Insurers, Agents Debate Insurance Issues at CEO/Agency Conference

November 12, 2002

Nearly 100 insurance representatives from companies and agencies attended the 2002 CEO/Agency Conference at the Albany Marriott on Thursday. The conference, which featured a panel of both company representatives and agents, allowed the participants to be frank about their needs and ideas regarding the insurance industry. The event was co-sponsored by the Professional Insurance Agents of New York State Inc., New York Insurance Association Inc., and the Young Insurance Professionals Network.

Moderated by Virginia M. Bates, LIA, of VMB Associates Inc., an expert on critical interface between insurers and their production force, the panel was comprised of
J. Douglas Robinson, CPCU, president and CEO, Utica National Insurance Group; Robert A. Wadsworth, CPCU, CIC, president and CEO, Preferred Mutual Insurance Co.; John W. Bailey, CIC, immediate past president, PIANY and executive vice president, George B. Bailey Agency Inc.; T.J. Derella, CPIA, president-elect PIANY and president and CEO, Kingstar Co.; and Robert Franzese, active past president of PIANY and president, Capital Region Insurance Agency Inc.

Beginning the discussion with an overview of the issues affecting the insurance market, including the hard market, regulatory decisions, technology, Sept. 11 and customer expectations, Bates stated that this would be, “a year they will write books about,” and stressed the importance of holding more of these types of conferences. She added that the more these issues are discussed, the more problems will be solved, which will lead to a stronger insurance industry.

The members of the panel agreed, mentioning that stronger communication between insurance companies and their agents is essential to the success of the market and also to legislative success. According to Bailey, although it is difficult to get all facets of the industry to agree on the key messages, it is vital especially when dealing with legislators, who often receive mixed messages about the industry. Agreeing, Derella indicated that this meeting should be used to open a dialogue to discuss what needed to happen for “real” legislative reforms to take place.

One of the problems with getting lawmakers to understand the need for insurance reforms, according to Franzese is, “even though insurance premiums are high, a consumer can still purchase insurance” and politicians are inundated with other issues. Many of the participating insurance professionals expressed concern that action seems to happen only when a market is in crisis. Continuing with this thought, Wadsworth commented that when it does react, the political system tends to offer short-term solutions, rather than focusing on the long-term effects, which ends up hurting the consumer.

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