Canter Predicts State, Federal Regulation to Detrimentally Affect Industry

More than 120 firms participated in the Big “I” Exhibit

“During my term we have made numerous advances and I couldn’t have done any of them without the help of the Executive Committee and dedicated committee-members,” said Louise “BeBe” Canter, president of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”), during her farewell speech at the association’s convention in Orlando, Oct. 9 to 12.

“State versus federal regulation will have a profound effect on how we do business in the future,” predicted Canter. She said education, assisted by recent advances in technology, will play a vital role in the development of members, emphasizing Big “I” Virtual University courses. Canter said that online education and the “Ask the Experts” services were established to assist in such education.

Canter is IIABA’s first female president and 99th overall. She attributed Big “I” advancements made during her term of office to the cohesion of the group’s Executive Board Committee and other committees that all worked with her to attain goals for the group.

Canter turned over the Big “I” reigns to president-elect Thomas A. Grau, a sales executive with the Cogswell Agency in South Great Falls, Mont. Other officers for 2004-2005 are: William G. Stiglitz, III, president-elect, Hyland, Block & Hyland, Louisville, Ky.; Alex Soto, vice president, InSource Inc., Miami. Executive Committee members are: Robert E. Fulwider, Ray Wuestenberg Agency Inc., West Liberty, Iowa; C. Brett Nilsson, Acordia Mountain West, Ogden, Utah; and Daniel Miley, Daniel and Eustis Insurance, Baton Rouge, La.

The convention drew more than 2,000 participants. It featured the largest exhibit hall in the industry and many top-notch speakers. More than 120 firms had elaborate booths at the exhibit hall, where the latest insurance industry products and services were on display. Also featured was a “Silent Auction,” the proceeds of which were used to fund InVEST’s annual scholarships awarded to program graduates who pursue higher education with an emphasis on insurance.

CEOs participate in panel discussion
Terrorism, asbestos and tort reform will be key industry concerns according to five insurance company CEOs participating in a panel discussion.

Moderator Bob Rusbuldt quizzed the five CEOs during the hour-long discussion about key insurance-industry concerns. The panelists included Ramani Ayer, The Hartford; Bill Berkley, W.R. Berkley Corp.; Mike McGavick, Safeco Insurance; Greg Murphy, Selective Insurance; and Ron Pressman, GE Insurance Solutions.

Panelists participated in a lively give-and-take discussion about industry concerns and the effect hurricane claims would have on the industry’s bottom line. Most panelists expected the industry to rebound after what they termed a “very bad quarter,” ascertaining that the industry has had enough good years that one incident should not have any effect on its long-term outlook.

Four companies receive “Best Practices Award of Excellence”
Four national insurance companies received the “Best Practices Award of Excellence.” Honorees were St. Paul Travelers, Safeco Insurance, Zurich North America-Small Business and MetLife Auto & Home. The award recognizes those companies that have made imaginative, outstanding and unique contributions in advocating Best Practices philosophies that enhance the independent agency system. The Big “I” Best Practices Program provides performance benchmarks and business strategies that serve as a guide to improving agency performance.

St. Paul Travelers, based in St. Paul, Minn., earned its fourth consecutive Best Practices Award through its educational outreach activities. The company provides voucher dollars that agents can use to purchase materials, and also works to raise awareness of Best Practices tools through “blast” communications reaching more than 10,000 agents.

“While the company has gone through a name change, their commitment to Best Practices has remained steadfast,” said Vincent Sylvia, state national director of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents, in presenting the award. “With the belief that helping agents grow and prosper through diligent use of the Best Practices, St. Paul Travelers has educated hundreds of agencies.”

Seattle-based Safeco also earned its fourth straight Best Practices Award.

“Safeco Insurance supports Best Practices with their staff training time and financial contributions,” Sylvia said. “They also include the Best Practices materials in agent education and business consulting and strongly believe the program builds better, powerful independent agents.”

Earning the honor for the first time was Jacksonville, Fla.-based Zurich North America-Small Business for its innovative Best Practices outreach efforts.

“We honor Zurich North America-Small Business for their incredible support of Best Practices through over 150 sales workshops across the country that reach out to 7,500 agency principals, CSRs and producers,” Sylvia said. “They conduct a ‘road-show’ that includes a ‘state of the industry’ and discusses the importance of Best Practices, which is referenced often. In addition, Zurich acknowledges adhering to a Best Practices model is critical for independent agency success.”

MetLife Auto & Home, based in Warwick, R.I. , also earned the honor for the first time.

“MetLife Auto & Home supports Best Practices with their staff time and financial contributions,” Sylvia said. “They use the information contained in the studies during their agency visits and large agency meetings. The benchmarking information is used internally for decision making, planning and strategizing and has become a part of their marketing culture.”

Dietz receives Woodworth Mem. Award
Canter presented the Big I’s 2004 Woodworth Memorial Award to Tommy Dietz, past-president of Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of New York, for his leadership and for going beyond the call of duty while participating in government affairs and association activities.

Trusted Choice program advancements
Canter introduced Ron Smith, chairman of the Trusted Choice program Board of Directors, who described new developments in the program and emphasized how important it will be to establish brand recognition.
“By promoting the Trusted Choice, independent agents can educate their consumers on the benefits of using a Trusted Choice agency—choice of insurers, customization of coverages and advocacy support,” explained Smith. He described the program’s advances during the past year and showed video clips illustrating how well it had been accepted by agents and brokers.

Smith congratulated agents and brokers from South Dakota for being the first state to attain 100 percent membership in Trusted Choice. He said the brand is now being advertised on several top-notch television programs, including “Law and Order” and on major league baseball. It has received state and national publicity in newspapers and even on news television during recent hurricanes.

“Trusted Choice creates an emotional connection between agents and the consumer with a branded choice,” Smith said. “This brand shows us as a professional source for insurance consumers.”

Best Practices study results summarized
Bobby Reagan told the audience about the positive impact of the “Best Practices” study and briefly summarized its findings. The first such study was completed in 1993, and has been done every three years. During the conference, Reagan took an entire afternoon to describe survey results.

Prior to the Oct. 10 general session, Kimberly Reynolds presented a workshop describing how to set up and maintain a “cafeteria plan.” She explained the benefits that fall under such a plan. Reynolds discussed premium-only plans, flexible spending accounts and reporting and testing requirements for Section 125 (cafeteria) plans.

Concurrently, an inside view at how banks look at agencies was presented by Michael Herlihy, InsurBanc president and CEO. He provided valuable insight about how banks analyze cash flow and financial management practices at agencies prior to acquisition and perpetuation financing.

The Best Practices Business Symposium was held Oct. 11 and 12 with concurrent sessions on Monday and company training on Tuesday. During CE workshops speakers discussed “The New Game of Insurance Distribution: 10 Ways Independent Agents Can Crush Alternative Distribution Channels,” chaired by Howard Candage, president of H.E. Candage Inc.; and “How to Work with an E&S Broker: How to Get Your Submission to the Top of the Pile,” by Bill Malone, president of William H. Malone Inc.