History of the PIA
Professional Insurance Agents Western Alliance
PIA came into being in 1931 under a different name – National Association of Mutual Insurance Agents (NAMIA), a non-profit association dedicated to serving the independent insurance agents who represented mutual insurance companies is the property and casualty field. In those days, mutual insurance was not a popular way to protect a car, home or business against potential loss. Some considered it communistic to be involved with an insurance company (or its agents) in which the policyholders owned the company and shared in its profits. It was felt to be less un-American to deal with a so-called stock company, whose operations were more closely aligned with the traditional free private enterprise concept. In such cases, their capital came from investors who purchased company’s stock and shared in its profits. Agents who represented mutual insurance companies, therefore, were harassed and discriminated against, especially by those forces within the industry that were committed to the old line approach.
It wasn’t until the rapid expansion of the American economy in the late 1950’s that mutual agents and their companies overcame these adversities and emerged as able competitors in the insurance marketplace. As the demand increased for insurance to protect new homes and automobiles as well as new business, the old barriers between stock and mutual gradually disappeared and independent insurance agencies mushroomed across the country. Recognizing the changes that were occurring in the industry, NAMIA began expanding its line of tangible benefits and services that appealed to smaller agency owners making up the majority of its membership at that time. In cooperation with its affiliated state and regional associations, NAMIA aggressively promoted its education programs and added other that enabled the association to double its membership to 20,000 in the decade of the 1960s.
The 1970s saw the association undergo a number of changes, including its appeal to agencies of all sizes. Significantly, it was transformed from an internally oriented organization to one able to impress its views upon the industry, government and general public – views that were responsible and constructive, as well as in the best interest of members and consumers. Although the association’s commitment to state regulation of insurance remains firm, it responded to the federal government’s growing interest and involvement in the insurance business. NAMIA took a leadership role in formulation the industry’s position on flood, crime and no-fault auto insurance. At the same time, it was in the forefront of the producer movement to prohibit banks from entering the insurance agency business. It also launched ICAP – Insurance Consumer Action Panel – which demonstrated that insurance buyers’ complaints against companies and agents could be settled through third-party arbitration instead of time-consuming lawsuits. That experience laid the groundwork for the association’s later success in creating the Consumer Insurance Interest Group (CIIG) as a vehicle for cooperative action between the industry and consumer activities.
As the 1980’s unfolded, NAMIA increased its involvement in social issues, such as pollution liability and civil justice reform. The association’s continued progress in service to members, the industry and the public, coupled with its name change in National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA National), have enabled it to achieve remarkable growth, representing 180,000 agents and their employees as it entered the 1990s.