New CEO seeks to reinvent AALU

BY ALEX GANGITANO  –


The Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU) needed to make a change and, instead of recruiting the catalyst from the outside, it looked inward for a new leader.

“I would have rather gone to do something else somewhere else if the board wasn’t ready for a fundamental remaking of the organization,” says Marc Cadin, who started working for the group in 2000 was named chief executive officer in 2018. “They hired me, and we’re up and running on reinventing the organization.”

AALU, which represents the financial security profession, has gone from having 2,000 members to just over 4,000 since Cadin took over, he announced earlier this month.

“You can either continue the organization down a very similar path or you can reinvent it, and the benefit of being an internal candidate is you know what you have to keep from a strengths perspective, but you also know what are the opportunities. And, what are the big changes that need to be made?” Cadin, 44, said in a recent interview with The Hill.

AALU focuses on issues that affect life insurance products and businesses and provides financial services professionals tools to grow their businesses and serve their clients.

Its massive growth can be attributed to AALU partnering with M Financial, a life insurance producer group. The group is its first Enterprise Membership partner, which means that every licensed professional from M Financial joined the association.

Cadin was a 26-year-old civics teacher at Flint Hill School in Oakton, Va., when former AALU CEO David Stertzer recruited him.

“I taught his kids. I was getting ready to get married and we were getting ready to start a family and I was making $32,000 a year teaching and coaching. I got to know David through Flint Hill and he’s like, ‘I need someone to build out my government affairs team, why don’t you come help us do that?’ ” Cadin recalled.“I never worked on the Hill, didn’t know anything about life insurance, advocacy, lobbying [or] politics. I wasn’t even particularly political growing up,” he said.

His first job for the association was on the membership team. At that time, he said, AALU had roughly the same number of members that it did when he took over last year.

“It’s all part of a strategic plan where we have outlined a vision for the organization,” he said.

Stertzer left the CEO post in August after serving at the helm for more than three decades. Along with doubling membership, AALU has significantly changed its mission since Cadin took the helm.

“Our mission used to be sort of the life insurance community. Now, it’s to advocate on behalf of our members who provide the financial and retirement security for the American people, making it more of a consumer-centered mission,” Cadin said.

“We still advocate for the profession but, at the end of the day, what we want to do is empower people to help consumers be more financially secure and more prepared for their retirement.”

Additionally, Cadin said, he made major changes to AALU’s internal team. Only about half of the staff in place when he became CEO last year is still there.

“Some of that was people didn’t want to get on the other side of transition, so they self-selected out. Some of it, they weren’t great fits for the new mission and what we were trying to do. The No. 1 priority for us this year was to build out a team that was capable of representing an entire profession,” he said.

He hired Katherine Knight, vice president of communications, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Rob McLeod, assistant vice president of membership, from the National Association of Manufacturers; and Matt Derrick, senior vice president of member services, from Life Happens, a nonprofit focused on helping consumers make insurance decisions.

None of these jobs existed before Cadin took over, he noted.

He also wanted to expand the types of members the association recruits while it continues to grow past 4,000 members, focusing on young people, people of color and both Republicans and Democrats.

“We’re putting a big emphasis on diversity. As part of our strategic plan, we adopted a new vision to represent the entire profession, not just a segment of it,” he said, adding that the financial security profession tends to attract a homogeneous group of people.

“We represent a profession that is largely older, largely white and largely male,” he said.

Cadin’s long-term goal for AALU is to represent the entire profession. He said there are more than 300,000 licensed life and annuity advisers in the U.S.

“Our goal is to build a relationship, whether it’s membership, a subscription, email connectivity, to all 300,000-plus because we believe that by bringing the entire community together, we’ll be more effective in engaging the media, we’ll be more effective in advocating before Congress, we’ll be more effective in telling our story, we’ll be more effective in helping new people come into the business and want to come into the business,” he said.

While having a relationship with the whole industry is good for AALU’s business and reputation, he also thinks it will be good for the future of the profession.

“It’s always about the people that they’re working with and their roles really develop to bring people together,” he said. “That’s really important to me.”

That outlook is admittedly a new one for Cadin.

“Probably if we had this conversation 18 months ago, that probably would not have been as important to me because it would have been like, charge forward, we need to do this, we need to do that,” he said.

He added that the culture of the organization is dependent on unity among its membership base, as well as its professional team.

“At the end of the day, we’re all one big team that has a great opportunity to represent a really noble profession that does a lot of really good things for the American people, and I think our success is truly our ability to come together and accomplish together what we couldn’t do individually,” Cadin said.


This article was originally posted on The Hill. Click here to view. 

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