubt that those 10 have any other life insurance ratings of any kind. Why not? The answer is simple. They are able to sell their products without ratings. That means that agents and/or brokers are happy to recommend those company's products without ratings.

Is that good or bad? It's not our job at Compulife to push the market one way or the other, it's our job to try and respond to the market as it exists.

For example, in Canada we offer joint life first-to-die life insurance quotes. Why? Because a significant number of life insurance companies offer joint life first-to-die products. Is that good or bad? It really doesn't matter. The fact that the life companies offer those products means that agents are selling those products. Compulife is simply responding to agent demand. In the U.S. there are very few life companies offering joint life first-to-die term. In the U.S. we do not compare joint life products.

We quote Critical Illness products in Canada but we do not quote CI in the U.S. Same reason.

So all the software technology in our Windows software, which is the same program in both Canada and the U.S., contains functions to quote joint life and CI which is of great benefit to our Canadian subscribers and of no benefit to our U.S. subscribers. The time that we spent programming those features into our software did not benefit our U.S. subscribers who pay the lion's share of the development costs.

Will the enhanced company information features with improved A.M. Best ratings and additional ratings information benefit Canadians? To some degree yes, but we suspect that not all Canadian subscribers will care a great deal and others may not care at all. We just hope that you appreciate that it is one of those things that will be an important feature for our American subscribers, just as CI and joint life were important features for our Canadian subscribers.

And who knows, things may change. And if they do change we'll be ready for those changes simply because one of the countries was ahead of the other.

So with all that said, here's is what we told our U.S. subscribers about what we are currently working on. And yes, these functions and features will also be coming to the Canadian software product after they have been rolled out for the U.S. subscribers.


Coming Soon - Improved Company Information

Work continues on the new data entry system. The first new data component should roll out in the next month or two.

Currently company information is found as an option to an individual product display. Whether you use the second choice on the Red Menu "Display a Single Product", or double left click on a product in a comparison, the Display Single Product window will show the details for an individual product. One of the options found on the "Options" list (top of screen) is "Company Information" (third last choice on list). If you click on that you will get the following information:

Company Information was intended to give you what you needed to contact a company in the event that you had no relationship with the company and wanted to make an inquiry about doing business.

The old data file for the company information "COMPINF.DAT" will be replaced by a new file called "COMPANY.DAT". The new file will contain all the information that was previously found in COMPINF.DAT, but will be expanded to include more information. The new file will also incorporate the new data storage technology that we intend to use for the entire system, once the overhaul process is completed.

COMPANY.DAT will become a very important file moving forward, as it will be the only place company names are stored in our system. Currently a life company name is stored on a product by product basis. The need for this was rooted in the "good old days" when we still distributed and used floppy disks. The disks were exchanged in the disk drives depending on what kind of comparison (10 year versus 20 year, etc.) that you were doing. The company name information needed to be available to the software no matter which disk you were using. For that reason the company name needed to be entered for each product.

We were also limited in overall computer memory used for data, or how much information you could hold in the computer's processing memory, versus needing to keep accessing information from the computer disk. It made sense in those days to pick up the company name for the product at the same time as you were getting all the other information for each product. Once again, that's why the company name was stored for each product.

Of course this created a lot of redundancy, with the company name stored repeatedly in many different places in the system. Our new data structure will simply store the company name once into the COMPANY.DAT file. When the program starts, the COMPANY.DAT file will be read into the computer's dynamic memory and we will cross reference and substitute the company name with the company name code assigned to each product. This will result in a much simpler process to add a product to the system, and actually reduce overall storage space. Smaller data storage means better overall software performance.

But the new COMPANY.DAT file is being designed to be much more dynamic. It will make it easier for us to add more information about companies in the event that we need or want to. And some additional information is being added as we build it.

For example, one of the things we will be immediately be adding is the NAIC reference number for each company. We have had occasional requests for that reference number in the past and so you will be able to get access to that number when you display the company information. Further, if we are able to add other ratings to our software, such as Standard and Poors, the NAIC reference code will make more sense to use than just having the A.M. Best reference number.


More A.M. Best Info

Another bit of data that is stored on a product by product basis is the A.M. Best rating for that company. Once again, the need for this was rooted in the "good old days". The A.M. Best ratings will be moved out of the product files and into the COMPANY.DAT file. The company name and A.M. Best information will eventually not be stored for each product. Further, by getting the new A.M. Best data into the new COMPANY.DAT file we will be able to expand the A.M. Best information to include two additional pieces of information: "actions" and "outlook".

The "action" reference explains what happened on the last rating decision. For example, if the rating was simply "affirmed" it meant no change. But rating actions can also be "upgraded" or "downgraded" indicating that a rating has improved or been reduced, important additional information we think you will find useful.

