There are few if any spectacles more thrilling than the traditional flag ceremony that opens the annual meeting of the Million Dollar Round Table. This year’s was no exception–starting with tiny Belize and ending with the Stars and Stripes.
Yet, while MDRT maintains these time-honored traditions, its top officers say it is also making changes to keep pace with its increasingly diverse and international membership.
Three years ago, for instance, MDRT expanded the products for which membership credit is given and eliminated the lives/cases requirement it had had for many years.
At this year’s meeting, MDRT President Tony Gordon announced that from now on MDRT would implement a premium-based production system as an alternative to the current commission-based system.
Effective with the 2002 Round Table, applicants must choose to qualify for membership either based on premium credit or commission credit, but not both, he said.
“We want to embrace top producers, whether they are paid by commission, performance-related salary or fees,” Gordon said. “Membership should be for those who reach sales excellence in our business, however we choose to be paid.”
Membership in the 2002 Round Table, based on production in 2001, is $63,000 U.S. of eligible commissions paid, or $126,000 U.S. paid premium to the writing producer’s account.
Summing up the rationale behind this change, Gordon said, “We will keep MDRT relevant to today’s marketplace.”
In an interview, Gordon described his tenure as MDRT president (which started last September) as both “exhausting” and “exhilarating.”
The exhausting part was traveling 185,000 miles to visit 25 countries and giving 70 speeches to 42,000 people, he said.
As for the exhilaration, he said, “If you have enjoyed and benefited from membership in something like the MDRT, when the call comes it is the greatest compliment in the world, and I enjoyed it immensely.”
Asked what stood out in particular during his time as president, Gordon said “the single most striking factor is the size and scope of opportunity for life insurance in Asia.”
As an example of a promising market, he named India, with its one billion people, “a large percentage of whom are highly educated,” and whose life insurance market is suddenly opening. Then he named China, with its 200,000 full-time agents, and also Vietnam, where, for example, Prudential U.K. has signed on 8,000 agents in 18 months.
Central Europe is another growth area, Gordon said, and “in a way is even more remarkable than Asia.” Here, in countries like Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, he said, “you have a sophisticated population with a high standard of education, which has never had any place to put its money.”
He compared the situation in these countries to bringing “an insurance company into a vacuum–people are sucking the product out of the company.”
This ferment in life insurance around the world is reflected in the growing diversity of MDRT’s membership and the organization’s response to it, Gordon said. “This annual meeting is now translated into more languages than the United Nations,” he told attendees.