CitiGroup Says good-bye to life insurer Primerica

CitibankThe best technique for selling life insurance is known in the trade as "driving the hearse up to the door."

When the salesperson drives the hearse up to the door, he describes at length all the horrible things that can happen if the family hasn't bought enough life insurance and leaves widows and orphans to starve.

It's a can't-miss sales technique that the more than 100,000 independent Primerica insurance agents undoubtedly know well, and it's a particularly ironic approach when you consider the circumstances of the Primerica initial public offering that parent company CitiGroup announced Thursday.

Besides term life insurance, Primerica's agents sell debt consolidation loans, pre-paid legal insurance and property-casualty auto and homeowners insurance to middle-of-economic-road Americans. CitiGroup decided to unload Primerica as part of its effort to get rid of the U.S. government as a part owner. CitiGroup received $45 billion of our tax dollars for being a bank that was "too big too fail."

CitiGroup created a holding company called Citi Holdings earlier this year as a place to park $617 billion in assets that it didn't want. American Banking News said Primerica was on the list because its pursuit of lower-end, term-life customers didn't mesh with CitiGroup's vision of itself as catering to giant institutional and very affluent individual customers.

Primerica's IPO is expected to have an initial value of $1.6 billion, the proceeds of which will go to CitiGroup and, who knows, maybe trickle down into the account earmarked for paying off us little-guy taxpayers.

When I read those kind of numbers, it really makes me feel too little to matter and reminds me that all these government financial gyrations are making it harder for us ordinary people to pay for term-life insurance even as we need it more and more, something CitiGroup must understand as it dumps Primerica.
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