It didn’t take long for Kevin M. Mayeux, the new CEO of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, to make his mark.
Six months after he was hired to lead the organization, his labors are starting to yield fruit with the announcement earlier this month that Northwestern Mutual had earmarked $250,000 to NAIFA’s new Capital 50 Fund.
It was a coup, of sorts, an endorsement from one of the most powerful life insurers in the land of an improved business model touted by Mayeux, former executive vice president and general counsel for the Institute of Internal Auditors.
As NAIFA’s board prepares to meet next month to review leadership’s NAIFA 20/20 master plan to boost membership and revenue, coming to the table with $250,000 in your pocket could not have come at a better time. The board, no doubt, took notice.
“So much insurance and advocacy work gets done at the state level that we want to take our message to the state legislators,” Mayeux said in an interview with InsuranceNewsNet.
With $250,000 in the bank, NAIFA is off to a good start.
Mayeux, ex-CEO of the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, is an expert at leading decentralized, federated organizations stitched together across thousands of miles. Since his hiring in July, he has traveled around the country listening to NAIFA’s myriad constituencies, scribbling down notes and taking names.
Now he’s ready to shift the organization up into a higher gear.
“Our peer associations don't have the grassroots support and presence that we have,” Mayeux said, underlining the importance of state and local advocacy. “This is a new program for us and it's a way to become engaged at every critical level and to develop and nurture relationships.”
The fund, which Mayeux hopes will grow to $1 million, represents the main financial vehicle by which to target state advocacy initiatives at the top of NAIFA’s legislative agenda. It is part of NAIFA 20/20, leadership’s blueprint for growth.
NAIFA’s clout in Washington at the federal level is beyond question. It is among the state capitals that the support for the organization and its army of volunteers is uneven.
In one state, NAIFA’s advocacy initiatives was particularly effective, but in the state next door NAIFA’s voice barely registered. At other times, a targeted, effective NAIFA legislative push quickly earned front-burner status only to end a legislative session simmering on the back burner.
Northwestern Mutual’s grant, in effect a redirecting of funds, is designed to strengthen advocacy at the state level so that NAIFA speaks with a consistent voice when addressing the federal, state and local issues leading its agenda.
“We’re hopeful this agreement will start a new chapter and serve as a model for others in the industry on how companies, their producers and their trade associations can work together,” said Steve Radke, Northwestern Mutual vice president of government relations, in a news release.
Top state advocacy issues for NAIFA include its opposition to mandates that would require employers to enroll employees in state-run retirement plans that compete with 401(k), 403(b) 401(a), 457(b) and individual retirement accounts available in the private market.
NAIFA also opposes state taxes on insurance products, but supports senior-protection laws that call upon individual financial advisors to report possible financial fraud or exploitation of clients who are senior citizens.
NAIFA is expected to announce more grants to the Capital 50 Fund from other insurance carriers later this year, Mayeux said.
Carriers will be able to measure their investment return by NAIFA’s engagement at the state level, he added. That will include visits, letter and email writing campaigns, and phone calls placed to state lawmakers or their staffs. Of course, state lawmakers passing favorable bills will be the ultimate return.
Carefully targeting state advocacy initiatives sows the seeds for future relationships, Mayeux said.
In Congress, 50 percent of senators and 51 percent of House representatives previously served as state legislators or as governors, so building relationships at that state level is wise.
Carriers that donate a minimum of $250,000 to the fund earn a seat on NAIFA’s evaluation committee, Mayeux said.
In past years, Northwestern Mutual’s NAIFA spending was sent directly to their advisors, reimbursing them for a portion of their NAIFA dues.
The $250,000 grant amounts to “new money” toward NAIFA’s operating budget, but the funds are earmarked to promote innovative and “impactful state advocacy programs” through the Capital 50 Fund, Mayeux said.
Mayeux, a boyish bundle of energy and understated resolve with years of experience working within federation structures, said his discussions with carrier CEOs revealed a desire for a stronger NAIFA run by a more engaged field force at the grassroots level.
If the board accepts NAIFA 20/20, it will usher in a new day for the Falls Church, Va.-based advocacy organization that recently celebrated its 125th year in existence.
NAIFA will begin to deliver a consistent messages and programs across the breadth of its constituency and attract more volunteers at the state and local levels.
At the same time, members should see NAIFA adopt a nimbler, more flexible approach to decision-making while offering members a more efficient, cohesive dues structure, according to NAIFA 20/20 documents.
In a blog post, NAIFA president Jules O. Gaudreau Jr., wrote that the time has come for NAIFA to revamp its strategy to reflect the changing needs of membership and acknowledge the insurance-related activity taking place in state legislatures.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Writer Cyril Tuohy has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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