Six insurance industry professional associations and four life insurance carriers have joined forces to address issues that affect the industry and their respective members.
The Industry Alignment Group will mark its third anniversary May 1. The leadership teams of the associations have been meeting regularly since 2016 to discuss “what we might be able to do in the spirit of better communication, collaboration and ultimately perhaps even consolidation,” said Warren May of Principal Financial. May is Principal’s national vice president-life distribution and serves as the group’s chairman.
The group includes representatives from the following associations: National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Association for Advanced Life Underwriting, National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies, GAMA International, Women in Insurance and Financial Services and Life Happens.
The carriers represented are Principal, New York Life and MetLife. May said Northwestern Mutual initially was part of the group but is not active in it now.
Economics, declining association membership and the value proposition of membership were some of the driving factors leading to the group’s formation, May said.
“I think a fair amount of this was driven by the questions: What value am I getting for the money I pay? Is it the ability to go to one big meeting every year? Or, if I’m a member of multiple organizations, is it going to three or four meetings every year? Is the political advocacy effort being put forth really hitting the mark? Do we have common grounding in what we’re doing to preserve the profession or are we fractured?
"When it comes to training and professional education, are we doing as good a job as we can in educating people and motivating them and training to be the best they can be? And finally, are we doing enough to promote the profession? Are we consistently getting it out there about this great social value that we provide, the nobility of what we do every day and the problems that we solve?”
He said the group members are examining what he called the “four swim lanes” of advocacy, training, education and promotion.
The group’s mission, May said, is “to drive a greater consistency, to drive a greater economy of scale.”
'A Line In The Sand'
One reason behind the group’s formation is that insurance carriers were being asked for greater support of industry associations over the years as the associations dealt with declining membership and other economic pressures, he added.
“We basically looked at them and said, there’s a line in the sand here. We have to be able to measure the value for our dollar as each one of us in the insurance industry is being asked to do more with less. How do we find that happy medium? Is there an opportunity to recognize overlap in some of the services that are being provided? Is there an opportunity to speak with one voice as opposed to, in this instance, six or seven? Is there an opportunity perhaps to share resources? Instead of having six or seven annual meetings, shouldn’t we just have one grand soiree?”
From there, May said, the industry and association leaders “just sat around the table to have an adult conversation about where is the nucleus for the value? What are our challenges? What are we up against, legislatively and in the regulatory world? What are we up against from an economic environment? What are we up against regarding the perpetuation of our profession?”
May cited the industry’s recent push in defeating the Department of Labor fiduciary rule as one example of how associations and carriers worked together on an issue that affected their members and business.
“There are various associations protecting various constituents but, at the end of the day, the outcome we were striving for was the same,” he said.
The group’s next move, May said, is conducting a survey of the members of NAIFA, AALU, GAMA, WIFS and NAILBA. The poll will launch before the end of the second quarter of this year with results expected in the third quarter.
The poll, May said, will focus on questions such as “What are they looking for in being a member? What do they feel they get, what do they feel they’re missing, what would they like to see happen in the future?”
“And then we will assemble that data and come back and have a conversation as to where this thing might lead us.”
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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