NAVA, Inc., the 15-year-old defender of variable annuities and related products, has rebranded itself as the Insured Retirement Institute of Washington, D.C.

The rebranding includes a new mission–to focus on insured retirement strategies, not just financial products. IRI says it will engage in education, advocacy, and ethics related to these strategies, and to include advisors and consumers within its purview as well as insurers and other firms. (See the news brief here.)

That sounds sensible and forward looking. When boomers hit retirement with their 401(k)s, IRAs, annuities, mutual funds and other assets, they will desperately need help with creating a secure retirement income flow from these multiple resources. So will their advisors. Associations that respond are meeting a critical need.

But rebranding around such a mission is not without challenge. The chief problem for now is differentiation.

NAVA, well known for its VA expertise, is now IRI, got that. And IRI has an insured retirement strategy focus. Got that, too. But how will IRI differ from all the other retirement planning organizations that are out there? This is unclear.

My personal file lists at least 14 such groups, all with somewhat similar missions–retirement education, advocacy and the like.

Some of the existing retirement organizations are fairly new while others are well established; some hail from the pension world while others from the insurance world; some consist of only insurance members while others include securities, banking and other non-insurance members; some are only for advisors while others cast a wider net; some have high profiles while others are less visible in the public sphere; some are retirement-only groups while others address other senior issues too; and some offer certification programs while others do not.

Making the differentiation clear in the minds of advisors, other potential members and the industry at large will be the task of the various organizations, including IRI.

Like it or not, income planners must become part of that process, too. After all, when deciding which professional group/s to join or follow, they will need to evaluate which one/s will best address planner needs. Given the many similarities and differences among these groups, this will be no easy task. Income planners will need to do their own due diligence.

That said, having many professional retirement organizations from which to choose is surely a much better “problem” to face than having none or very few. This increases the chance that income planners will be able to locate professional support suited to their own practice.

That IRI has increased those options is therefore good for advisors. It is also an indication that the retirement income market is continuing to expand in infrastructure and services. Coming at this time of economic turmoil, that is no small thing.

[ Want to add your two cents? Just blog them below. ]

–Linda Koco, Managing Editor, e-Publications
National Underwriter Life & Health