WASHINGTON, D.C., August 26, 2007—Alex Soto, President of The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”), the nation’s largest insurance association, participated today on a panel of insurance industry executives at the annual meeting of the Southern Governors Association in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Soto of InSource, Inc. in Miami, Fla. represented the association on the panel hosted by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. The goal of the session was to explore how governors and the industry might better work together to ensure greater stability in residential and commercial insurance markets in both pre- and post-catastrophe scenarios.
Joining Soto on the Panel were:
• Brian W. MacLean, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Travelers
• William R. Berkley, Chairman and CEO, W.R. Berkley Corporation
• Paula Rosput Reynolds, President and CEO, Safeco Corporation
"The insurance industry is neither monolithic nor monopolistic and the industry, with thousands of different companies, is actively competitive in most parts of the country," said Soto. “But that's not the case along the coast, and we need to find ways to restore competition and bring more companies back for our insurance customers."
Soto pointed out the companies that have remained in the coastal states are often bashed and beaten up by public officials and in the press. It is the companies who have left our coastal states and abandoned our customers that should feel the heat.
He also outlined the benefits of effective land use and management requirements; the need to enact and enforce building codes; and the recently released IBHS study as evidence of the need for better building codes, enforcement of the codes, and land management. Soto also explained the need to strengthen existing homes and the need to find ways to help consumers get this done. "There needs to be a private/public partnership to share the risks,” said Soto.
Soto also expressed the need for governors to use their bully pulpits and to bring together the top leaders in the industry to put together proposals that work for their constituents and our customers. "Right now, the prospects for broad legislation in Washington are not great, largely because of a fragmented industry," said Soto. "You have the power to bring those leaders together in your state.” He also noted that a proposal in Congress to create a commission to make recommendations to address the natural catastrophe issues could be an important impetus to solving some large problems. Soto also pointed out IIABA supports the work of the SGA and encourages Congress to take up the SGA proposal – a resolution calling on Congress to create a reasonably priced national reinsurance program supported by actuarially sound premiums to provide relief to American homeowners and lower insurance premiums. The IIABA also supports other proposals that will help bring new markets, and keep markets, in coastal and disaster prone areas.