The new president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) outlined how the 122-year-old organization plans to reverse the decline in membership in recent years during a closing National Council session at NAIFA’s Career Conference and Annual Meeting in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
Among other measures, the recruitment drive calls for strengthened partnerships with sister associations and with state associations within the NAIFA federation. The initiatives come at a time when NAIFA is committed to ratcheting up political advocacy efforts to guard against proposed federal and state regulations and legislation that threatens the industry.
“We’re in the midst of a perfect storm, with health care reform, regulatory reform and tax reform,” said Robert Smith, who assumed NAIFA’s presidency at the close of the NAIFA’s National Council Meeting on Tuesday, replacing outgoing president Robert Miller. “We’re currently battling to protect the products we sell and the business models we use.”
Simultaneously, Smith added, NAIFA is fighting an internal battle, as many within NAIFA have questioned the association’s direction, mission and plans to boost its membership.
“Let me assure you: We do have a strategic plan,” said Smith. “NAIFA’s mission statement has never been more relevant. Your board [shares your] concerns–and we’re doing something about them.”
Smith proceeded to outline a laundry list of developments that account for NAIFA’s diminished ranks–dubbed the “elephant in the room”–and that NAIFA is dedicated to surmounting the challenge to expand its footprint nationally and ratchet up its political clout on Capitol Hill and in state capitols.
To illustrate the seriousness of the issue, he noted that NAIFA, one of the largest state associations in the country, has suffered a significant reduction in members over the last 20 years: plummeting from 2,648 in 1993 to 1,244 in 2005 and again to 1,150 this year.
The “massive” membership decline experienced by state and local associations, Smith noted, has happened despite the implementation of 50 “independent test labs” or pilot projects that NAIFA has implemented to explore ways to attract new recruits.
To ascertain the reasons for the dip and ways to reverse the hemorrhaging, Smith said, NAIFA formed during the year past, a blue ribbon task force composed of prominent past and current leaders of the federation, a cross-section of NAIFA members, plus an expert on associations. Outgoing President Robert Miller and NAIFA CEO Susan Waters also assisted in the effort.
The task force concluded that NAIFA 21, a strategic growth plan drafted under former CEO David Woods, remains sound, as does the association’s mission statement. The blue ribbon panel found also that “virtually every well known association” is experiencing comparable levels of membership attrition. And, said Smith, the panel noted that NAIFA’s federation structure–one dating from the early 1900s and encompassing more than 600 legal entities–is “not nimble or efficient.”
Smith said that NAIFA’s membership dues are “reasonable” for a political advocacy organization but noted that member attrition places “greater strain” on the association members to pay more to healthy financial reserves, which have been taxed in recent years.