The things that make you happy help you to become a better version of yourself and to energize you. And becoming a better version of yourself is the best thing you can do for your marriage, your kids, your clients, your business and your community.”
On that note, certified “dream manager” and motivational speaker Matthew Kelly closed out Tuesday’s main platform sessions of the Million Dollar Round Table’s annual meeting, held in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center June 5-8.
In all, the nearly 6,000 conference attendees were treated to speakers from more than 80 sessions, the workshops covering such diverse topics as protection, retirement, practice management, sales, marketing, and the “whole person”–MDRT’s unique curriculum on how to thrive both personally and professionally.
“There is a hunger and thirst for what we provide in terms of helping our members to become more productive,” said Julian Good, MDRT’s outgoing president and an advisor with MetLife/Creative Financial Solutions, Metaire, La. “And we are continuing to improve on our professional development content.”
Among the new and recently debuted initiatives highlighted at the Atlanta convention–MDRT’s 84th since the inaugural meeting in 1927–is the MDRT Growth Summit 2011: a gathering for insurance and financial service professionals, ages 45 and older, who are earning more than $150,000 in commissions or fees and are not currently members of MDRT.
Co-located with the annual meeting, the two-day event (June 5-6) included sessions on helping attendees to develop a brand, as well as to learn management skills needed to hire, train, and motivate employees. Participants also learned how to expand into other business lines, diversify income streams, generate leads, leverage practice management technologies, and how to evaluate and acquire blocks of business from professionals who are looking to retire or work less.
“This program is specifically designed to give non-members a taste of the annual meeting,” said Jennifer Borislow, MDRT’s president-elect and a founder/principal of Borislow Insurance, Methuen Mass. “They get to spend the first full day of the annual meeting with our members.”
The pilot initiative, she added, aims to appeal to an estimated 30,000 producers who meet enrollment requirements. For the inaugural gathering, some 100 non-members will be in attendance.
During the annual meeting, attendees also got a sneak preview of an online tool to go live by end of year: the MDRT Network. The web site feature will allow members to connect with one another by entering keywords based on specialty, geography and other searchable criteria.
MDRT is additionally expanding its whole person concept, an approach to living the organization debuted in 1961 that encompasses multiple components: life and health, relationships, spiritual practice, education, financial management, service and career.
“It’s important that we balance these elements of our lives so that we may reach our full human potential,” said Good. “It is about balancing work, life and success. We’re integrating the whole person philosophy throughout our organization.
“The whole person content on our web site will include more content and interviews with members,” Good added, “At next year’s annual meeting in Anaheim, MDRT will also present the first annual whole person award to a member or members who embrace and epitomize the whole person philosophy.”
MDRT additionally showcased a revamped mentoring program. Available for free to members via an online enrollment form, the program entails no monthly production quota and provides mentors and aspiring members with a resource kit. “Aspirants” who earn 50% of the member production requirement get to attend the annual meeting; those seeking to attend a second meeting must earn 80% of the member quota.
“We’ve designed the program so that mentors and aspirants can work together formally or informally,” said Good. “It’s not anything structured. You–mentor and aspirant–decide which tools in the toolbox you want to use.”
Since the MDRT rolled out the program in January, the number of mentor-aspirant teams has grown to 1000-plus from 100 [under the old program], Good adds. “We expect the program to continue to grow dramatically–and not just here in the U.S. The demand is global.”
That heightened interest, say MDRT executives, is helping to fuel a rebound in MDRT’s membership at a time when many other industry associations are struggling to stop a hemorrhaging of their own ranks. After dipping 11% to about 31,000 in 2009, MDRT’s rolls increased last year to nearly 36,000, a 16% rise.
(Of the total, about about 10,200 are U.S. members. 2011 is the first year in the last six, Good noted, in which the U.S. contingent has not declined.)
Borislow and Good credited the overall increase in part to an economic recovery from the recession of 2007-2009. They noted also that MDRT is delivering more value to members by enhancing the “relevancy” of the Roundtable’s professional development content to international members. To that end, said Good, MDRT has integrated more international members into its volunteer committee structure.
