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Proposed LIA name change is an act of lunacy

LIA and Sofa have “heads of agreement” to merge and call themselves the Personal Finance Society.

I see a fundamental conceptual change in the LIA. It used to be an association of comrades in the industry, supporting each other through changes imposed from the outside. Now, it has become a centralised governing body that prescribes conduct on its members.

A happy democracy that used to delight its members and fill conference venues by the thousand has become an autocratic, pseudo-gover-ning body, taking unrealistic and unwelcome powers for itself.

If LIA members are not yet disgruntled, they will be. Apathy for an irrelevant organisation will descend, to choke out the vitality of an already beleaguered industry. Meetings and conferences will be poorly attended. Teams of happy and successful salesmen and women, self-sacrificially sharing their experiences and energies to encourage others, will all have disappeared, disillusioned and disappointed.

Surely, LIA members want what they used to have, when the LIA spoke on behalf of everyone who sold insurance and investment products. True entrepreneurs, such as Ken Clarke, were the foundation of this happy, sharing and vital sales-orientated industry. I cannot see much wrong with the title LIA either. It may not embrace every possible aspect of our activity but it is infinitely more relevant than PFS.

What we have now, and do not want, is a prescriptive, controlling, centrally organised regime. This approach assumes we can have an industry without selling anything, that fees charged are an alternative to selling expertise, and that more technical knowledge and qualifications will convince people to come to us and buy. How misguided.

The truth is that insurance and investments need to be sold, they are rarely bought. We all know that families are under-insured and the savings gap is widening. We have a job to do and that job is to sell.

Over 25 years, the LIA has helped and encouraged me to be a successful salesperson, and my clients include many well-protected families and grateful widows. That is the heart and soul of our industry.

The new PFS will claim it has not lost that contribution to our industry and our core value, but we can see it has. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with an exam-based, fee-charging body that will only allow highly qualified members on its board, but that is not the LIA.

I would rather rediscover that happy band of MDRT qualifiers, who are hungry for sales ideas, innovative products and enthusiasm for our missionary responsibility to protect and secure.

Without the old LIA ethos, we are much poorer. Our very successful LIA meetings are now being hijacked and controlled by headquarters. This is not acceptable. We must be able to co-ordinate activities for our own local insurance salespeople – IFAs and direct – to share and motivate. Can anyone stop this lunacy?

And about the new name. Imagine visiting a corporate client or professional partnership, and introducing ourselves as Personal Finance Society members (if it wasn&#39t so serious we might laugh).

Our prospects would be puzzled by the “profession” we represent, and ask: “What industry are you in?” We would correctly reply: “The life insurance and investment industry.”

“But you only deal with personal finance?”

“No, all aspects of insurance, investments, pensions and protection for corporations, partnerships and individuals.”

Once they had fully comprehended the misleading nature of our name, they would advise us: “Surely, you should call yourselves by a name that links you to the life insurance industry. You sell and advise on products of life insurance and investment companies, so why not use a really helpful and snappy name such as Life Insurance Association?

“Thanks, never thought of that.”

I am voting no because we have enough overbearing control anyway and because I do not want to lose the reactive dynamic of the”on the ground” grafters who need to support and help each other.

If anyone agrees, and is sad to see the break-up of what was a wonderful organisation, email your name and address to me at malcolm@baxterlindley.co.uk. Who knows, we might be able to recreate that LIA magic once again.

Malcolm Baxter

Regional LIA committee member,

Baxter & Lindley Financial Services

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