Success in the advocacy arena is rarely a one-person show. Having a respected lobbyist, a dynamic spokesperson, or a well-connected CEO is no guarantee of success. For an organization to effectively influence public policy – and by that I mean ensuring that legislators and regulators have a solid understanding and appreciation of who you are and what you do – generally requires a combination of ingredients that can be boiled down to two primary factors: the relevance of your message and your ability to communicate it effectively to policymakers.
When it comes to advocating on our key U.S. federal issue – the fraternal tax exemption – the Alliance’s advocacy efforts are a work in progress. Fortunately, on this issue, we have the time for “incremental improvement.” After all, we’ve secured over 100 co-sponsors for HCR 19 (the “Fraternal Resolution”) and there are no imminent threats to our exempt status. But, let’s be honest, most of those co-sponsors were generated by staff and retained counsel of the Alliance and two of its largest members rather than overwhelming member society participation in the “Race to 100” grassroots campaign. That won’t be enough if a real effort to amend or eliminate the exemption is on the table. Bottom line: We’ve all got to sharpen our grassroots skills.
But what about advocacy on state issues – particularly regulatory matters – where proposals can move much more quickly than in Congress and their impact on the operations of life insurers – can be much more significant? Regulatory matters are far less likely to be influenced by grassroots advocacy initiatives, and much more likely to be decided by negotiations between regulators and legal counsel of insurers and their trade groups. Among the issues on the table in individual states and at the NAIC that would dramatically impact fraternals are:
- Regulations requiring insurers to create and maintain cybersecurity policies and programs to secure the security of their databases and policyholder information
- Changes to guaranty fund regulations involving Long Term Care insurance
- Revisions to current disclosure notices for consumer privacy information
- Regulations on diversity requirements for insurance company boards of directors
- Regulations impacting how insurers’ investments are evaluated, including potential disclosure requirements on fossil-fuel investments
Because of the Alliance’s limited resources, we focus our energy on issues that have a direct or disparate impact on fraternals. None of the above issues have meet that criteria, yet all of them have the potential to negatively affect Alliance members. So how can we make sure our voices are heard in these debates?
We get by with a little help from our friends. Through cooperative and collaborative relationships with organizations like the American Council of Life Insurers, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, and the National Alliance of Life Companies, the Alliance is able to not only monitor and provide information on these issues to our member societies, we’re also able to ensure that the fraternal/small insurer perspective is heard during the internal policy position discussions of these organizations. Relationships like these will only become more important as consolidation with the financial services sector – including fraternal insurers, commercial insurers, and the field representatives that distribute our products to consumers – continues. It is the only way the Alliance can “punch above its weight” and effectively influence the outcome of public policy debates on major national issues that affect our member societies in a very direct way.
Wait, does this sound familiar? Can this cooperative and collaborative concept be utilized by members so that small societies can compete more effectively in targeted or overlooked market niches? You tell me…