During his year as president of the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting, Bob Plybon has become a real Washington, D.C., insider.
“I thought something here and there would pop up that would require my attention,” he said in an interview with National Underwriter. “I didnt expect this would become my second residence.”
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It has been a particularly challenging year for Plybon and the AALU, with issues ranging from corporate-owned life insurance, the estate tax, nonqualified deferred compensation and split-dollar all occupying prominent positions on the agendas of Congress and regulators.
And as Gus Comiskey Jr. takes over the gavel as AALU 2004-2005 president, he knows things will not get any easier.
Because 2004 is an election year, some people may believe Congress will not consider legislation affecting AALU members, says Comiskey, but history suggests otherwise. “In 16 of the last 17 election years, we have had tax legislation.”
Plybon says the vast majority of issues that arose during his tenure as president are still in play.
“We have a bunch of issues wed like to bring closure to,” Comiskey adds.
Plybon says AALU and the rest of the life insurance industry are organizationally much better situated to take on the issues than ever before, due in large part to the new spirit of unity in the industry. “For the first time in 30-plus years, we have the ability to bring together the entire industry to speak with one voice on most issues,” he says.
AALU, he notes, has joined with the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the American Council of Life Insurers in a coalition to allow the organizations to work for their members in the most favorable way.
This was demonstrated most notably in the battle over COLI in the Senate Finance Committee, Plybon says. The associations, he says, work constantly to educate members of Congress and their staffs that concerns over COLI involve older policies that are no longer sold.
“We try to paint a view of who we are,” Plybon says. “We try to do a better job of educating members and their staffs about what we do and how the product works.”
Comiskey adds that in the past, the life insurance industry was fragmented, but now AALU, NAIFA and ACLI are trying to present a united front with a commonality of reasoning.
Five years ago, Plybon says, the industry had no central voice. No one was speaking for the entire life insurance industry, he says, and there were disagreements between those at the company level and those at the distribution level.
Moreover, Plybon says, NAIFA lost part of its membership.
But now, he says he thinks the industry has turned the corner. “Were stronger now, but we are still not where we need to be.”
Comiskey adds that AALU is working to get more of its members involved in government relations. AALU now has an organization called Impact, which aims to teach AALU members how to relate to Congress and congressional staff.