NAIFA, NAHU, SFSP, MDRT: Our industry has numerous membership-driven organizations. Many of these associations have a strong political component and purpose; others are focused on sales. I attend trade shows throughout the year sponsored by the organizations listed above, which are primarily producer-related, as well as others such as JHA Dynamics of Disability and LIMRA/LOMA Disability, both of which are designed for home office people.

Each of these organizations says it caters to the “industry.” Yet how can a group of producers consider themselves “the industry?” As field agents, we know sales, but we are often unable to see deep inside a company and grasp what makes it work. By the same token, those who are buffered by the walls of the home office sometimes have an inaccurate view of what happens on the street in the sales world.

The IDIS premise

The International DI Society was formed with a basic premise that the disability insurance industry must meet face-to-face to understand what is happening in each area of our business.

The industry is comprised of four key pillars:

  1. Producers (agents, BGAs, wholesalers, etc)
  2. Carriers
  3. Regulators (government and legal)
  4. Educators (associations and training organizations)

At one of the first IDIS meetings, there were three of us talking. Collectively, we represented producers and carriers. One of the producers stated, “Carriers have all the power since they have all the money.” It never dawned on him that the regulators could shut down a carrier with the stroke of a pen! So who has more power?

An open forum

IDIS creates a forum for all parts of the industry to interact. You might not agree with what you hear, but you will at least understand it.

IDIS is not intended to be a producers’ meeting, although a strong component of sales and marketing people attend. Like many conferences, what you gain from attending doesn’t come just from the speakers and workshops, but the interactions and relationships that you build.

Last year’s gathering drew about 200 attendees. Those present represented tens of thousands of producers. These were some of the best disability-focused individual producers and BGAs in the country. Can you learn anything from them? Of course! At the same time, a large number of the key disability home office people were present. Was their input valuable? Of course! And what an opportunity to talk to these people! It’s a chance to see what is new, what is working, what isn’t working and why it isn’t.

While the regulators are a bit short on the list, they have been represented each year and they continue to grow and know what the IDIS is all about.

Educators? In the past, we have had presenters from SFSP, NAHU, the Council for Disability Awareness, AHIA, and other education-minded associations. This is rare. How many associations do you know that have invited other organizations to talk to the participants about what they do?

IDIS is not a competing association, but a common thread of value and interest among all. It allows the industry to learn from each other and then ask questions of those who really know.

Recognition? Did you know that, as of 2007, IDIS membership is recognized for MDRT status? And that they have done joint educational programs with The American College?

We hope to see you at the next annual conference in Chicago, Oct. 15 – 18, 2011. For more information on the International DI Society, to become a member or to register for the conference, visit the IDI website.

Thomas R. Petersen is the vice president of sales and marketing at Petersen International Underwriters. He can be reached at thomas@piu.org.