As the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) endeavors to rally its members this week to protect the industry’s interests in coming legislative battles, the association is facing a threat that could undermine its advocacy efforts: discord within its own ranks.
NAIFA President Robert Miller warned of the association’s internal troubles during the kick-off general session of the association’s annual career conference and annual meeting, being held in Las Vegas September 8-11.
“Given that NAIFA’s membership is a reflection of the national population, it is perhaps inevitable that attitudes creating so much discord across America have plunked themselves squarely in the middle of the debate on NAIFA’s future,” said Miller. “For example, the role of federal government in American Society is a highly charged topic.
“This is a very important topic for discussion in the general population and on the presidential campaign trail, but it has no place in discussions about NAIFA’s future,” he added. “NAIFA is your professional association, [one] that owes much of its prestige and influence to its national character. But today, the association is dealing with a level of mistrust that is not healthy, nor is it productive.”
While NAIFA’s visibility on Capitol Hill has “never been higher,” Miller noted that many of the association’s local chapters are having trouble filling board positions and getting members to attend local meetings. And some locals are “distrustful” of unsolicited advice from state and national offices of the NAIFA federation.
“The closing down of underperforming locals has reached epidemic levels, while the number of states associations unable to afford professional management staff is on the rise,” said Miller. “Some states and locals seem to gather hurricane force energy in stating their enmity direted at the national level.”
“One truth beyond reproach is that there is room for improvement in all areas of the NAIFA federation,” he added. “But this is not us [locals] versus them [national] class warfare, and it can never be painted like that.
Miller said the consequences of not speaking to Washington with one voice are “grave.” As in 1913, when NAIFA’s predecessor association, the National Association of Life Underwriters or NALU, helped to carve out an exemption for life insurance death benefits from the newly enacted federal income tax, NAIFA and sister associations are again facing threats to the tax-favored treatment of life insurance. Of particular concern is Congress’ pursuit of tax reform and efforts to pay down the national debt.
“The tax advantages that insurance products have enjoyed because of their unique nature are at risk,” said Miller. “And this risk is serious.