This month Jay sits down with Jen Fox, Vice President, Political Affairs at Finseca. The pair talk about Jen's road to advocacy for the financial security profession, preparing for the 2024 election cycle, teaching fitness classes and, of course, food!
JAY: Over the past four years, the Tier One Interview has included participants from almost all parts of the life insurance industry – brokers, career agents, carrier owners and employees, attorneys and service providers. Noticeably missing has been a focus on our industry’s political advocacy which, in a sense, keeps the lights on for all of us. I am rectifying this today by sitting down with a top advocate for providers of life insurance and financial security. Jen, let’s get things rolling by hearing about both your employer, Finseca, and your roll there.
JEN: Jay, thanks for having me – it’s truly an honor to be featured among so many greats in the profession. I joined the band, Finseca, formerly known as AALU, over four years ago. Pardon me for my quick commercial, but Finseca is a national trade association that represents the financial security profession. As the home of the top financial security professionals, Finseca’s sole focus is on creating an environment that enables people to protect and enhance financial well-being — for themselves, their families, and their businesses.
My role at the organization is to lead the political affairs team, overseeing the Ambassador Program, Capitol Hill Day, and political fundraising. We are key to connecting the profession with policymakers, ensuring policymakers understand this vital profession and the clients you serve.
JAY: Usually, I ask people about their upbringing and path to the life insurance industry. In this instance, we have to throw in the steps that led you to political advocacy and then to life insurance. Take me from your time in Long Island to today. I know from our past conversations, Jen, that you have some pretty cool stories, including your time working in White House during the Obama Administration.
JEN: I’ll keep it short – or at least try. I grew up on Long Island, with a dream to make a difference in the world. After choosing my college out of a hat - yes, that is a true story - I moved to Washington, D.C. to attend the George Washington University. I interned on Capitol Hill and a few other organizations in DC. I landed at the White House in the Office of Presidential Correspondence, where we read all the mail the President received, including email, letters, and gifts.
It was there I saw the real power advocacy can have. Citizens would write asking for help and we were charged with finding solutions. I left 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to work on the other side of those letters, working at the National Restaurant Association for nearly five years. When I was on the search for my next challenge, I interviewed with Josh Caron at Finseca and the rest is history. While the issues facing the restaurant industry are very different from the financial security profession, there are more similarities than you’d guess. Above all, restaurateurs and financial security professionals want to do what’s best for their customers or clients; but often they are misunderstood by policymakers who make their jobs harder – not easier.
JAY: I want to focus on the importance of advocacy – especially for our industry. When I was growing up in Iowa, all the presidential candidates would stop by my house. It wasn’t until I was much older and went to school out East that I realized not everyone had Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Bob and Elizabeth Dole and George H.W. Bush drop by and hangout in their living room. Obviously, at the time, Iowa had outsized clout in politics. How do you and Finseca make sure our industry has influence over policy in Washington?
JEN: Did you know less than five percent of Congress have any experience with insurance – let alone - life insurance? Yet, every day, they consider legislation that can affect the profession and the clients you serve. It’s not that policymakers have it “out” for the profession, often times they don’t know what they don’t know – similar to new clients.
Finseca’s secret to success is pairing the skill of our professional staff with the expertise of Finseca members to educate policymakers, and act as resources for Capitol Hill. Just like you and me, Members of Congress want to do what’s right for their constituents – your clients – and depend on people like you to help educate them. Our team truly believes in the work the profession does and the nobleness of this profession, so we work 24/7 to share the message of financial security for all. We’ve even expanded to the state level.
JAY: You have participated in a number of big wins that Finseca, via its membership, has obtained. What are some of those wins and how did the members help you and the rest of the team? Secure Act 2.0 comes to mind.
JEN: Finseca has a long history of success and I’m thankful to be part of the team that has helped to notch a few of those over the last four years. I’m glad you mentioned Secure 2.0, a recent piece of legislation that has unlocked additional opportunities for Americans to save for retirement. Americans are financially unprepared for retirement, with the gap estimated at $3.68 trillion. Finseca worked with our Ambassadors and membership, coalition partners and champions on Capitol Hill to ensure this priority got across the finish line as part of the end of the year spending bill.
Whether you’re starting out in the workforce where this bill allows employers to match student loan repayments to retirement savings or nearing retirement and see that this bill allows more catch-up contributions, Secure 2.0 helps people at all stages of their life. As I’ve mentioned before, our Finseca members are experts in their field, and they share the real implications of policy changes with lawmakers. While I know it can seem small, but sharing your story can make a huge difference – on a variety of different issues. Together, we continue to partner to advocate for issues key to the profession.
