In her first appearance at a live IIAT event, Insurance Commissioner Cassie Brown spoke to about 450 attendees of the 59th Annual Joe Vincent Management Seminar hosted by the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas. She was joined in the program by Gov. Greg Abbott on video and a full schedule of continuing education and enrichment speakers and networking breaks on Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at the Austin Renaissance Hotel.

Brown, who was appointed commissioner in September, recognized the agents for their “vital service in satisfying consumers’ needs.” Brown expressed her interest in protecting both consumers and the marketplace. Her priorities are customer service and education, she said.

Insurance is complex and, at times, overwhelming, said Brown. Especially during the sales and claims processes, customers deserve to hear insurance explained plainly. Brown recommended that agents share with their clients the offerings of the Texas Department of Insurance and share TDI’s website, social media channels, YouTube, podcast content and email alerts.

Brown encouraged agents to view the complaint data that is available in a searchable format on the department’s website.

Expressing her goals as the highest ranking insurance regulatory officer, Brown said she plans to streamline processes and reduce regulatory burdens. Some streamlining has already occurred, Brown said, as she noted that it now takes only one day to process license applications.

Recent reductions in filing fees have created $31 million in savings across the industry in 2021, said Brown. She also noted that TDI assisted Texas policyholders in obtaining $46 million in additional claims and refunds from insurers in 2021.

Brown pointed out that  the TDI website has information on the new federal law providing surprise billing protections to health insureds not covered by the state law, and expands protections to air ambulance services, a part of the health services regime that could not be reached by state law.

In closing, Brown advised agents to complete their continuing education requirements at least 30 days prior to renewal to avoid delays of their renewal. She also reminded them of the new requirement to have all licensed people, agencies and companies provide a current email address that can be used for official contacts by the Department of Insurance. Brown also invited agents to share their criticism on regulatory matters. “I can’t fix it if I don’t know about it,” she said.

IIAT’s speaker lineup included two sessions by Steve Harvill to promote agency principals’ entrepreneurial spirit. Also included was an agency best practices panel featuring insurance company, broker and retail agency principals moderated by IIAT President Marit Peters. Employment lawyer Ann Price offered a session on Covid best practices.

Lee Loftis, IIAT’s chief legislative officer, moderated a panel of three other industry lobbyists who recapped the previous legislative session. The panel included Shannon Meroney, Meroney Public Affairs; Keith Strama, Beatty Navarre Strama, and Beaman Floyd, independent lobbyist and public affairs strategist. The 2022 Industry Preview panel carried one hour of approved C.E.

Jay Thompson, Thompson Coe, and Carey Wallace, Agency Focus, discussed mergers and acquisitions. Robert Anderson, Cyber Defense Labs, spoke on how to reduce cyber risk, and Vanessa Edwards, best-selling author, spoke on building communication skills.

The schedule also provided opportunities for agents to peruse technology products of several vendors offering cutting-edge software for independent agencies and for young agents to attend a workshop on talent and career development.