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​ FIO Director Bags the Job & Moves On

Posted By Staff Reporter, Monday, November 19, 2018

Steve Dreyer took the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) Director’s job in June. Last Friday was his last day on the job. He took the FIO job after an extensive vetting process and now feels it wasn’t the best career decision.

His background says he’s probably a good choice. Dreyer spent 25-years working for Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (now S&P Global) where he specialized in insurance and infrastructure and enterprise risk management.

Not to be, he said, and he resigned.

“Although we have been able to accomplish quite a bit during my time here, upon reflection, I have recognized that working in government turned out to be quite different from my time in the private sector, and I believe that my experiences can be best applied in other pursuits,” Dreyer said after announcing his departure to staff.

Dreyer is the second FIO director. Michael McRaith headed the office from its inception in 2011. Steve Seitz will now serve as acting director.

PIA National has always opposed the FIO and believes it usurps the regulation of insurance by states.

Source link: PropertyCasualty360.com

Tags:  Federal Insurance Office  FIO  PIA National  Steve Dreyer 

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PIA National & Other Groups Respond to Mid-Term Election

Posted By Staff Reporter, Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Democrats will control the U.S. House of Representatives when the 116th Congress is sworn in next January. Republicans will keep control of the Senate and have added to the number of seats the party holds.

So getting anything done for the two-years to follow will require bipartisanship.

PIA National is asking those in leadership in Congress to find bipartisan solutions for the insurance issues before us. Spokesman Jon Gentile — PIA National’s Vice President of Government Relations — said, “PIA will continue to advocate for policies that help independent insurance agents protect consumers: a strong National Flood Insurance Program and crop insurance program, the strengthening of employer-sponsored healthcare, and opposition to proposals that chip away at the successful state insurance regulatory system,” he said.

In the meantime, Gentile added — even though this is now a lame-duck Congress — it’s important for the 115th Congress to still be working on those goals as well.

Gentile and the PIA are not alone. Maggie Seidel of the American Insurance Association (AIA) added, “The AIA’s work on behalf of its members and their policyholders has always been — and will continue to be — bipartisan. We look forward to continuing to work with House Democrats and Republicans on a number of important P&C issues in the new Congress.”

Top on the mind of insurance these days is reforming the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Craig Poulton heads the private flood insurer Poulton Associates. He hopes the current Congress can get reforms done but says the House has put in the work but the Senate has not.

“The House had discussed and had come up with a set of reauthorization criteria that they were ready to act on and again, the Senate said, don’t pass the bill yet, let us look at it, and they just continue to keep it stalled,” Poulton noted.

What happens next? Whatever it is, Poulton isn’t optimistic. “Even though Democrats are in charge of the House, most of them had already looked at this issue and said, here are the kind of reforms we need to do, so if they see any light at the end of the Senate tunnel, I would expect the House to be willing to do something along the lines of what they’ve previously proposed. It’s really the Senate where the bottleneck is, and it’s more geographic than it is political.”

Nat Wienecke of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) is somewhat optimistic about flood reforms. Since California Representative Maxine Waters — who has had a hand in previous flood reform legislation — is now going to head the House Financial Services Committee, Wienecke expects new flood legislation early next year.

But like Poulton, he wonders if anything is going to get done. “The question is, can the Senate find 60 votes and what does that compromise look like, and that challenge doesn’t change as a result of the election,” Wienecke noted.

Gentile said the PIA wants a long-term NFIP solution with reforms accompanying the legislation. “Since we also support efforts to encourage the development of the private flood insurance market, the expanded Republican majority in the Senate could present a good opportunity for the entry of additional private flood resources into the marketplace,” he said.

He — and the PIA and other insurance associations — hope the looming flood issue can generate some bipartisan cooperation.

“We hope these changes to the composition of Congress will encourage a renewed spirit of bipartisanship in terms of creating opportunities for insurance agents to expand their businesses and increase the take-up rate for flood and other essential lines of insurance,” Gentile said.

Wienecke said the PCI also wants Congress — and Waters specifically — to look at data protection. “I have a reasonably high degree of confidence that one of the major issues that will come up in this Congress is the issue of consumer data privacy, and I would expect to see Congress discussing and debating with legislative solutions to consumer data privacy similar to the California legislation that passed or GDPR in Europe,” Wienecke said.

He’s also very surprised that — with all the controversy lately over data theft and data loss from applications like Facebook — nothing was done. 

“With all the hearings that we’ve had with the social media companies this year, there was no bill or effort in this Congress to do that. That is almost impossible for me to see in the next Congress — I would be shocked if there weren’t legislation in the next Congress on consumer privacy,” he said.

