“Remember this: If a farm boy like me can make it to the Top of the Table, be elected president of the Million Dollar Round Table and speak to you from this platform, then what is stopping you from reaching new heights? Just imagine!”
On that rousing note, Lyle Blessman, MDRT’s president in 1994 and president of The Blessman Group, Denver, Colo., helped kick-start MDRT’s 80th annual meeting, held at the Colorado Convention Center June 10-13. The location of the event–Denver sits a mile above sea level–also served as dramatic backdrop for theme of this year’s gathering, “Reach New Heights.”
While encouraging the nearly 7,300 attendees to soar in their own careers by leveraging the 4 days of main platform sessions, educational workshops and networking opportunities, MDRT used the annual meeting to unveil initiatives aimed at bolstering its status as “the premier association of financial professionals.”
Once again, MDRT boosted its membership requirements, demanding of applicants $75,700 in eligible paid commissions or $151,400 in premiums paid or new money invested.
While upping the benchmarks, MDRT is also leveling the playing field for its world-wide membership, which now comprises 35,000-plus life insurance professionals across 76 nations and 476 companies. To that end, the organization will adopt beginning with the 2008 membership year the World Bank’s purchasing power parity index, which equalizes the purchasing power of different currencies in their home countries for a given basket of goods–in this case, membership requirements.
MDRT President Philip Harriman acknowledged the change will engender “winners” and “losers.” While agents in certain nations, such as the Philippines, will enjoy declines in requirements, others face steep increases. Among them: Mexico (up approximately 26%), Chile (31%), and Jamaica (64%). Harriman emphasized, however, that the transition to the new regime will be gradual for those subject to substantially higher benchmarks.
“Where we’ve had dramatic shifts, rather than impose new requirements all in one year, we’re phasing them in over the next 4 years. Once fully implemented, we’ll have a single worldwide standard.”
Also being streamlined is the Round Table’s governance model. Previously, said Harriman, MDRT’s executive committee had to approve all initiatives spearheaded by the organization’s various divisions and other committees. Now, excepting major decisions impacting policy, finances or strategic directions, the various units are free to implement plans on their own.
Among them: MDRTV. To provide live broadcasts and snippets of past conferences, the Internet portal is being rolled out in beta version in Denver. To go live in 2008 (following the debut of MDRT’s revamped website on Sept. 1), MDRTV will complement a new online video club, where members can view main platform and break-out sessions in their entirety from nearly 40 years of annual meetings. The archived content, said Harriman, will be offered to members on a pay-per-view basis and/or subscription basis.
Because MDRTV will be accessible through laptops, iPods and other portable devices, the site is expected to be a key marketing tool in MDRT’s efforts to attract young advisors. Given MDRT’s aging membership-the average advisor is nearing 50-the recruitment drive is a top priority for the organization’s leadership.
“Young people are less interested than older advisors in traveling to a conference for 5 days, however attractive,” said MDRT First Vice President and Incoming President Jim Rogers. “[The aging issue] doesn’t bode well for the future unless we regenerate the organization by bringing on more generation X and Y advisors.”
To be sure, MDRT continues to enjoy high recruitment levels, particularly in Asia, where the organization is growing fastest. Indeed, Pacific Rim nations are in the top 10 by membership and collectively account for more of the organization’s advisors than the U.S., which in 2006 had 14,535 or 41% of the total. Moving up in the ranks are India, which in 2006 held the 6th position at 1,145 members; and China, which occupied the 10th slot with 454 members.