“Agents are the true miracle merchants,” said Phillip Richards, CEO of Nortstar Resource Group, Minneapolis, speaking at the Million Dollar Round Table’s annual conference here, June 13-17. “To devote one’s life and career to lightening the load of others is truly a noble calling.”
Such inspirational words were in abundance at MDRT’s 2010 annual meeting. The gathering was a mix of motivation, entertainment and education about insurance techniques and best practices.
Richards, a 2005 inductee into the GAMA International Hall of Fame, was among a number of other luminaries, including John Foley, a former lead solo pilot of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels squadron; Maria Shapiro, a physician and host of “Balance,” a talk show on Canada’s CTV channel; and Mark Johnson, founder of Playing for Change, a movement that promotes global unity through music.
In all, the conference’s 6,000-plus attendees were treated to some 99 speakers, covering such diverse topics as protection, retirement, practice management, sales, marketing, and the “whole person”–MDRT’s curriculum on how to thrive both personally and professionally.
The Vancouver conference also served as a showcase for a number of new MDRT initiatives, including a new way to qualify for membership in the association, which represents less than 1% of the world’s top life insurance and financial services professionals.
To capture the growing community of fee-only advisors, MDRT is allowing prospective members to apply for membership during its 2010-2011 fiscal year based on their fee income. Set at $150,000, the qualifying compensation would be based on 2010 production and derived in part from advisory services for the purchase of insurance products.
“The purpose here is to provide agents and advisors who no longer are receiving commissions with a way to qualify for membership,” said outgoing MDRT President Guy Baker. “The shift to fee-only income is happening in the U.K. and Australia. Given the Congressional debate about extending a fiduciary standard to broker-dealers in the U.S., it could happen here.”
The minimum thresholds for the two other qualifying methods, commissions and premiums, remain unchanged. Membership in the 2010 and 2011 Round Table is based on a minimum of $87,900 of eligible commissions paid or $175,800 paid premium credited to the agent’s account.
Also unchanged is MDRT’s phase-in of the World Bank’s purchasing power parity index, which allows it to equalize the different currencies for membership requirements worldwide. The organization’s members consist of 31,000 life insurance and financial services professionals from 84 countries and territories and 491 companies.
U.S. inductees, still the largest contingent, comprise just over 11,200 advisors, or about 36% of the total.
In part due to the recent recession, a shake-up in the ordering of the global cast of characters has also been underway. South Korea in 2009 retained the number two spot in the top 10 countries by membership (with 5,293 members), while India, with 3,922 members, displaced Japan, with 3,257 members, as number three. China moved up to eighth from tenth place over the same period.
The growing presence of Asia within MDRT’s ranks is a key reason the association sees much of its growth potential in the Pacific Rim. Thus, the organization plans to hold an “MDRT Experience” meeting in February 2011 in Singapore, where aspiring members will enjoy a mini-version of the annual U.S. meeting over two days.
To buttress its recruiting efforts, the association is also partnering with sister organizations, say MDRT execs. They include the Asia Pacific Financial Service Association (APFinFSA), the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, GAMA International, and the American College.
“Our goal is to build alliances with organizations in various geographic areas that have relationships and influence with advisors who could potentially become MDRT members,” said Baker.