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It’s All About Executing the Plan

The Alliance Board of Directors and staff have spent much of the past couple of months fine-tuning the organization’s 2013 Strategic Plan and Budget. As we all know, making plans is the easy part. Successfully accomplishing the important goals contained in those plans? Well, that’s a bit more difficult to accomplish.

I want to share some of the highest priority goals in the Alliance’s Strategic Plan with you, so you’ll have a better idea of the Board’s priorities and what you can expect from us this year. This isn’t a plan that gets put in a binder and placed on a shelf. The Board uses the document at each of its quarterly meetings to evaluate the staff’s performance (and compensation), and assess the direction of the organization.

But first I wanted to share with you a couple of my favorite quotes about planning and execution…

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon

Lennon drives home the difference between “planning” and “doing.”

“I’m all in favor of it.” John McKay, coach of the 0-14 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in response to a reporter’s question about the “execution of the team’s offense.”

McKay’s comment has nothing to do with implementing a strategic plan – but more than 25 years after he originally said it, it still makes me laugh!

Now let’s look at some of the key goals in the Alliance’s 2013 Strategic Plan. We’ve divided them into Annual Goals (to be accomplished this year) and Long-Term Goals (what Jim Collins would describe as “20 Mile Marches”):

Annual Goals

  • Increase awareness of the fraternal business model and preserve the fraternal tax exemption by reintroducing House Congressional Resolution #116 and recruiting 100 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives – The best defense is a good offense (apologies to Coach McKay), and the Alliance is taking its message to Capitol Hill in a big way this year. Every member society can join in the effort by sending emails to legislators urging them to co-sponsor the fraternal resolution, inviting lawmakers to attend meaningful society-sponsored community service activities in their districts, and participating in the Alliance’s “Fraternal Day on the Hill” event on April 9, in Washington, D.C. Watch for more details on this advocacy initiative in February.
  • Enhance the reputational integrity of the fraternal business model and protect consumers by adopting a Board policy position on the need for additional fraternal solvency regulatory reforms and, if needed, developing draft regulatory language for consideration by state regulators – Solvency regulation and consumer protection is an issue that won’t go away. The Alliance Board is committed to continuing to address the issue in an upfront manner by retaining an independent consultant to conduct a feasibility study on fraternal participation in state guaranty funds and, based on the results of that study, developing appropriate regulatory measures to effectively address fraternal solvency situations.
  • Work with Canadian-domiciled member societies to prevent government-mandated fraternal participation in the national guaranty association, and to provide feedback to federal regulators (OSFI) to develop acceptable fraternal governance guidelines – These issues are parallel to those confronted by U.S.-domiciled fraternals, which makes working together across national borders more important than ever.
  • Provide members the tools they need to attract younger members in an effort to have 50 percent of all individual fraternal members be under 35 years old by 2022 – Is there a more important goal for any society than to “grow younger?” In 2013, the Alliance will conduct its next round of research, focusing on consumers under the age of 35 to identify life insurance/financial services purchasing preferences, product preferences, and compelling fraternal business model characteristics. We’ll also develop sample branding materials for members based on the results of our initial consumer research, and create a Board-appointed Task Force of member society representatives to develop ideas for reinventing the local chapter network to enhance the relevance of the fraternal business model to younger consumers.
  • Provide expanded compliance information services, including access to on-demand electronic legislative/regulatory data; access to a compliance expert; and participation in  a social network of compliance professionals to all members as a benefit under the dues structure – In an increasingly complex regulatory environment, obtaining high quality compliance information is crucial to every financial services provider. The Alliance program is designed specifically to help small and mid-size societies handle this critical function.
  • Manage the organization in a professional and transparent manner to ensure that strategic goals and financial results meet or exceed parameters established by the Board – We’re committed to running the Alliance in the most cost-effective way possible to maximize the value of members’ dues dollars.

Long-Term Goals (“20 Mile Marches”)

  • Promote benefits of fraternal business model to three organizations that could benefit from the creation of a new fraternal benefit society – The best way to validate the viability of the fraternal business model? Make interested organizations representing individuals with a common bond aware of the fraternal concept and help them form a new society.
  • Identify and reach out to organizations that represent small and mid-size mutual life insurance companies to develop strategic alliances on common public policy and/or operational issues and to explore opportunities for future mergers between the Alliance and such groups – We all know that mergers that strengthen societies’ abilities to fulfill their financial services and social missions make sense. The same principle applies to the Alliance. Seeking strategic alliances with cooperative and mutual insurers that face the same operational and regulatory challenges as fraternals helps us accomplish our public policy mission and may lead to a more lasting partnership that could enhance the value of membership in a consolidated trade group.
  • Create a fraternal board member certification program that helps members enhance the quality of their board members and their boards’ performance and addresses governance concerns of state regulators – Enhanced governance is another regulatory bugaboo that fraternals have to address. Ongoing education that helps both new and current fraternal board members better fulfill their legal and fiduciary responsibilities may help member societies relieve some of the regulatory pressure.
  • Increase non-dues revenue as a percentage of overall revenue from 37 percent to 50 percent – Most trade groups of the Alliance’s size generate about 60% of their total revenue from non-dues sources, from meetings and conferences, to sponsorships, to certification programs, to endorsed vendor agreements. In order for the Alliance to keep dues as affordable as possible, ensure that we have the financial resources to accomplish our public policy and public affairs goals, and allow us to invest in more and better member benefits, we have to reduce our reliance on society dues revenue over the long-term.

Ambitious? You bet. Tough to accomplish? Ditto. Critical to the long-term health of the fraternal business model? Without question.

I can’t wait to get started. I welcome your comments either posted here or sent to me in a private email (jannotti@fraternalalliance.org) and look forward to sharing our progress with you throughout the year.

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