In spring 2002, Karwoski & Courage and Martin | Williams Advertising were tapped to launch Centre Life Finance Limited, a new life settlement company that is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Centre group of companies and financial services giant Zurich Financial Services. Together, the team created branding and public relations to launch the company and build demand for its product.
As background, a life settlement is the sale of an existing life insurance policy by the owner to a third party. This allows the owner to receive cash for a policy that is no longer needed or cost effective. Life settlements are an outgrowth of viatical settlements – the sale of life insurance policies of the terminally ill. Since their inception in the early 1990s, several viatical companies were involved in well-publicized instances of fraud and abuse; unfortunately, this clouds the life settlement industry today, making public relations and branding vital to establishing Centre Life Finance’s credibility in the wider insurance industry.
 Upon hiring, Karwoski & Courage and Martin | Williams’ approach to “ground zero brand building” ensued. Phases consisted of the following: Discovery, including initial information gathering and account planning with insight gleaned from current financial services professionals; strategy, including developing the Centre Life Finance brand platform of positioning, promise and personality, and communications planning; classic branding/design of the company’s visual identity, business materials, stationery suite, collateral, trade show graphics, etc.; public relations strategies and tactics to reinforce the brand platform and position; and launch/implementation.
Extensive category research included individual and focus group interviews with financial professionals to determine their perceptions of the life settlement product as well as perceptions of life settlement’s predecessor, viatical settlements; competitive advertising analyses of the life settlement industry and wider insurance category; sweeps of both trade and consumer media coverage since the emergence of life settlements in the late 1990s; interviews with key media representatives at top-tier trade publications; sweeps of the regulatory issues surrounding insurance, consumer privacy, securities, viaticals and life settlements; and interviews with regulatory influencers, including state and national legislators and several representatives from the nation’s insurance regulating body, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), including members of its Viatical and Life Settlements Working Group/Model Act committee.
Insight into the company’s core audience – financial planners – shows that they have experienced or witnessed the demise of the viatical industry, which was tarnished by unethical and unprofessional business practices. Some already have encountered a few life settlement companies with less-than-desirable business behavior. However, these financial services professionals collectively believe there is a place for a life settlement product offered by a company committed to the industry long term – one with transparent practices and high standards of business conduct.
 The multitude of research findings served as a backdrop for the branding efforts put forth on Centre Life Finance’s behalf. Karwoski & Courage and Martin | Williams worked with Centre Life Finance to identify and define the primary audience for the life settlement product: financial services professionals who seek innovative options for their clients. This group would be further segmented into three tiers: professional producer groups and their managing committees that determine which products and companies the entity will utilize; professional marketers, roll-ups, dealers and insurance companies; and brokers.
The objective was to introduce Centre Life Finance to the insurance industry and continue to develop the company’s position as the experienced, ethical and innovative life settlement partner committed to serving professional producers. Key messages to support Centre Life Finance’s place in the financial services industry included: An ethical leader in life settlements; Partner-of-choice to financial professionals in a position to recommend a life settlement solution to their clients; Expert on life settlements, utilizing that expertise to educate the financial services industry while clearly distancing the life settlement category from viatical settlements.
Industry research showed that because of credibility issues surrounding life settlements and viatical settlements perceived by many in the insurance industry, integrity and ethics would be of paramount importance in positioning Centre Life Finance. Additionally, only the consummate financial services professional would be considered for the company’s distribution channel. The brand position outline was “Centre Life Finance is the experienced and innovative life settlement partner committed to serving professional producers with integrity.” The brand personality traits include integrity, intelligence, imaginative, knowledgeable and leadership.
Karwoski & Courage’s launch strategy encompassed a comprehensive analysis of industry events, and based on audience, timing, past-attendee profile and media attendance, The team determined the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) annual convention to be the best launch site. And as the launch plan for Centre Life Finance evolved, Karwoski & Courage didn’t want to lose momentum after the industry debut. As such, the action plan delved into efforts for media relations, sponsorships and industry events well into the next year.