In conclusion, Gentile said the PIA expects a split-controlled Congress will be a positive and not a negative. “While a lot has been accomplished under two years of singular control — including passage of tax reform, which led to many agents and brokers being able to qualify for a very helpful pass-through tax deduction — we now may see other positive actions as the result of this split Congress,” he added.

Source links: PIA National, Insurance Business America

Tags:  116th Congress  Democrats House  PIA National  Republicans Senate 

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PIA National, the NFIP Extension, Flood Dangers Rise

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) isn’t working. With over $25 billion in debt it’s obvious the NFIP hasn’t worked well in quite a while. The program’s carnage began with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was exacerbated with Super Storm Sandy in 2012.

Then along came last year’s Hurricane Harvey and his cousins.

The NFIP is in dire need of repair. Congress has avoided it and keeps kicking the proverbial can down the road. The program expired at the end of September and it has been extended for the fifth time since the new fiscal year began on October 1st of last year.

The expiration date now is March 23rd when the temporary federal government funding runs out. Professional Independent Agent (PIA) National Vice President of Government Relations Jon Gentile said it’s time for Congress to go to work. “Congress must use the time between now and then to move away from short-term measures and provide a long-term reauthorization of this program,” he said.

Gentile — and the PIA and other insurance and environmental groups — want major reforms in the NFIP and those reforms keep getting put off.

“The NFIP is a program that requires certainty. It is also in great need of reforms. PIA will continue our advocacy for a long-term reauthorization of the program that recognizes the essential role independent agents play in providing expert advice to consumers," Gentile said.

Seth Chandler is an insurance law expert at the UH Law Center. He — like Gentile and the PIA — is tired that people “in non-flood areas are continuing to subsidize people in flood areas. The way to make it [the NFIP] sustainable is to both increase the premiums, particularly in the more flood-prone areas and also to use science to draw maps that more accurately reflect risk.”

The need for flood insurance reform has never been greater. Whether you believe it is climate change or not, the weather lately is weird and it’s driving changes that are increasing the danger of flooding.

A recent New York Times report brings how frightening that is home to roost. There are 21,600 facilities in the U.S. that store large quantities of toxic materials. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — that runs the NFIP — says over 1,4000 are in areas that are now considered to be at high flood risk.

The reason all this happened is because of how important being close to water is to some industrial operations. A good example is the 34,400 pounds of ultra toxic sodium peroxide and 300 pounds of benzene that leaked out of a Chevron Phillips chemical plant in Baytown, Texas during Hurricane Harvey.

These are toxic areas in the PIA Western Alliance state sites (It is hard to count on the map we saw so in the case of California, Oregon and Arizona the count is a close estimate):

Alaska — 2 sites

Arizona — 24 sites

California — 79 sites

Idaho — 3 — sites

Montana — 2 sites

Nevada — 9 sites

New Mexico — 3 sites

Oregon — 17 sites

Washington — 12 sites


Source links: Houston Public Media, Insurance Journal, Business Insurance America, New York Times

Tags:  Flood Dangers Rise  Insurance Content  Insurance Industry  Insurance News  PIA National  the NFIP Extension  Weekly Industry News 

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PIA National, the FIO, Insurers & A New Systemic Risk Bill

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Jon Gentile

As Weekly Industry News reported last week, PIA National is calling for the demise of the Federal Insurance Office (FIO). It was created by the Wall Street reforming Dodd-Frank Act and is charged with “advising” Congress on insurance issues.


So far, PIA National says it’s been pretty good at keeping with its congressional instructions. It is — however — no secret that FIO Director Michael McRaith wants the FIO to be more hands-on in insurance regulation and at one time said insurance ought to be treated — regulation-wise — like banks and other security institutions.


Jon Gentile — who is the PIA National Vice President of Government Relations — said, “If the goal is to eliminate unnecessary federal regulation, getting rid of the FIO makes good sense. Doing so would reaffirm that regulation of insurance should continue to be the responsibility of the states. PIA will remain vigilant in its efforts to ensure that no new paths to the federal regulation of insurance are created as part of any Dodd-Frank rollback.”


The push to do away with the FIO came from a report it issued stating Congress ought to consider a uniform national standard regarding state guaranty association coverage limits. It also said it might be necessary for Congress to consider whether sex and gender are appropriate rating factors for insurers to use in underwriting.


