Newly elected president of the Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey Inc., John A. Latimer, Esq., told agents they face many challenges in New Jersey in the near and distant future, but that they may be better off than in other states.
Latimer, who is president of The Barclay Group in Riverton, N.J., and president of J.S. Braddock Agency in Medford, was elected president of PIANJ at the association’s annual business conference at Bally’s Atlantic City in Atlantic City, June 6. He is the fourth PIANJ president to come from the Braddock agency.
During his inaugural speech, Latimer said recent scandals in the insurance brokerage business have scarred the entire industry’s reputation.
“Uninformed media and politicians have portrayed our industry as full of crooks, but we know that couldn’t be farther from the truth and such characterization is totally unfair,” Latimer said. “Overwhelmingly we’re honest, hardworking, neighbors and friends to the clients we serve.”
He was quick to praise the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance’s approach to the recent industry scandal.
“The good news is that in New Jersey, our regulators by and large understand that New Jersey has, and PIA represents, a very large group of generally good, professional insurance agents. And the department has pledged to work with us through any regulatory changes that are proposed,” he reported.
Latimer warned that the challenge of educating policymakers to protect agent compensation is just one part of the damage this scandal has done.
“However, we’re again fortunate that in New Jersey there’s no indication that the receipt of typical contingent compensation by agents is illegal or inappropriate and I think it’s finally safe to take last year’s contingent payments out of escrow and start investing them in the growth of our agencies,” he said. “Perhaps the even more serious part of this matter is the degradation of trust we now face. Trust is the foundation of our business. We must now work harder than ever to maintain the trust we had earned from our customers.”
Latimer said a tarnished image is the last thing the industry needs. Not only because trust and honor are the foundation upon which agents have built their businesses on has been attacked, but also because the industry also faces a crisis in perpetuation.
“I know I’m not alone in this room as a business owner who hopes to pass his life-long work onto his people and his children,” he said. “But I worry about their future and the future of our industry. How, with all these challenges can we continue to draw fresh, enthusiastic new recruits to our business?”
Latimer told his audience that each agent has the responsibility to give back to the industry and its future by educating the public and new recruits about the good the industry does.
Lastly, Latimer recognized the importance of the agency-company relationship, and its importance in competing in a market shared with direct writers and Internet companies.
“We need to level the playing field and we need to get the message out that professional insurance agents help people understand their coverage needs, their policies and their claims and clients should feel better about paying for our services than for cute but very expensive commercials on national TV. We need to invest in our agencies by increasing our own local advertising, hiring and training more personal lines producers and CSRs; and fighting to keep and grow our independent agent market share with our agency company friends and partners who are here with us tonight and who’ve been with us through the tough times.”
PIANJ is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year.