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PIA National's New CEO

Leonard C. "Len" Brevik is the new executive vice president and CEO of PIA National. After an extensive national search process, Brevik's selection was...
October 28, 2004

Len BrevikLeonard C. "Len" Brevik is the new executive vice president and CEO of PIA National.  After an extensive national search process, Brevik's selection was approved unanimously by the PIA National Board of Directors. He assumed his new duites on April 1, 2004.

From 2000-2003, Brevik served as chief marketing officer and vice president of business development for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisers (NAIFA). From 1989 to 2000, Brevik held executive positions with the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA) and its subsidiary organizations. He was executive director of two IIABA subsidiaries, the Agents Council for Technology and Future One. Brevik also served as IIABA director of state government affairs, vice president of state government affairs, chief information officer and senior vice president of association affairs.

Why did you want to be CEO of PIA National?

Opportunity. When you look at the at PIA's membership, we have a huge group of agents across the country. There's a lot we can do for our membership. I'm excited because I am the kind of person who likes to make things happen. At this particular time in history, I see unparalleled potential for PIA into the future.

Being able to find opportunity, leverage it and make something happen in a very short time frame is what gives me the most satisfaction. There's so much opportunity in the American Agency System right now as far as products and services, new agents coming into the business, being able to identify technology that helps agents be more productive and profitable - that's what excites me.

PIA is also in a unique position to reach out and touch regulators and legislators. We are able to harness the power of our leadership and our rank and file agents, and work together with talented staff people to make some amazing things happen.

So what are you going to try to accomplish? What are some of your goals?

Several things. First off, I intend to spread the word that PIA is open for business - and PIA is going to be growing, and doing a lot more. Whatever happened in the past is just that.  I like to learn from the past, but not dwell on it. I am focused on right now, and on the future of PIA. And the future of PIA is bright.

PIA has a lot of good, existing programs, and one of my first priorities is to expand those offerings. Another one of my goals is to grow membership in PIA in every state. 

My role is really to help grow the pie, to look at programs and services that agents need and bring them to fruition. One of our senior vice presidents, Pat Borowski, talks about how the 21st century is the time when agents are going to flower. There's so many great things that are happening. PIA is here to lead.

Why should an agent join PIA as opposed to one of the organizations you used to work for?

Because PIA is the best association for agents. The word professional is part of our name, and it is what we are. We are better than any other organization that says they are better.

PIA has a depth of experience and a body of knowledge that far surpasses that of any other organization that attempts to serve professional insurance agents.

Most importantly, PIA is a bottom-up organization, a grassroots driven organization. We are very much a states' rights organization, in the best sense of that term, because we believe that decisions are best made at the local level, where people live, work and conduct their business. 

When an agent becomes a member of PIA, he or she is not just another cog in the wheel. Our members truly determine our policy and direction. That's one of the reasons PIA's views are highly respected - by legislators, by regulators, and by our carriers. When an agent joins PIA they become PIA, because our members are PIA.  It's our culture as an association, and our culture is very different than that of other associations. 

What is PIA's position and strategy on reform of insurance regulation?

We're firmly committed to state regulation of insurance. There are 50 state insurance commissioners and they need to be responsible for regulation. But there also needs to be coordination. We realize that each state cannot be a fiefdom unto itself, because our agents write business in multiple states.

We need to be able to have coordination through model legislation. The key question is, are the states going to drive the process, or is Congress going to drive it? We believe the states must drive it.

PIA has been very active in groups that develop model legislation, NAIC, NCSL and  NCOIL.  In fact, one of NCOIL's board members is Don Flanders, the PIA national director from New Hampshire. Don is a state legislator, and he chairs the national PIA regulatory affairs committee. So, I think we have a unique perspective and great influence there.

How do you see regulatory reform playing out in Congress?

We are at a crossroads right now. There are some in Congress who have suggested that there should be an optional federal charter, or that the federal government should take over insurance regulation outright. PIA is vehemently opposed to both of those ideas.

Fortunately, Rep. Mike Oxley has made it clear that neither of these options will be considered at this time. But that doesn't mean we can rest on our laurels. There is intense pressure, and Congress is poised to act to speed up reforms by the states. It is critical that the states drive the agenda for reform to Congress, not vice versa. We don't want Congress to dictate the agenda to the states.

That's why PIA's strategy is to work the reform agenda up through the states to Congress. Right now, there is too great a focus on federal efforts. This threatens to  relegate state forums to the status of a sideshow. There is a tendency on the part of some to think that the best way to affect our reform agenda is to dump everything into one omnibus draft bill in Congress, engage in a grip-and-grin offensive with federal lawmakers, and then brag to your membership about how important you are. But that's all flash and no substance. More importantly, it is very dangerous. You can end up creating a big train wreck.

Do you think that the effort to modernize insurance regulation will ever be finished?

No. I think it's a dynamic process and it's ongoing. The reason is the amount of dollars that are at stake for the premium tax.  If you look at most state budgets, the premium tax dollars that are generated for state government is generally among the top five revenue sources for the state.

When you sit down with governors and you ask them what their top five revenue sources are, the vast majority would not be able to tell you that. But I've had the privilege of addressing about a dozen governors in a meeting in the South, and I asked them that question and not one of them could identify it. Then after I let them know where their individual states stood, I think they had a new appreciation for what they had to protect on the state level. Whenever you have that aggregation of wealth, you're going to have a lot of people that are going to want to have their hands on it, and those hands are generally reaching out from the federal level.

It's a process that's ongoing, like protection of the free enterprise system. It's not something that you just do once and walk away; you've got to always be there. The old saying, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" rings especially true for us. Protecting the agency distribution system and the principle of state based insurance regulation will require constant vigilance by PIA.

What's your assessment of the state of the relationship between agencies and carriers?

It's very cyclical in nature; you have good periods and bad. Right now, you have a number of issues that are driving relationships: one, the profitability in the marketplace, that's always an issue. You have expense off-loading -- who should take care of what particular expense going forward. And you have technology issues. Technology issues are key to the survival of independent agents, and that brings in standards and groups such as ACORD, in which PIA has been active for many years.

Does the industry have an image problem?

If you look at rankings, I think the industry does have an image problem. When people are asked to rate Congress, they rate it one level below despicable. But then when you ask them about their individual congressman they say, yes he's OK, he's a good person.

It's the same thing in the insurance industry. When you take it as a whole, people don't like paying insurance bills. But when you ask them about their own independent agent and they remember that their agent was there delivering the check when there was a flood, or in their time of need, I think most people think that most people give extremely high marks to their own independent agents.

How do you see the future of PIA as an organization?

We are going to grow. PIA has a huge base from which to build, and we will continue to grow. Last year, we had 14 of our states experience growth. We have one state in particular, Florida, with 33 months of consecutive membership growth.

Certainly we have states that are challenges, and that's what we need to be able to focus on. The future for independent agents and brokers, for the agency distribution system, and for PIA is bright. We're all going to grow together, for many, many years to come.

As we all continue to grow, want to be able to bring new agents in and say to them, "you need to be affiliated with the organization that best looks after your interests." And that organization is and always will be PIA.

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