According to a report in the April issue of The Insurance & Investment Journal, the travel industry is seeing many incentive trips for sales leaders sailing into the sunset.
A number of top insurance firms in Canada have announced, or are unveiling, plans to veer away from such programs, beginning with industry giant Great-West Life. The latter (including Canada Life) has announced its last such conference this year. Manulife will be doing likewise. Other insurers’ decisions are pending, although Desjardins has stated its change will be effective after 2018.
An interesting component of this development is that many advisors are on board, so to speak. They are – understandably in this age of compliance, avows of openness, and social media accountability – concerned about the increasingly negative ‘taint’ of such activities. This taint pulsates from potential, or at least perceived, conflict of interest.
A vice president of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association stated this hasn’t been a big issue, however there has been “…a perception in the public that it could be seen as a conflict of interest and it was time for the industry to work on the perception”. A key aspect of this was identified as insurance distributors paying for advisors’ attendance at conferences.
Feedback from advisors is generally to want to ‘do the right thing’. To the extent there’s an ‘old guard’ which still considers free conferences or bonuses as fair game, these are ‘a dying breed’.
On the side of lost opportunity, however, is that such conferences have provided some functional benefit for attendees. A significant example is networking, with the corollary of picking up some tips on enhancing personal relations, including dealing with company issues. “You’re much more likely to work with someone whom you’ve met face to face and know.”
With the likelihood of corporate-sponsored conferences moving to a more open entry for advisors, the expectation is that the new versions “will have a greater educational component to them”.
It’s actually comments like that which can make outsiders wince a little. One would have thought that educational sessions should automatically be in place as the conference prime directive. It appears ‘better late than never’ applies.
As a tangential consideration, one imagines that non-sponsored visitors, such as vacationers or other travelers, may benefit from lower prices due to reduced demands for space by such companies.