The following is a reformatted version of an article that was published in National Underwriter Life & Health Magazine Nov. 24, 1997.
The head count for the most recent annual meeting of National Association for Variable Annuities, Reston, Va., is a head-scratcher for devotees of all kinds of insurance products, not just annuities.
The grand total came to 553-quite a sizable number given that NAVA is just six years old and has only one product line (variable annuities) as its focal point. It’s even more notable, considering that, when NAVA formed back in 1991, several wags predicted it would crumble-because its one-product scope was seen as too narrow and its universe of potential backers too limited.
Granted, NAVA has broadened its reach in recent years by offering some variable life programming and by adding fixed annuities to its purview. Even so, most NAVA activities still spin around VAs…and NAVA still continues to grow. So, you gotta wonder: “Why?” That’s the head-scratcher.
Certainly, part of the answer has to do with NAVA’s own skill at slaying the dragons of doubt. But I think a little-discussed industry trend is at the core of it: That is the growing tendency of product pros to organize and/or attend meetings centered around topical, cutting edge products, whether they be annuities, long-term care, life, disability, indexed, or whatever.
These gatherings are being handled both on a formal and an ad hoc basis. NAVA is an example of the formal type, but plenty of other product-focused organizations exist. To name only a few: National Tax Sheltered Annuity Association, Reston, Va.; National Structured Settlement Trade Association, Washington, D.C.; Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America, Chicago; American Association of Health Plans, Washington, D.C.; Stable Value Association, Washington, D.C.; and the brand new National Association for Indexed Products, Reston, Va.
Those offering ad hoc meetings (i.e., targeted product confabs) include the growing number of third-party “seminar companies” that typically host sessions for a profit. They also include insurance entities (like insurers, reinsurers, brokerages, and wholesalers) which often host meetings to hype particular products, but which are increasingly going generic, even to the point of offering continuing education credits. Bank and attorney groups, universities, and consulting firms are also getting into the act.
What’s noteworthy is that all of these groups, and more, have been engaging in an ever-widening array of product programming, even though the mainline trade and education organizations have sponsored product events-and strong ones-at the same time. Just what is going on?