The Commissioners Series: Ala.’s Bell, NAIC President, Pursues Strategic Plan

As president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Alabama Insurance Commissioner Walter Bell has made developing a strategic plan for the national organization of state regulators a top priority.

Bell sees a plan that incorporates evaluations on a quarterly basis to make sure the association is reaching its goals, staying abreast of important issues, attaining timely modernization and reducing inefficiencies.

The NAIC leader wants to set biannual milestones at one, three and five-year marks “to make sure that we understand the big issues that we need to deal with.” He said the direction would be set during a forum slated for early 2007.

He places high importance on modernizing the insurance regulatory environment, something he feels will have wide-ranging ramifications throughout the industry.

Bell set forth his agenda in a video interview in Insurance Journal’s exclusive “The Commissioners” series, which presents interviews with 15 state insurance regulators.

On other topics, Bell said he is in favor of full disclosure in all aspects of the business, including compensation.

“It’s dealing with the public; there’s a public trust, there’s a promise that what you say is going to happen, is going to happen,” he said. “So, yes, if agents and producers get on the outside of our regulations then, we should be involved in it.”

While Bell believes in some instances state and federal involvement in regulation and enforcement may be warranted, he firmly believes in the capabilities of the private market when it comes to guiding important insurance issues.

“My personal bias is that whenever we can keep the government out of the business of insurance, we should do that,” he said.

However, in the case of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, Bell said there is a need for a “federal backstop” for the nation as well as for individual states. He agrees with those in the industry who argue that the unpredictability of terrorism warrants TRIA’s existence.

With the threat of increased frequency and severity of hurricane activity affecting Alabama’s exposed Gulf Coast region, and earthquake potential from the New Madrid Fault affecting the northern portion of the state, Bell realizes that a federal safety net may also be in order when the situation becomes too overwhelming for the private industry.

To watch the complete video interview of Walter A. Bell, part of Insurance Journal’s exclusive “The Commissioners” series, visit the audio/video section of Insurance Journal’s Web site at: