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PIA Affiliates Year-end Updates

Each year, PIA Connection invites all PIA affiliates to send in a brief summary of an accomplishment that benefited their members during the preceding year....
December 1, 2005

Each year, PIA Connection invites all PIA affiliates to send in a brief summary of an accomplishment that benefited their members during the preceding year. Participation is voluntary and these are not meant to be all-inclusive - just a quick "snapshot" of some of the things going on around the nation.

Arkansas

The 2005 legislative session in Arkansas proved a success for the insurance industry due in large part to the efforts of the PIA lobbyist, who worked closely with the insurance department and legislators to help formulate a broker disclosure law that was not onerous to the retail agent.

We also saw an increase in membership, E&O accounts and students in our classes. We are working to raise the PIA profile in Arkansas by offering news releases and Public Service Announcements to the media. We have doubled the number of college scholarships that we offer and continue to find ways to be involved in various civic activities.

Florida

PIA of Florida took a giant step forward using state-of-the-art technology to communicate with and touch our members.

We had enormous success with our roundtable discussion, Florida's Markets: After the Storms, a televised Web broadcast produced by PIA of Florida and broadcast live over the Internet on May 17, 2005.  Nine insurance spokespeople shared their thoughts about compelling issues affecting insurance in Florida and -- more importantly -- offered ideas about how to ease our state's precarious market. Members, legislators, reporters, and others having a stake in the insurance community tuned in to find out what the future holds for the market in Florida - without the regular travel and time constraints because it was easily accessible from their computers.

"Obviously, no single event can come close to solving all the problems we face with property markets in Florida, but that fact will never prevent us from taking whatever steps we can to affect that end. We want to work with all parties to open up markets - and this is a very positive first step," said Mark O'Connell, CEO of PIA of Florida.

PIA of Florida also provided members DVDs of the broadcast.

Kansas

Kansas PIA Members Come Through! Thanks to the dedication of many of our long time PIA Members, both agents and company representatives, and with help from several new members, the 10th Annual Kansas PIA Convention was successful. In past years, Kansas PIA and the PIA of Oklahoma held a joint convention. This past April Kansas decided to try it alone, and thanks to our wonderful PIA family - we did it!

A convention highlight: R. Gene Elliott, CPCU, Elliott Insurance, Inc., Louisburg, was honored for his many, many years of dedication and support to the PIA.

Our first ever PIA Summer School was also well attended and we hope to draw a bigger crowd next summer. Kansas PIA wants to thank our members for their past, present, and future support.

Kansas PIA would like to take this opportunity to send our prayers and encouragement to those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Missouri

MAIA Winds Up Year with Regional Compliance Seminars.

President Dick Minor and Executive Vice President Larry Case spent several days on the road in October to provide Missouri members with information on legislative and regulatory changes accomplished during 2005.  The "Agency Compliance Seminars" included information outlining changes to the Missouri Workers' Compensation Law resulting from passage of Senate Bill #1 as well as Tort Reforms resulting from House Bill 393.

The sessions also highlighted new requirements resulting from passage of House Bill 866 dealing with insurance fraud and House Bill 388 which addressed confidentiality of certain information disclosed in conjunction with insurance complaints or Department inquiries.

In addition to legislative changes, the sessions updated members on many other issues in which MAIA has been involved throughout 2005.  Other topics included regulatory changes pertaining to variable life products, licensing issues, small group health insurance, company contracts, policy form changes, credit scoring and many other relevant topics.

These sessions have become one of the most popular member benefits which are provided by MAIA each year.

Nebraska & Iowa

PIA of Nebraska has continued to increase our participation in a number of programs and events, including committee involvement at the National PIA level. However we are submitting the following, because it is a member benefit a little different from anything we have done in the past.

On Tuesday, October 11, 2005, PIA of Nebraska participated for the first time in the annual business to business trade show sponsored by the Metropolitan Omaha Area Chamber of Commerce.  This event, the "Buy The Big 'O' Show," features over 400 exhibitors, and attracts more than 7,000 interested visitors.  While visiting this show in recent years our PIA staff has observed that the insurance industry is not well represented, so we decided to take action.

PIA registered to be an exhibitor, and invited member agencies from this metropolitan area to join us in getting the professional agent's message out to the business oriented public.  The response was enthusiastic, with a total of eighteen agents joining us to share time during this one-day event.  PIA picked up leads for prospective members, and agents found prospective clients.  At the end of a long day the reaction from our participating members was, "Let's do it again next year!"

North Carolina

PIANC has seen its membership start to grow and an increase in E&O policy holders from agents that care about their agency E&O coverages. PIANC has added a new Executive Vice President to handle the association's growing administrative duties and a Director of Sales for marketing insurance products, such as E&O and Umbrella, to members and agents in North Carolina.

PIANC has just started a new membership campaign called Operation Sign Up that challenges each PIANC member to bring in a new member by December 2006. Gift certificates and prizes will be awarded to the agent who signs up the most new members. PIANC has challenged its members to double the membership in 2006.

