Recently, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors’ board of trustees circulated a report on their ongoing strategic plan among their local and state associations. It is my understanding that an array of task forces will soon begin work to implement recommendations embodied in the plan. Based on some of the feedback they are getting, implementation may be a bit premature.
Executing plans based on false premises is not likely to produce desired results. Or, as Leo Futia and Alan Press often said, “There is no right way to do a wrong thing.”
I have problems with parts of the report and the conclusions reached. Perhaps the main concern I have with the report is its overemphasis on “advocacy” as the core product of NAIFA and the key to its rebuilding process. There is no question that legislative effectiveness, or advocacy, is very important–but it is not the glue that holds us together. Advocacy is more dependent upon a large membership than any other NAIFA program.
I remember a meeting in Baton Rouge, La., about 25 years ago between then Senate Finance Committee Chairman Richard Russell, D-La., and about 12 CEOs of our major companies. Tom Wolff, then president of the National Association of Life Underwriters, and I were invited to attend the meeting as well, for the purpose of the meeting was to discuss legislative issues affecting the entire insurance business. In the course of the meeting, Senator Russell said he appreciated the help and support he received from the companies–but the best support in the legislative arena came from the agents, who had people working in every community in the country.
It was a bit of a shock to some of the CEOs present, but they paid attention, and some went home bent on organizing their own agents for legislative activities. But Sen. Russell was clear in his message that numbers count. Advocacy depends on membership, not the other way around. The companies present had lots of money, lawyers and influence, but they lacked the numbers.
I would never minimize the value of advocacy, but it did not build or maintain the structure that enabled growth of NALU (now NAIFA) to 140,000 plus members in its almost 900 local associations. It is true that lawyers who executed much of our legislative agenda were always the stars at any meeting of the association, and we showcased them to the fullest.
But it was our field service and public relations departments that built and nourished the structure that created the membership and held on to it. That structure is now malnourished. As NAIFA resources have dwindled in past years, resources have been drained from other activities to retain a high level of legislative activities.