An interview with George “Chip” Van Dusen IV, DBS Principal – President & CEO – Part Two
by Laura Thompson, Director of Marketing – DBS
One of the biggest challenges for leaders in 2020, amidst the incredible uncertainty in the world, was having to make difficult decisions often based on everchanging information. Through it all, DBS and its Executive Leadership Team, was able to successfully lead the company through arguably one of the most unprecedented years in history. I recently had the opportunity to spend a little time with DBS Principal – President & CEO George “Chip” Van Dusen IV to find out what he learned from last year and what guides his decision making during challenging times. What follows is Part 2 of our conversation, where he shares what he predicts for 2021 and how financial professionals can prepare for the upcoming year.
Read Part 1 here for his reflections on how DBS was able to successfully navigate through such a difficult year.
What is the outlook for the year? How much “hangover” from the pandemic do you expect?
I don’t think we’re quite out of the woods yet. I believe we’re going to experience a couple quarters of sluggishness with respect to the economy. As the vaccination continues to roll out, we’re still going to experience a lot of pain and confusion as a country, and there will likely be four or five steps forward and three steps back. We’ve experienced that a lot over the last six months, and I think we’re going to experience that some more.
We’ll see some more economic stimulus from the government, particularly with a Biden-Harris White House along with Democratic leadership in the House and Senate. We’ll see a review of some new tax policy and potential changes in estate taxes, capital gains, and step up in basis. There are things that we’ve enjoyed for a number of years that I think will change as result of a new administration and a House and Senate that are in alignment with the White House, which we haven’t seen since President Trump’s first two years in office. All of this again will bring opportunity.
How can financial professionals prepare for 2021?
Everyone still needs to continue to hone their skills around how to connect and be most effective in a virtual manner. There’s more that we can learn about how to better execute in a virtual environment, and in fact, I don’t think we’re ever going to completely go back to where we were. Five years ago, Skyping, using Microsoft Teams or Zoom wasn’t really an option, where today that’s the only way we’re communicating. At DBS we’ve got a sales meeting coming up and on the agenda some of the hot topics are around how to relate better virtually, so sharpening our virtual skills will be a big focus internally as well.
What things are on the horizon for DBS? What key topics are you anticipating for the year?
We’ve got some big technological initiatives that we initiated in the fourth quarter that are carrying over into the first quarter of 2021, so we’re continuing to execute on them. We’ve got some additional talent that’s joining our organization, so we’re excited about that.
We’re continuing to expand the footprint of our firm in markets that we haven’t traditionally been in before, so that’s important for us. I’m extremely bullish on 2021. In particular, when the the last stimulus bill was passed, there was a change to Section 7702, which was completely outdated and needed to change. This change will position life insurance much more favorably in the ultra-low interest rate environment we’re in, but as carriers adjust, there will be a number of product and pricing updates. I’m excited about this change and what that opportunity brings.
What other product, carrier or pricing changes do you predict for 2021?
I think we’ll continue to experience a bit of of COVID hangover from an underwriting perspective. Carriers are still concerned about how to underwrite their business, particularly at older ages, on larger face amounts, and with very large premiums. I think that will linger at least through the first couple of quarters, if not longer. In addition, I think we’re going to continue to see a lot of pressure on any products that have any sort of guarantee on them, whether a long-term guarantee to maturity or even an age 90 guarantee, and will affect fixed products, fixed index products, and variable products. Also, I don’t really see a lot of interest rate movement upwards for the foreseeable future, so we’ll see some continued profitability pressure at the manufacturer level on those products.
You mentioned earlier than that you see a virtual environment continuing well after the pandemic is over, but do you anticipate a time period when we might see things a little more back to normal?
This is where patience and calm are really important. We have a COVID-19 committee that evaluates what’s happening in our area and from their data, we make thoughtful and reasonable determinations for the business. We are working very efficiently on a remote basis but it is certainly our intent to have our team members back together again, though it is undetermined at this moment. We’re committed to that and our team members, more importantly, are committed and want the camaraderie they had. Of course people also enjoy working from home, so balance is going to be key in 2021, and how people can maintain their family and home life, with having a work at home environment continue.
I have great hope that we can get back to some semblance of normalcy within 2021 but we will have to wait and see. We are committed to that as an organization, but only when it makes appropriate sense for our firm and for our DBS family.
Is there anything else you want to say as we look back on 2020 and look forward to 2021?.
We had an unprecedented year and I’m so grateful for our ability to come out on top. I’m grateful for an amazing company, all our employees, my partner and our executive leadership team. We’ve been in this business for 53 years and we’ll continue in this business for many more. We actually got stronger in 2020, so from the DBS firm perspective, we’re in a great position rolling into 2021. We have some fantastic advisors that have great cases in house with us, so our pending inventory is stronger than it’s ever been going into a new year. We’re really excited about the prospects of helping those advisors put that business in force on those clients and really be of service and are looking forward to a good year.
View Printable PDF of the complete interview here.