by Kris Ann Hegle
SBJ Contributing Writer
Bob Allen is putting his knowledge of the insurance industry to good use these days as the president of the Missouri Association of Insurance Agents (MAIA). Allen has worked as an insurance agent for more than 22 years, and he co-owns Willis Insurance Inc. with Annette Henderson and Jerry Marple an agency that has been doing business on the south side of the town square in Cassville for more than 112 years.
The only association for independent insurance agencies in Missouri, the MAIA represents more than 4,500 employees in 670 independent agencies. Founded in 1899 in St. Louis, the association represents the interests of its members and their clients in the Missouri legislature, educates and informs professional insurance agents and promotes greater public understanding of the insurance business.
"While I'm president, I want to communicate with pride the value of the independent insurance agency system," Allen said. "Independent insurance agents help consumers get the personalized service they need when developing an insurance portfolio. Consumers also benefit because independent insurance agents are independent business owners who work with more than one company. They also offer many different types of insurance, which allows them to create a truly individualized insurance program."
Although the MAIA's full-time staff and lobbyist work in Jefferson City, the association's policies are dictated by its board of directors, which consists of the MAIA's officers, 12 regional directors located throughout the state, and three at-large directors. Feedback from agents in each region often form the foundation for legislation proposed by the MAIA, according to Allen.
For example, independent insurance agents in southeast Missouri have prompted the MAIA to introduce legislation in Jefferson City advocating the formation of an earthquake fund to address the availability and affordability of earthquake insurance for customers, and issues for companies insuring property in areas surrounding the New Madrid fault.
According to Allen, multibillion dollar disasters, such as Hurricane Andrew, caused some insurance companies to fold particularly if the majority of their business was concentrated in the disaster area. Several states have already created disaster funds, such as the Florida Catastrophe Reinsurance Fund and the California Earthquake Authority.
Nationally, the MAIA also works closely with its two counterparts, the Independent Insurance Agents of America and the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, to enact federal legislation and to provide member services and products.
On the state level, the MAIA advocates laws that require a higher degree of education and training for the state's insurance agents and brokers. The MAIA assists members who must meet continuing-education requirements and helps them obtain a higher degree of professionalism by holding training classes, according to Allen.
In addition to increased emphasis on training and education, Allen has noticed other trends in the state's insurance industry. Overall, insurance coverage has become more comprehensive and complex and the need for higher coverage limits has increased, according to Allen. Another trend affecting independent insurance agencies comes from the increase in competition that has local agents bidding against companies who do business on the Internet.
"One of the developments we have seen is our association members have become more proactive (rather) than reactive to industry trends," Allen said.
Gov. Mel Carnahan signed a bill proclaiming July 1999 as Missouri Association of Insurance Agents Centennial Month.
"Serving as the association's president is one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had," Allen said. "I've had the fortunate experience to have met and worked with agents throughout the state who are sincere in their efforts to be the best they can be. I'm looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead."[[In-content Ad]]
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