Around 7,000 people of 66 nationalities with seven simultaneous language translations all thrown together near to Disneyland sounds like a UN conference on weapons of mass destruction. In Anaheim, Los Angeles, there will be an event in June that will certainly change people's lives around the world.
I am referring to the 77th annual meeting of the Million Dollar Round Table, the premier association for financial professionals. For four energetic days, the world's very best financial advisers will listen to an eclectic mix of speakers explaining how we can balance our hectic lives between business, clients, staff, family, community, social and charitable activities. The MDRT calls this the whole-person concept.
Yet, for many UK advisers, the MDRT is not known or carries the stigma of being a ra-ra sales organisation.
My response to such critics is simple. How can you possibly pass judgement if you have not attended an MDRT meeting? Do you really believe that some of the UK's most accomplished advisers have nothing better to do than spend a week away from the office with the expense that goes with it? Do you really feel it is a waste of time to spend a week with 7,000 of the world's finest advisers, all willing to share ideas?
MDRT membership is based on business production levels along with a commitment to the highest of ethics. Basic membership entails commission and/or fee production of £47,000 in 2003, with three times higher production entitling the designation Court of the Table and six times Top of the Table.
Membership includes a subscription to the magazine Round the Table, which includes summaries of annual meeting speeches, adviser profiles, practice management techniques and, dare I say it in this politically correct 21st Century, sales ideas.
Main platform sessions at the annual meeting are interspersed with focus meetings targeted at different aspects of the whole-person concept, from sales ideas to practice management, marketing and media to mentoring, health and fitness to successful parenting, technical knowledge to prospecting techniques. The challenge is choosing which to attend.
Highlight of the annual meeting are the main platform speakers, who have magnificent stories to tell. Memorable speeches have been from US Secretary of State Colin Powell, actor Christopher Reeve, Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, Barbara Bush and Frank Abagnale, on whom the movie Catch Me If You Can was based.
Other speakers have told amazing stories of bravery, overcoming fear and achievements in art, music, sports, community work and charity. These are inspiring speeches which lift the spirit and create a zest for a broadened life. It is all too easy for us to get bogged down with compliance and forget what is going on around us.
The www.MDRT.org website is a massive resource, including texts of decades of speeches on virtually any subject you may find relevant.
Part of the attraction of the MDRT is the chance to make new friendships with advisers from almost every country. Each meeting strengthens such relationships so that we help each other, mentor each other and have people to visit wherever we travel.
No matter how successful we think we are, the MDRT shows us there is always someone doing something bigger, better, more efficiently than us. As a Top of the Table member, I thought I was doing fairly well until I met an American who saw only six clients a year and worked only six months a year but whose case size was about 80 times the size of mine. This is mind-blowing but incredibly powerful for altering the focus of what we do.
Although this article is clearly a plug for the MDRT, it is written by someone who cares passionately about the future of our profession. With so much doom and gloom, it is vital to find avenues to help us to grow and prosper for the benefit of our clients. Regulation may be driving us out of business but MDRT members are still growing strong.
The MDRT has made such a positive impact upon my life and is my open secret of success. I share this secret with you, not because it benefits me but because I wish to see our profession thrive. I can see no better solution for this than the MDRT and I hope to see you in Los Angeles.
Bhupinder Anand is managing director of Anand Associates