"These are issues with interstate implications, especially given an increasingly mobile society and, therefore, are of national interest. For these reasons, if coverage limits are not standardized nationally by the states, then Congress should consider prescribing nationally uniform standards." It also said "Federal legislation may be necessary to address the issue of sex- or gender-based discrimination in the insurance industry,” the report said.


Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) vice president Dave Snyder pooh-poohed the report as an attempt by the FIO to interfere with state regulation. And that regulation — Snyder said — is well-functioning. “The whole report is political propaganda and does not merit serious attention from state regulators,” he said.


Another Dodd-Frank created regulating body the Financial Stability Oversight Council is charged with determining which financial institutions pose a systemic risk to the nation’s entire financial system. PIA and other insurance organizations opposed adding insurers to the council’s jurisdiction as — maybe other than AIG at the beginning of the Great Recession but not now — none of them pose a risk to the nation’s economy like the big banks.


The House of Representatives has approved a PIA supported bill the Systemic Risk Designation Improvement Act to replace the significantly important financial institution (SIFI) arbitrary designation limit of $50 billion in assets with another system. Bill sponsor and Missouri Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer said it “would protect U.S. taxpayers from actual risk posed to the financial system. Decisions on what institutions are deemed systemically important should be based not on size alone, but also on activity and other factors that actually demonstrate systemic risk.”


He and 233 Republicans and 20 Democrats agreed and passed the bill. If it gets through the Senate and to either President Obama or Trump’s desk, before a SIFI designation is given the council and other regulators would have to consider the asset size of a bank holding company, the interconnectedness of the institution, and the complexity of the holding company’s nature.


Rep. Jeb Hensarling — a Republican from Texas and the chair of the House Financial Services Committee — said Dodd-Frank co-author, Boston Democrat and former Rep. Barney Frank agreed the law is arbitrary and supports the adjustment. Hensarling said he’s even been known to admit the arbitrary nature of the designation is a mistake.


“What we’re trying to do here today with this bipartisan bill is try to provide a solution, try to fix a genuinely recognized mistake in Dodd-Frank.  And what those who oppose this bill are trying to do is to preserve that mistake in the law,” Hensarling said.


Insurance groups like the American Insurance Association (AIA) agree the change will be a good one. AIA vice president of federal Affairs Wes McClelland said, “Given the strengths of the insurance business model, it is clear that the property/casualty industry was not and is not a source of systemic risk to the financial system. Therefore, in testing for enhanced supervision of financial institutions, the bill appropriately recognizes that risk assessment should be based on a range of factors wider than just size.”


California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters is the ranking Democrat on the committee. She said the bill will let President Donald Trump deregulate 27 of the nation’s largest banks. “H.R. 6392 would repeal Dodd-Frank’s $50 billion threshold, above which banks are subject to closer regulatory scrutiny, and prevent the Federal Reserve Board from regulating these banks. Instead, it would hand over that responsibility to the Financial Stability Oversight Council, or FSOC. To regulate the banks, the FSOC would have to go through a byzantine and litigious process of designation, which takes two to four years to complete,” she said.


In the meantime, the international Financial Stability Board (FSB) identified nine insurance companies last week as SIFI. Two of those insurers are U.S. companies — AIG which already has an SIFI designation and MetLife whose designation was overturned by a federal judge — are on that list.


Source links: PIA National, PropertyCasualty360.com, Insurance Journal, Insurance Business America



Tags:  Insurance Content  Insurance Industry  Insurance News  Insurers & A New Systemic Risk Bill  Jon Gentile  PIA National  the FIO  Weekly Industry News 

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PIA National Sponsored Study: Your Website & You

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 24, 2016

For years insurance technology experts have been nagging the industry’s leaders about the importance of keeping websites up to date and working smoothly. Technology is evolving and you need to evolve with it. Those are the technology experts. Marketing experts are preaching from the same pulpit. The chant goes something like: keep up, keep up, keep up.


But independent insurance agents — at least most of them — don’t appear to be hearing the call. Or if they are hearing it, they aren’t acting. A poll done by Insurance Digital Transformation says 60% of independent agents say their websites are “average to poor.”


Just 8% brag that their website is up to speed and rated excellent.


PIA National administered the survey with ACORD User Groups Information Exchange and the IIABA’s Agents Council for Technology. The poll found 70% of agents have plans in place to raise the level of their websites.


But — as they say — the best laid plans of mice and men…etc. These independent agents and agencies are not following their plans.


The report generated from the survey shows less than 25% of agents have comparative raters to help customers quote home and auto. Just 16% use chat or instant messaging to communicate with potential customers or with current customers.


