Presidents Panel Discusses Industry Trends, Effects of Katrina at Young Agents Conference

September 12, 2005

Several insurance industry leaders discussed the effects of Hurricane Katrina and current industry trends, including technology, recruitment efforts and future plans for their companies during a panel at the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America’s 30th Annual Young Agents Sales & Leadership Conference in New York City.

The panel began with leaders discussing the long-term and short-term effects of Hurricane Katrina on their companies and the industry as a whole.

“This is the time we band together as an industry, this is where we help people out,” said Marita Zuraitis, president of The Citizens and Hanover Insurance Companies. “Now is when we do what we do best: stand behind our products, and help people affected by this catastrophe. Citizens and Hanover has a sizeable insurance presence in the affected regions. We’re working hard to suspend billing and cancellations, and to do what we think is right.”

Tom Van Berkel, president & CEO of The Main Street America Group, expressed similar sentiments.

“Though we were not directly affected in the states hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, this is a great time to show that we, as an industry, are here to help people,” said Van Berkel. “We are donating, encouraging our employees to do the same and doing what we can to help.”

Big “I” President Thomas Grau, CPCU, discussed the association’s response, including the Big “I” Katrina Relief Fund, which goes to help insurance industry colleagues, including independent agents, brokers, their employees, and their families in the impacted areas.

“Our initial concern is finding out what we can do for the state associations to help their operations run,” said Grau. “What makes this storm so unique is that it destroyed the economic fabric of the coastal region.”

Leaders fielded questions about the direction of their respective companies and industry trends.

Ray Thomas, CEO of Zurich North America Small Business, discussed the future of the industry in respect to the aging baby boomer generation.

“In 10 years, baby boomers will be between 50 and 70 years old,” said Thomas. “Generations X & N will be running business in the United States, and the improvements in technology will appeal to them.”

When asked about agent recruitment, Thomas said he values “honesty, forward thinking, inspiration, confidence and an understanding of people.”

Bill Purmort, president and chairman of the board of Central Insurance Companies, discussed his company’s dedication to the future of the industry.

“We support the InVEST program,” said Purmort. “We also support scholarships with some state associations, and we run a scholarship program for students in universities. Each student receives the scholarship for four years, and completes an internship program each year.”

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