David Sampson, the newly appointed president and chief executive officer of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), a Des Plaines, Ill., group comprising more than 1,000 insurance company members, outlined his vision for the association at the organization’s annual meeting this week. More than 1,600 CEOs and senior executives from PCI member companies and global reinsurers participated in the 2007 meeting in Boston, setting records for attendance at the event.
Sampson, the former Deputy Secretary of the Commerce Department, said that America’s property/casualty insurers provide consumers with a financial safety net, and businesses a way to deal with the risks inherent in commerce that enables them to expand and innovate—key factors in making the U.S. economy the model for the world.
“We are a foundation industry,” he said. “Nothing moves in the U.S. economy without insurance. We are also a misunderstood industry. That misunderstanding results, in large part, from the very nature of our product.”
Sampson pointed out that average consumers purchase our product because state law or mortgage lenders require them to. And because the type of products that almost every American purchases—auto and homeowners policies—are heavily regulated in many states, they become more and more like a commodity with very little perceived difference in features from one company to the next.
“The danger of over-regulation is clear: when markets hit bumps in the road, it makes it easier for some public policy makers to say that government is better suited to making insurance products available and affordable than private insurers. The concept of ‘government to the rescue’ can lead to unintended consequences, the most important of which is the undermining of the free market system on which our nation’s economy is built,” he said.
“We have a better chance of solving those problems when government unleashes the innovative powers of the free market rather than unfairly restricting it,” said Sampson. “Today, our economy—every sector including the property and casualty industry—faces an innovation imperative. That is the challenge we face as an industry and a trade association in both the public policy and operational arenas.”
Sampson told his audience that the United States, its economy, and its industry are currently facing a period of change and turbulence.
“Such times are never easy,” he said. “To safely navigate these stormy waters requires a strong philosophical framework to address new public policy and political realities. It requires commitment and cohesion to work through the tough issues together. The most important requirement to thrive and prosper while facing strong headwinds in times of change is forward-looking leadership.”
Sampson told the audience that its more than 1,000 diverse member companies share a common objective: The desire to operate in an environment that allows each insurer to compete on a level playing field and to have the opportunity to grow and prosper based on their individual abilities to develop and distribute products and services that consumers want and need.
Sampson also challenged the industry to join him in an effort to enhance the industry’s perception among consumers, opinion leaders and public policymakers. Finally, Sampson called on members to continue their active involvement in the association’s advocacy efforts as the industry faces a challenging new political environment.
At the meeting, PCI also elected new officers. Robert Joyce, chairman and chief executive officer of Westfield Group, was elected as the association's new chair; John Blackburn, chief executive officer of Country Insurance & Financial Services was elected first chair, and Janice Abraham, president and chief executive officer of United Educators Insurance, was elected second vice chair.
PCI also elected two new members to its board: Vincent Donnelly, president and chief executive officer, PMA Capital Corp., and Darin Kath, president and chief executive officer at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co.
Joyce has more than 25 years experience in the insurance industry and currently leads Westfield, a diversified financial services organization with over $3 billion in assets. His experience includes serving as senior vice president and treasurer of Philadelphia-based Reliance Insurance Group, followed by senior vice president and chief operating officer of Reliance Surety before joining Westfield in 1996. Prior to chief executive officer, he held the positions of president of Westfield Management Co. and chief operating officer at Westfield.
Blackburn has served as chief executive officer for Country Insurance & Financial Services since August 2001. He is also chairman of the board of directors of three companies with which Country has strategic alliances: Holyoke Mutual Insurance Co., Salem, Mass.; Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co., Middletown, Conn.; and MSI Preferred Insurance Co., Arden Hills, Minn. Blackburn began his career with Country in 1982 as an agent in Christian County (Ill.). Later, he served as agency manager, district director of Agencies, regional vice president of Agency, vice president of Agency and senior vice president of Marketing.
PCI's Second Vice Chair, Janice Abraham, joined United Educators Insurance as president and chief executive officer in January 1998. She is also president and chief executive officer of United Educators Management Co. Abraham has 14 years of experience in serving the higher education community through her work as chief financial officer/treasurer at Whitman College, various senior positions at Cornell University, and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) where she served as staff associate.
Abraham also served as an international banker for J. P. Morgan. She is a former president of the Western Association of College and University Business officers (WACUBO) and a past member of the board of directors of NACUBO.
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