Nineteen months after the Society of Financial Service Professionals last educational forum, a more diverse membership gathered to celebrate its 75th year and to look ahead to the challenges the association faces going forward.
Since the last meeting, the Society has been trying to distinguish itself as a professional associationwith a diverse membership being its major differentiator, according to officials at the SFSP.
To be a candidate for membership in the SFSP, professionals must complete or be actively pursuing any one of 11 different professional designations. While the Society has its historical roots in the life insurance industry, in recent years it has made membership available to professionals in other financial planning disciplines, such as attorneys and accountants, and with other designations, such as Certified Financial Planners.
“That is our differentiator,” said Alan Ziegler, president of the SFSP in an interview with National Underwriter.
While an estimated 90% of its current members are professionals in the life insurance industry, Ziegler said that adding more members with different areas of expertiseother than life insurancewill help all members. This is one of the messages he has been conveying in his year as president.
“We really are making a conscious attempt to show people who we are,” he said.
But even though membership in the Society has been opened up to professionals from other disciplines, membership figures have decreased in recent years. Ziegler has been working with executives at the Societys national level to address this issue.
“About a year ago we started taking a close look at our chapters and how they measured up,” said Joseph Frack, CEO of the SFSP. “Are they exciting places to be? Is the leadership in those chapters motivated? Do they understand everything that national is doing? Are they going out getting new membersdiverse membersor are they just sitting back?” he asked.
The task for Frack, Ziegler, and the rest of the Societys leadership is to change the momentum in the local chapters. Working with three different task forces, the Society decided the key to success would be to increase the level of communication and support coming from the national headquarters for the local chapters. To do this, they developed something called a “CAT” team.
“We launched the Chapter Assistance Team (CAT) to really work with our largest chapters,” said Frack.
While the Society has about 200 chapters, the CAT teams initially targeted the 30 largest.
The CAT teams included board members, Society staff and other members who volunteered to work with the local chapters. The objective of these teams is to “pay close attention to the chapters so we can give them the help that they need,” said Ziegler.