As to why? No one is quite sure and the report puzzled out this comment: This is a relatively inexpensive technology and easy to implement, so the low percentage is surprising.”


Cal Durland is an industry consultant and advocate at Insurance Digital Revolution. He said agents and agencies are also failing to update their websites to give consumers access in the format they prefer. Whenever I need to find something, I take out my phone and Google it. So does someone who is perhaps new to the area and is looking for insurance — but these agency websites just aren’t robust enough to keep them.”


And with that he gave some important advice to those same agents and agencies. “Your website needs to be more than just a brochure. It needs to host everything from the ability to quote car insurance or chat with staff, all from their phone. There’s a whole slew of functionality that’s just not reading,” he said.


PIA National Executive Vice President Mike Becker said consumers want to use mobile apps to help them with their insurance needs. Yet just 21% of agencies say their website has that capability. Just a few more — 23% — say they have a client portal on their website. He said independent agents ought to make these functions a high priority even if their clients are demanding them or asking for them directly.


Agents can’t assume that no news is good news. When it comes to customers’ digital requirements, that’s never true. Look at banking — many institutions did not know how popular online and mobile banking would be with their customers until they adopted it. The same is true for insurance. These technologies provide quick, easy and on-demand access to policy and billing information, quoting and rating,” Becker said.


Here are some other findings from the survey:


  Agents and agencies need to add automation tools that improve work flow.

  40% of those surveyed say disjointed work flow is a huge challenge.

  Carriers not making their sites available through agency management systems is also problematic.

  That said, agents aren’t really taking advantage of those carriers that do make them available.

  60% of agents say they are not using claims download programs.

  Just 6% are finding ways to add quoting to the website for commercial lines.

  For personal lines that figure is 16%.


That means — Durland said — many agents are manually reentering data when they switch from a carrier portal to their own management system. That not only slows down the process but it increases the risk for error. Years ago, you heard a lot of push for a single-entry, multiple-company interface. The industry is still stepping into that,” he said.


ACORD’s Greg Maciag and the PIA and others involved are encouraged by the results. Many agents want to become digital, they just need guidance on where to start,” Maciag noted.


As to the need to for agents and agencies to keep websites current, Laird Rixford — Insurance Technologies Corporation (ITC) president — said all agents who know anything about anything know a strong website presence is critical to agency success. These successful people know Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are important, too but that an optimized website is where the rubber meets the road.


Whenever a consumer is looking for insurance they start with internet — that happens whether they’re looking at the big insurance firms or local agents. The first thing that someone wants to do is research, that’s where the online experience begins,” he said.


So it’s important — he said — to not make these three critical mistakes.


A design that is outdated: Rixford said your website can’t look like it was done a decade ago. That puts you at a distinct disadvantage. The design has to capture your attention and have a good call to-action. Companies with modern sites look like they know what they’re doing; they look like they’re on the ball.”


A current looking design is even more critical when you consider how long you have to snag the viewer. Rixford said it’s three seconds. If they’re not impressed instantly, they’re gone. If they decide your site is worth staying on, you have another four to five seconds to convince them to stay. Having good design, layout and call-to-actions will help you do that.”


Blog, blog, blog: Rixford wants you to think of a blog this way. It’s like talking with and educating your clients and prospects about the business of insurance. Having stories published on a regular basis shows that you care. Not just about the future of your prospects and clients, but about your web presence because nothing is more detrimental than an abandoned website or blog,” he said.


Plus, search engines — like Google — are much more sophisticated today than they were a decade ago, or even a couple of years ago. So you must publish fresh, unique content to end up higher in the results when someone does a search. A regularly updated blog makes you seen as a valuable content resource for search engines.


Never, ever have an About Us page that is blank: This is where you get to tell your story. That page says:


  Who you are

  What you’re about


By leaving this section blank and not telling your story, you’re missing the chance to create a personable impression of your agency,” he said.


And — pullleeassseee — don’t have an About Us page packed with boring content about when the agency was founded and what services you offer to your clients and potential clients. Rixford said do this:


  Share your history as a human story

  Make it something clients and prospects and random visitors can relate to

  Showcase your employees with a head shot and a personal, well-written bio that says who they are as people and not just as insurance agents


All of that is a nice personal touch that gets you noticed.


Last — and not from Rixford but from the PIA sponsored Insurance Digital Revolution survey — do something and do it now. Stop putting off updating your website. This is critical to the success of your business going forward.


