|By Ray Scotto, Executive Director
Theodore Roosevelt once said: "Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell them, 'Of course I can.' Then get busy and find out how to do it." We can certainly appreciate Mr. Roosevelt's sentiments. About six years ago we had the notion of launching an association dedicated to the unique needs of program administrators. It was a great idea, but where to start? It took three years and a good deal of trial and error before we held our first Summit Meeting in October 2001.
The association now has more than 150 members, including 100 program administrators, 25 carrier partners (with dedicated program divisions), and 20 vendor partners offering services specifically suited for program specialists.
Input from our members drives the association's direction. A number of committees are working to address issues important to the group: technology, ethics, and eligibility standards. Other committees plan the content of the annual and midyear meetings.
We periodically survey our members to find new ways of expanding the benefits of belonging to the association. Their feedback has resulted in many new initiatives. These include:
Errors & Omissions Insurance. Program administrators possess many attributes that differentiate them from either traditional managing general agencies or wholesalers. The association has partnered with a carrier willing to provide a unique program specialists E&O product. Members enjoy premium discounts and loss control reviews.
Target Programs. Target Programs is an Internet portal designed to give retail agents access to the programs offered by member agencies. Target Markets provides national advertising for members' products on the Target Programs Web site, and drives business to the members' own home pages.
Benchmarking. Target Markets launched a benchmarking initiative in 2003. Participants received an insightful analysis of the strengths and opportunity areas within their internal operations. The Benchmarking Survey will be reintroduced in 2005 coupled with best practices program evaluations. We are moving toward the development of a TM Best Practices designation for member agencies that choose to participate in these evaluations.
Systems Guide for Program Administrators. The Technology Committee is working to define the critical components of agency management/rating and issuing software for program administrators. The goal is to provide members the tools to evaluate available software. Members also will be asked to share information about their current systems for the benefit of other potential users.
Online Member Cross-Sell/Networking Opportunity. Members can post cross-sell information and networking questions on a new Web site forum. Each time a question is posted, members will be notified via e-mail and given the opportunity to respond.
High praise from members
The association's best marketing tool is its members. Here is a sample of testimonials about Target Markets.
"Target Markets has evolved into a valuable tool for our company. We have developed relationships with carriers, other program administrators, and vendors that help us grow and maintain strong underwriting profitability. The association has done a tremendous job in analyzing information, providing networking opportunities, and delivering timely information that affects the key drivers of our business." Fran Sarmiento, CPCU, AU, NSM, Inc.
"Target Markets Association has dramatically changed our business. In the past three years we have formed a purchasing group and started a premium finance company. Neither of these accomplishments would have been possible without the information we received in the seminars and the personal contacts made through Target Markets." Raymond L. Arouesty, Arrow Insurance Service, Inc.
"Over the past year I have been carefully considering my reentry into the insurance world, focusing on acquiring a program administrator. This effort was greatly enhanced by my affiliation with Target Markets. Through attendance at their meeting, I met and learned much from the many program administrators and was able to keep abreast of many aspects of this ever-changing market. That information coupled with the data on their great Web site assisted me in my recent acquisition of Professional Underwriters Company. I am sure that as my new firm looks to grow and improve, it will continue to use Target Markets as a valuable resource." William Kronenberg, III, Marsh Creek Corporate Services
"Target Markets does not focus on regional MGAs with company-designed programs like AAMGA, nor does it cater to the wholesale brokerage community like NAPSLO. It is the only association that delivers real value to program managers that provide custom-designed insurance products for a given niche or industry. As a result, I consider the Target Markets conference the most important meeting I attend all year." Greg Thompson, CPCU, ARM, Thomco
"Joining Target Markets has been a very positive experience for our company. During the conventions, we have met new insurers that are interested in our programs, we have a chance to network and commiserate with fellow program administrators, and we have received useful tools from the educational seminars. I also receive daily requests for information on our programs from agents/brokers via the Target Programs Web site link." Karen Trudel, GMI Insurance Services
"When I joined Target Markets, 'Market Contacts' was not my concern because I was as good as gold with my current insurer. However, the friends made through membership helped me when I had to find another market for my program." Dan Schoenfeld, Clarion Insurance
"For the midyear meeting we prepared a 'pitch book' for our new program ideas, and we were able to meet with six different carriers in two days ... where else could we do that? The best practices presentations were very helpful, and we followed up by having our marketing department visit with the presenter from Venture Programs ... as a result we are revamping our marketing plans. Target Markets is a tremendous bargain and will help grow your business for pennies on the dollar." Arthur Seifert, Lighthouse Companies
"Benfield, Inc., considers Target Markets to be one of the most exciting additions to the program market in years. The association brings relevant products and services to its members with an overall goal of improving this specialty segment's reputation among insurance and reinsurance professionals. We strive for the day when being a member of Target Markets is a mark of the highest standards for program administrators and makes them attractive business partners to insurance companies and other vendors." Doug Bennett, Benfield, Inc.
"We are very impressed with the growth and direction of Target Markets. Their agenda and workshops are extremely valuable in providing solutions to the technology, education, networking, and cross-selling needs of program administrators. We are pleased to be members of an association that gives so much in return." Tom MacArthur, York Insurance Services Group, Inc.
"Target Markets is the only association devoted exclusively to the general agency that manages program business. The company participants are some of the largest in the industry, and the activities associated with Target Markets, as well as the benefits for members, serve one purpose: to continually improve on the quality of program business." Rick Weidman, Clarendon Insurance Group
"The Target Markets annual conference allows us the opportunity to network with other program administrators and major insurance and reinsurance representatives. Because good relationships with dedicated markets are a key element in any successful program, we consider our membership in Target Markets Association to be one of our best investments." Linda Tish, Poms & Associates Insurance Brokers
If Theodore Roosevelt asked us if we could make Target Markets even more beneficial for its members, we'd reply: "Certainly we can." We're already hard at work learning how.
The Target Markets Annual Summit is scheduled for October 18-20 in Tempe, Arizona. Program administrators who would like more information about Target Markets or the Annual Summit can visit the association's Web site (www.targetmkts.com).