 Based on the research findings, Karwoski & Courage dove into developing a comprehensive trade media relations campaign: a tour of strategic media outlets; authored articles and a media kit, which incorporated a primer on life settlements and their place in the financial services industry; a Q&A document on the company, life settlements vs. viatical settlements, funding information and settlement candidate profile, among other items; company backgrounder; biographies of the founding executives; and debut news release. At the same time, a number of other integrated efforts were under way: a three-month trade advertising campaign; brochures and a guidebook targeted toward financial planner partners; stationery suite and trade show booth development.
Prior to the company’s launch at NAIFA, Karwoski & Courage engaged in a media/regulator tour in order to get a read on the trade media’s and regulators’ appetites for information on and understanding of life settlements. Embarking on the tour were Centre Life Finance’s chief marketing officer and president/CEO, who were accompanied by a Karwoski & Courage representative; introductory meetings were set with representatives from Broker World magazine, Bloomberg Wealth Manager, Advisor Today, Inter-Company Marketing Group, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Key messages were developed for these meetings, and they were designed to be of mutual benefit to Centre Life Finance, Karwoski & Courage and the host organizations.
First and foremost, Centre Life Finance has successfully opened its doors for business. The insurance industry awakened to the company’s presence on the scene through its vibrant exhibit at the NAIFA convention in September, and through coverage in leading trade publications such as Broker World, National Underwriter and NAILBA Magazine, to name just a few. In a world of staid financial service blue, the company offered a vibrant presence to attendees and media – bright orange spoke volumes that this was a different kind of financial services company. On site, company executives were interviewed by six media representatives.
 As a direct result of the media relations campaign tour, the targeted publications offered Karwoski & Courage/Centre Life Finance several opportunities to author articles for trade publications Broker World, Advisor Today and Inter-Company Marketing Group’s quarterly newsletter. Karwoski & Courage capitalized on these articles, ghostwriting them on topics such as the state of life settlements; trends within the industry; life settlements vs. viatical settlements; institutional vs. retail funding sources; and ethics in the industry, among others, further cementing the young company’s place as an experienced partner in the life settlement industry, with a transparent, ethical foundation at its core.
This successful strategy continues: Karwoski & Courage has secured placements for authored articles featuring the company’s key stances and supporting its positioning: a Centre Life Finance executive team-authored (Karwoski & Courage ghostwritten) article on ethics in the life settlement industry, appearing December 9, 2002, in National Underwriter; an advisor-authored (Karwoski & Courage ghostwritten) article appearing in the February 2003 issue of for Life Insurance Selling; an advisor-authored (Karwoski & Courage ghostwritten) article appearing in April 2003 edition of Senior Market Advisor; a legal advisor-authored article (Karwoski & Courage ghostwritten) article for Trusts & Estates magazine; interviews completed for an article in Investment News; a Centre Life Finance president/CEO-authored (Karwoski & Courage ghostwritten) article on the life settlement category in the October 2002 edition of Life and Health Advisor.
Circulation of these publications is more than 250,000; additionally, organizations such as NAIFA have more than 80,000 insurance professionals alone who are members.
As part of its commitment to ethics and transparent business practices, Centre Life Finance has taken a stance on ethical issues facing the industry by authoring a comment letter (ghostwritten by Karwoski & Courage) to the NAIC regarding consumer rights in a life settlement transaction.
To date, more than 20 financial services professionals are under contract with Centre Life Finance to offer the company’s life settlement product. The Centre Life Finance executive team-authored article in Advisor Today has generated more than 100 inquiries. More than 30 settlements have closed. The company has targeted 50 financial service professionals for its cadre of partners, and is well on its way to surpassing that two-year goal.
 Moving forward, a comprehensive mix of public relations and traditional marketing efforts are under way to take the company from its infancy into long-term success.