Source links: Two from Insurance Business America — link 1 and link 2

Tags:  PIA  Pia National  PIA National Sponsored Study: Your Website & You  Webisite 

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PIA & Other Industry Groups Fight Auto Insurance Affordability Plan

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 20, 2016

PIA National has come out against a plan by the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) to institute guidelines to make auto insurance affordable to — as the FIO calls them — “affected persons.” In opposing the idea, the PIA joins several industry groups who also think the idea has no merit.


FIO Director Michael McRaith said affected will be defined as traditionally underserved communities and consumers, minorities, and low- and moderate-income persons. So if the average auto liability premium is more than 2% of the median income in those neighborhoods, the insurance will be deemed unaffordable.


Access to affordable auto insurance is crucial for consumers who commute to work, drive kids to school, and meet the needs of their families. This new methodology reflects important feedback FIO has received from a number of key stakeholders, and it is a meaningful step toward better understanding the affordability of auto insurance for consumers and underserved communities all across the country,” he said.


Consumer groups like McRaith’s point of view and support the guidelines. The insurance industry — for the most part — does not.


PIA National Senior Vice President for Industry Affairs Pat Borowski says the organization appreciates that the FIO let the industry chime in before making its decision. We appreciate the engaged process that FIO extended to the industry and the subsequent follow-ups for additional information and asking additional questions. We further appreciate the FIO’s efforts to balance the many comments, and make a number of changes that have improved the outcome, as compared to the original proposal,” she noted.


But in the end the FIO’s designation of unaffordable is unacceptable. “We still do not see if or how FIO will account for several other critical factors, such as the differences — most of them significant — that exist among all drivers as to their individual or collective household driving records. Assessing auto insurance affordability is much more complex than determining the affordability of housing costs under HUD methods,” she said.


Borowski said the PIA’s analysis of the problem shows the FIO does not give enough weight to a number of variables including the non-insurance related factors that impact the price of insurance and regional variables.


Jimi Grande of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) said the FIO is stepping outside of its authority. By law, the FIO monitors the markets and will report to Congress, which can act on those reports or not. What’s troubling is that even though the FIO itself recognizes that ‘affordability for any individual consumer can be assessed accurately only within the context of that consumer’s circumstances,’ the conclusions others draw from the office’s reports based on aggregated data will not take this fundamental fact into account, or ignore it outright to further an agenda,” he said.


Borowski and the PIA worry that the problem fix will lead to a government subsidy similar to what happens with ObamaCare.


The Insurance Research Council agrees with PIA that the figure of 2% is arbitrary. No standards — the IRC contends — exist to support McRaith’s figure. It does agree an affordability index that compares coverage to income is appropriate over time but it is not a good method of deciding whether insurance is affordable or not affordable.


Grande said that’s the biggest problem with the FIO stance. The methodology ignores all existing government data on auto insurance expenditures and even the fundamental principle that insurance should be priced according to risk, which means the same standard would be considered for a driver with a perfect driving record and one with multiple accidents. There is great danger in arbitrarily establishing a threshold for which our government will deem a product affordable. What’s next – whether the car itself is considered affordable? The gasoline fueling it? Is there a need for the government to determine if auto repairs are affordable?”


Like PIA National’s Borowski, Grande appreciated the FIO listening to the industry but its solution and the end result remains a troubling standard that may not provide an accurate picture of the highly competitive auto insurance marketplace.”


Robert Gordon — a senior vice president for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) — agrees. He said, Individual finances, wealth and discretionary income may vary greatly from family to family. For most consumers, the cost of buying a car and maintaining and fueling it far exceed any insurance costs, making the regulatory fixation with insurance affordability somewhat misdirected. In particular, rapidly escalating distracted driving, traffic congestion and alcohol and drug use have been negatively impacting auto accident frequency and loss costs, which are the primary determinants of insurance rates and affordability,” Gordon said.


American Insurance Association senior council Lisa Brown said the FIO’s definitions are all wrong. Factors such as state-based tort reform laws, consumer choice in levels of coverage, and state minimum insurance requirement laws do not appear to have been taken into account while FIO devised this methodology. It is essential that we have an effective and efficient system of insurance supervision that fosters the growth of vibrant private, competitive insurance markets. We believe that government regulation should be employed in ways that support the growth of the auto insurance market and look forward to working with FIO to address these concerns,” she said.


The IRC gets the last word and it’s an important one. The affordability of auto insurance is ultimately a function of how state auto insurance systems are defined and administered by the states. Efforts to improve affordability should address the primary cost drivers.”


