WASHINGTON -- FSI has begun offering members access to long-term disability and life insurance coverage, an added benefit the group hopes will help it increase membership and amplify its advocacy efforts.

FSI began rolling out the new Covered Advisor Program to a handful of member firms in early September before making a formal announcement Monday here at the group's Financial Advisor Summit.

In a meeting with reporters, Chris Paulitz, FSI's senior vice president of membership and marketing, described the new insurance offering as one of the first member benefits the organization is offering beyond its core mission of lobbying in Washington and at statehouses around the country.


FSI also sees the new insurance coverage, which comes at a discounted group rate that independent advisors generally couldn't get on the open market, as a membership driver that will ultimately support its policy advocacy through what Paulitz terms "strength in numbers."

"This will help us really strengthen retention for those who just don't spend the time to know what's going on in terms of advocacy or why it's important," he says. "It's already attracting new members in who ... we feel confident we can turn into advocacy champions once they're here for the benefits."

The insurance coverage is underwritten by Guardian, with FSI serving as the plan sponsor. FSI is introducing the plan through what Paulitz calls a "methodical rollout," staggering availability to roughly coincide with member firms' renewal schedules, with plans to offer it to all members by around next July.

FSI is making one coverage plan available to all advisors of member firms, and is offering an alternative plan for advisor support staff. Both plans offer guaranteed coverage, with an online signup process that doesn't involve any medical exams or questions.

"In a nutshell, it means they get covered guaranteed because they're an FSI member or affiliated with a member firm," Paulitz says.

FSI, with an average membership age of 52, notes that many members don't follow their own advice when it comes to life insurance and long-term disability coverage -- that they will routinely recommend those products to their clients, but, as independents, are reluctant to enter the market themselves.

"While most advisors advise their clients to get long-term disability," Paulitz says, "most advisors don't think they can afford it because their only access to it is expensive individual or small group plans."

Kenneth Corbin is a Financial Planning contributing writer in Washington.

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