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I’ve been working with insurance associations for most of my career.
Early in my career – the mid-80s – I was asked to join the Board of Directors of the EBS Users Group for the management system the agency was using. This was my first experience with the benefit and power of bringing a group of people together with a common goal and mindset. That volunteer board worked diligently on behalf of all the other agencies that were using the same agency management system to work with the vendor on making improvements.
In the late 90s, I wrote a white paper for insurance agencies about the technical and coverage issues surrounding the Y2K problem. The Independent Insurance Agents of America distributed that white paper to every member. I was also asked to be the first agent representative for the then newly formed Agents Council for Technology (ACT) and have been involved with ACT in some way ever since.
For the last 20 years, I’ve worked with virtually every state insurance association providing educational programs through workshops and convention keynotes.
Last year I was asked to join the Board of Directors for the Big I of New York as an at-large member. One of their strategic objectives is helping agents with technology, and my knowledge and experience could be a benefit to the board.
Why Insurance Associations Matter
Over the last two months — as a Big I NY at-large member — I’ve experienced firsthand the behind-the-scenes work that a state insurance association does on behalf of their members that also benefits all agencies. There are many examples of hours spent by the volunteer board members and association staff to protect the interests of independent agents and brokers as regulators scramble to figure out how to respond to the pandemic.
It is impressive.
I’ve also seen a trend over the last few years of a growing number of new agency owners who — seemingly proudly — boast they are not a member of any state association. These agency owners question — sometimes appropriately — the value an association provides them. Why should they support an association by paying dues that are made up of old legacy-thinking members who fight change and the digital transformation they are leading?
I think these agency owners are shortsighted at best.
Hence my question — Is your agency an Association Freeloader?
free·load·er | /ˈfrēˌlōdər/ defined as a person who takes advantage of others’ generosity without giving anything in return.
While I have an insider view of what the Big I NY is doing on behalf of its member agencies, I also know most other state associations are doing similar work.
New Executive Orders and Regulations Could Hurt Your Agency
Various state governors and Departments of Insurance are issuing executive orders and emergency regulations that could dramatically hurt your agency short and long term. Association staff and lobbyists are on the front line of understanding these regulations, talking to the regulators, questioning their provisions, and influencing how these orders are issued and interpreted. They are making sure — as best as they can — that the unintended consequences of regulations do not adversely affect the viability of your organization.
If you’re not a member of your state insurance association, then you are a freeloader. You’re relying on the foresight and willingness of other agency owners to fund the work that protects your agency.
I will restate: Many of these new agency owners have legitimate questions and concerns about how associations are run and the value they bring to their members.
Associations are Changing Too
Another trend I’m seeing is a change in state association management mindset. I have been in discussions with several who understand that associations need to adapt and change – just like their agency members. There is a refreshing mindset and active desire to provide new services to their agency members. Especially around technology help, knowledge, and utilization.
Digital transformation is real for all parts of the industry, and a growing number of state associations are responding to the need to be on the front line of helping their members.
If your agency is already a member of your state association — thank you. You are leading and providing the resources necessary to protect the vitality of your organization and the industry.
If you are not a member of a state insurance association, I encourage you to reconsider your decision.
Pick the insurance association in your state that you think will provide you with the best products, services, lobbying efforts, and insights. And, if you don’t like what you see, get involved and be a facilitator for change. I don’t know any state association executive who doesn’t want to hear from their members about what they need to do to improve for the future.
If you don’t know where to start, below are links to the national insurance agent associations where you can find links to each state affiliate.
- Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers (Big I)
- Professional Insurance Agents (PIA)
- Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers
Don’t be a freeloader — join your state insurance association today — it is more important than ever.