GAMA Broadens Its Traditional Focus To ‘Distribution Management’
GAMA used to be an association exclusively for general agents and field managers, but not anymore, according to Charles Smith, executive vice president and CEO of GAMA International.
“General agents and managers belong to GAMA, but we are now in distribution management,” said Smith, at the group’s LAMP meeting here.
“One of the things that has driven this change is the fact that the constituency group we represent today has changed over the last 50 years,” he said.
Smith noted that in the past, if an organization’s lead product wasn’t life insurance, it really wasn’t considered a potential member. “One of the things we have noticed is there’s a huge audience of multi-line managers out there that have been off our radar screen for most of our history.”
Smith explained that while multi-line producers, financial planners, and equity producers all enter the market in different ways, they almost always end up in the same place: providing services in risk management, asset accumulation, distribution management, and legacy planning.
“Ultimately, whatever you do in this business you’re going in one of these directions,” he said.
GAMA is looking to have every different distribution style represented in its membership, according to Smith.
“When you ask the question today of who is our audience, the answer is distribution management,” he said.
“We’ve gone through an evolution,” said Bill Pollakov, GAMA president, and part of that evolution included the decision to move away from the local chapter organization.
Smith noted that at one time GAMA had as many as 150 chapters throughout the country. “That chapter distribution model was not functioning for us to have any impact that was of value.”
Phil Richards, president-elect of GAMA, added that in order to replace the local chapters, the organization had to become more of a resource to its members–this led to the change in services to focus on education.
“We made the decision that we are not a chapter organization, that we are now an association that’s here for education, training, and other things,” added Pollakov.
Driving the shift in focus, noted Smith, was the industry environment. It had brought about challenges for companies to reallocate assets, and cut costs–many times the first area of cuts were in agent training and professional development for field managers. “Our members looked at us and asked ‘If GAMA doesn’t do this, then who will?’” said Smith.