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Incoming CIAB chairman focuses on the future

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As David Eslick prepares to take over as chairman of the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, he is looking toward the future.

The growth of technology in the insurance sector and the industry’s ongoing attempts to attract young talent remain key issues, said Mr. Eslick, White Plains, New York-based chairman and CEO of Marsh & McLennan Agency, a unit of Marsh L.L.C.

Mr. Eslick will take over as the council’s chairman on Oct. 11, following the CIAB’s 104th annual Insurance Leadership Forum Colorado Springs, Colorado. He succeeds Robert Cohen, Denver-based chairman and CEO of The IMA Financial Group Inc., for a one-year term.

Noting the rise of insurtech, Mr. Eslick said technology is one of the major issues facing the insurance industry.

“I think that we’re seeing an evolution,” he said, “and really what brokers are going to need to do is have a strategy to make sure they stay competitive with that evolution.”

Technology is important in connecting with young people, Mr. Eslick said, and he encouraged agencies to engage with millennials.

“I think a number of our council members located across the country have developed some really robust strategic initiatives designed to attract and bring new talent into the industry, and we at the council are looking to support that,” he said.

Mr. Eslick added that many of the council’s member firms have robust summer internship programs that give talented college juniors and seniors an opportunity to see the insurance industry up close. Mr. Eslick also said he is proud of the Council Foundation, the CIAB’s scholarship program, which recently announced that it was awarding $375,000 in academic scholarships to 75 college students interested in pursuing careers in insurance brokerage.

“We’re a human capital-based industry,” he said, “so talent is always critically important to us. I think we all kind of look at ourselves within our industry, and we have some work to do to change a bit of our image or the way we’re viewed by, again, the younger generation and the virtual workforce.”

Mr. Eslick said he believes the insurance industry is doing a better job of improving its image to young people coming out college.

“I think a lot revolves around the purpose of our industry,” he said. Looking at recent hurricanes, “insurance becomes one of the most important things in the lives and the businesses of the people we work with. We fill a very important purpose in the economy and people’s lives, and we want to continue to focus on that and make sure people are aware of that.”

Health care continues to be a significant issue, Mr. Eslick said, adding that the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, is probably over. 

“I think what employers are really looking for,” he said, “is how can they navigate options to improve the health of their employee population, and also how can they bend the curve to reduce the health insurance costs.”

On the legislative front, Mr. Eslick said  the council is focusing on such topics as the timely and long-term reauthorization the National Flood Insurance Program, especially in light of the hurricanes that have struck this year, which, he said, could “really get the government going in figuring out how to make the NFIP program work.”

In addition, Mr. Eslick said, brokers are concerned about tax reform to help them compete in the world market.

“The U.S. tax environment harms both domestic and international brokers, and we feel strongly that Congress should pass tax reform to bring the U.S. into a more competitive position relative to the other G-20 economies,” he said. “We just think to competitive in the world, the U.S. should have a competitive tax structure.”

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act continues to be a huge burden on the brokerage community, Mr. Eslick said, “really for no other reason than we got thrown in with other components of the industry.” What’s the background to this and how does it affect brokers?

CIAB maintains that FATCA’s goal is to close international accounts that are being exploited to avoid U.S. taxes, but it also affects international property/casualty insurance premium payments.  The law currently applies to non-cash value property/casualty insurance premiums sent overseas, CIAB said.

“We want to continue to push that and make sure our legislators understand the burden and the cost that provides with limited protection around it,” he said.

Mr. Eslick said he wants to focus on the council’s membership and “helping our council members continue to grow.”

“We want to continue to work on ways to understand their business,” he said, “what they see is going on and how we can help support them in their business model and their growth objective.”