NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 22—Thomas B. Ahart, CPCU, AAI, outgoing president of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA), said that the association has seen an incredible amount of challenge and change during his presidency and noted that the implementation of the Trusted ChoiceSM branding program was one of the association’s finest contributions ever to the independent agency system.
Ahart told a packed room of more than 1,200 independent agents and brokers and industry professionals attending IIABA’s New Orleans InfoXchange that they can take great pride in how they united during the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “While our country sought answers, our industry—agents and companies alike—worked together to help those impacted by tragedy,” Ahart said. “Our company partners stepped to the fore to provide the financial means for recovery, and independent agents and brokers across the country helped their friends and neighbors rebuild lives.”
Saying that he is pleased with the evolution of Trusted ChoiceSM, Ahart called it one of IIABA’s most important undertakings. Since it was launched last year at IIABA’s Hawaii InfoXchange, Trusted ChoiceSM has penetrated more than 2,500 agencies and branches and 18 company and strategic partners. “Over the past year, IIABA has worked to build trust with our company partners and separately with consumers through Trusted ChoiceSM,” Ahart said. “This brand is important to educating the public about the advantages of using an independent agent. It will distinguish you in the marketplace. It is a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for consumers.”
Ahart also highlighted other new IIABA features introduced during the past year. The association did what many deemed impossible in establishing the Virtual University—complete with online continuing- education courses, a massive research library and an “Ask the Expert” service. Ahart also detailed the initiation of a large agents and brokers program and announced that the National Board of State Directors has approved a new associate membership category for agents and brokers in U.S. possessions and territories as well as foreign countries.
Another highlight of the past year according to Ahart came when IIABA, in cooperation with some state associations, successfully created “America’s Survivor Relief Fund,” which raised $500,000 from independent agents to help victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Ahart also noted that IIABA’s relations with both insurance carriers and other insurance industry associations have never been better. “We have met with numerous company leaders to discuss issues of mutual concern and to establish direct lines of communication with these companies,” Ahart said. “These efforts are paying dividends in the form of improved relations with longtime partners as well as new relationships with new company allies.”
IIABA’s extensive legislative advocacy was another key point of Ahart’s speech. He detailed lobbying efforts on terrorism insurance, improving insurance oversight and various small business issues. “No one advocates better on Capitol Hill for agents and brokers and no insurance group is more recognizable to key Washington leaders than the Big ‘I’,” Ahart declared.
Ahart closed his remarks by urging members to “always embrace change,” saying that “to embrace the status quo is to stand still while the competition is always moving forward.” He said that his time as president “will rank as a high point in my life,” and concluded by telling his fellow agents and brokers: “We are the trusted choice.”
Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life and health—as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.