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For PIA President Williams, Wanting to Help Keeps Her Motivated

Thursday, March 22, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Ashlie Parrish Carter
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For PIA President Williams, Wanting to Help

Keeps Her Motivated


The trade group the Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) of Florida has about 350 agencies as members. The association has been around for 70 years advocating for agents in Tallahassee and educating them on how to better manage their agencies. PIA holds an annual agent expo to bring agents and insurers together. This year's expo will be held March 28 to March 30 at the Buena Vista Palace Hotel in Orlando. Current PIA-Florida President Lori Myers Williams took time to offer her remarks on the state of the market in this interview with Insurance Journal's Michael Adams. In 1974, her mother, Joanne Myers, founded the agency — J. Meyers Insurance Group in Orlando — that Lori now runs with her sister, Cathy Myers Keene.

The Legislature failed to enact Citizens reforms. Do you see this as a missed opportunity?

We are all looking to depopulate Citizens and there are many difference routes to get there. No matter where you are in the state, Citizens rates are lower than the standard market. You have to get some rate relief or the general public is not going to move and you can't blame them. If you have to put food on the table or pay insurance what are you going to do? But you have to come up with a way to make the rates higher to get private companies into the state and write policies. I liked pieces of many of the bills. I was not upset to see the surplus lines not make it. It just seems like there were a lot of pieces that needed to be worked out. I would like to have seen a 25 percent or 30 percent increase in Citizens rates. Some way we have to get Citizens back to an insurer is a market of last resort.

What markets are working around the state?

We are seeing a lot of capacity available in the workers' compensation market and we have seen agents come to our offices looking for business. We have seen the market hurt since less people are working and that is a challenge for them. I can't recall an agency looking for a workers comp carrier that can help them out. The reforms that the Legislature made several years ago and small employers are beginning to hire more workers. That's encouraging as far as the economy goes.

What other markets are showing growth?

The commercial markets are working with the excess and surplus lines carriers stepping up, although some are not writing wind. Beyond that they are getting broader in terms of what they are willing to write. There are other carriers looking for agencies around the state. Nobody wants to write in south Florida, but that is old news. But there are carriers looking to appoint some agents and we have not seen that in a long time. Sinkhole is going to get under control over the next four or five years due to the legislation and commercial auto is thriving, and general liability is opening. So we are seeing the free market open up except, of course, in homeowners.

What are some of the barriers to entry?

One of the biggest struggles I see in the market is companies wanting to come into the state complaining how difficult it is to work with the Office of Insurance Regulation. From what I understand, it is not that OIR is difficult to work with, it is lack of the staff. Florida is a precarious state and you want to make sure those companies are solid and their rates are accurately sound. I wish they had more staff so it could make a difference in the market.

Are agencies taking advantage of technology when it comes to marketing?

Agencies are becoming involved in social networking, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and to me that is very good because we are reaching a broader audience. Some agencies thrive on email campaigns and others won't do it because it is too invasive. Paperless has become the way.

There are still agencies out there not using agency management systems and if they do not switch to technology they'll just not survive. I-pads are being used all over, especially when it comes to signing applications, the agents email the client a copy and it is done.

The downside of technology is that agents are doing more. Applications are getting longer now; there are more questions, many of which have nothing to do with the value of the house. It is whether the house has a trampoline, a dog.

So technology is more efficient, but it can be just as time consuming.

Are agents making more or less money given the state markets?

Agents are making fewer commissions than they have been over the past 20 years all across the board. We have seen some increases in the standard market, but they are nowhere near where they were 20 years ago. We have to work harder and faster to make money and that is just the reality.

You've been an agent a long time in a difficult state. What has kept you in the industry?

Knowing at the end of the day that when you get a call and somebody's house has burned down or there has been a car wreck, you can say, ‘what can I do to help?' Let's pull out the policies, file a claim, and help that person start the process of healing. That makes it all worthwhile

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