By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & Insurance®
NASHVILLE, Tenn.---When Ruth Estrich steps into her new role as leader of the Insurance Accounting & Systems Association (IASA) on July 1, it will be the first time that an "associate member" of the organization ascends to the presidency.
For IASA, which has always tapped leaders from insurance carriers ever since its founding in 1928, Estrich's elevation to the presidency represents an important departure from tradition.
More importantly, the choice of Estrich will test her ability to represent the constituencies that make up the organization: property/casualty and life/health insurance carriers on one side, and on the other the dozens of software vendors and professional services companies that serve carriers' needs.
Estrich, who's been employed on the vendor side for the past nine years, is officially an "associate member" of IASA. Nevertheless, there's no doubt in her mind that she's up to the task of leading the organization dedicated to the exchange of information among insurance professionals.
"I embody all aspects of the constituency," she said, in an interview Monday with Risk & Insurance®. "I'm very proud to be able to take this position and reflect all aspects of the constituency of the organization."
She met with us during the annual conference of IASA, being held from June 5 to 8 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Conference Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Estrich, chief marketing officer with MedRisk, a King of Prussia, Pa.-based claims and medical management vendor to the workers' comp industry, spent 25 years on the carrier side of the business, at CNA in Chicago and at Liberty Mutual in Boston.
She joined the insurance industry in 1977. While employed at insurance carriers, Estrich worked in claims, with information technology departments and in the executive ranks. At CNA, the controller reported to her, she said.
At MedRisk, she's worked as a marketing and business development executive.
While Estrich is confident in her ability to bridge the needs of carriers and vendors, she said that it is important to remain sensitive to the needs of carriers.
"Many of the associate members are very pleased but are sensitive to the carriers," she said. "It's important to continue to represent both."
Estrich, along with a new slate of vice presidents, will take control of IASA on July 1 for a one-year term. She succeeds Craig S. Lowenthal, social media strategist for the York, Pa.-based Glatfelter Insurance Group.
The two constituencies that make up IASA--the insurance carriers and the vendors that sell to them--exist in a symbiotic relationship.
Without the carriers, the vendors would have no one to sell to. Without the vendors, the carriers would sink in a sea of inefficiency and errors, leaving their very viability as insurance companies in doubt.
Matt McKernan, president of carrier and managing general agent markets of Vertafore, a Conyers, Ga.-based vendor of software products and services, said the election of Estrich to the presidency was "encouraging."
"We're positive on it," he said.
Asked if there was a danger that the needs of carriers might be ignored in favor of the demands of vendors, McKernan said it wasn't likely to become and issue.
"Carriers at the end of the day are customers, and their needs come first," McKernan said. "The voice of the carriers is going to be heard, so I'm not worried about a power shift occurring."
Estrich will also be the fourth woman to lead IASA. "That's a good thing, too, and times have changed," Estrich added.
IASA's first female president, Deborah S. Kweller, a former executive vice president of Burbank, Calif.-based California Indemnity, was elected to lead the organization from 1989 to 1990. Five years later, Mary Jane Barth of Country Mutual Ins. Co. was elected president and led IASA from 1994 to 1995. Cathy A. Ellwood, with Nationwide Insurance, served as IASA's president in 2004 to 2005, according to the IASA website.
June 7, 2011
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