Until fairly recently, program administrators might have felt as if they were swimming upstream to get business. Now carriers are paying more attention to this segment of insurance intermediaries--particularly thanks to the help of the Target Markets Program Administrators Association.
The TMPAA was established in 2001 to cater specifically to program specialists, who administer insurance products in a particular niche market or class and generally place this book of similar risks with one carrier. The specialist and carrier negotiate everything from underwriting and claims management to binding and issuing, marketing and billing.
Ray Scotto, TMPAA executive director, said the inspiration for creating the organization was simple. "We had a lot of folks say, 'I've gone to other industry meetings, and there are certainly aspects that are important to me, but I feel like a fish out of water. They don't do exactly what I do--they're not doing programs. They're wholesalers, they're not specialists, they don't have one company that they're partnered with for a particular product.' "
Scotto said early TMPAA leaders knew they had a niche when they realized that this group of specialists really did not have an association specifically for them. Both the American Association of Managing General Agents and the National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices don't quite fit the bill.
Membership in TMPAA is broken down into three segments, he said. "The foremost segment and, really, who we're targeting, is the program administrator/program specialist/MGA. Most of these guys are not broad-brush generalist MGAs. They focus on and are experts in a specific class or niche."
Totaling 160 members, this group comprises about two-thirds of the entire membership. The remaining one-third is split evenly between carriers and vendors. The list of member carriers have specific program divisions structured to utilize the MGA system and work with program specialists, including such well-known names as AIG, St. Paul Travelers, Fireman's Fund and Zurich North America.
The growth of its carrier membership says a lot about the TMPAA's legitimacy, Scotto said, and should sway skeptics.
"The proof is in the carriers' interest in getting with the program specialists and partnering with folks that they know are proficient in program administration," he said. "We went from five carriers in 2001 to 40 carriers today. That's enough of an indication, because we positioned ourselves as the association for program specialists and now we have 40 carrier partners."
And the more carriers that join TMPAA, the more program specialists sign up for membership. "It's tough getting your program in front of a carrier," Scotto said. "If you're looking for a new market for your program or if you're looking to do a new program, a startup, it's sometimes difficult to stand out in the crowd and get some air time in front of the decision-makers at the program carriers. We provide that opportunity (to program specialists)."
They've come a long way and have further to go. In 2003, the TMPAA began a biennial benchmarking survey to provide a measuring stick for members to compare themselves with their peers. Following the second survey's completion in 2005, the association this year conducted best-practice evaluations and awarded three member agencies the TMPAA Best Practice Designation.
January 1, 2007
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