GAMA Promotes Mentoring And Membership At LAMP Meeting

By

San Antonio

With GAMA Internationals U.S. membership dropping from 7,600 to 3,800 in the last decade, the industrywide problem of a shrinking career distribution field force has hit the organization hard. At this years LAMP meeting, GAMA President Phillip Richards, delivered a call to arms to an audience of about 1,600.

“There are major problems facing the industry,” he said. “And, only through mutual commitment and mentoring can we turn the tide.”

Richards explained in his keynote address that increasing costs of supporting career distribution channels have driven many companies away from it, with fewer than half of the life companies that used to invest in career distribution doing so today.

“What we are dealing with now in America is an underserved market, especially the middle market,” Richards continued. “There just arent enough life insurance agents or financial planners out there to help these people.”

Richards said the career distribution channel has the power to solve this agent shortage issue. But to turn the tide and increase the number of quality agents in the business today, agency managers must get back to the fundamentals of recruiting and training–with a special focus on mentoring.

“We were all mentored in some way, now its time to give back,” he said.

Richards call for more agents to get involved with mentoring programs comes with the continued promotion of the GAMA/MDRT joint mentoring program. Richards described the program as a “godsend” for both agencies and companies “in terms of revitalizing life sales and having a better format for bringing inexperienced people into our business.”

GAMA International Vice President James Krueger said statistics have shown that mentoring not only benefits new agents, but “the mentors themselves have had an average 30% growth in business.”

Richards said agency managers need to focus on bringing more inexperienced people into the business, and to build quality people through mentoring and study groups–resources available through GAMA membership.

In an effort to grow membership, GAMA President-elect Michael White has built a strategy to promote the resources available to managers who belong to GAMA. White is shooting for a 7% net membership increase each year for the next five years.

Board members, individuals involved with the membership task force and executive board members will be focusing on a company approach–attending company meetings to “sell the value proposition,” said Richards.

“There are a lot of general agents and managers that dont know what resources GAMA has developed over the years,” White explained. In addition, he said there are other tools that GAMA has built specifically for second line managers and recruiters that many are unaware of.

Last years membership level was within 45 members of the 2001 figure, according to Charles Smith, executive vice president and CEO of GAMA International. But looking closer at these figures revealed GAMA has experienced an 87% retention rate in its membership, he said.

Many companies will pay for an agency managers first-year enrollment in GAMA, said Smith, but the manager is responsible for half the enrollment fees the second year.

“The communication wasnt there, and they were dropping off,” Smith said. Now, having addressed this problem, Smith expects retention for this year to rise to 90% or better.

Some organizational changes are under way at GAMA as the association makes progress in attaining 501(c)(6) status. This will make it a separate entity from its parent organization, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

“We will be separating all assets and employees from NAIFA,” explained Smith. As a separate legal entity, it will be easier for GAMA International to raise funds for the substantive growth of the organization, he added.

“This detachment is one that is needed by both organizations,” Richards said.

The proposal was presented to the NAIFA board last January and was passed. Final approval is expected at the upcoming board meeting in April. According to Smith, by the end of GAMAs fiscal year, Aug. 31, it will be an independent organization.

While this is taking place, GAMA is also looking for a new CEO. Smith will retire from his position June 30.

Richards had hoped to fill the position by last weeks LAMP meeting, but now he expects to have Smiths replacement by June 30.

Richards said a search committee is currently reviewing nine candidates. Rather than “looking for a professional executive whos never heard of the organization,” he said, the search committee is looking for someone who has a passion and a history with GAMA.

“Weve been spoiled the last five years with Charlie being here,” said Richards.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 24, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved. Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.