Fortunately for NAILBA 32 attendees in Dallas last week, the Gaylord Texan Resort never requires you to go outside during your stay. The final three days were unseasonably cold and wet for the Dallas area, which was fine for the endless stream of local visitors who came by to enjoy the Gaylord Texan’s many holiday-themed attractions but not so fine for NAILBA golf tournament participants on the event’s final day.
Though the golf tournament, benefitting the Alan Palmer Memorial Scholarship Fund at Emory University, went off Saturday afternoon as scheduled, the brave souls who played in 30-degree conditions may not have been so lucky about getting home the next day. There were 650 flight cancellations in and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Sunday.
While it was cold and gray outside during the year’s final big industry conference, the mood inside at NAILBA 32 seemed considerably brighter. I found a high degree of optimism for the coming year from most of the BGA attendees I spoke with, and optimism was fairly rampant in most of the sessions I attended as well.
But of course, there are some serious issues to deal with, issues that were obviously on the minds of many attendees and speakers.
For one — time to get out the broken record — you have that aging producer workforce, which every year now is having a bigger negative impact on the sales capacity of the independent distribution channel. As these aging producers — many without succession plan — retire, we know they are not being replaced at anywhere near a sustainable level. This scares the tar out of BGAs, as well it should, because so many of them have yet to diversify their business and are finding themselves too reliant on a shrinking pool of truly productive producers.
After covering the NAILBA conference for the fifth time, this was the most discussion I’ve heard about the need to diversify. This was not merely lip service. I really think the message is starting to sink in with BGAs, and the industry will see more new programs than ever in 2014 in a concerted effort to wean themselves from dominant reliance on independent producers.
You will see them targeting CPAs, P&C agents, banks and financial planners. I’m not saying BGAs are going to take major steps toward abandoning the independent producers. It is still the dominant channel, and you may even see BGAs step up their recruiting efforts to fortify their producer ranks. Top producers are still in the catbird seat, and they can expect the royal treatment from BGAs, who want to keep them from those who want to steal them away.