Bad Advice: Explaining the Persistence of Whole Life Insurance

31 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2011

See all articles by Santosh Anagol

Santosh Anagol

University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School of Business - Business Economics and Public Policy Department

Shawn Allen Cole

Harvard Business School

Shayak Sarkar

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: February 8, 2011

Abstract

We conduct a series of field experiments to evaluate two competing views of the role of financial intermediaries in providing product recommendations to potentially uninformed consumers. The first argues that financial intermediaries may provide valuable product education, helping consumers decide which of many complicated products is right for them. Even if commissions influence intermediary recommendations, consumers are sufficiently sophisticated to discount advice. The second, more sinister, view, argues that intermediaries recommend and sell products that maximize the agents well-being, with little regard to the need of the customer. Audit studies in the Indian insurance market find evidence consistent with the second view: agents recommend a product that provides them high commissions, though it is strictly dominated by alternative products. Consumers demonstrating lower levels of sophistication are more likely to be offered the wrong product. Finally, we exploit a natural experiment that occurred during out audits to test how disclosure requirements affect product recommendations. We find that requiring disclosure of commission levels makes agents less likely to recommend the product for which disclosure is required.

Suggested Citation

Anagol, Santosh and Cole, Shawn Allen and Sarkar, Shayak, Bad Advice: Explaining the Persistence of Whole Life Insurance (February 8, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1786624 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1786624

Santosh Anagol (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School of Business - Business Economics and Public Policy Department ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6372
United States

Shawn Allen Cole

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Shayak Sarkar

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA CA 95616-5201
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
316
Abstract Views
2,595
Rank
153,839
PlumX Metrics