Celebrating 75 Years– And Looking Ahead To The Future

I love birthday and anniversary celebrations, and this 75th Anniversary year of the Society of Financial Service Professionals certainly has been no exception. Commemorations such as this are a time for dreams. Theyre an opportunity to warm our souls with memories of celebrations past, of both the special as well as the ordinary in our lives. But this is also a time to look ahead, or we will not see where we are going.

As I look ahead to the future for the Society, I see several areas of growth, starting with membership.

While there are certainly good financial reasons to build the membership base of an organization, the best reasons go well beyond cash flow and operating capital. With each new member comes a fresh set of eyes, new thinking, and new vitality. An increase in membership means the pool of volunteers is deeper, so work gets spread out and there are continually new faces among Chapter leadership.

The Society must, and will, seek new and creative ways to recruit members in both the short and long term.

But to get to a future that includes an abundance of members, each member has to start by doing his or her part today. Each member needs to make it his or her personal responsibility to tell our story to at least three prospective members annually.

There are so many candidates for membership in our own personal universesthe attorney or CPA to whom we refer clients; the CFP, CLU or ChFC at our office, or with whom we may have studied; the student whom we are mentoring, who aspires to be a credentialed professional. Organizations grow when the people who belong invite other people to join them.

Theres no magic here, just time-tested and proven practices. It works the same way many sales professionals built their practices10 prospects, four appointments, two closing interviews, one sale. With the Societys value offerings, the effective ratios shrink dramatically. From what Ive seen, 10 prospects will yield eight excellent membership candidates which will likely yield five new society members. I sincerely hope this theory gets tested.

In the future I see continued growth in the array of benefits members enjoy. As time goes on, the Society will continue to review and improve its product offerings, both to stay in step with technology and to serve the diverse needs of a varied and growing membership.

This is not just a mission for the future but has always been a goal of the societyusing cutting-edge technology to provide members with value-added benefits.

For example, consider the Societys video conferences. When video tele-conferencing was introduced, the technology was state of the art. We had the capability of reaching all of our members at the same time via a nationwide satellite broadcast.

In recent years, however, our members asked us to find a way to deliver the same high-quality programming but in a way that gave them more flexibility in scheduling. New advances in technology were available and as a result we began distributing the VTC on DVD. Now, members could earn quality continuing education and could watch it when they want.

Going forward, the Society will continually look to capitalize on technological advances and the resulting opportunities to better serve our members.

One very important area of growth and expansion for the Society in the future lies in our members putting ethical behavior first. As part of the Societys commitment to ethical behavior, in the future I see more chapters hosting local business ethics awards.

In fact, this year is a double anniversary, with the Societys 75th and the American Business Ethics Awards 10th. If the ABEA in the next 10 years continues to grow as it has in its first 10, both in regard to awareness and prestige, then the Society will have one of the most sought-after awards in the country. And the beautiful thing about the American Business Ethics Award will remain that it cant be bought or campaigned forit must be earned every day.

Finally, in the future I see the industry embracing the Steven Covey principle of the “Abundance Mentality,” as opposed to the scarcity mentality that so often divides our industry.

Looking at all the other great associations in our industry, I dont see us all competing for the same membership. If one association grows, it doesnt take away from another association. The pool of potential members is not finite. If one association grows, we all grow. Each organization needs to define its mission and do what it does best, without trying to be all things to all people. Each association needs to support the others.

Our responsibility today and in the future is to be the best Society we can be by focusing on our core values of education, ethics and relationships. We shouldnt try to be the premier sales organization that Million Dollar Round Table is, nor the premier advocacy organization that the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors is, nor the primary management training and support organization that GAMA International is. We respect and appreciate the work those fine organizations do.

The Societys plan for the future is to remain the premier organization for credentialed professionals in the financial services industry. We will continue to be a Society where inclusiveness and mutual respect for other credentialed professionals reign supreme. Where we seek and value the opinions and wisdom of those with a different area of expertise, so we can bring the very best thinking to our clients.

Credentialed professionals who dont belong to an organization like the Society need to ask themselves if they are being a true professional. In the words of the Societys 1972 president, Sonny Rodman, “If I am going to be a true professional and hold myself to the highest standards of continuing education and ethical conduct, then I want to be part of the organization that speaks for those values. This is where a credentialed professional belongs.”

Alan R. Ziegler, CEBS, CLU, ChFC, served as president of The Society of Financial Service Professionals for 20022003. He can be reached at alanz@frontiernet.net.


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