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Peretti Says Being of Service Is the Key

PIA National PresidentRay Peretti Insurance agency owner Ray Peretti calls Renton, Washington home, but for the next year he will be equally at home...
December 7, 2005

PIA President Reflects on Opportunities, Challenges for Agents

By Ted Besesparis
Vice President, Communications
PIA National

Ray L. Peretti, President, PIA National
PIA National President
Ray Peretti

Insurance agency owner Ray Peretti calls Renton, Washington home, but for the next year he will be equally at home in the other Washington - our nation's capital, Washington, D.C. Peretti began his one-year term as President of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) on October 1, 2005.

"I'm from Washington, and I'm here to help you," Peretti jokingly told his fellow agents and board members from around the country who gathered in September in Portland, Oregon to officially install him on September 11, 2005. "But don't worry," he hastened to add, "I'm from the other Washington. The one on the Potomac where the government spends our money that it doesn't have - that's the Washington PIA has to keep an eye on."

Peretti takes the helm of PIA at a time of opportunity and challenge, both for his association of professional independent insurance agents and his industry as a whole.

For the first time in 17 years, membership in PIA is on the upswing, led in no small part by growth of the nine-state PIA Western Alliance, of which Washington is a part. But at the same time, agents in Gulf Coast states are having to cope with major catastrophes such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. While no members of the association lost their lives in the storms, some lost their agencies, some their homes, and two PIA members in New Orleans were in mourning when their elderly parents drowned in a flooded nursing home.

"It is a time of opportunity and challenge for agents," said Peretti, owner of the Hub Insurance Agency of Renton, Washington.

"For PIA, it is a time of growth," he said. "Several years ago, the PIA Western Alliance embarked upon an innovative strategy that grouped our nine West Coast affiliate chapters under an administrative umbrella which allowed the individual state organizations to grow and prosper autonomously. The strategy is working - membership in the Western Alliance is growing." In September 2005, the state affiliates that comprise the PIA Western Alliance were honored by PIA National with a special award for the largest net membership growth.

Peretti notes in the past year, the national association has achieved net membership growth for the first time in 17 years.

"At the same time, as fate would have it, my term as president of PIA National is starting at a time when our Gulf Coast agents are facing new challenges as the result of the hurricanes of 2005," Peretti said. "From the moment that Hurricane Katrina roared ashore in southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on August 29, PIA members pulled together in the best tradition of neighbors helping neighbors. The same was true after Hurricane Rita struck Texas and Louisiana and when Hurricane Wilma struck Florida."

"PIA members are known as 'local agents helping local people.' This summer, PIA affiliates' members have given that phrase important new meaning."

On Capitol Hill

As he begins his year as the president of the national association, Peretti is mindful of the importance of  PIA's lobbying on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. He says that there are several key issues of focus this year. One is renewal of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). Another is the establishment of a public-private natural catastrophe funding mechanism that crosses state lines. Both initiatives are keyed to maintaining the financial stability insurance carriers and communities need.

"After the attack on 9/11, Congress and the president quickly learned that insurance companies did not have deep enough pockets to underwrite the financial losses surrounding a catastrophe as large as that terrorist attack," Peretti said. "TRIA was adopted to make sure that businesses and individuals could get insurance against acts of terrorism. It expires at midnight on December 31st of this year."

PIA National President Ray Peretti
PIA National President Ray Peretti of Renton,
Washington shared his experiences using The
Value Difference Series in his agency in a 2004
video for the program. Peretti participated in the
development of the PIA Company Council of
Executive Officers (PIA-CCEO) program since its
inception.

"This is a huge issue for the economic health of this nation and the state of Washington. It impacts businesses and consumers on an equal level. Insurance companies have stopped writing policies involving acts of terror. You can find fewer and fewer places to underwrite the coverage needed if your business is deemed a potential terror target."

Peretti says most people think this type of insurance only impacts mega corporations. "Wrong. Businesses as small as a trucking company or a mom and pop shop with a post office service won't be able to get insurance because they are potential terrorist targets. When you stop and think about it, the decision by the federal government to drop TRIA is going to affect every corner of this economy."

The same concern for financial stability underlies PIA's support of a natural catastrophe funding mechanism. But Peretti points out that the terrorism backstop and a natural catastrophe program cannot be combined. "One type of disaster is natural and the other is most unnatural. There's a lot you can do to come up with accurate models for natural catastrophes like hurricanes, tornados and even earthquakes. But no one can come up with a model to predict terrorism," he said.

Peretti said another issue of primary concern to PIA is defending state regulation of insurance.

"The states currently have that task but there is a movement to have the feds step in and control the insurance industry," Peretti noted. "We oppose that because the PIA believes that local people can make better and more informed insurance decisions than a federal bureaucracy. More regulations and a bigger bureaucracy almost always mean higher costs and part of our responsibility at PIA is to make sure the buying public has the right insurance at the right cost."

Being of Service

Ray Peretti's involvement in PIA springs from a belief in service to his community and his profession.

"I grew up in a family that was committed to serving the community. All of my life, I have been supportive of community activities. Blood drives, white cane sales, phonebook collections, running the concessions at the high school - it's like Nike says, you just do it. I was instructed many years ago that service is the rent we pay for being here."

Peretti takes particular pride in his volunteer work for the Renton Lions Club. He notes that his father was a charter member of the club in 1938, held all of the offices and had a perfect attendance record until his death 48 years later. Following in his father's footsteps, Ray has been active in the club all of his life.

That kind of devotion to service, to helping your neighbors, is also one of the principles of PIA.

"I am always impressed that when PIA members are asked why they decided to join PIA, 'being of service' always ranks close to the top of the list," Peretti said. "Of course, we join PIA for the business opportunities membership brings. We join for networking, to take advantage of products and services, to access educational opportunities or just so our voices will be heard by legislators and regulators. But for many of us, a big reason to join PIA is to give something back to the industry that has been good to us."

Peretti said that one of the distinct pleasures is serving as President during PIA's 75th Anniversary year. He noted that all of the activities to mark the anniversary will focus on one goal: growing PIA.

"The best way to celebrate PIA's anniversary is to continue doing the kind of outstanding work we always do: lobbying at the federal level in Congress, advocating at the NAIC and in state legislatures and defending professional insurance agents in the court of public opinion."

Peretti said as part of PIA's 75th Anniversary, an aggressive advertising and public relations campaign will be mounted to further increase PIA's positive image within the industry. "2006 will be the year that PIA's image and influence will be raised to new heights."

Peretti noted that one of his predecessors had predicted that PIA would be on a steep positive growth curve. Back in 1999, the late Art Moll used to proclaim PIA's "Renaissance."

"Art loved PIA," Peretti said. "He was just a little ahead of his time. But I bet he's looking down on us and smiling now."

PIA Connection

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2005 PIA Connection.

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