Rep. Allan G. Bense, (R-Panama City) Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, and one of the most influential political figures in Florida, congratulated insurance companies, agents and claims personnel for their performance after last year’s hurricane season in a presentation during the June 24 opening general session of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents Conference and Exhibit at the Gaylord Palms Conference Center in Orlando, Fla. Bense said that last year, after the hurricane season ended, he received “good feedback” from members of the House.
“There were some exceptions, Citizens had some problems as we all know, but in general the other companies did as good a job as possible under the circumstances,” Bense said. “I think that this year we are much better prepared to take on hurricanes if we have the same problems as last year.
“We got some good legislation passed this past session,” Bense said. “From an insurance perspective we were able to put some checks in place with respect to the hurricanes that struck last year. We took the CAT fund which had a potential level of $4.5 billion and put a one-third deductible in place for multiple hurricanes that might hit.”
Bense said the most important thing he tried to do after the hurricanes in this past session was to let insurance companies and reinsurers know that while things were bad, “we are not going to some crazy knee-jerk reaction and run insurance companies out of Florida.”
“There are two key words that I keep in the back of my mind when it comes to insurance companies and insurance rates,” Bense said, “affordability and availability.”
Bense said that if the legislature makes onerous demands on insurance companies that they will leave, that will cause a problem for all consumers.
“We sent word to insurance companies that while we will not give away the store, we do understand that you took a big loss last year and everyone has to feel a little pain,” Bense said. “That’s what we ended up doing this last session.”
Bense said the legislature has established a task force to approve the over-all operation of Citizens. He said his personal feeling is that government should not be in business, period, and that he has long-term survival of Citizens. He said he would love to see large companies from in and out of Florida take over Citizen’s policyholders.
“Perhaps we could lower the retention level on the CAT fund, take out 100,000 policies and assign those policies directly to that deductible,” Bense said. “We have to think outside the box, because we certainly learned that Citizens did not give good service after the hurricanes.”
The first topic of the morning was “The Power of the Brand—Trusted Choice,” moderated by Jeff Grady, FAIA president and CEO. “Trusted Choice identifies you to the consumer, it is a way to identify who you are and to let them know you can be their trusted adviser,” Grady said. Efforts to make the Trusted Choice program more visible were discussed by panelists Tom Van Berkel, president and CEO of the Main Street America Group, the first corporation to join the program; Ron Smith, Independent Agents and Brokers Association past president; Alex Soto, IIABA vice president; and Ron Sachs, Ron Sachs Communications president.
Soto said the Trusted Choice program had just signed up its 5,000th agency. He outlined goals to increase the number of members to 10,000, but said he did not expect it to plateau there, predicting it would go on from there to 15,000, even 20,000 members.
Smith pointed out it takes time to build a brand, he said to build such a presence takes more than two or three years and that it has to be a long-term, team effort.
Van Berkel, described joining Trusted Choice as a “no-brainer.” He said many competing systems are well branded, so it is important for independent agents to develop their own national umbrella.
Saturday’s program will feature a prayer breakfast with Bill Barber about “How to Live Above Average,” followed by five educational sessions:
“Professional Field Underwriting 2: Providing “ECS” in the Private Passenger Auto Market,” taught by Tom Freeland;
“Extended Services for the Changing Needs of Your Business—Tools to Better Server Your Policyholders and Round Out Your Disaster Plans,” with Richard Roy, AFNI Insurance Services;
“Life and Health Insurance: Nuts and Bolts for the Multi-line Agent,” with Tom Ashley, vice president of Professional Development and Communications;
“Seven Things Agents Need to Know About Hurricane Mitigation Techniques and Incentives,” with Leslie Chapman-Henderson; and
“Managing Your Global Insurance Program,” with Tony Stevens.
The conference will conclude on Saturday morning with a 11:45 a.m. business and awards luncheon during which FAIA will present awards and install officers and directors.
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