Teekam Das Aswani did not expect he would frequently be rubbing shoulders with the best of the best in the global life insurance industry when he started selling insurance policies in Hyderabad back in 1999.With as many as six trips to the United States during the last seven years to meet top achievers in his field belonging to more than 450 companies from 74 countries, Aswani is now a globetrotter in the truest sense of the word.Founded in 1927, the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) – an Illinois-based international association of more than 38,000 insurance professionals – holds a one-of-the-kind, four-day event in North America where approximately 4,000 top performers huddle up to share sales ideas, make presentations, hold networking sessions and listen to motivational speeches every year.A policy seller has to bring in roughly eight times more business than an average life insurance salesperson to qualify for the basic MDRT membership for a year. To earn membership of the 2014 MDRT – whose annual conference will take place in June in Toronto – a life insurance agent had to generate a premium of Rs3 million in 2013.ompete for court of the table/top of the table titles by generating business that is three/six times more than the base MDRT business generation requirement.After earning the MDRT membership for 13 years in a row, Aswani has now become its life-time member. And why wouldn’t he? Aswani is a pro when it comes to selling insurance.“Premiums used to be minimal when I joined EFU Life Assurance in 1999. But within two months I was promoted to the position of business development manager,” said Aswani, who now serves as chief business manager.Premiums were indeed abysmally low at the time Aswani joined the country’s life insurance industry. With less than a decade in operation, private-sector life insurance companies were barely surviving in contrast with the government-owned State Life Insurance Company.But the tide was turning with private life insurance companies expanding their footprint. Gross premiums of life insurance companies in the private sector have since grown phenomenally, with a compound annualised growth rate of 28.4% between 2006 and 2013 alone.“As many as 86 people from EFU Life Assurance qualified to become MDRT members in 2013 as opposed to only two in 1999, the year when we started working with the MDRT,” said Mustafa Hussain Oonwala, who is the national sales director of EFU Life Assurance, one of the two largest private-sector life insurance companies operating in Pakistan.
“e’re committed to bearing most MDRT-related expenses for the development of our sales force,” he said.Should a qualifier decide to become an MDRT member, he must pay a membership fee of $550. In case, he decides to attend the annual conference in North America, he has to pay a registration fee of $675 separately.According to Oonwala, EFU Life Assurance did not pay any fee initially. Now, it pays the registration fee, but the qualifier must pay the membership fee himself. The company also bears airfare and visa assistance expenses.Other than EFU Life Assurance, salespeople from conventional and Islamic life insurance companies also take part in the MDRT, albeit without active monetary support from their employers.Speaking to The Express Tribune, Jubilee Life Insurance CEO Javed Ahmed said his company used to support and actively promote MDRT in the past, but increasing visa restrictions have forced the company to revise its policy.
“Since most of the salespeople do not get US visa to attend the MDRT conference, it eventually becomes a source of de-motivation for the regular qualifiers,” Ahmed said.
Referring to Jubilee Life Insurance’s own version of the MDRT for the company’s top performers called Million Rupee Club, Ahmed said people work hard to be a part of it and have now stopped applying for the MDRT.