2 min read November 2021 — Chris Hilger, president and CEO of Securian Financial Group, sees a winding road ahead as the economy emerges from the pandemic. Still, he told Invest:, he is confident that what companies and people learned over the last 18 months will provide a good foundation for a better future.
What is the state of the financial planning and insurance businesses?
One thing that changed with the pandemic is greater appreciation for financial security. More people are interested in seeking the solutions that our business has to offer, that our industry has to offer. In response to that, we’re developing more compelling solutions to address the financial security needed.
We’ve seen good growth in all our business lines because of that fundamental need for financial security. The biggest change is the way customers are engaging. We’ve developed virtual employee benefits, for example. Online enrollment tools are going to help employees and customers to find the right financial security solution for them. That’s also an example of how the need to enhance our capabilities has been accelerated during the last 18 months.
How has your firm responded to the regulatory changes in the last year?
One example is accommodating hardship withdrawals from 401(k) plans because of COVID-19. We had to mobilize our staff that is now working remotely to help our customers in real-time. We need to respond in a way that recognizes the significant disruption that has occurred in our customers’ lives. We’re a mutual insurance company, so we’re owned by our policyholders. The last few months have been a period in which we’ve been able to step forward and lean into that customer focus that is part of our DNA. It has been a time where we’ve been able to help the people who count on us.
What is your advice to clients regarding low interest rates and inflation concerns?
Low interest rates are a challenge for most financial services companies, particularly life insurance. We count on our investment returns to help support the pricing and features of the products that we offer. Our core protection and retirement investment solutions are particularly relevant in this environment. This is a great time to get the advice of a financial professional to help navigate today’s challenges. The products we offer are more significant in stressful times, such as those we’ve experienced over the last 18 months.
The products and services that insurance and wealth management companies offer are aimed at helping a customer manage inflation, interest rates and volatility, and there is nothing like meeting with a financial adviser to help sort through your specific needs and make sure you have the right retirement protection in place.
What are the benefits or advantages of doing business within the Twin Cities and the Minnesota region?
One of the best things that we have in the Twin Cities is an incredibly well-educated and productive workforce. We have a great insurance and wealth management ecosystem here. We have three Fortune 500 life insurance companies and wealth management companies. We have an incredible talent base, which is also why we were able to successfully transition to a remote working environment and find creative ways to meet our customer needs during the pandemic.
What key challenges does the region face and how are you looking to meet them?
The call for social justice was more pronounced here because of the George Floyd murder and I’m proud of the way our community came together. The nonprofit community in the Twin Cities is terrific and instigated a lot of engagement to help in terms of how to confront some of the issues that are creating inequality in our community.
What changes or consequences will emerge from the past year and a half?
We’ve gained experience over the last 18 months that has an important place in the future. I also happen to believe that coming together physically is also important for advancing collaboration and sustaining your culture. We’re just at the beginning. I know a lot of companies have declared the date that they’re coming back to their offices but I see that as the first step in a long journey of figuring out how to best work together and latching onto some of what we’ve learned over the last 18 months.
What is your outlook for the next two years?
The outlook from a growth standpoint is good. The importance of the financial security solutions we provide and the higher sense of awareness around the importance of the solutions is creating good demand for our products and services. Provided the economy stays strong, I think we’ll be able to support future challenges. We fully expect to help our customers meet their family’s financial security needs. There are going to be more investments in digital engagement capabilities at companies. We’re certainly doing that and we’re not alone. A lot of companies are investing heavily in that area. Those are the main trends that I think we’re going to continue to see throughout the rest of this year and for years to come.
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