Leon Huffman, co-chair of the NAILBA government affairs committee, told opening-day attendees at NAILBA’s annual meeting in Hollywood, Fla. on Thursday that “Silence is not an option.”

More than 1,000 people were in attendance during the first day of the National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (NAILBA) 28th annual meeting.

Huffman, who is president of Huffman & Associates, Orlando, Fla., in addition to his NAILBA office, reviewed how developments in the economy and Congress are affecting the insurance business. The financial services industry “is portrayed as the epitome of everything wrong with corporate America,” he said. The government is “making aggressive moves to regulate our business, our fiduciary role, our suitability role, and even our supervisory responsibility over our own agencies.” After discussing many threats to the business, he urged NAILBA members to help NAILBA present the industry’s views. “We can’t do it alone. We need you to fight too. Silence is not an option.”

Also during Thursday’s main platform, NAILBA Chairman Gary S. Dworkin told the audience that 2009 has been a terrific, vital, challenging and exhausting year for the association; but the association was able to complete a strategic overhaul so it could better focus on these areas: advocacy, education, networking with others in the industry, and member growth.

Dworkin said the brokerage industry is facing unprecedented challenges in terms of regulation and legislation, and commented that “independent distribution is an enigma to so many of those who are drafting the rules … we have a great deal more [work] to do.” He also told the audience, “Your involvement is critical to the future of independent brokerage,” and “this is a time when we must hang together, or we will surely hang separately.”

Dworkin also said NAILBA did a lot of collaboration with industry groups in 2009 and is now recognized as a vital and valuable industry leader. To foster member growth, NAILBA developed its first NAILBA Executive Forum, an event for agency leadership to complement the association’s Agency Management Institute for agency staff.

Linda Coco of NU Life & Health and Christina Pellett of Agent Sales Journal contributed to this report.