Source links: PIA National, Insurance Journal


Tags:  Insurance Content  Insurance Industry  Insurance News  PIA  PIA & Other Industry Groups Fight Auto Insurance A  Pia National  Weekly Industry News 

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Meet the I.I.I.’s Replacement for Dr. Robert Hartwig

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sean Kevelighan
If insurance ever had anything close to a rock star it is Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) president Dr. Robert Hartwig. His youthful looks, intellect — and most importantly — knowledge, made him popular with all media and not just insurance media.


No one explains insurance more succinctly and in layman’s terms like Hartwig.


Earlier this year Hartwig — who has headed the I.I.I. since 2007 — announced he’s stepping down as the institute’s president and CEO. Hartwig will be a faculty member of the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business and the co-director of the Moore School’s Risk and Uncertainty Management Center.


His replacement is 43 year old Sean Kevelighan who most recently headed the global public affairs of the Zurich Insurance Group. He — among other important posts — was the press secretary for the White House Office of Management and Budget during the second Bush administration.


In accepting the position, Kevelighan said, It’s an honor to have been given this opportunity. Insurance is the lifeblood of any economy, as it enables individuals to be better prepared for the unexpected and, in turn, to live more freely. Over the years I have truly grown passionate about insurance and, quite frankly, feel it deserves more credit for the value it brings to society.”


Hartwig likes the choice. Although my decision to leave the Institute after 18 years was an extremely difficult one, it is made much easier knowing that I will be leaving the organization in such capable hands. I love this organization and this industry and I’m confident that Sean will be a strong, strategic leader for the I.I.I. and a persuasive spokesperson for an industry that I remain fully committed to,” Hartwig said.


Bruce Kelley — who is the president and CEO of EMC Insurance Companies and the board chairman of the I.I.I. — also likes the choice of Kevelighan and explains why he was picked.


Over nearly two decades, Sean has attained impressive accomplishments in public affairs and communications as well as a deep technical knowledge of insurance issues. The search committee screened dozens of high-caliber candidates, but the final vote was unanimous. Sean is an ideal fit for the CEO role due to his success as a media spokesperson in both corporate and government settings, as well as his international insurance industry experience,” Kelley said.


Source links: Insurance Journal, PropertyCasualty360.com


Tags:  Around the PIA Western Alliance States  Insurance Content  Insurance Industry  Insurance News  Meet the I.I.I.’s Replacement for Dr. Robert Hartw  Pia National  Weekly Industry News 

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Auto Insurance Leads for PIA Members

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Is your agency looking for auto insurance leads? Do you have hungry producers who will contact hot leads in your area? If so, you may want to participate in a pilot program that PIA is putting together with one of the nation’s largest auto insurance lead generation companies.


The pilot will take place over a two month period starting in roughly mid-June. Your participation will help PIA determine if this could be a good program for other PIA members.


PIA members who participate in the pilot program will receive $500 worth of matched leads (you buy $500 worth of leads and get $500 worth of leads free).


PIA members who complete the program will receive a $50 gift card (e.g. Visa, American Express, or similar).


If this sounds interesting to you, please email Alexi Papandon in PIA’s national office at alexipa@pianet.org for more information. Your email does not obligate you to anything.

Tags:  Auto Insurance Leads for PIA Members  Insurance Content  Insurance Industry  Insurance News  Pia National  Weekly Industry News 

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You & 2016: PIA National’s Pat Borowski

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Pat Borowski
PIA National Senior Vice President Pat Borowski was interviewed by National Underwriter’s Editor-in-Chief Shawn Moynihan. She’s part of the publication’s feature story in the 2016 Marketing Guide which is titled The P&C Industry in 2016: Where Do We Go from Here?


The first question asked dealt with the so-called “demise” of the independent insurance agent. Borowski said people keep talking about it but it’s light years from truth. “I have been in this business longer than I care to remember, and one thing has been remarkably consistent: Every decade or so, there is a new crop of consultants who proclaim the impending death of the independent agent distribution system — but it never happens.”


Consumers — especially businesses — want the personal touch. “In part, when you ask consumers, ‘Would you rather work with the carrier directly yourself, or would you rather work with your local independent insurance agency that then works with the carriers?’ Still, today, for personal or commercial lines, across all demographic groups, 80-90% say, “AGENT,” she said.


Borowski also emphasizes that studies done by PIA and others say small business owners — especially — prefer working with an independent agent. But that comment came with a warning. Commercial lines customers — Borowski said — want agents who’ve mastered the digital age and are Internet savvy. 