JAY: As you know, because I say it all the time (chuckling), I have been a member of Finseca since 1998 and am marking my 25th anniversary this month. I always enjoy when you are asked a crystal ball-type question and am thrilled I get to do that now. How are you preparing for next year’s presidential election and how does an upcoming presidential election impact policy in Washington?
JEN: We are grateful that you have been a Finseca member since birth – haha, but really, thank you for your continued support. As a seasoned Finseca member, you know that it’s not my job to predict outcomes for the elections – rather it’s my job to prepare, and make sure the profession is prepared for any outcome.
With just about 600 days until the 2024 election, it’s going to be a wild ride to get there. The House has just a four-seat majority for Republicans and in 2022, 36 races were decided within a five percent margin, meaning things will continue to be tight. In the Senate, Democrats have a one seat majority, but the 2024 picture is tough. Of the 34 Senate seats up for election in 2024, Democrats, including independents who caucus with Democrats, currently hold 23, while Republicans hold just 11.
I outline both chambers to make the point that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are going to be thinking about their re-elections and need bipartisan wins to bring home to voters. I’m going to avoid talking about the presidential election and nominees, except to say, the sunset of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the end 2025 is coming fast and furious. We are strategizing about the best outcome for the profession from the likely next tax reform effort within the next few years.
JAY: I appreciate that you actually counted the days to the 2024 election from this interview’s publication date! One last work question because I am curious about the nuts-and-bolts of political advocacy. Can you give me a sense of a ‘day-in-your-life’ as an advocate? Are you always going to the Hill? Who are you meeting with?
JEN: Every day is truly different. My favorite time is when Congress is back home in their districts. I often travel to meet with Finseca members in the field. We host roundtables, events, and tours with lawmakers, reinforcing our efforts in the Capitol. If you’re interested in hosting an event in your hometown, let me know!
As you know, despite my deep passion for the profession, I’ve never sat in your seat, so I spend a good amount of my day talking to members like you – learning more about the profession and the issues facing the clients you serve. The better I understand the issues, the better I can help to advocate on your behalf.
JAY: Switching gears, I want to hear about your life outside of work. That said, I have to insist you talk about your gig as a fitness instructor. I understand that you teach classes for Body Pump, TRX and Boot Camp. We discussed how this has helped you grow professionally, and I would like to learn more about that? Also, do you have permission to share if any influential members of the Finseca community take your classes?
JEN: You know I’m high energy, so my husband jokes I have to teach classes - otherwise, I have too much energy at home. And before you ask, Jay, no he does not take my classes! I was always interested in health and wellness so, about 10 years ago, I got certified in group fitness. I teach about three days a week, but for me, it’s about so much more than working out.
I’ve become a better presenter and public speaker. Imagine giving a presentation and a member of the audience asks you to borrow a pen – that’s what it’s like when I’m leading a class - everyone is doing squats and one person is doing push-ups. In addition, whenever needed, I can use my “Bodypump voice” to get everyone’s attention.
Teaching class in DC is fun because you don’t have time to ask what you do for work. However, through the community I’ve built, I’ve had chiefs of staff, press secretaries and even regulators in my class. I have to be careful how hard I am on them – I don’t want to get on the wrong side of a policymaker because we did too many burpees!
JAY: I am looking forward to seeing you next at Finseca’s Advanced Markets Advocacy Summit in Washington D.C. on March 20-22. Before you go, you must answer the Tier One Interview Restaurant Question. Without naming a steakhouse or a steak dish, what restaurants do our readers need to visit and what should they order? JEN: This is the toughest question yet! Calories don’t matter because I’ll see you in my class beforehand, right? I’ll give you three options: First, check out Irregardless, a new farm-to-table on DC’s H Street. The menu changes daily but get the mushroom gallete. Next, if you’re feeling fancy, book a table at Rose’s Luxury and get the cacio e pepe. This is usually an off-the-menu item so just ask for it. Then, if you like champagne, take a ride to Pop Fizz in Northwest, DC. After you get a bottle of sparkling, get a pizza – you won’t regret it.
Since its inception, Life Insurance Strategies Group has solely focused on the individual high net worth life insurance market. We do not sell products. This allows us to offer unbiased, pragmatic advice. Visit us at www.lifeinsurancestrategiesgroup.com.