Life agents ponder exclusive association

By Doug Watt | May 14, 2003 | Last updated on May 14, 2003
3 min read

(May 14, 2003) It’s still very much in the start-up stage, but a number of high-profile life insurance agents are discussing the creation of a new insurance-specific professional association, tentatively known as the Federation of Life Insurance Advisors (FLIA). The move comes amid charges that Advocis is not effectively representing the insurance side of the financial services industry.

“Advocis has been focusing on fund issues,” says Jim Bullock, who has been involved in the discussions. “And although life [agents] make up the bulk of the membership, the activity is not life-focused.”

A number of insurance professionals feel “abandoned” by Advocis, Bullock told “For example, there are burning issues they want to get in front of regulators, and they don’t feel there is an organization to do it,” he says. “So they’re looking into creating one that will have a very tight life focus.”

Bullock says although the proposal is still in the “gestation” stage, the group is already discussing constitutional issues, errors and omissions insurance, and advocacy.

The budding association has also approached the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning (CIFP) for assistance. “CIFP helped establish the Canadian Institute of Financial Planners (CIFPs), so that’s how we got involved,” says CIFPs managing director Keith Costello.

“I’m confident it’s going to move forward,” Costello says. “Just like CIFPs, there will be a formal announcement in a month or two.”

Costello says although he expects CIFPs and FLIA will cooperate on common regulatory initiatives, the associations would remain independent and focus on specific stakeholder issues.

“One organization can’t be all things to all people,” Costello said, referring to Advocis. “It’s a formula for disaster.”

In an angry response, Advocis chair Brian Mallard calls the FLIA proposal “self-serving fragmentation.” An Advocis white paper released earlier this year recommended increased cooperation among the various financial industry associations.

“You tell me how another organization is going to do anything more than what we’re already doing,” Mallard said in an interview, rejecting the argument that life agents have been abandoned by Advocis. “There’s a perception-and-reality problem here,” he says. “Most life agents feel abandoned by their companies and by extension, they just feel abandoned.”

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  • “We haven’t abandoned anyone, it’s just that simple,” he maintains. “In fact we’re probably the only people out there that have been supportive of the life business,” Mallard adds, providing a long list of insurance-specific Advocis initiatives, such as promotion of the Chartered Life Underwriter designation, support for the Million Dollar Round Table, and numerous lobbying efforts. “Our Web site now holds more than 60 position papers with the majority focused on insurance.”

    Mallard expresses doubt the new association will attract enough members to survive. “I think the people who are professional estate planners and insurance providers are not going to look at this as a viable option.”

    What do you think? Is there a need for an insurance-only association or is Advocis doing the job effectively? Share your thoughts in the “Free For All” forum of the Talvest Town Hall on

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    Doug Watt