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PIA - Achieving a New Level of Success

I have good news and bad news. I'm going to mention the bad news first so we can be fully aware of it before...
April 6, 2007

PIA National Executive Vice President & CEO Leonard C. BrevikBy Leonard C. Brevik
Executive Vice President & CEO
PIA National

I have good news and bad news. I'm going to mention the bad news first so we can be fully aware of it before we get excited about the good news.

Many of you are already painfully aware of the new challenges being faced not only by agents, but by carriers as well.
 
There has been a significant deterioration of the insurance industry's standing in the past six months. This is not about quarterly financial reports, which for many carriers have never looked better. It is about how the industry is regarded and the changes that could bring.

Briefly, here's what's happening:

The push for an optional federal charter is still alive in Congress. Bills have not made it out of committees in the House or Senate, but proponents are pushing, and pushing very hard. Some key lawmakers who had opposed OFC or who have been lukewarm in the past are now starting to make noises like they could support it.

Another bill (S. 618) would repeal the McCarran-Ferguson limited antitrust exemption under which our industry has operated for 62 years. It would make insurance transactions subject to oversight by the Federal Trade Commission. But more importantly, the bill would effectively repeal Congress' 1945 grant of authority to the states to regulate the business of insurance. This legislation is nothing less than a blueprint for insurance chaos.

Some state Attorneys General are still attempting to bring about a ban on contingent compensation, using the settlement process to attempt to legislate from the bench. Agents' incomes are at risk.

All of this is being fueled by the controversy about how some carriers handled claims after Hurricane Katrina - especially the 'wind vs. flood' issue. The negative publicity that generated has set the industry up as a target. 

The insurance industry in general and professional independent agents in particular today face a new nexus of challenges. These are coming at us in the legislative, regulatory and judicial arenas - all branches of government. I urge you to read the various articles in this issue of PIA Connection, which detail PIA's actions to meet these challenges and prevail.

And we will prevail.

Now, the good news.

As PIA works to meet these challenges, we are in a far better position as an association to meet them and succeed than we were just a few years ago. 

Organizationally, the most important challenge we face is continuing to build membership. That's why PIA National has made it a priority to offer many kinds of assistance to PIA affiliates across the country, to help them with their membership recruitment efforts.

Another key to what we have accomplished can best be summed up by what one of our members said upon reviewing the PIA Branding Program: "Finally! Someone is speaking up for agents!"  With our members' compensation system - and their very existence - under attack from all sides, agents need advocacy that is unabashed and unapologetic.

PIA is that unabashed advocate for agents, better than any other association. Our new strength is due to our laser-like focus on the needs of PIA members, which we use to develop valuable benefits that do not cost members extra dollars, such as the PIA Branding Program and Perpetuation Central.

Our renewed commitment to advocacy and member benefits has led to a substantial enhancement in PIA's image in our industry, on Capitol Hill and in general. Positive press coverage of PIA's actions, views and perspectives has increased greatly. PIA National's Web site has seen usage increase 1,000 percent in the past several years.

PIA's resurgence began just three years ago, when PIA reaffirmed its commitment to success. The first step was when the Board threw out an old, outdated strategic long-range planning document developed in the 1990s that was no longer suited to current realities and unanimously adopted a new, focused Strategic Long Range Plan after extensively surveying PIA leaders, PIA affiliates and rank-and-file PIA members.

But the most important change was a change in attitude from "can't do" to "can-do."

PIA is now poised to begin its next phase of resurgence. As a result, we will be faced with an additional task: managing our success.

Len Brevik lenbr@pianet.org is executive vice president & CEO of PIA National.

PIA Connection

This article originally appeared in the March 2007 PIA Connection.

 

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