AXA taps gerontologist to lead advisor LTC training

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AXA tapped an expert on aging to help train its roughly 5,000 advisors and lead client seminars on the importance of long-term care protection.

Sandra Timmermann, an adjunct professor of gerontology at The American College of Financial Services, served as executive director of MetLife’s Mature Market Institute for 19 years. Her collaboration with AXA will involve both research and marketing, the French insurer’s U.S. arm announced this week.

The move makes AXA, whose broker-dealer AXA Advisors is the seventh-largest in the industry, at least the third large advisory firm to seek expertise from a gerontologist with baby boomers retiring en masse. Timmerman hopes to place LTC “in a bigger context than just protecting assets,” she says.

“People want to stay home when they age. They should also be thinking about it when they hit retirement, but they don’t,” says Timmermann. “I’m just hoping that what we can do is get the AXA team and the public thinking in a different way about long-term care issues.”

LTC insurance represents “the elephant in the room,” she adds, citing a survey last year of 1,200 widows and widowers by the college’s State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services. Fewer than 20% picked LTC planning out of a list of 12 choices when asked what services are provided by their advisors.

Timmermann, who received a master’s degree and doctorate in education from Columbia University, launched MetLife’s research institute in 1997, staying until it closed in 2013. Merrill Lynch appointed a director of gerontology the following year to train its advisors and conduct research studies.

Few companies have looked to the field — the study of aging — for insight into issues surrounding LTC policies, according to Timmermann. She plans to help advisors better explain the complex products to their clients, she says.

“Long-term care protection gives them the opportunity to stay at home and have control over their lives. I think that’s the way to start the conversation,” Timmermann says. “It’s a service in some respects because we really need to draw attention to this with the advisor community and also the public.”

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