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IMSA Board Calls for Transformation

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The Insurance Marketplace Standards Association (IMSA) board wants to replace IMSA with the Life Insurers’ Forum for Ethics and Compliance (LIFEC), a group that would focus on helping life compliance professionals do their jobs.

The board of IMSA, Bethesda, Md., is having the group’s 61 member companies vote on a proposal to put IMSA’s intellectual property, compliance products and services, and staff in the new LIFEC group.

LIFEC – which has an acronym that could be pronounced either “Lie-fek” or “Life See” — would “work closely with professionals serving the life insurance industry to identify and offer products and services designed to assist their efforts to promote sound ethics and compliance practices in the life insurance marketplace,” IMSA officials say.

The IMSA board plans to announce the results of the vote Oct. 19, at the IMSA annual meeting.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote, “IMSA will continue to add value for its members through webinars, Summit Meetings and other compliance solution activities in 2010,” IMSA officials say.

IMSA was founded in 1996 in the wake of a wave of allegations of problems with life insurance and annuity sales and marketing practices. IMSA has required member companies to meet voluntary ethical guidelines and undergo periodic independent assessments of their marketing, sales and distribution practices.

IMSA has had a staff of 7 to 10 in recent years, and an annual budget of about $1.5 million to $2 million, according to IMSA spokesman Donald Walters.

For IMSA itself, “this year has been a pretty good year” in terms of finances, IMSA President Brian Atchinson says.

But IMSA board members have been thinking about the idea of a change in mission for about a year, Atchinson says.

Back when IMSA was founded, Atchinson says, few life insurers had formal compliance organizations. Today, he says, the life industry has large compliance organizations, and the compliance professionals are facing many new regulations, including the regulations required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act.

“We want to be helpful to those who have to implement these regulations,” Walters says.

The new LIFEC group probably would inherit most of the IMSA staff, but it might start with a somewhat smaller staff and budget, and it might move to new offices, organizers say.

IMSA Chairman Michael Masterson says the board decided to create a new organization, rather than simply changing IMSA’s name and by-laws, because the IMSA name has become so closely associated with the certification process.

Once the group has a fresh start and a new look, with a new mission, the group may be able attract more insurance company members, Masterson says.

“I think it’s very likely that it will be well-supported by the industry,” Masterson says.


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