Optimism was the key to navigating the uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the CEOs of three industry trade associations said during this week’s Insured Retirement Institute 20 in 21 virtual event. The session was moderated by Wayne Chopus, IRI's president and CEO.
“I think optimism in leadership is important,” said Susan Neely, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers. “Nobody wants to follow someone who can’t see the path. Certainly in the last year there were times I was digging really deep to find ways to be optimistic about all the things we were dealing with. I looked for it and my executive team looked for it and it helped us navigate this very difficult, complicated world we are in.”
One bright spot in the pandemic is that it was easier to engage ACLI’s member CEOs in the organization’s political advocacy efforts, Neely said.
“Our CEOs were always willing when their schedule permitted to come to Washington to meet with their senator or the representative. But now that you can meet on Zoom, you can have 100% of the CEOs from a senator’s state if that was the method you wanted to do. I think members of Congress liked it too, it was more efficient for them," Neely said.
“I think we will continue that – not exclusively – but it adds power and efficiency to your advocacy. But with capitols closed, you don’t get that opportunity to see congressmen or representatives informally.”
As COVID-19 travel restrictions ease, the future of association events will be a combination of in-person and virtual, said Kenneth E. Bentsen Jr., president and CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
“I think there is pent-up demand to get back in-person events, but we’ll have to see,” he said. “We have been more than pleasantly surprised at the take-up of our virtual offerings. It’s really easy to get good speakers when they aren’t going anywhere! We will keep some marquee events in person. I think we also will have robust virtual offerings going forward as well.”
Looking ahead to what the association world might look like a year from now, Eric Pan predicted a greater work/life balance are more employees have the flexibility to decide whether they want to continue working from home. Pan is president and CEO of the Investment Company Institute.
“I think cities will come back,” he said. “All the pandemic did was accelerate the adoption of technology. And this puts more emphasis on regulators to update their rules and regulations.”
Bentsen had a bullish prediction of what the world will look like a year post-pandemic.
“From an industry perspective, the resiliency of the industry and the resiliency of the American economy are impressive. A year from now, we will see a broader economic recovery and unemployment levels back at pre-pandemic levels."
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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