The Insured Retirement Institute is now the official name of what was once NAVA, the Association for Insured Retirement Strategies.
The new name signals that the trade group has rebranded itself as an organization that focuses on the insured retirement strategies industry and its consumers and advisors, say executives.
Founded in Reston, Va., in 1991, the organization was originally called the National Association for Variable Annuities. It concentrated on promoting and defending VAs and related products. Over the years, it gave increased attention to the use of those products in retirement income planning.
“We are not abandoning who we have been or who we are today,” says CEO and President Cathy Weatherford in an interview. For instance, IRI will continue to address matters related to VAs, other annuities and variable life.
However, “this is a highly evolving industry and the products are evolving, especially now that 75 million baby boomers are approaching retirement,” she says. “We want to evolve along with it.”
Therefore, along with the new name, IRI has a new mission, location and staff, she says.
The new mission calls for promoting better understanding of the “insured retirement value proposition.” It also addresses ethical principals, best practice standards and advocacy. Consumer education and advisor outreach are part of the new focus.
The new location is Washington, D.C.
The new staff has 16 employees, including three from the original Reston, Va. office. They are currently overseeing a membership of 320 firms.
Why the outreach to advisors?
“The success of insured retirement strategies depends on advisors being well-educated and well-informed on the latest developments in order to confidently recommend these products,” says James A. Shepherdson, executive vice president of AXA Equitable, New York, and IRI’s incoming chair.
Formerly, the association’s membership comprised insurers, wirehouses, broker-dealers, banks, asset management firms and various professional firms serving the annuity industry, Weatherford notes. Now, the members who are in distribution are being invited to ask their own advisors to join IRI, too.
To serve advisors, she says, IRI plans to publish an advisor’s newsletter, establish an advisors council and offer compliance-approved consumer brochures for advisors to download from the IRI website (at www.IRIonline.org). Other initiatives will come later.
The organization is reaching out to other advisor groups to see where IRI can collaborate and rebrand together, Weatherford adds. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel.”
As for the consumer outreach, “IRI will be a trusted resource for consumers looking for guaranteed income in an economy and times where there is little certainty,” predicts Weatherford.
It represents “a new direction” for not only the association, but also for the entire insured retirement industry and consumers, adds IRI Chair Mark Casady, who is chairman and CEO of LPL Financial, Boston.