The National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (NAILBA) is plowing new ground in terms of how it handles networking.
Simply put, NAILBA has ”reengineered” the meeting structure to allow for a four-hour networking window at its annual meeting, said Barbara Crowley, the 2014 NAILBA Chair, in a meeting announcement.
This is a sign that NAILBA is walking the talk that many of its speakers and leaders have been delivering at NAILBA meetings in recent years. The collective message is that, to stay relevant and keep growing, the insurance industry must innovate and make changes that address marketplace trends. This what NAILBA is doing.
A change in networking arrangements at the annual meeting may seem like small potatoes to non-members. But to NAILBA members and others who attend the NAILBA event, it is a big deal.
That is because life insurance brokerage professionals from all over the country converge on NAILBA year after year to listen, learn — and talk shop.
Many in attendance are brokerage general agents (BGAs) while others are executives from brokerage carriers with whom BGAs do business. The annual meeting provides both sides with an efficient and economical venue in which to conduct mutual business in one spot. Because BGAs deal with several carriers, not just one, this is actually a high-priority activity.
Networking goes on at other life insurance industry meetings too, but most executives agree that it is more pronounced at NAILBA.
The problem at the NAILBA annual meeting up to now is that members have had to squeeze their meetings with carriers in between other activities at the event. Since the carrier sessions are so vital to BGA operations, some BGAs have just skipped attending certain sessions at the annual in order to make a valued carrier connection. Or they have tried to fit their one-on-ones into side conversations at dinners, hospitality suites and off-site events, sometimes with less than productive results, they say.
So NAILBA is responding. The open window for networking will occur on Thursday afternoon following lunch. The time has been set aside “just for meetings with company representatives,” Crowley said.
New types of members
Another change that NAILBA is undertaking in order to modernize and stay relevant is to be receptive to new types of members. The change came in the wake of a bylaws adaptation the group made last year.
NAILBA was founded by BGAs for BGAs in the independent life insurance distribution space. But today’s BGAs increasingly write annuities, long-term care insurance and other types of products. In addition, some are also seeking out “alternative” marketing arrangements (with banks and financial advisors, for example).
But now, the trade group is allowing “a wider variety of members,” according to NAILBA CEO Jack Chiasson. He made the comment in Perspectives, which is NAILBA’s monthly magazine.
Although some of the new members who join as a result of this change may represent a different business model than that of more traditional NAILBA members, all will be focused on providing financial security to the greatest number of families, Chiasson wrote.
“We welcome those who share our vision and recognize the value of our mission,” he said.
This may seem subtle. But when viewed in light of NAILBA’s strategic plan, which was updated in 2011, it represents a definite change in membership approach.
The updates came about due to many trends the organization was seeing in the business environment and its own membership. Those trends include not only changing demographics and increased use of technology but also the decline in the ranks of BGAs and independent agents.
Regarding membership, the NAILBA strategy team asked: “Isn’t distribution, distribution? Should we open the aperture?” Apparently, NAILBA decided the answer is yes, and that it would go ahead and “open the aperture.” That is, it would broaden its membership to allow other distributors to join.
The updated strategic plan predicted that the profile of the NAILBA member in year 2020 will represent, among other things, “more diversity among brokerage in general, in terms of how they will distribute their products.”
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