New CPCU president plans for the future
Society wants to boost its broker penetration, international and social media presence
By Bruce D. Hicks, CPCU, CLU
The Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters Society was formed in Philadelphia in 1944. It is a separate organization from The Institutes, the educational organization that administers the CPCU courses and which officially confers the designation. Since the Society's beginning, nearly 70,000 insurance professionals have attained the designation. The Society adheres to the following mission:
The CPCU Society is committed to providing resources, educational programs, and leadership opportunities that attract talent and enable individuals to expand their technical insurance skills and business capabilities in order to improve the overall performance of the insurance industry while adhering to the highest ethical standards.
In the years since its formation, the Society has faced many challenges in following its mission and serving its membership. The Society, particularly recently, has embraced making substantial changes. Over the last several years, in order to enhance its strategic focus, it has redefined the role of governors (who oversee chapter-level activities) and reduced its board of directors (which had included governors) from more than 40 to a much smaller group. Roughly a year ago its members were asked to make an unprecedented change. By an overwhelming majority, they voted to formally affiliate with The Institutes, becoming, essentially, a single organization. The Society's board was reorganized as its Leadership Council.
At the beginning of each business year, The Society turns leadership over to a new president. This year's chief is David Medvidofsky, vice president and head of internal audit at The Main Street America Group, a super regional property/casualty carrier. He takes lead of the organization after its first full year since the vote to affiliate with the Institutes.
RN: What are the Society's current prospects as a result of the affiliation with The Institutes?
Medvidofsky: As far as the big picture goes, I'm excited about the new empowered staff model, with The Institutes providing access to more staff resources. Under our new model, we are relying less on volunteers to conduct research on initiatives and lead implementation efforts. Rather, Society volunteers generate strategies that improve growth, retention, and member value and The Institutes staff present research that allow Society leadership to make fact-based decisions.
Now that we're affiliated, we can take full advantage of our smaller board. The 14 members on the Leadership Council can focus on our mission, vision and strategic goals. Then, our empowered staff can work out the details. The result is that our nonprofit organization is able to operate like a for-profit entity.
One example is how we're addressing chapter Web sites. (Editor's note: The CPCU Society has more than 140 chapters worldwide.) These Web sites are all maintained by dedicated and hard-working volunteers, but there is not a common brand or content structure. Therefore, as a primary means of communicating with our members, we're vulnerable. Significant interruptions to member value occur when there is a loss of Web volunteers (i.e., CPCU Webmasters). We will be rolling out an enhanced social media approach in phases that will include improvements to our Web site program. This will be available for use with all chapters.
Another example of what can be accomplished as a result of our affiliation is online chapters, which can be used to help chapters that are challenged by things such as geography or lack of volunteer leadership. Online chapters can leverage technology with different features to give all members a rewarding CPCU Society experience.
We will also strengthen all chapters by our continued effort to understand and memorialize the best practices of successful local chapters and communicate those to all chapters through premier events such as our annual Leadership Summits.
RN: What measurable impact has the now decade-long existence of the diversity task forces and committee had on the Society?
Medvidofsky: Certainly having the (diversity) committee has increased our awareness. For instance, our Nominating Committee makes sure that inclusiveness and proper representation are a part of their process. I think that it has assisted us in bringing more discipline in our searches for new leaders that both represent our membership as well as pay attention to the need for greater diversity of qualified and nominated candidates. It has also enabled us to do a better job in our mentoring efforts for future leaders. (Editor's note: The Society's Nominating Committee recruits, vets and suggests candidates to fill its high-level positions.)
RN: Recently the Society appointed an international ambassador. What role will this position play in furthering our development as an international organization?
Medvidofsky: I believe that this position will help spread the word about the CPCU designation and the Society. Our brand recognition is not as great outside of the United States. We must spread the word about our technical and educational possibilities.
Instead of sending our U.S. staff to foreign locales, it made more sense to find an international champion already part of the international workplace. Our international ambassador will speak to peers and increase our ability to establish an international presence.
RN: What initiatives are either in place or under consideration to balance the Society's company-oriented profile?
