Sure, some of the exhibitors at NAILBA 29 brought putting greens — but Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America set up a full-size electronic driving range.
And, sure, NAILBA 29 organizers scheduled some of those general-interest, general-session speakers who tend to be an excuse to go hang out by the pool–but MetLife Inc. sponsored an appearance by Tom Peters, the author of the best-selling, economy-shaping In Search of Excellence, and Prudential Financial Inc. hooked George W. Bush, the former president of the United States.
NAILBA 29 was the 29th annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (NAILBA), Fairfax, Va., a group for the wholesalers who help life insurers distribute their products to independent agents and brokers.
Each of NAILBA’s member agencies does business with hundreds or thousands of retail agencies. Those brokerage general agencies (BGAs) are, in effect, the levers the insurers hope to use to move the world – or, at least, the slothful, cash-strapped American consumer.
An insurance company rep rolled her eyes when asked why she had come to NAILBA 29.
“I’m here,” the rep said, “because my customers are here.”
Two years ago, Douglas Mishkin, the 2008 NAILBA chairman, got up at NAILBA’s 27th annual meeting to urge BGAs to stand strong against the financial crisis.
“Producers must reassure clients that the promises held in their insurance contracts are safe,” Mishkin said in 2008.
A year ago, NAILBA leaders were talking about how the organization had revamped itself, partly in response to the economic crisis.
This year, the mood was much more positive.
The number of BGAs seems to be smaller than it was before the crisis hit, but “the distributors that are still here are here to stay,” the insurer rep said in an interview. “I hope.”
Others at the meeting were more firmly bullish.
William Zimmerman, president of LifePro Financial Services Inc., San Diego, a distributor, said the world is much different than it was a year ago.
“Business is back,” Zimmerman said.
Chip Milner, a Lawrenceville, Ga., BGA, said business was great last year for an agency like his, which focuses on fixed and indexed products, and has been even better this year.
“When the economy’s poor, consumers prioritize,” Milner said. “Our products are serious products for serious needs.”
Buck Stinson, a vice president at Genworth Financial Inc., Richmond, Va., said that stability is building consumer confidence, and that growing consumer confidence should bring consumers back to the table.