NAILBA 28, the National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies’ (NAILBA) annual meeting, held Nov. 12-14 in Hollywood, Fla., attracted 1,250 attendees and 110 exhibiting companies. Keynote speakers at the event included best-selling author Dan Pink, sportscaster Greg Gumbel and broadcasting legend Tom Brokaw.

The insurance brokerage industry’s premiere event, NAILBA 28 featured education and networking opportunities for this specialized community. “The packed training sessions and keynote addresses and the well-attended special events demonstrate the industry’s desire for an event with an emphasis on learning and networking,” said NAILBA Chairman Gary Dworkin, CLU, RHU. “This year’s event provided sales leads and nurtured existing client relationships for companies operating within the life insurance industry’s independent distribution channel.”

Leon Huffman, co-chair of the NAILBA government affairs committee, told opening-day attendees during last Thursday’s main platform session that “Silence is not an option.” 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.”

Also during Thursday’s main platform, 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.”

Exhibitor feedback at the event was overwhelmingly positive according to NAILBA. “This is very much our target audience — it’s how we market our services, and we’ve found there are lots of decision makers here,” said exhibitor Lowell Aronoff, CEO of Toronto-based CANNEX Financial Exchanges Limited. “This is our third or fourth year, and the nice thing about coming to NAILBA is that, if the people see our product and they like it, they’re the ones who can make the decision to buy it.”

Not all exhibitors were on hand to make a sale. “We do business with about 175 of these folks, so for us, being at NAILBA is about client retention and the opportunity to get in front of the clients we already have,” said exhibitor Robert Erzen, Area Vice President for Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services. “If we’re not here, we’re conspicuously absent.”

NAILBA also chose the insurance brokerage industry’s premiere event as a launching platform for its new brand identity. “We have taken this opportunity to modify the way we present ourselves to our constituents — our members, our carriers, our suppliers — and to elected representatives, regulators and business partners,” said NAILBA Executive Director Jack Chiasson. “NAILBA has a new look that you’ll be seeing on our printed materials and our completely updated, more user-friendly website.”

NAILBA 29 will be held Nov. 18-20, 2010, in Dallas. For more information, visit www.nailba.org.

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