A More Focused NAIFA Looks To Spread The Word To Locals

By Barry Higgins

Kansas City, Mo.

“To me, this meeting is every bit as important as the first meeting held back in 1890,” stated David Woods, CEO of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, at the groups annual meeting here.

At that first meeting, a number of agents got together in Boston, Mass. to address legislative issues, ethical issues, “and at the same time bring some good solid sales ideas and practice techniques to each other,” said Woods, in an interview with National Underwriter.

Now more than 100 years later, leadership at NAIFA has redirected its focus on these very same principles, Woods said. A new mission statement has been developed focusing on three areas: political advocacy, ethical behavior, and bringing benefits to members that will impact their financial bottom line, he added.

“We got away from the fundamentals for a long time, but now were focused back on them,” Woods said.

In the past, there was a mindset at NAIFA that the association had something to offer everybody in the industry, said Richard Koob, president of NAIFA. But he admits that is not the case. “If you dont believe in advocacy at the state and national level, and you dont believe in ethical conduct, and you dont believe in member benefits delivered at the local level, we dont have much to offer,” he said.

“We were trying to do too much for too many people, we had to narrow our focus and have a clear concise message,” added Randy Kilgore, president-elect of NAIFA.

Kilgore explained that the NAIFA board has “graded” itself on the areas of advocacy and member benefits, “and until we get an A+ in those two areas, were not going to do anything else,” he said.

To bring members better bottom-line benefits, educational services and programming at the local association level will be segmented based on the different areas financial professionals are practicing. Segments will include life insurance and annuities, health insurance and employee benefits, multi-line, and investments.

Furthermore, these programs will not be designed by NAIFA; rather, the organization will outsource these programs to its sister associations that specialize in these areas.

“We want to be the deliverer of the product, not the manufacturer,” said Kilgore.

He added that bringing these programs to the local associations will improve the value members receive at the local level. “We need more meaningful meetings, meetings where the members get some value out of it.”

The biggest challenge NAIFA faces ahead will be taking this focused message to its local associations. “We can do all sorts of things at the national level, but if it doesnt get down to the local association its not going to happen,” said Woods.

“If the local member doesnt receive the benefit, its a failure,” added Koob.

Communicating with the locals is going to be a major focus for the organization in the coming year, stated Kilgore. “It has to be a concerted and consolidated effort by the national leadership. Our board has to work very closely with the states, and the states have to work very closely with the locals to make sure they receive all the information and programs were talking about.”

Koob outlined some of the methods of getting the word out to the locals. First and foremost, Koob expects NAIFA leadership to continue to spread the word through face-to-face contact with local chapters. He expects more regional meetings to take place where a number of local associations will come together once or twice a year. “If we can get a NAIFA spokesman at that meeting, we have the effect of talking to a number of locals in one conversation.”

Other channels of communication Koob expects the association to use are e-mail and its member magazine.

In addition to developing a new mission statement to better focus the association, changes to the associations bylaws were proposed and approved at this years meeting.

One of the changes members voted on and approved here will reduce the size of the NAIFA board to between 13-15 individuals from the current 24 members. According to the bylaws and resolution committee report, the change “should reduce expenses without lessening the boards effectiveness or the degree of diversity among board members.”

Another amendment that was approved authorizes the NAIFA board to amend bylaws on its own without a national vote. Changes would be limited to not include any changes with respect to dues, “but they could change the bylaws with regard to any other change that they might want to make,” explained Woods.

Some members said during the meeting that they did not support these changes. “Im against it. It centralizes too much power,” said a NAIFA member who did not want to be identified.

But Woods noted that this type of change will add flexibility to the organization. “It makes us more nimble. Right now we have to wait a whole year before we do something.”

Furthermore, Woods explained that checks and balances are built in to the amendment.

From a financial perspective, Peter Browne presented the treasurers report. When Browne accepted the position as treasurer of NAIFA last year, the financial state of the organization was “the most destitute of our entire history,” he said.

But in the past year, Woods restructured and streamlined operations at NAIFA, in addition to cutting almost $2 million from the budget, said Browne.

“While the books arent closed on 2003 yet, our results through July show NAIFA is operating at breakeven level. NAIFA is firmly back on track,” he said.

Browne added that NAIFAs most important source of revenue is from its membership, and he encouraged members to go out and recruit new individuals to join the association.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 19, 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.