PIANC is committed to bring quality CE courses to members and agents in 2006. PIANC is looking to start the Value Added program in the spring of 2006 and the CPIA program. Through mailings and referrals, PIANC is offering to its members and other agents, E&O through different markets that meet an agent's needs.

North Dakota

The North Dakota PIA had a very good year in 2005.  Financially we exceeded our income budget by 20%, had a record year in education seminars, attended numerous crop insurance meetings and hearings in Washington, Florida, Arizona and North Dakota and had a 90% success ratio on state legislative bills. We had one of our best conventions in early May, with over 250 attendees.

Our association has expanded by hiring an Assistant Director who holds a communication and law degree.  This added position will allow for expanded membership services, benefits, education opportunities and possibly some legal services. Our membership has been stable despite several agency acquisitions and mergers.  Our association was directly involved in numerous meetings with USDA and RMA leaders providing testimony on several specific crop insurance issues including the 2007 Farm Bill, PRP, soybean rust, conflict of interest issues and a North Dakota crop yield pilot program.

NY, NJ, CT & NH

Industry connections

In light of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's investigation into contingency commissions and bid rigging, PIA of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire created an Agent and Broker Compensation and Disclosure Web site. Updated daily, the Web site was designed to keep members up to date with the latest headlines, company announcements, legal actions, national issues and state-specific issues surrounding this complicated issue.

Both PIACT and PIANY expanded their annual Company Performance Surveys allowing independent insurance agents in their states to rate more companies this year. In Connecticut agents had the option of choosing up to 30 companies (up from 24 last year); and in New York agents could choose up to 54 insurance carriers (up from 38). This year PIANJ's inaugural Company Performance Survey met with great success when nearly 450 agents took part in the survey.

For the second time since 2002, PIA of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire conducted its Market Conditions Survey. Comparing the results from a similar survey conducted in 2002, agents in most areas found that the insurance market was softening. The survey focused on the 15 lines of insurance where PIA members in the past have reported some market difficulties.

Education

To aid members, PIA of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire created "Ask PIA" - a member-exclusive online database with hundreds of member questions, researched and answered in detail by PIA's highly qualified industry specialists, who have more than 100 years of combined industry experience.

PIACT celebrated the 30th anniversary of its partnership with the Certified Insurance Counselor professional education program, allowing experienced insurance industry personnel in Connecticut to further their education and obtain a nationally recognized professional designation. PIACT was one of the first associations nationwide to adopt the program. During 2005, PIA conducted a total of 26 CIC institutes throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The five CIC institutes that comprise the designation program are popular choices among licensed Connecticut agents who are looking for continuing education credits, and include: personal lines, commercial casualty, commercial property, life and health and agency management.

Launched last year, PIA's Lunch 'n' Learn series, a multi-media audio-conference series was created to help agencies educate their staff at little cost in the convenience of their own office. This year the program celebrated a milestone when more than 1,000 insurance agents and agency staff members participated in the first session for the fall series. These programs are available in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

To satisfy its members' need for continuing education credits, PIANY expanded upon its popular CE Expos, by hosting its second annual Capital CE Expo and its first-ever Long Island CE Expo. During the two events, which took place over three days, New York insurance agents were able to earn up to 24 continuing education credits.  The Long Island CE Expo also offered agents in New Jersey the opportunity to earn up to 8 CE credits.

Networking and professional development

PIANY's annual Metropolitan Regional Awareness Program set the pace for record-breaking attendance for the two additional RAPs that followed this year - Long Island RAP and Hudson Valley RAP. Well over 550 took part in the MetroRAP; nearly 450 attended Long Island RAP; and an excess of 250 attended Hudson Valley RAP, which featured a keynote address by New York State Superintendent of Insurance Howard Mills.

Record-breaking attendance continued when PIANJ and PIANY held their Joint Annual Conference. Nearly 2,000 agents, company representatives, exhibitors and other insurance industry professionals attended the event in Atlantic City. At the event, PIANJ and PIANY each celebrated their 65th anniversary. Additionally, the New Jersey Young Insurance Professionals continues to set new achievements with its 21st annual Fun Run. Surpassing its goal by nearly 50 percent, NJYIP raised $141,580 for Special Olympics New Jersey.

The Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut and New Hampshire experienced similar successes at their annual conventions. PIA of New Hampshire's Annual Conference featured a panel discussion on broker compensation and disclosure, which was led by Kenneth Auerbach, Esq., an attorney, owner of E&K Agency in New Jersey and chairman of PIA National's Business Issues Committee. Additionally, New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny reported on his office's activities and involvement in the wake of the New York attorney general's investigation.

Technological advancements

PIANY, PIANJ, PIACT and PIANH have teamed up with Learn.net to provide their members with more online CE options. Through this top-notch user interface, members have access to a wide range of basic CE courses, as well as, more than 2,000 professional skills programs.

Producer-friendly laws and regulations

PIA of Connecticut helped develop a bill, which Gov. Jody Rell signed into law, addressing concerns over insurance producer compensation disclosure. The PIACT-supported legislation is the same as when originally approved by the Insurance & Real Estate Committee, save for additional language concerning violations of Connecticut's Unfair Insurance Practices Act. The added amendment makes it illegal for an insurance producer to give an intentional misquote of premium to an insured.

