Aiming High in 2020
Greetings from Iowa, where I have been dodging the masses of Democrats running for president for the past several months.
I have seen hundreds of ads for candidates and I am getting numb. Yet all of this election mania here in Iowa has me thinking about the nature of institutions and the importance of those institutions in serving their constituents. Americans are losing faith in major institutions. In the most recent Gallup poll, around 70% of Americans have very little to only some confidence in Congress, newspapers, organized labor, “big” business, our schools, and organized religion.
As the new chairman of The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, I want to reinforce our commitment to our member firms and our industry and ensure we will do all we can to earn your confidence. I think it is helpful to reflect on the foundation of an organization and why it was created in the first place. One may ask why 200 or so large companies that compete in the insurance industry would come together and collaborate in what we now call the CIAB. The answer to me is obvious but easy to overlook. The Council exists to tackle issues and problems that no individual member firm could likely tackle on its own but that many of the firms see as critically important. Let me give you a few examples.
The government affairs team works with Congress to advocate for our clients and our firms. They study new legislation and provide insight to our members regarding the implications for our business. The work they have done on topics ranging from TRIA to the ACA has impacted all of our businesses. Most, if not all, of our member firms could not do this on their own.
The Council has created programs to help our firms attract and develop the talent we will need to sustain and grow our industry. From the work of The Council Foundation to the publication of Leader’s Edge to the creation of The Council Academy, The Council has provided tools for all of our firms to take advantage of in building their teams. These are tools that none of us could likely create on our own.
When I think of the value of the annual Insurance Leadership Forum or the annual Employee Benefits Leadership Forum, I imagine trying to replicate the connections without those meetings. Imagine the cost in both time and money of meeting with your best carrier partners and your trusted industry colleagues if you had to do these meetings on an individual basis. It wouldn’t be possible.
Finally, The Council helps us build connections between member firms and prepare for the future. In the past few weeks, I have talked to my team on a variety of issues (fun ones like ASC 606 and compliance with California employment law), and in just about every case they are sharing ideas and getting advice from individuals they met in one of The Council’s working groups. The Council’s efforts on insurtech provide an invaluable resource for all of us to keep up with the changing dynamics of our business. We couldn’t do it on our own.
The inevitable challenges for any organization like The Council are predictable. First, with 200+ members, there will always be some disagreement on what the association’s priorities should be. Second, all collective action organizations suffer from the “free rider” problem, where firms can reap the benefits of the organization without pulling their weight. If not managed well, any organization can suffer and disappear, and all members would be worse off.
As I think about the year ahead, I have two main priorities. First, I want to ensure The Council is intensely focused on the needs of its members and is working on those issues that our firms can’t tackle on their own. Our amazing Council team works for its members, and we won’t forget it. Second, I want to challenge all of our member firms to fully commit to the organization—for example, embrace the efforts of CouncilPAC and The Council Foundation, leverage The Council Academy for talent development, and participate in the upcoming Legislative Summit. Together, we can do so much more than we can do alone.
David Becker is CEO of Cottingham & Butler and The Council’s 2020 chairman.