The "outlook" gives a sense about how A.M. Best thinks the company rating will behave in the future. Here is the A.M. Best explanation for outlook:

Best's Outlook

We are actually showing that new information at our web site www.term4sale.com. If you go to the site, enter your zip code, and run a quote, you will see the A.M. Best ratings next to each company in the comparison. When you click on the rating itself, you are directly connected to the A.M. Best web site, and the consumer information for that company and its ratings. The action and outlook info is now included with the rating. That same information will be in the Compulife program and you will also have a link, from the program, to the same page.


Additional Ratings Information

As we have indicated previously, we have made an effort to contact other rating agencies to include their information in our software, but are not making much headway. Moody's did get back to us but they want thousands and thousands of dollars to include their information in our system. We don't understand the rationale. After all each company with a Moody's rating is able to display that information on their own web sites for free. Why should we have to pay for it, if it is already on the web and available for free?

Given that roadblock we have decided to provide a link to home office web sites that provide additional ratings information. We have already been doing research on that, in order to identify what pages are available from which companies. You can see that research here:

Life Company Web Site Ratings Pages

The first two companies are an excellent example of a pretty common comparative trend when it comes to life company ratings.

If you click on the link for AAA Life Insurance Company, and read what they say, they make reference to A.M. Best and A.M. Best only. That is quite common for many life insurance companies. They have A.M. Best ratings, and no ratings from any other rating agency.

If you click on Allstate Life Insurance Co of New York you will discover a small chart on their page, displaying rating information for A.M. Best, Standard and Poors, and Moody's, in that order.

So while we certainly won't be including Moody's ratings in our software (for cost reasons) it is out intent to get you links to company web sites and pages where such information is available for free. It may not be quite as convenient as we would like, but I don't know any subscriber who would be willing to pay more simply to make it a little more convenient than that.


Impact On Internet Engine Customers

It is worth noting that these data changes would affect internet engine users if we were removing the company name and A.M. Best ratings (for those internet engine users who have a license for A.M. Best rating) from the current data files.

While we will be making changes to our Windows software to use the new COMPANY.DAT file, instead of the old COMPINF.DAT file, we will delay removing the company names and A.M. Best ratings from the existing product data files. For a time we will continue to use the old data files for the purposes of getting that information for comparisons. While this means we will be maintaining duplicate data for a period of time, it will also mean we can delay needing to update existing Internet engine users, which is always something of a hassle.

By way of explanation, internet engine users are those subscribers who have licensed our internet engine to run on their own servers. This is unlike web comparison customers who can get a Compulife comparison program for their web sites for only $99 per year. By contast the internet engine user pays $995 per year for the ability to place the internet comparison software on their own server instead of simply running a copy from our server (the $99 option). Those who pay the $995 do so for a variety of reasons, usually so they can customize the user interface and manipulate the appearance or functionality of the quote results. You are limited in your choices of comparison result appearance and functionality when you choose the $99 option, but the $99 option meets the needs of about 90% of those customers who want quotes on their web sites.

The problem is that when we introduce a new comparison engine update, it requires the user to change that on their system, at the same time as people are still using their system. Sometimes this leads to transition problems and so when we do the update on these we have to be careful to allow ample time for the transition from old to new. That creates less pressure for our customers which in turn creates less pressure for us.

Therefore, many of the changes that we are making will not require an engine update until we have completed a significant number of those changes. Having said that, it would be a very good idea for internet engine customers, when we roll out the new "COMPANY.DAT" file, to begin adding it to your routine data updates to your server. Once again, this assume that you are an internet engine user paying the $995 per year. While the current engine won't need the file, at some point the new engine will need that file and it will be just one less thing to have to consider when that transition occurs.


What Other Company Info Would You Like

While it will be much easier to add/change/modify the information contained in the new COMPANY.DAT file, now would be a great time for subscribers to offer suggestions regarding what other info they would like to have access to in the "Company Information" option.

Having said that, there is some information related to selling life insurance that we won't be involved in providing. For example, we will not be providing information about product commissions.

Compulife maintains a wall of separation from the actual selling of life insurance. The closest we get to consumers is the www.term4sale.com web site. But even there we don't sell or recommend what products people should buy, we instead recommend that consumers contact each of the 3 life insurance agents we list in their area. The information provided by the site is general in nature, and is no different from the type of information which the media often provides to consumers. You don't need a life insurance license for that, and no one at Compulife is licensed to sell life insurance.

So with that in mind, is there other information about life companies that would help you? If you have any thoughts, ideas or suggestions, you can email those to:

service@compulife.com

We can't guarantee your idea will make the final cut, but you can be sure it will be reviewed and considered. And if someone comes up with a great suggestion that we are able to use, you will get the standard 10% coupon which is what we provide to any agent who is able to help us keep the software up to date, current or correct.