A new lobbying group representing insurance agents and brokers was formally established in August to help speed the enactment of an optional federal charter for the regulation of the life insurance industry.The group, Agents for Change, is coordinating an October fly-in on Capitol Hill in Washington, during which it hopes to have 100 insurance agents meet with as many as 50 members of the House and Senate to discuss insurance regulation and push for the passage of a federal charter.

A similar but smaller fly-in took place in May, before Agents for Change had officially organized. The agents will tell members of Congress that the current SMART legislation, which calls for the unifying of state insurance regulations, falls short of solving the problem.

"It's far from enough," says Robert Poli, chairman of Agents for Change and vice president of Insurance Marketing Center of Rockville, Md. "It gives broad strokes, but it doesn't get to the crux of the matter. There really needs to be a national charter."

While life insurers already had a lobbying arm in the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), Agents for Change was created to give a unified voice to individual brokers and agents, independent of the ACLI.

Agents for Change is the outgrowth of a number of focus groups the Financial Services Roundtable sponsored a year ago, in conjunction with Bonner and Associates, a Washington, D.C., provider of grassroots consulting services, to come up with a way to give impetus to the proposal for optional regulation of the life insurance industry.

Currently, Agents for Change has more than 500 members from more than 40 states. The goal is to elevate membership to more than 1,000 by the end of the year. In addition to the Washington fly-in, Agents for Change plans to have a presence at industry meetings and conferences, where members will attempt to rally support for an optional federal charter.

Like many agents, Poli says he has been exasperated by the multiplicity of red tape and costs he faces every time he must seek licensing in another state where he wants to do business.

"Our desire to get this optional federal charter done is really driven by the ridiculousness of the whole system in general," he says. "I have brokers I work with spending $10,000 or more in licenses. It's out of control. Something needs to be done."

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