Spring Conferences - on the road again!

I have been to three different conferences in three weeks. They show me just how diverse our industry is, while also sharing much in common. The three conferences were organized around three different elements: Geographical Location, Product Type, and Organization Type

Geographical Location: New England Chapter of AICP

On May 12, the New England Chapter of AICP held its Education Day (E-day) at the Nathan Hale Inn in Storrs, CT – right on the UConn campus, which is an unusual type venue for an industry event. It has seemed to me that AICP is getting slightly more P & C focused in the last few years, and that appeared to be true at this event as well. Those of us who focus on life, annuity, and health need to attend these programs and the AICP national conference. This year the national conference is in Seattle – who doesn’t want to go to Seattle? That said, back in Storrs, CT there was lively participation in the two sessions I presented: Managing Compliance Risk and Corporate Governance (With Kathy Donovan of Wolters Kluwer) and New York Developments, where we focused on proposed regulation 210, Circular Letter 1 (2017), deferred to immediate annuity replacements and recent policy form filing experience.

The New England Chapter of AICP is holding a joint meeting with the Mid-Atlantic Chapter in August to meet NYSDFS staff – it is sure to be informative and interesting, so if you are a member and want to join us, feel free to contact me.

Product Type: Group Annuity and Pension Compliance Association (GAPCA)

On May 18th and 19th, GAPCA met in Omaha. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, so I did not do as much exploring of Omaha as I had intended. I was only in Omaha once before and it was also for a conference and I didn’t stray far from the hotel. I love GAPCA conferences and I highly recommend it if you do any group annuity work. I again spoke about developments in NY, however since we were talking about group annuities, this time the developments were primarily of the policy form filing experience type. Many commiserated about experiences of different reviewers providing different reviews. This may be because the group annuity outlines are among the oldest and the most difficult to use. They are organized in a way that does make it easy to determine which applies to what product(s). Perhaps the Life Bureau will reach out to GAPCA for some input when those outlines get picked up for refreshing. GAPCA has tremendous experience to help that effort.

Organization Type: American Fraternal Alliance Spring Symposium

This was the biggest of the conferences I attended and the most different from the typical conferences I attend because it was not limited to compliance. Held in Chicago, the AFA had multiple tracks happening at the same time, so attendees could spend the whole time attending compliance track programming, but they could also pop into a session held by the business operations or investments actuarial tracks. I spoke on cybersecurity from a compliance perspective, not an IT perspective. That said, because of all the different folks that AFA gathered, there were multiple perspectives on the issue and we had a great discussion after we walked through the NY regulation and talked about what might or might not make it into a NY-based NAIC model regulation.

Altogether, these three events reminded me why I love what I do. I met lots of different people in distinct parts of the niche of the industry we occupy. I was able to talk about issues and hear reactions from people who I normally don’t interact with or only communicate with via email or social media. The three weeks I spent at industry events were a bit tiring, but so worth it. Thank you to all the great folks who put these events on – I know it is a lot of work! Thank you to all who spent a few moments with me and shared your wisdom and experience. It is one of the best parts of this work and I value it tremendously.

Compliance Training Through Independent Marketing Organizations (IMOs) – an idea whose time has arrived

IMOs play an integral role in the promotion and sale of life insurance and annuity products. While they typically don’t have direct contact with consumers, IMOs provide many services to support the insurance producer, including training. The training offered to producers has historically been focused on the sale of insurance products, but one prominent IMO made a decision about a year ago to include something else – they chose to establish a large presence on their website devoted to compliance issues, and make compliance information easily and readily available to their producers.

Obviously, as a compliance professional, I applaud this move on their part. It’s been my experience that most producers want to do the right thing, but often don’t understand all of the compliance implications of working in this industry. Providing compliance education and training to producers protects everyone – the consumer, the producer, the IMO, and the insurer.

If we step back and look at it logically, it makes a lot of business sense for IMOs to provide their producers with compliance education and training. After all, IMOs want to recruit and retain good producers. Unfortunately, some producers end up doing things that cost them their appointments with insurers, which does not benefit the IMO. Providing compliance training to producers reduces the odds that producers will “get into trouble” due to compliance issues, and allows the IMO the opportunity to retain the producer. Compliance training can also be a competitive advantage with recruiting. With increasing regulation on the horizon, such as the DOL Fiduciary Rule (“the DOL Rule”), producers will likely seek out assistance in complying with the new requirements, and quality compliance training can be a differentiator for an IMO.

IMOs are also uniquely positioned to assist producers with the new requirements of the DOL Rule, due to the deep relationships that many of them already have with their producers. Producers are often already comfortable receiving training from the IMO. In addition, many IMOs currently have training platforms in place that can be leveraged for training producers on the DOL Rule.

Providing compliance education and training to producers on the DOL Rule is simply the next evolution in services that IMOs can, and probably should, offer to help producers meet these upcoming challenges.