“What that means is they want the insurance agency to use all of todays methods of communication — Web, Twitter and Facebook, as well as e-mail, text message, phone, mail, in-person appointments, all need to be available to the customer. Will they use all of them? No, but they will decide how they want to communicate. They want choices.”


And that leads right back to the demise of the independent agent comment. “These consultants try to convince firms that people dont want their agents, or that they would be happy to buy online, or that a bank teller can sell and service insurance. None of that is ever true. Consistently, over the decades, insurance customers say they want to do business with their Main Street insurance agents. Perceptions to the contrary are being invented by our competitors.”


Borowski was then asked to predict the property-casualty agent’s role in the future as the digital experience of consumers continues to evolve. She said it is “wrong thinking” to assume consumers want to do their own insurance themselves. For simple insurance needs like car, rent and smaller needs, maybe. “But, as you move through life and you acquire more — more possessions, responsibility, and obligations — guess what? Those insurance choices get a lot more complicated, and your own lifes challenges get in your way, as well.”


At this point we want an expert to advise us. “This is why most of us stop going direct online for insurance, and get ourselves an agent that we can trust and knows what they are talking about. Ive also noticed a trend in surveys in recent years, in which millennials are more interested in face-to-face meetings than the previous generation.”


She then gave an interesting statistic.


“Since 1994, despite all reports to the contrary, the market share of the independent-agent system has been growing. IA operations have expanded their class and line of insurance reach and mix, as compared to any decade before,” Borowski said.


Then Borowski talked about the challenges independent agents will face in 2016.


Technology: How to keep up with advances and — just as importantly — when to keep up with advances. “Does our company make that scale and scope of investment directly, and exclusively own and operate it? While agencies need to be aware of all the options, they may have to revisit the ‘systems integration’ challenges of the past. Put simply, will what they buy be compatible with what all their carriers choose to use? Carrier interface will determine how everything works together — or not,” she said.

Risk: Cyber risk. Drones. Sharing economy. “Agencies have had to understand the insurance significance of these changes, what they mean to them as agency and business operations; what it could mean to all of their current & prospective customers; and then, how it impacts their various carriersofferings,” Borowski added.

Continuing education: Borowski emphasized that agents need to insist on continuing education to look at these and other issues impacting the independent agency system, “and also to have written, updated instructions from each of their carriers for each of the coverages currently offered, along with new ones to be offered. Specifically to all of these, the agency needs to know what the carrier means to cover or not cover, and how this is done in the policies and endorsements that they offer whether revised forms or new policies.”

Communication & developing technologies: She starts with the Internet of things and worked her way through social media and a new open system of communication. “This new communications landscape includes, but is not exclusive to, social media. What are these systems and the technology items being connected, and how do we use them? As we answer this question, other major questions come up which must be answered, including: how do we need to change our existing systems to accommodate them? Policies and practices need to be in place to provide safeguards that comply with the privacy, data and systems security, and cyber liability obligations of the agency to its customers and carriers.”

Talent: So many open positions and more to come. Training and developing those filling those positions is critical. “Agency principals must present their agencys goals and objectives going forward—and the opportunities the new hires have — in a way that is clear, understandable, interesting and inviting. All three of these trends have been building over time, but have become most apparent to agencies this year — and these are challenges that will continue,” Borowski concluded.


Source link: PropertyCasualty360.com


Tags:  Insurance Content  Insurance News  Pia National  You & 2016: PIA National’s Pat Borowski 

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Opinion: PIA National Publishes Important Small Business Research

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, August 18, 2015

PIA National has done it again. It has produced a document proving one more time how valuable you are to the business community and to individuals. You are independent insurance agents. Some of you are part of large agencies and others are truly independent and are one-person shops. Even more of you lie somewhere in between.


You all have one thing in common and that is the ability to truly serve your clients and to do so one-on-one.


A few years ago this publication did an interview with Mike McGavick, who then headed up Safeco. He passionately pushed the idea of the value of the independent insurance agent and said, as an industry, we dont do to put it bluntly enough bragging about ourselves. The industry employs thousands and thousands of people and is critical to the economic health of the United States.


Trickle that down and make it personal and we find you are pillars in your community. You are movers and shakers. You solve problems.


And most importantly, you care.


No one knows that. We dont toot our own horns enough. Insurance makes people whole and many of you are the people that make that happen. Most of what we hear about insurance in media is negative. In fact, these days the only positive you hear about insurance is the self-serving commercials on television and theyre industry produced.


