Jason Kestler, one of the organizers of the March 17 Rule 151A fixed indexed annuity fly-in, says the key to talking to the folks on Capitol Hill is to remember that they are people, too.
Kestler is president of Kestler Financial Group Inc., Leesburg, Va., and chair of the insurance marketers advisory committee at the National Association for Fixed Annuities, Milwaukee.
As the NAFA IMAC chair, he is helping to round up producers to head to Washington to lobby against U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission efforts to implement Rule 151A.
The rule would classify FIA products as securities subject to SEC jurisdiction.
FIA products are annuities that offer guaranteed returns and the possibility that a holder can earn additional returns if a designated investment index or bundle of indexes performs well.
SEC officials and some producers contend that FIA products look like securities to consumers and ought to be subject to the same regulatory regime.
Members of NAFA and other groups helping to put together the fly-in contend that insurers use their general accounts to back the FIA product guaranteed minimum benefits the same way they use their general accounts to back the benefits offered by other types of fixed annuities; that FIA products have performed much better than SEC-regulated products during the Great Recession; and that classifying the products as securities would force many insurance agents who want to keep selling the products to go through a cumbersome, expensive registration process.
Rule 151A opponents already have lined up strong support for their position in the House. During the upcoming fly-in, they will focus on building support in the Senate.
Kestler Financial is mounting an “all-out campaign” to get its agents to tell their representatives that FIA products are not securities, Kestler says.
“For consumers, 151A will make it harder to get fixed indexed products at the very time they are needed most – when markets are in turmoil,” Kestler says in a responses to an interview conducted through electronic mail. “For the insurance industry, 151A will be highly disruptive, undoubtedly resulting in loss of jobs and revenues for insurance companies and agencies.”
Kestler says he personally wants to target a senator from his own state – Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who serves on the Senate banking, commerce and budget committees.
“As for actually meeting with Senator Warner, let’s just say his office has received numerous requests from my office,” Kestler says. “But frankly, even if I meet with one of his legislative assistants, in many ways, it accomplishes the same goal, which is awareness to our cause.”
Kestler reports that he has lobbied on Capitol Hill several times before.
“The first time, I was extremely nervous,” Kestler recalls. “Everything about it was nerve racking: The building and offices are huge, the floors are marble… the desks are as large as my king size bed.”
The constituent chairs are “strategically 5 inches shorter than theirs,” and security patdowns can make citizen lobbyists feel even smaller when compared with the lawmakers and staffers, Kestler says.
“But the reality is they are just people also,” Kestler says. “As my grandfather said, they, too, put their pants on one leg at a time. After you shake off the nerves, you quickly realize you know more than they do about your industry.
“In many respects you talk to them as if they were a distant relative and you were explaining what you do for a living and who this legislation would impact you, your staff, your agents and ultimately the end consumers,” he adds. “All of which are their constituents.”
RULE 151A FLY-IN
Readers can follow Allison Bell at http://www.lifeandhealthinsurancenews.com/rule151a as she reports live from Capitol Hill once the event begins.
Feel free to ask Allison questions on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/NatUndLife, and join in the discussion by using the Twitter hashtag #rule151a.