Something Everyone Can Cheer For

Jun 16, 2022

Every college basketball season, North Carolinians split into bitter factions.

There are Tar Heels (North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Blue Devils (Duke); Demon Deacons (Wake Forest) and the Wolfpack (North Carolina State).

The fanatical followers of these high-profile Atlantic Coast Conference schools are far from alone. More than a dozen other North Carolina universities also play Division I basketball.

It’s hard to imagine anything that could unite these bitter rivals. But something historic happened in Raleigh recently that will unite all North Carolinians — whether they’re basketball fans or not.

The North Carolina Department of Insurance enacted a rule that incorporates the enhanced consumer protections in the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) updated model regulation on annuity transactions.

The rule enhances the standards financial professionals must follow while ensuring that individual savers maintain access to, and information about, annuities, the only financial product in the marketplace that can provide guaranteed income for life. This is a huge victory for all savers throughout the Tar Heel State.

North Carolina became the 26th state to adopt similar laws or rules. Building on this momentum, several more states are considering similar actions to protect their citizens.

The measures in the states closely align with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Regulation Best Interest. And, unlike a fiduciary-only approach, these measures ensure savers, particularly financially vulnerable Americans, can access information about various choices for long-term security through retirement. According to a recent study, a fiduciary-only approach would curtail access to financial inclusion for 10 million households. And a new survey finds that middle-income retirement savers would be very concerned about a regulation that restricted access to the professional financial guidance they want and need.

With these heightened state and federal consumer protections, savers can be certain that financial professionals must act in the consumer’s best interest when offering recommendations about annuities. The U.S. Congress reaffirmed the importance of lifetime income when it passed legislation in 2019 that made it easier for employers to include annuities in workplace retirement plans. These protections safeguard consumers while also ensuring that middle- and working-class families will retain access to annuities.

The other 24 states should take action like North Carolina and adopt this sensible consumer protection. Then more Americans looking to protect their family’s financial future would benefit from a best interest standard of care, no matter where they reside or which team they cheer for.

Curt Leonard

Curt Leonard is Regional Vice President, State Relations at the American Council of Life Insurers. He is responsible for state legislative and regulatory affairs in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina. He also leads ACLI’s state advocacy team on issues of genetic science and long term care insurance. He joined ACLI in 2003.

Fred Joyner

Fred Joyner, NAIFA-NC Government Relations Committee Chair, is from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.