When Kwame Jackson spoke before a packed general session of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors Convention and Career Conference here, the words he uttered were undoubtedly music to the nearly 2,800 delegates in attendance.
“Im living proof of why its so important to include life insurance in financial plans and to plan for the unexpected,” he said. “Prudent planning and life insurance enabled my mother to fulfill her promise of sending her kids to college so that they could do even better for themselves than she did for herself.”
The presence of Jackson-star of the hit reality television show “The Apprentice” and a spokesperson for Life Insurance Awareness Month-also spoke volumes to the marketing muscle that NAIFA intends to wield during the coming year. The organization, say NAIFA executives, will build on a much-improved balance sheet to raise public awareness of the value of life insurance, as well as to realize ambitious membership and legislative objectives.
“Now that were financially sound, were going to do 2 things really well: political advocacy and adding to benefits that will impact our members financial bottom line,” says Randy Kilgore, NAIFA immediate past president.
NAIFAs strong financial position represents a significant turnaround for the organization, which only 2 years ago was facing insolvency.
C. Robert Brown, who was inducted as NAIFAs president at the meeting, also credits NAIFAs Transformation Task Force with narrowing the organizations focus (political advocacy, member benefits, membership, governance and administration), which he describes as key to boosting membership. But the process, he acknowledges, was not painless.
“It was gut-wrenching,” says Brown. “Any time you revise your mission statement, there will be those who will voice a difference of opinion. We had to consider everyones viewpoint.”
The exercise paid off. NAIFAs membership now stands at 65,000. Thats 5,000 more than the organization had budgeted for recruitment in 2004, though down from the 67,700 recorded in 2003. NAIFA is aiming to reach 75,000 by next year.
To entice prospects, NAIFA is looking to craft benefits around 4 practice specialties: life insurance, annuities, health insurance and employee benefits. To that end, it is partnering with other organizations that offer complementary products and services.
Among them is The American College, Bryn Mawr, Pa., which now offers to NAIFA local associations sales skills training leading to the LUTCF (Life Underwriting Training Council Fellow) designation. The college also delivers Horizons, an advanced learning system that allows NAIFA members to complete the CFP curriculum, plus 5 courses toward the CLU and ChFC designations. (LUTC also provides credits toward these designations.)
American College President and CEO Larry Barton told meeting attendees that the college is additionally teaming with NAIFA to roll out, by next year, a new financial advisor program based on the LUTC training model.
“The year-end goal is to make our member benefits package so rich that it becomes economically impractical for a prospective member to pass on joining a NAIFA local association,” says NAIFA CEO David Woods.
NAIFAs educational and sales resources extends to other initiatives the organization helped to kick-start. NAIFAs Leadership in Life Institute (LILI), a leadership development course for NAIFA members that nurtures personal growth, now has a presence in 18 states and 160 graduates.
NAIFAs Young Advisors Task Force (YAT) developed marketing and “how-to” resources to address the needs of young advisors. Among them: networking, mentoring, education and sales ideas; plus guides on the benefits of NAIFA membership, how to start a YAT group in the advisors locale, and how to hold a successful networking event.