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Top Insurance CEOs Address Big "I" Membership

Liberty Mutual, XL Capital, Progressive and State Auto Heads Discuss Regulation, Systemic Risk, Economy, Future of Industry



WASHINGTON, D.C., May 6, 2009— The forecast of a federal systemic risk regulator was one of several hot-button issues discussed by four of the top insurance company carrier CEOs who recently participated in a panel discussion with the membership of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”). 

The panel participants included: Ted Kelly, CEO, Liberty Mutual; Glenn Renwick, CEO, Progressive; Mike McGavick, CEO, XL Capital; and Bob Restrepo, CEO, State Auto. Bob Rusbuldt, president & CEO of the Big “I”, moderated the discussion.

The insurance carrier CEO panel was an opportunity for the Big “I” membership to hear about some of the most important issues pressing independent insurance agents and the industry. The wide array of topics included: the state of the national economy, the economic challenges facing insurance carriers and independent insurance agents & brokers, the property-casualty insurance cycle, systemic risk, TARP, and insurance regulatory reform.

In discussing systemic risk and the bailout of AIG, Ted Kelly, Liberty Mutual CEO, said “we [insurance carriers] do not cause systemic risk.” He also said most carriers are too small to actually cause systemic risk and that he believes financial services giants should take a “Hippocratic Oath,” like medical doctors to “do no harm.” 

Mike McGavick, CEO of XL Capital, also used a medical reference in the discussion of possible new regulation for systemic risk. He said ”it’s one thing to give the dose to the patient so that the patient doesn’t die, but it’s another thing to have the confidence to give just the right amount so that you don’t over-medicate and create a new risk and I see this as the risk of over-medicating.”

Progressive CEO Glen Renwick said he conducts what he calls “pseudo-science” by meeting with employee groups to take the pulse of the economy. Renwick said he’s finding that “consumers are demanding some lower prices” and shopping around for value, weighing their options and making cost-cutting decisions. He advised agents to “look out for your customers because I think they’re crying out…. to be taken care of.”

Panelists discussed TARP at length and Bob Restrepo, State Auto CEO, said most of the Midwestern banks who got TARP money “didn’t want it but they had to take it because of the federal government good housekeeping seal of approval.” He also said that “a lot of those banks don’t like the fleas that come along with all the help and don’t like the attachments.” In defense of the p-c industry, Restrepo said it “has never needed that kind of help….we are excellent risk managers.”

“The Big ‘I’ CEO panel is one of the most informative and important discussions of our annual gathering in Washington, D.C.,” said Robert A. Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO, who moderated the discussion. “This year’s panel was not just comprised of insurance leaders, but of national economic leaders. This town hall forum affords independent agents the opportunity to directly ask questions of industry leaders. The CEOs were forthright about the state of our industry and what needs to be done in the interest of insurance consumers, and we greatly appreciated the insight from top decision-makers in the industry.”

Additional quotes and information regarding the panel discussion are available by request or by visiting www.independentagent.com.

The panel discussion took place during the general session of the Big “I” annual Legislative Conference & Convention on Friday, May 1 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. The event also included a state of the association address by Brett Nilsson, Big “I” chairman and a keynote address by Stephen Dubner, co-author of the book FREAKONOMICS.

Other highlights of the Big “I” Legislative Conference & Convention included in-depth issues briefing sessions; appearances by numerous high-profile speakers discussing important insurance and national issues confronting lawmakers as well as agents and brokers; and hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill between Big “I” agents and brokers and their elected representatives in the Congress.

Founded in 1896, the Big “I” 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, health, employee benefit plans and retirement products.

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