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A Meeting of True Believers

May 12, 2009

I attended a meeting of “true believers” last week in Nashville.  And it wasn’t the Annual Conference Apostolic Ministers that was meeting just a few doors down from the event in which I participated.

No, the “true believers” I met with were the members of the National Association of Fraternal Insurance Counselors (NAFIC), who were attending their Annual Meeting.  These are the folks on the front lines of fraternalism.  They represent the primary sales force of many NFCA member societies.  Quite frankly, they are the lifeblood of the system.

NAFIC members are trained and committed sales professionals.  They have not only earned their designation through a rigorous education program, they earn their stripes every day by spreading the gospel of the “fraternal advantage” to clients and prospects.  And, trust me on this, they believe in the value of the life insurance products they sell and the very tangible benefits of fraternal membership.  The bottom line is that without these dedicated FICs the fraternal system wouldn’t exist.  After all, nothing happens until a sale is made.

I was pleasantly surprised to see many NFCA member society CEOs and senior executives at the conference.  But there should have been more.  Not so much for the educational sessions on how to better sell and service life insurance products and grow your business (although many of these sessions were quite valuable), but for the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their field managers and sales force.  Let’s face it, there is often a communication gap between the home office and the field and it’s at meetings like this where that chasm can be bridged.

Can We Come Together Under One Fraternal Umbrella?

I’ve made no secret of my view that NFCA and NAFIC should conduct a parallel Annual Meeting – one large meeting where we come together under one fraternal umbrella while respecting the integrity of each organization.  Think about it.  One Annual Meeting that has something for everyone in the fraternal system.  Separate educational tracks for CEOs and Secretaries, sales and marketing professionals, fraternal leaders, Board members, government affairs and legal professionals, investment and actuarial executives, lodge leaders and volunteer organizers.  With general session speakers that can deliver a compelling message that resonates with everyone in the system.  Instead of drawing a few hundred to each separate meeting, we could build a program that could potentially attract thousands. 

When I share this vision I get a lot of head nods and “if only” comments, followed by a long list of reasons why it will never happen: no one wants to give up their autonomy or authority; it would cost too much for so many people to attend; each organization has a long history and tradition; there is “bad blood” that exists over previous attempts to pull this off; yadda, yadda, yadda…

My response?  Phooey.  Those are all nice ways to say we all want to protect our own turf.  Well folks, our turf is shrinking.  And if we don’t want to be left fighting over the last blade of grass on which to stand, we’ve got to start thinking about new ways to come together and grow the system.  Personally, I think talking to each other and building synergy between the management, sales, and fraternal segments of our industry is a good place to start.

What do you think?  Am I missing something?  Am I just whistling Dixie?  Wake me up and stop me if you think I’m crazy, but I believe this is a dream that can come true and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.