Medvidofsky: More balance is a strategic issue the Leadership Council has recognized, as the Society's agent and broker penetration is only about 15%. The question would be: Can we make an impact and do a good job of serving agents and brokers given competing offerings? And I believe we can. We will focus on better communication with that group about what we currently offer agents and brokers. We will emphasize the general knowledge and credentialing as a way for them to better serve their companies and clients. We must continue to remind them that we are a premier source of leadership development and networking opportunities.
RN: What is your opinion on the Society's use of social media?
Medvidofsky: We have work to do and we recognize that. The Leadership Council had a recent proposal on social media and how it can be leveraged to help our current and prospective members. New ideas will be delivered over the coming year, including a new Web site.
We will be working on using social media as a tool to effectively communicate with members. I believe that, over time, any idea that the use of social media—and more broadly, technology—is a generational phenomenon will fade. Facebook, for example, has changed from a youth-oriented offering to one that has appeal across many generations.
RN: Can you share about the origin and highlights of your insurance and Society career?
Medvidofsky: I started my career on the agency side. While in an early job, selling real estate, an agency contact of mine suggested I consider insurance as a career. I began as a commercial lines producer for a family agency in my hometown of Keene, New Hampshire. The agency's owner was a CPCU who required credentials of his employees, so I became sensitive to the need for additional education. It was a terrific agency which I appreciated working for but, after some time there, I wanted more variety (in my work) and greater promotion opportunity. I am incredibly appreciative of my time there and all that I was taught being new to the industry.
NGM Insurance Company (now a member of The Main Street America Group) had an office in my town. I applied with NGM in 1991 and I got a job with their personal lines underwriting department. My first boss at NGM was a CPCU and, again, I was encouraged by her to pursue the CPCU designation.
I then held a variety of jobs including personal lines underwriter, marketing manager, product consultant and personal lines manager. As my career progressed at NGM, I moved to a subsidiary and held various management positions there.
Later, I was transferred to Main Street America's home office in Jacksonville, Florida, and was responsible for the organization's corporate strategy and Enterprise Risk Management (ERM). It was a very different experience after many years of technical and managerial duties. With the challenge of new responsibilities, my access to CPCU resources and to a large network of contacts, many with direct knowledge of ERM, was extremely valuable.
In 2011, Main Street America's chief audit executive retired. I moved up into his position, overseeing the company's auditing as well as ERM. The technical credentialing and networking that I experienced through my involvement with the CPCU Society has always been critical to my career, especially the many leadership opportunities I received from the organization.
RN: What do you plan on focusing on during your year at the Society's helm?
Medvidofsky: I wish to deliver our message to employers that what the CPCU Society offers is a lifecycle of various skills that increase employee value. The focus during my year is on strategic initiatives. Immediately after our affiliation with The Institutes, we focused on gathering information on what members valued and wanted from the Society. We collected this information via surveys and focus groups.
Now, we want to reinforce what we've learned, continue to address these needs, and to strengthen our chapters. It's important that we continue leveraging the knowledge of our interest groups and to improve our sustainability. I see sustainability as encouraging insurance as a career with young people by continuing our current programs. Both the CPCU-Loman Education Foundation and The Griffith Insurance Education Foundation work together to attract students into the insurance industry—CPCUs can support this as subject matter experts and mentors. Sustainability will also be enhanced by our goal to reexamine our internal procedures for identifying, mentoring, and selecting future society leaders.
Personally, I'm looking forward to visiting chapters and their members who give so much to our organization. I want to learn their stories—learn about their passion for the designation and our profession. With regard to the Society, I want to be a steward of the spirit of its volunteers and their level of commitment. My role and responsibility with this organization—it's humbling. My responsibility is to be respectful of what we are and what we have and can accomplish. I want to leave this position in good shape for my successors so the value of the CPCU Society continues to resonate for years to come.
Bruce D. Hicks, CPCU, CLU, is senior editor for Technical and Educational Products at The Rough Notes Company. He has more than 30 years of property/casualty insurance experience including personal and small-business underwriting as well as compliance duties for several national and regional insurers. Active in the Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters (CPCU) Society, Bruce served as governor from 2007 through 2010.