CATHY WEATHERFORD: PRESIDENT AND CEO, INSURED RETIREMENT INSTITUTE; WASHINGTON, D.C.
SOUNDBITE: “The stakes have never been higher. Our members are very thankful they have an association that is now watching the financial regulatory reform debate with a laser-like focus and advocating on their behalf.”
Talk about a rebranding initiative. In just under a year, the former National Association of Variable Annuities changed its mission, moved its headquarters, ramped up its lobbying effort, introduced a robust Web site and — no surprise here — hired a new CEO.
Goodbye NAVA. Hello Insured Retirement Institute. IRI, as it’s called, launched in July as the self-described “authoritative source” for both advisors and consumers on annuities, insured retirement strategies and retirement planning.
“The name that we started out with 19 years ago was somewhat limiting and more narrowly focused than what the association has grown into,” notes president and CEO Cathy Weatherford. “As we work harder to financially secure millions of Americans’ retirements, we felt we needed a new name and look with a broader view and scope. We changed our mission, our initiatives, our focus and our goals — all toward providing much more education and advocacy in the best interest of advisors and consumers.”
A key focus of IRI’s new direction is to have an enhanced, strategic presence on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures across the nation. To that end, the organization has assembled a strong government-affairs team: Lee Covington, senior vice president and general counsel, and a former Insurance Commissioner for Ohio, and John Little, vice president of government affairs, a former Capitol Hill chief of staff. Along with its communications and public-affairs team, IRI now has four former Capitol Hill staffers on its roster.
Weatherford herself is no stranger to the Hill.
Just recently, she testified before the entire House Financial Services Committee on the creation of a consumer financial product agency. Also on her radar as Congress addresses financial regulatory reform: the fiduciary standard of care, tax issues and systemic risks to the financial system.
The move to update NAVA’s identity was already under way when the trade association’s board of directors tapped the 54-year-old Weatherford in September of 2008. (She succeeded longtime NAVA president Mark Mackey.) But Weatherford’s imprint is all over the retooled organization.