The strong likelihood of new tort reform legislation and the addition of 200 new member agencies are the biggest achievements of Andre Juneau’s one-year tenure, the outgoing president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas (IIAT) told Insurance Journal.
While Juneau, a principal at Austin-based Nieman Hanks Puryear, said his biggest frustration in office has been “the difficulty of working in the Texas political system and getting an expedient result,” it appears so far, that on balance, agents have come out ahead.
“This has been a key political year,” Juneau said, “and there have been major legislative issues that we’ve been nursing throughout this session.”
Both Juneau and IIAT Executive Director David VanDelinder think some meaningful tort reform will emerge from this session. Legislation addressing class action lawsuits, settlement offers, product liability and medical malpractice, among other things, is close to resolution.
Issues also being closely watched by the IIAT are a possible rate rollback and the attempt to move Texas from a prior approval state to a file-and-use state, which would mean “giving consumers more coverage options and giving carriers less hurdles in joining the system,” Juneau said.
In spite of successes on the legislative front, the IIAT president’s primary role is to deal with association matters. On that score, Juneau feels he’s done well. In addition to the record jump in members, Juneau said he’s proud of the smooth transition in the executive director position. VanDelinder, formerly education programs director, took over last year for Ernest Stromberger. “He has emerged as a very strong leader to take this association in the right direction,” Juneau said.
The jump in members, VanDelinder said, is due to Juneau’s efforts to improve outreach through management training seminars, the new producers’ school and more. The crisis in homeowners availability put a spotlight on the flexibility offered by independent agents, he added, and Juneau was able to help IIAT capitalize. Half of the new member agencies, according to an IIAT survey, are former exclusive-company agents who are now making the transition to life as independent agents.
Juneau has also continued with the effort to promote the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America’s (IIABA) Trusted Choice brand among IIAT members.
“While it met with some reluctance at first, it is here to stay,” he said. “It is beginning to garner grassroots support from the companies and while there are still some concerns about overall effectiveness of the branding campaign, it’s something everyone needs to consider.”
The new president, Jim Berger of Houston-based Insurance Alliance, will be officially named in June and will take over in September. VanDelinder said Berger and Juneau are very similar types—both are part of large-city agents with very successful personal and commercial lines operations.
The focus now will shift from growing membership to serving it better. Berger plans to use the added income from new members on training and programs to help them better succeed, VanDelinder said.
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