NAIFA President Robert Miller evoked the enduring words of Charles Dickens in his President's Report Sunday at the 2012 NAIFA Career Conference in Las Vegas.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," Mr. Miller said, relating Dickens' masterful opening to the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities to his own experience over the past 12 months as NAIFA's leader.
Among the best of NAIFA are the members, from experienced veterans of the business to young and promising agents, who, Mr. Miller said, inspired him with their energy and enthusiasm.
"The best of NAIFA also is the ability to be the voice of the agent," said Mr. Miller. "This year we explained our policies and positions in meetings with members of Congress, SEC commissioners and other state and federal regulators."
NAIFA's influence on Capitol Hill and in state capitals is stronger than ever. NAIFA leaders and staff experts are go-to sources for reporters at trade publications and national outlets. The dedication of NAIFA's grassroots activists is unparalleled in the industry.
However, Mr. Miller continued, "We can't deny these are perilous times."
"This association is dealing with a level of distrust that is not healthy or productive. We see states vying with locals; locals that are having trouble filling their board positions and suspicious of any unsolicited advice.
"One truth beyond reproach is that there is room for improvement in all areas of the NAIFA federation."
He reasserted NAIFA's value proposition, examined and reinforced by "every study we have even conducted," including NAIFA in the 21st Century and the recent Blue Ribbon Task Force: "NAIFA protects our business - the most unique business model in the financial services industry today."
While encouraging discussion and debate, Mr. Miller called upon NAIFA members to come together for the good of their association and the industry.
"No matter what party anyone in this room belongs to, the one party whose bandwagon you better get on is the insurance party," he said.
"We are one signature from extinction," he added, a reference to the upcoming challenge of federal tax reform that could imperil the important insurance and annuities products NAIFA members provide.
Any internal disagreements are secondary to the potential legislative and regulatory threats to NAIFA members' livelihoods.
"I urge everyone to see someone else's reality," Mr. Miller said. And then once again drawing from A Tale of Two Cities: "I would think then it can still be the season of hope with everything in front of us."