A few years ago Heidi Duncan of Duncan & Associates Insurance Brokers in Olympia, Washington was president of PIA Washington/Alaska. She talked to the association at one of the annual meetings about growing up in the insurance industry and how her father was a super hero.


In a crisis, he saved the day.


There are many other examples we can use of the power of the importance of the independent insurance agent. These two are the best examples of how important you are that Ive come across in the 10-years this editor has worked for the association and this publication.


The study is from PIA Nationals agency-company council the PIA Partnership and is titled Small Business Insurance & The InternetThe Voice of the Commercial Lines Customer. It may be an online world these days but these businesses want and more importantly need the advice and experience of a professional independent insurance agent. But this isnt to say that the Internet is not important to them and the study comes with a warning. The Internet and its online lure is powerful. Independent agents must be proactive to continue to demonstrate the value of the independent agency system to business.


PIA National Executive Vice President Mike Becker said the purpose of this PIA effort is to give you more tools to use to meet the challenges faced by online providers and direct writers.


Our results affirm that while small business owners continue to greatly value the professional advice and personal service of an independent agent, there is an expectation that their agent will be more capable of online interaction concerning their accounts and that the agency will have a fully credible online presence, he said.


Becker calls the study a wakeup call and an affirmation. Commercial lines customers want agents as experts who are backed by the efficiency of the Internet, Becker added.


In other words, you are critical to your business clients but its time to find ways to blend that all important personal contact with the convenience of the Internet.


Not surprisingly and what other PIA studies and the studies of other insurance associations have found is what your clients find important about you and what you have to offer:


  Belief in the person or company

  Having a person who understands my business

  Quick service response

  Personal attention

  Providing me with confidence that I am making the right insurance decisions


PIA National President Richard Clements said independent insurance agents have always been up to whatever challenge they face. These days it is competition from direct writers and giants like Google.


Much has been said and written about plans by companies such as Google attempting to challenge the dominance of independent insurance agents in commercial lines. Thats why we asked commercial lines customers what they want. We found they want what we provide, and that they also want us to provide more. As for competition, I say what agents have always said: Bring it on!’” he said.


PIA Partnership chair John Petrucci said adaptability is also what small business likes about you. At the same time, they too are adapting to an Internet world and the value of an online evaluation of insurance before the purchase.


Some studies backed by direct writers and captives had contended that buyers of small and midsize business owners policies (BOP) wanted to purchase such coverages online. We decided that a more objective picture of buyer preferences was required, he said.


And Petrucci added the message of the study is clear. The Internet is here to stay. It is not the opponent of agents. But while it can be a source for competition, it can also provide an opportunity for agents when they use it to their own advantage. Responding is about evolution, not revolution. The changes taking place in the marketplace provide an excellent opportunity for independent agents to increase their dominance in the CL market, but the one thing that is not an option for independent agents is inaction.


Heres what else the study found:


  In order to be competitive, independent agents must have a full, credible online presence.

  Small business owners most value agents with professional, industry-specific knowledge.

  Most small business owners who shop insurance online still lack confidence in themselves to make ideal insurance choices, and they want help.

  Agents need to sell their value. Without more frequent demonstration of value, alternatives like bypassing the agent by going online will encroach further.


To sum it up: small business owners will start the insurance process online. But they depend on you to check and confirm what they learn there. And they overwhelmingly prefer personal contact throughout the insurance purchase process.        


Weekly Industry News commends the PIA Partnership for the study. It is so important that it has been picked up by several industry publications. In some cases, those publications at least online made the PIA study their top story.


Sometimes we forget how important we are to our small business clients and our personal lines clients. You are indeed and as Heidi Duncan said super heroes.


While the community often forgets, we do not. A couple of weeks ago, Weekly Industry News published an article from LifeHealthPro about the importance of small insurance agencies. Its a good one and points out how important independent insurance agents in particular, are to their communities.


Click here to access the article.


Weekly Industry News asked you to tell us what you are doing in your communities to make life better for others. We still want to hear your story. We want to know how you are a super hero to those you serve. Send your stories to:


Gary Wolcott, Weekly Industry News Editor



The current PIA Partnership companies are: 


  Encompass Insurance

  Erie Insurance

  Harleysville Insurance

  Liberty Mutual Insurance

  MetLife Auto & Home

  Progressive Insurance

  Selective Insurance Group

  State Auto Group

  The Central Insurance Companies

  The Hanover Insurance Group

  The Hartford

  The Motorists Insurance Group

Tags:  Insurance Content  Insurance Industry  Insurance News  Opinion: PIA National Publishes Important Small Bu  Pia National  Weekly Industry News 

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