In advance of the Career Conference and annual meeting of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, being held in San Diego September 6-8, LifeHealthPro Senior Editor Warren S. Hersch spoke with NAIFA President-elect Juli McNeely. The interview explored NAIFA’s goals and challenges and McNeely’s vision for the association as she takes the helm of the 40,000-plus member organization. The following are excerpts.
Hersch: As NAIFA commemorates its 125th anniversary this year, how would you assess the state of the association in terms of its financial health, standing in the industry and ability to advance advocacy and professional development objectives?
McNeely: NAIFA is strong financially. And we’re doing more with fewer resources all the time. That’s a huge testament to our amazing staff at NAIFA National and to the volunteer leaders who continue to provide the value we’ve always promised our members.
Hersch: Which legislative and regulatory issues are now top-of-mind for NAIFA’s leadership in 2014 and beyond?
McNeely: I don’t expect much will happen between now and the end of 2014. But in early 2015, we’ll be paying attention to some significant issues, in particular tax reform. As you may be aware, Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation released its tax expenditures report, and there are significant concerns for our industry therein.
The report pegs the costs to the U.S. Treasury in so-called tax expenditures at $3.2 trillion over a five-year period; and it identifies a laundry list of potential sources tax revenue. Among them: taxation of the inside build-up in permanent life insurance, traditional IRAs, 401(k)s and other deferred compensation plans, as well as pension plans for the self-employed. These vehicles provide a way for average Americans to take personal responsibility for their future by setting aside money for retirement and other financial needs.
As an industry, we don’t to want to see legislation that might hinder consumers from saving appropriately for the future. And so NAIFA be monitoring the Joint Committee’s work very closely. We know our industry’s products make for attractive targets among some in Congress who are looking for new sources of revenue.
Hersch: What strategies will NAIFA be employing in the year ahead to secure its advocacy goals? McNeely: We have an amazing legislative team in Washington that is already having conversations with committee members and other stakeholders regarding the items of concerns in the report. We also draw great strength from the grassroots efforts of our members —particularly when they come to Washington to tell the industry’s story.
For the last two years, NAIFA has successfully hosted a Congressional Conference, a one-day meeting that affords members the opportunity to go to Capitol Hill to advise lawmakers and their staff on how their decisions affect agents, brokers and their clients. We’ll have our next conference in May, a gathering we expect will draw from 700 to 1,000 members. Our September annual meeting in San Diego will also have a legislative update, but governance of the association and professional development will be the primary focus of the fall gathering.
Hersch: What advocacy work is NAIFA carrying out at the state level?
McNeely: We have a team that’s monitoring legislative and regulatory activity within the states, notably the Departments of Insurance. Each state NAIFA association employs a lobbyist or a firm to monitor state activity.
NAIFA National assists in these efforts by lending people and resources to facilitate state advocacy initiatives when needed. We have a strong ability to ensure that our products are protected when we bring together our internal team of lobbyists, external partners and grass roots supporters at the state and local levels.
Hersch: How is NAIFA evolving to better meet the professional development needs of its members and to attract new recruits?
McNeely: NAIFA recently joined with the College for Financial Planning to redesign and relaunch its LUTC [Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow] program. We’ll be talking about the initiative at the September convention and again when enrollment starts in January of 2015. Classes for the program will begin in July of 2015.
We’re very excited about the program, as the College for Financial Planning has brought new life to the curriculum. The program will deliver content via interactive web-based classrooms — an approach that should appeal to many new advisors and member prospects.