Monday, June 29, 2020

No. 379: The John Newton Russell Memorial Award and a Letter to NAIFA

The JNR Award
In each year since the 1940s, the National Association of Life Underwriters (NALU) and its successor, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), have been issuing the John Newton Russell Memorial Award (JNR Award). NAIFA describes the JNR Award as
the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an individual in the life insurance and financial planning industry. The award recognizes a lifetime of professional excellence, service to the industry, and commitment to ethical conduct.
About 60 years ago, when I first learned of the JNR Award, I was struck by the fact that it is given only to living recipients. That seemed odd in view of the huge contributions made by many deceased individuals.

The May 2018 Letter
I was deeply honored to receive the JNR Award in 2017. The honor was accompanied by the requirement that I serve on the nominating committee for three years. In that capacity, I considered writing to NAIFA to suggest giving the JNR Award occasionally to a deceased person. Before sending the letter, however, I ran the idea by a few old friends (all JNR Award recipients). They were receptive to the idea.

On May 22, 2018, I sent a letter to NAIFA and suggested giving the JNR Award occasionally to a deceased individual. Here are three sentences near the end of the letter:
One possibility would be to grant an award to a deceased person only once every five years. Another possibility would be to occasionally grant two awards in a single year—one to a living person and one to a deceased person. I might add that granting an award occasionally to a deceased person would serve the purpose of educating NAIFA members and others about the rich history of the life insurance business.
Attached to the letter were discussions of Elizur Wright (the first insurance regulator in the U.S.) and Charles Evans Hughes (counsel of the Armstrong investigation in New York in 1905). Also mentioned in the letter was Jacob Lyman Greene, who was chief executive officer of Connecticut Mutual during the tontine wars.

In response to the letter, a NAIFA official informed me the board had considered and rejected the idea. However, the official did not give a reason for the rejection.

General Observations
I think the occasional granting of a JNR Award to a deceased person is a reasonable suggestion. However, I would welcome readers' thoughts. My May 2018 letter and the attachments are here.