If all goes according to plan, by year-end 2010 GAMA International will have nearly doubled its current membership. The new inductees will also reflect a wider diversity of field leaders and many more young managers. GAMA’s executive leadership detailed these ambitious objectives during a press briefing at the organization’s annual LAMP conference here last week. The event, which boasted an attendance topping 2,200, also served a showcase for new programs that GAMA is banking on to fulfill its three-year strategic plan.
“These initiatives aim in part to reach out to the next generation of field leadership,” said GAMA International CEO Jeffrey Hughes. “Our efforts also bring to bear the fact that building a leading organization cannot be done by one individual. Thus our focus is on generating content for leadership teams and on delivering professional development products to enhance field leadership.”
GAMA Vice President Linda Witham added, “We’re positioning LAMP as a place where leadership teams can go to learn together. This will be a huge focus of next year’s conference in Atlanta.”
Capping GAMA’s re-branding efforts at LAMP was the unveiling of a new corporate logo and accompanying tagline, “Building the Leaders Who Build the Financial Services Industry.” The corporate makeover and programs debuted at LAMP aim to boost GAMA’s membership rolls to 10,000 from the current 5,500.
To that end, the organization is seeking to attract whole advisor teams: managers involved in the recruiting, development and retaining of life insurance and financial service professionals. Historically, GAMA’s membership consisted chiefly of general agents and managers at the top of the agency pyramid. Hughes said GAMA’s expanding outreach efforts reflect also the changing roles of agency managers.
“Front-line leaders are now expected to do the job that the managing partner or general agent used to do,” said Hughes. “The managing partners and general agents are moving into coaching and consultative roles. And so they need to bring their front-line leaders to a level of competency around the core skills of management and leadership.”
GAMA’s expanded mission was reflected in new content during the four-day conference, including several sessions that dovetailed thematically with the latest research from the GAMA Foundation. Among the sessions were 2 devoted to building high-performance advisor teams; a workshop on creating an organization to last in the 21st century; and, to appeal to this year’s international contingent, a session featuring Greek and Spanish interpretation (“Building the Right Culture for Your Agency.”)
These and other sessions aimed to attract, as well, a demographic group whose recruitment GAMA execs view as key to meeting its 10,000-member benchmark: managers who are under 40 or who have been in management for less than 5 years.
Prominent among the initiatives unveiled at LAMP was one targeted to this group, Leaders of Today and Tomorrow, a resource and networking portal. Among other tools, LOTT offers managers access to free best practices teleconferences, GAMA’s Great Ideas book series, opportunities to connect with peers at the annual meeting, and the GAMA Foundation’s System for Success Series research series.
New to this research is Building Advisor Teams, a package of management tools–guidebook, audio guidebook and application booklet–that identifies practices and systems used in launching, developing and leading “successful, high-performance” teams.
Available to LOTT members as well are GAMA’s Field Leadership Series workshops, which provide a forum for managers to apply the best practices identified in the Systems for Success Research. Currently delivered through in-classroom instruction and “blended learning” (classroom and on-line instruction), the workshops impart best practices focusing on recruiting, selection and new advisor development.
Also unveiled at LAMP was a revamped website, gamaweb.com, which has been redesigned to provide easier access to GAMA’s professional development content, as well as a companion members-only learning and networking portal, GAMA Source. The latter bundles archived teleconferences and workshops, past issues of the GAMA International Journal, and an online forum for networking or sharing best practices with peers.
GAMA International President-elect Michael Condrey said the various roll-outs ultimately should boost not only GAMA’s membership, but also that of its sister organization, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. A bigger NAIFA, he added, could provide political dividends.
“It takes 100,000 acorns to yield 10,000 trees,” said Condrey, echoing a point made by outgoing President Ed Deutschlander during the conference’s opening general session. “We think it will take 10,000 trees–10,000 GAMA members–to bring NAIFA’s membership back up to 100,000, which is the number NAIFA needs if its advocacy arm is to have real political weight in Washington.”