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View from the Top: Leigh Ann Pusey, American Insurance Association

View from the Top: Leigh Ann Pusey, American Insurance Association

Leigh Ann Pusey, president and CEO of the American Insurance Association in Washington, joined the organization in December 1996 and was named to her present position in February 2009 after serving as the organization’s chief operating officer and senior vice president of government affairs.

Ms. Pusey’s previous positions include deputy assistant to former President George H. W. Bush for the White House Office of Public Liaison, communications coordinator for former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and deputy director of communications for the Republican National Committee. She spoke recently about the election’s impact and issues facing the AIA with Business Insurance Senior Reporter Judy Greenwald. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: What impact will the election have on the insurance industry?

A: The (election’s) significance is not just the White House, but there is significance in the Republican dominance in states, both governors and state legislatures. I think we can adapt and be responsive in this new political environment.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about (President-elect Donald Trump), his team and details of his policies.

We do know his priorities, though, at least as he’s articulated them so far, and on health care he seems to be clarifying some details so (the Trump administration may) repeal elements of (the Affordable Care Act) and replace them.

He’s talked about job growth and tax reform and talked about enforcing border security on immigration as priorities. There might be a little more clarity. He says we’re only going to deport people who are criminals.

Q: What are some of the major issues facing the AIA?

A: The AIA is very committed to balancing an effective regulatory regime at the state, federal and international levels. We care about (the National Flood Insurance Program), which expires in September (2017).

We’ve been very involved in Congress on discussions regarding cyber and breach notification. We would like to see a uniform standard that could be applied, and we would work with Congress on that.

We will be very involved in any tax reform conversations in Congress. It’s been over 30 years since Congress has done a comprehensive tax package.

There’s a lot of education needed, I think, by our sector for Capitol Hill to appreciate the distinctions between life and property/casualty, and we’d already begun that work last year, and we will continue to be very involved this year.

An additional item at the federal and international level is trade. We believe that we ought to have fair trade policies, and we look forward to working with Congress and the administration to keep the U.S. insurers on a competitive, level playing field globally.

Q: Please discuss further your position with respect to cyber and data breaches.

A: I think it’s a huge opportunity for this industry. The pace and the breadth of this technological transformation is unprecedented. We’ve got a lot of investment in insurance technology.

The second reason is, it has the potential to cause friction with our long-standing regulatory regime, if you think about the impact of autonomous vehicles on our licensing schemes, on our liability regimes between personal and commercial.

The third factor is, we’ve got new players involved in these issues. You’ve got technology companies, auto manufacturers and venture capital firms, so you’ve got this mix, whether it’s Google, or Facebook, or Uber, or Ford. You’ve got just a lot of players that will be involved in this insurance issue and impacting that discussion, so the insurance industry must be at the table, and it’s critically important. We’ve got to talk about the need to balance consumer protection and the need to balance innovation.

Q: What about the issue of establishing capital standards for insurers?

A: The AIA has been involved for several years at the state level with the (Kansas City, Missouri-based National Association of Insurance Commissioners), at the federal level with the Federal Reserve Board, and internationally with the (Basel, Switzerland-based International Association of Insurance Supervisors, where) the focus has been on a group capital standard, which does not exist in the U.S. Rather, we’ve had a more legal entity-focused capital regime

After the financial crisis, regulators wanted to look at groups … The NAIC has a working group on this, and we’ve been very engaged on this with them … The Fed has had a process for over a year now that the AIA has been involved with. And internationally, the IAIS has a multiyear project to design the international insurance capital standards that would be applied … so we’ve been very active in all three of these conversations.

Q: Do you anticipate making any changes within the AIA itself because of the election?

A: I don’t think structurally we will have to change to work with the new administration. We have a team here that’s experienced and understands both sides of the aisle in Washington and how to get things done. We just need to stay engaged on Capitol Hill and build new relationships in the new administration.

Q: What other issues are of concern to the AIA?

A: At the state level, we’re going to have a very aggressive agenda in the commercial lines area to modernize regulation, (which) will be a priority.