“The introduction of three best practice divisions, each having the same four committees, has provided MDRT with new ideas and content, the breadth of which we’ve never before achieved,” said Good.
The new divisions, he added, are aiding in their quest to boost its exposure internationally, most notably in Asia, where the organization is enjoying it’s most significant growth.
Borislow said that MDRT’s Experience meeting in Singapore last year–a two-day version of the annual meeting for aspiring members–drew 4,300 financial service professionals from 22 countries. Next year, she noted, MDRT will be taking the Experience gathering to Bangkok, and then to India in 2013.
“MDRT Experience is now a signature event along with the annual meeting,” she said. “The international exposure has given us much more global appeal.”
Good agreed, adding that the overseas gatherings have brought in many new volunteers: “Our international meetings–including committee gatherings hosted for the first time internationally by three of MDRT’s 11 divisions–have dramatically boosted our volunteer pool. These meetings really have energized a lot of people.”
The growing prominence of Asian members within MDRT is evident in the numbers. While U.S. members still account for about a third of the total MDRT membership, those from Asia–India, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong–are among the top five. This past year, India (16%) surpassed Korea for the number two slot. By company, seven of the top 10 (out of 462 companies represented in MDRT) hail from Asia.
To be sure, MDRT is extending its reach to other parts of the world. MDRT members, Good noted, held this past year a first European meeting in Athens, Greece. Thirty- one countries and 1,300 attendees, both members and non-members, were represented
To aid in the global outreach effort, the organization is also developing an MDRT Ambassadors program that will support the work of the Executive Committee by building relationships with companies and associations and member prospects worldwide.
“MDRT past presidents, the Executive Committee, long-time volunteers and young leaders will work together to make this initiative a success,” said Good “It’s our way to make sure that more of our leadership is involved in shaping MDRT’s future.”
To be sure, MDRT continues to face a challenge in recruiting young advisors who, as a group, are less inclined than earlier generations were to join professional associations.
“The X and Y generations are not becoming members in the numbers that we would hope for,” said Good. “And those that do often don’t volunteer to help with association-building activities. That’s just a fact.”
Borislow agreed, but suggested the new Growth Summit is what many young advisors are looking for.
“Young financial professionals want content delivered to them on a limited scale because their time is valuable,” she said. “So the Growth Summit is back-to-back crammed with incredible speakers, but with few breaks.”
Enhanced member recruitment efforts, said MDRT executives, have helped to strengthen the organization’s finances. For its 2010 fiscal year, member-related revenue (dues, filing fees, and registration for member meetings) accounted for more than 60% of $24.9 million in revenue. Minus expenses of $21.2 million, the receipts (including revenues from education services, investments and other income) yielded a profit of $3.7 million–up from $2.6 million the previous year.
While enjoying an infusion of new members, MDRT is also raising the bar on admittance into the association. The production requirements for next year are $89,000 in commissions or $178,000 in premiums paid, up from $87,900 and $175,800 for 2011. A third income qualification method, instituted last year to capture the burgeoning number of fee-only advisors, also is rising to $152,000 in annual gross income from sales of insurance and financial products, up from 150,000 last year.
The impact of the new production requirements will vary by country, depending on the degree to which individual nations have achieved production “parity” using the World Bank’s Purchasing Power Parity Index: a data source adopted by MDRT in 2008 as a tool for equalizing currencies, thereby leveling the playing field for producers seeking to become members.
Countries between 70% and 89% parity will increase their requirements to achieve 10% progress towards parity between 2012 and 2013. Countries with parity between 90 and 99 percent parity will have smaller increases in their requirements.
The new benchmarks, said MDRT executives, aim in part to maintain the organization’s elite status. Founded in 1927, MDRT counts among its members about 1% of the world’s top life insurance producers, a growing percentage of whom are financial service professionals that engage fee-based planning and investment-advising. In recognition of that fact, said Good, MDRT debuted a ballot to approve a revised draft of its bylaws, to be voted on during the annual meeting. Among other provisions, the revised bylaws reference current and potential members as insurance and financial service professionals or advisors.
“The wording [of the revised bylaws] is carefully stated to account for the differences in how our profession is defined in various parts of the world,” said Good.