This past year, PIA of New Hampshire supported Senate Bill No. 73, which addresses the issue of record retention and production by the insurance industry. PIANH generally supported the bill, however, it offered suggestions to clarify some of its wording regarding insurance producers. PIANH will be seeking further refinements of the document retention law in 2006.

The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance approved the PIA of New Jersey's suggestions to the ACORD and the ACORD-User Groups Information Exchange to revise the 2004/04 version of the ACORD 50 NJ temporary identification card. PIANJ's suggested revisions benefit insurance agents and agency management system vendors by eliminating the need for vendors to support two ID cards.

PIA of New York worked throughout the year to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, going so far as to pen a letter to the President of the United States urging him make this vital extension a priority with his Administration. PIANY also urged state senators and members of the Assembly to support TRIA.

This was the year that PIA of New York scored major successes in its long-sought effort to secure better laws against auto insurance fraud. Legislation was enacted to sideline fraudulent medical providers by decertifying them for purposes of no-fault payments; and to combat the practice by crooked providers and their law firms of bombarding carriers with blizzards of sketchy legal actions. Members' auto markets have rebounded on the strength of these and earlier PIA-supported regulatory steps to fight fraud.

Awards and accolades

PIANY, PIANJ, PIACT and PIANH were awarded the Association Excellence Award in Technology from the Empire State Society of Association Executives Inc. for their new-member presentation.

The four state associations also were honored with three awards in The Communicator Awards 2005 Print Media competition. They received an Award of Distinction, or second place for its PIA magazine in the "magazine/association" category. The Agency Staffing Assistance Program - which was developed last year to aid independent insurance agents in finding and recruiting good employees, and already is being imitated by other industry trade associations - also was honored similarly in the "Web site/other" category. A third place, Honorable Mention award was given to PIA Reporter in the "newsletter/association" category. The Award of Distinction is bestowed upon projects that exceed industry standards in communicating a message or idea. Honorable mention certificates are granted to those entries that meet the high standards of the industry.

MarCom Creative Awards, an international competition for marketing and communication professionals, honored the PIA magazine with a Gold award, or second place, in the "Magazine/Association" category. And PIA of Glenmont's Creative Services Department won honorable mention for a trade show banner developed for Capital Bauer Insurance Agency.

PIANY retained Patricia Lynch Associates as its legislative representative in New York state. The firm is one of the top ten lobbying and government relations firms in Albany. Patricia Lynch Associates' unparalleled knowledge of government affairs has earned it universal respect and acclaim from all parties.

PIANY, PIANJ, PIACT and PIANH have hired Finley N. Middleton II as an insurance specialist. With more than 30 years experience in the insurance industry, Middleton brings an extensive knowledge of the insurance industry to the four state association and their members.

Virginia & D.C.

The most significant PIAVA/DC accomplishment this year on our members' behalf is the creation and delivery of our first Insurance Services Representative training school in April, 2005.  PIAVA/DC developed this 20-day CSR training school, designed to teach high school graduates everything they need to know to become a fully functional CSR within one month at a very economical fee for members.

PIA gets each graduate licensed and guarantees each graduate will receive at least three agency interviews. Conducted at PIA in Richmond, the ISR school has curriculum developed by PIA's own employees who teach 75% of it, including the AMS computer lab training, with some help from six agency/member volunteer instructors.  The school is being modified now for carrier career switchers and for those young adults with limited free time (evening classroom instruction combined with at home study).  Our third ISR school class is scheduled to begin February 1, 2006.

PIA Western Alliance

This year's accomplishments dovetail onto the formation of the PIA Western Alliance. The decision to bond the individual PIA chapters of Oregon/Idaho, Washington/Alaska, Montana and the PIA Group (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico) together began several years ago and culminated in October of 2004.

The formation of the Western Alliance has had a significant impact on the states involved and on the PIA nationwide. From October of 2004 to October of 2005 the PIA Western Alliance picked up 238 new members - or about 30-percent of the PIA's growth for the year.

Though all of the Western Alliance states experienced growth in 2005, membership expansion in the Group states was the most impressive. A total of 142 members were added in the four states and most of them in California.

Executive Vice President Clark Sitzes said that over the year's period, the PIA Western Alliance averaged 4.6 new members per week.

"We had a phenomenal year," Sitzes said. "I can say without reservation or hesitation that the PIA Western Alliance is the fastest growing independent agent association in the nation."

Wyoming

In response to the new requirement for continuing education in Wyoming requiring three hours of ethics, we developed a three hour class and offered it to our membership.  Being a small state with a small membership, we anticipated 8-10 participants in each class.  We offered the class in 6 locations statewide. In five locations the class was taught morning and afternoon allowing small offices to send their entire staff.  The projected total attendance was 60-80 and we ended the year with over 200 agents participating.  We were able to draw from the life agents, since our class was only one of three classroom ethics classes being offered.  The class was well received and we will offer it again in 2006.

PIA Connection

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

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