“NAIFA 21 is the roadmap for the new NAIFA,” said Jeffrey Taggart. “It serves as the blueprint of where NAIFA needs to go and how to grow, [encompassing] our focus on advocacy and government relations, education and professional development, mentoring and networking.”
On that note, Taggart, the 2007-2008 president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, kicked off the opening general session of NAIFA’s 2008 Convention and Career Conference, held here last week. Progress on NAIFA 21 was a chief focus of the leadership team during the meeting.
On the advocacy front, said Taggart, NAIFA launched four online newsletters–GovTalk, GovWatch, GovAlert and GovPod–to get members up-to-speed on insurance-related legislative and regulatory developments. High on NAIFA’s list of legislative priorities is congressional passage of an optional federal charter, a resolution in support of which NAIFA’s National Council ratified on Sept. 10.
As detailed to conventioneers by NAIFA Past President David Smithkey, the resolution “conditionally supports” the OFC concept, provided that OFC legislation preserves the state system of insurance regulation, insures true agent choice, provides enhanced consumer protection and establishes a single federal voice on insurance matters. The resolution also maintains NAIFA’s “strong support” for improving state-based insurance regulation.
The organization’s advocacy efforts extend to other areas that are a focus of Congress. These include a proposed federal office of insurance information; 12(b)-1 fees; indexed annuities; issues affecting health and employee benefits; and, not least, tax reform that potentially could put at risk the tax-favored treatment of life insurance.
NAIFA CEO John Healy warned that the tax incentives enjoyed by policyholders–income tax-free distribution of death benefit proceeds, tax-deferred growth of cash values inside permanent life contracts and the tax-deductibility of premium contributions paid by business owners–are increasingly in danger because of the need to reduce a ballooning budget deficit, now pegged at over $400 billion, while funding a range of federal priorities. Irrespective of who is elected president in November, said Healy, Congress will be looking for money to pay for the Iraq war, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, overhaul home mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and keep Medicare and Social Security solvent.
“Congress, in search of new revenue sources, conservatively estimates that our industry enjoys $1.5 trillion over 5 years in tax incentives,” said Healy. “Congress calls these tax incentives ‘lost revenues’ and is beginning to zero in like a bull’s eye on these incentives.”
To fend off adverse legislation, NAIFA’s National Board finalized a game plan that calls for a partnership with the American Council of Life Insurers, the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting, GAMA and the National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies. In concert with these sister organizations, said Healy, NAIFA will undertake “preemptive strikes” against potentially hostile bills, in part by raising its profile in key districts that have a powerful voice in Congress. Of special interest to NAIFA are legislators represented on the House Ways and Means Committee, the House Financial Services Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Banking Committee, as well as the House and Senate leadership teams. Healy added that NAIFA is also exploring the feasibility of hosting “a day on Capitol Hill” to allow members to lobby their representatives en masse for legislative priorities.
“This would provide you with an unprecedented opportunity to tell your story about what you really do for your clients,” said Healy. “Congress needs to hear this story.”
NAIFA’s aggressive advocacy efforts at the leadership level stands in contrast, however, to the political involvement of its rank-and-file members. NAIFA’s political action arms, IFAPAC and APIC, contributed more than $2.6 million in the last year to federal and state election campaigns, placing NAIFA in the top 1% of among more than 3,700 PACs. But Taggart noted that 76% of NAIFA members don’t contribute.
To wield real greater political clout on Capitol Hill, executives also noted that NAIFA will have to boost its membership rolls. The organization’s longstanding goal of 100,000 dues-paying life insurance professionals remains a distant goal, though Taggart noted that 2007-2008 recruitment drive surpassed the prior fiscal year’s effort.
NAIFA has also partnered with the Million Dollar Round Table to offer NAIFA state and local associations ready access to a newly launched online MDRT Speakers Bureau. The bureau will comprise MDRT member speakers who have been screened for their talent and expertise.
NAIFA’s varied member benefits and advocacy objectives continue to present financial challenges. For the fiscal year ended August 31, 2007, NAIFA recorded a consolidated deficit from continuing operations of over $124,000. And NAIFA’s operating deficit is “on pace” to meet the deficit budget that was approved for fiscal year 2008.