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Join Us, Because Washington Does Actually Listen to Us: NAIFA Leaders

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The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors celebrated its 130th birthday anniversary Thursday with a Zoom meeting.

Kevin Mayeux, NAIFA’s chief executive officer, told the attendees that NAIFA exists to promote ethical conduct in financial services, and legislative and regulatory measures that will help insurance and financial advisors and their clients.

Thanks to a reorganization that began taking effect in 2019, NAIFA is now in a better position to achieve those goals, Mayeux said.

“Our new structure affords us a distribution channel that allows for us to deliver communications programming and information quickly,” Mayeux said.

Resources

NAIFA now has an easier time coming together to speak with one voice on state and federal issues, Mayeux said during the Zoom meeting, which was originally streamed live on the web. NAIFA has since posted a recording of the meeting in the Town Hall meeting section on its website.

The History

NAIFA came to life, in Boston, at an in-person meeting, in 1890, as the National Association of Life Underwriters.

The association adopted its current name in 1999.

In May 2018, NAIFA members voted to update the association’s by-laws to overhaul the organizational structure: It replaced a system of about 600 separate legal entities, with about 600 different dues structures, with one unified national association that has one home office, in Falls Church, Virginia; 50 state chapters; and some local chapters that are part of the state chapters.

NAIFA also has a government relations office in Washington, a field office in Iowa, and national staff members who work remotely in Florida, Illinois, North Dakota, Ohio and Tennessee, along with state and local chapter staff members based all around the country.

Members

NAIFA has not been highlighting its member counts in recent years

Cammie Scott, NAIFA’s president, said during the Zoom meeting that NAIFA had a “phenomenal start to the new year,” and the most new members in over a decade.

The new member count is still up 24%, year-over-year, in spite of the COVID-19 crisis, and retention is up 40%, Scott said.

Scott said membership numbers look different than they did years ago because, in the past, career agencies dominated insurance distribution, and the agencies required members to join NAIFA.

Today, “our members now choose to be members, not because they have to, but because they want to they understand the value we provide and appreciate the tools and resources that are available to them,’ Scott said.

NAIFA has good results with new initiatives, including a new consumer financial education website, financialsecurity.org, and a new Life and Annuity Certified Professional (LACP) professional designation program. More than 20 large life insurers now recognize the LACP credential, Mayeux said.

Advocacy

Diane Boyle, NAIFA’s senior vice president for government relations, told the Zoom meeting participants that joining NAIFA helps NAIFA do a better job of representing financial professionals’ interests in Washington and in state capitals.

“This might be surprising, but numbers actually matter to lawmakers,” Boyle said.

Boyle said NAIFA has been shaping a wide range of state and federal efforts, such as a Massachusetts financial services sales standards regulation, a Colorado tax bill, and the new federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Boyle said NAIFA helped persuade Massachusetts regulators to tweak their sales standards in ways that reduced the standards’ adverse impact; helped persuade Colorado not to tax annuities; and contributed to the effort to persuade Iowa and Arizona to adopt annuity sales standards based on a new National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) model.

Persuading states to stick as much as possible with the NAIC model will increase regulatory consistency and make doing business easier, Boyle said.

Boyle said having members in every jurisdiction, encouraging members to contribute to NAIFA political action committees, and mobilizing members to build personal relationships with regulators and lawmakers at the local and state level, is critical to giving NAIFA a voice in Washington, as well as in state capitals.

“State legislators often find their way to Congress, and, when they do, NAIFA already has a warm relationship,” Boyle said. “There’s no cold calling for us… By supporting campaigns NAIFA is able to develop relationships with state and federal candidates before they’re elected…. We don’t always agree with each other, but at least they know they can ask for assistance.”

Recently, Boyle said, NAIFA was able to get benefits like short-term disability insurance included in the definition of “payroll,” for Paycheck Protection Program purposes, because it volunteered support for a lawmaker who was already trying to persuade colleagues to take that approach.

The lawmaker was open to NAIFA’s help partly because she already had a good relationship with a NAIFA member who was a constituent, Boyle said.

The Mission

Scott said the key for NAIFA members, and prospective members, is to see that helping clients achieve financial security is an important mission.

“You’ve all seen the news with the lines at the food banks,” Scott said. “You’ve watched the struggle of mainstream Americans as they waited in line. It’s hard times.”

Scott said that NAIFA members can help at least some people avoid those kinds of situations.

“You deal in hope,” Scott said. “You train, educate, equip and empower people.”

— Read Why NAIFA Needs to Update Its Bylaws, on ThinkAdvisor.

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