CUNA Mutual Group Members: Zone annuity app wins technology award

ZONE App Technology Simplifies Complex Retirement Planning

MADISON, Wis. – A CUNA Mutual Group tablet application that helps credit union members plan for retirement security has won a Bank Insurance & Securities Association (BISA) Technology Innovation Award.

Financial advisors, including advisors from CUNA Mutual Group’s broker-dealer, CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), utilize the ZONE tablet application to present investment options for CUNA Mutual Group’s new, registered index annuity, MEMBERS® Zone Annuity, using easy-to-understand terms and engaging visuals.

The ZONE is one of nine BISA Technology Innovation Award recipients selected for the honor. The BISA Technology Innovation Award recognizes leadership in the advancement of the financial services industry’s products, services, and platforms through technology innovation. The award recognizes companies’ commitment to advancements in technology-based solutions for the industry.

“Today’s financial advisors are tasked with evaluating a broad range of customer financial needs and presenting a complex set of financial solutions in an environment that is an ever-changing mix of market volatility, regulatory scrutiny, and product choice,” said Bob Buckingham, annuity product vice president for CUNA Mutual Group. “The products that are ultimately sold are intangible, and often difficult to understand.”

The ZONE removes this anxiety by providing a simple and effective tool for the advisor to present investment options. Launched in August 2013, the ZONE presents CUNA Mutual Group’s registered index annuity, MEMBERS Zone Annuity, in a unique, high-performance web application optimized for the iPad. The ZONE allows advisors and customers to customize a zone of risk and reward aligned with their investment goals using the MEMBERS Zone Annuity product.

“The ZONE app immediately turns the intangible into a real set of financial choices by visually demonstrating growth potential and downside limits by showing how a client’s personal comfort zone translates into an allocation between the annuity’s two investment accounts,” said Buckingham.

By leveraging game-like visuals and controls, the ZONE creates an engaging, participatory experience. The customer designs a personal zone of risk and reward, and then uses it to evaluate how the annuity might perform over time using hypothetical investment returns and market scenarios.

Within the ZONE, the advisor and customer interact with animated graphics and icons, easily recognizing the consequences of investment choices through the visual “zone” display. Honing in on a range of risk and reward takes just a few taps of the finger, and adjustments are fast and fluid, Buckingham explained.

“The fingertip maneuvering of the zone appeals to the customer’s feel for taking on a little more or a little less risk, which allows them to feel emotionally engaged in the retirement planning process and more confident in their investment decisions,” said Buckingham.

The ZONE uses new technology designed to look and feel like a traditional app, but actually runs as a single page application (SPA) – a first for the credit union industry. The SPA software design decreases the time-intensive server calls by using JavaScript, and preloads 95 percent of the application and data into the local cache, delivering almost instant display speed for the customer, Buckingham explained.

“Through the ability to present choices and easily discuss hypothetical scenarios, advisors spend less time struggling through a complex discussion of financial jargon and more time demonstrating the product’s real value,” said Buckingham. “A sale that may have taken multiple appointments in the past now moves quickly from awareness to understanding to agreement, often in a single meeting. And, a simple ZONE report summarizes the choices and serves as a companion to regulatory documents.”

Since its launch, mobile application usage among licensed advisors increased more than 400 percent in the last quarter of 2013, and the bounce rate was reduced by more than 50 percent from existing apps. Product sales reinforce the ZONE’s success with sales of the MEMBERS Zone Annuity reaching $22 million in the first month after launch, and first year sales exceeding target by more than 300 percent for 2013.

“This combination of a distinctive new annuity coupled with a fast and unique tool has helped advisors more effectively address the critical retirement planning needs of all customers, close more sales, and improve productivity,” said Buckingham. “It’s changing the retirement planning business by making the intangible, tangible.”
About CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc.:
CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI) provides broker-dealer services to credit unions throughout the nation, offering a full range of investment and insurance products to help credit unions help their members reach a more secure financial position.

CBSI, an affiliate of CUNA Mutual Group, is the leading broker-dealer serving the credit union marketplace. CBSI has more than 250 credit union programs, 400 active advisors, with more than $3 billion in mutual fund, annuity and managed account sales, and more than $140 million in annual revenue. In 2013, CBSI paid credit unions more than $65 million in fee revenue.

About CUNA Mutual Group:

CUNA Mutual Group was founded in 1935 by credit union pioneers, and our commitment to their vision continues today. We offer insurance and protection for credit unions, employees and members; lending solutions and marketing programs; TruStage™ – branded consumer insurance products; and investment and retirement services to help our customers succeed. More information is available on the company’s website at

CUNA Mutual Group is the marketing name for CUNA Mutual Holding Company, a mutual insurance holding company, its subsidiaries and affiliates. Life, accident, health and annuity insurance products are issued by CMFG Life Insurance Company and MEMBERS Life Insurance Company. Property and casualty insurance products are issued by CUMIS Insurance Society, Inc. Each insurer is solely responsible for the financial obligations under the policies and contracts it issues. Corporate headquarters are located in Madison, Wis.