In a press release on December 19th, ASPPA announced a new Executive Director for NTSAA, Chris Degrassi.
Degrassi comes from Guggenheim Partners Security Benefit Life – a company that works in the 403(b) world and partners with the NEA to sell (in my opinion expensive) variable annuity products. Security Benefit Life (SBL) buys into the failed idea of “Choice” that ASPPA has decided to promulgate in the 403(b) world. It is unclear whether this will gain Guggenheim more influence with ASPPA.
The NTSAA is an organization absorbed by ASPPA after having financial difficulties (this is my understanding after talking to several former board members). The NTSAA subsidiary has become a phoenix of sorts, rising from the ashes to wield enormous influence in ASPPA. The addition of the NTSAA has ushered in a new era of advocacy at ASPPA – one that in my opinion focuses on promoting financial services companies and their agents over the best interest of participants.
DeGrassi will in all likelihood spend most of his time trying to convince school employers that school employees need as many choices as possible when it comes to 403(b) products (This is ASPPA/NTSSA primary focus, so it must be his as well). While I still hold out hope that I am wrong, I doubt it. It is sad to see an organization like ASPPA head down the road toward being on the wrong side of history.
My offer to ASPPA Executive Director Brian Graff still stands and I wish Mr. DeGrassi the best in his new position…actually I don’t – his success (convincing districts to retain as many choices as possible) will lead to retirement failures (again, this is my opinion based on all the research I’ve read). My real hope is that ASPPA has seen the light and recognized that it was a huge mistake taking on the NTSAA and hiring Mr. Degrassi is an effort to eventually spin them back out on their own. An ASPPA without NTSAA would have a much more unified message.
In previous posts I’ve linked to especially disgusting brochures and sales flyers from companies that use lavish trips and gifts to incentive their agents to sell their annuity products. Security Benefit, where DeGrassi is coming from markets products through IMO’s (Independent Marketing Organizations) and, well…I’ve found some stuff just as disturbing being done at what is at least perceived as one of SBL’s top IMO’s – Advisors Excel. What follows is a link to Advisors Excel Rewards page – specifically the one where they reward agents with a trip to the Ritz Carlton St. Thomas and the 2012 Billboard Music awards for selling Security Benefit annuities.
While these agents should be allowed to sell what they like, they shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves “Advisors”….stay tuned.
Scott Dauenhauer, CFP, MSFP, AIF