on May 17, 2014 by admin in Insurance Industry, Comments (0)

Commitment to insurance industry focus of Iowa forum – Omaha World

When: 2 p.m. Tuesday to noon Thursday
Where: Des Moines Marriott
Cost: $495
Website: globalinsurancesymposium.com

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Iowa is known as a world food capital, and next week its business promoters will hold an event emphasizing the state's leadership in another industry: insurance.

More than 300 people signed up for the Global Insurance Symposium, which starts Tuesday at the downtown Des Moines Marriott. The opening reception will be at the World Food Prize Foundation Hall of Laureates, about six blocks away.

Connecting the two industries is no accident.

Jay Byers and his longtime friend Nick Gerhart, newly named Iowa insurance commissioner, last year began talking about the prominence of insurance and figured an event like the annual World Food Prize conference might be just the thing.

Gerhart and Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership — the metro area's chamber of commerce — brought Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, into the plan, and the symposium moved ahead.

“People from across the world, the greatest minds, come here in the fall to discuss agriculture and world hunger,” Byers said. “We thought this would be a great opportunity to do the same thing in the spring, to convene the top insurance experts to talk about cutting-edge issues.

“We think we can make the case that we're the best in the world for insurance, and position central Iowa as a global hub for insurance.”

Des Moines is home to 81 insurance companies, and 58,000 people, or 16 percent of the workforce, are employed by insurance and finance companies, which includes banks.

Omaha has 64 insurance companies and 42,400 people working in finance and insurance, about 9 percent of the workforce.

Byers said Nebraska's insurance industry is important, too. “Historically, the Midwest has been a great place to do business. As a larger region, to be known as an insurance powerhouse is a great thing.”

Durham said the symposium will showcase Iowa's commitment to the insurance industry. During the farm crisis of the 1980s, Iowa leaders moved to diversify the state's economy by lowering its insurance tax rates and creating a fair, consistent insurance regulatory environment.

Nebraska did much the same, and since then both states have attracted dozens of insurance companies' regulatory homes, or “domiciles.” They are required to open offices here, and although most keep their headquarters elsewhere, their employment in Iowa and Nebraska typically expands as time goes by.

Some major insurance companies located their headquarters in Iowa, such as Principal Financial Group in Des Moines.

During a business recruitment trip to India last year with Gov. Terry Branstad, Durham and Byers invited T.J. Vijayan of the India Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority to come to the symposium. He agreed and is one of the keynote speakers.

India's interest in Iowa may go beyond insurance to other industries, Durham said. “Obviously, relationships that are being built around the conference are important.”

As director of the Iowa Division of Insurance, Gerhart's task was to assemble speakers and panelists important to a wide range of insurance specialties, including property, life, health and liability insurance and annuities.

Those attending, at $495 each, are insurance executives, regulators and others “living and breathing this stuff every day,” he said. Trade groups, insurance companies, investment managers, software developers, attorneys and others signed up as sponsors, 26 in all.

One topic is adoption of international capital standards for insurance companies. Government regulation also is on the agenda.

Only the United States has decentralized insurance regulation, with 56 jurisdictions for insurance, counting each state, territory and the District of Columbia, plus new federal regulations that are coming into play.

Insurers in other countries have national regulators, and some emerging countries are still developing their regulations.

Regulatory changes in Japan and Germany can loom large for companies active in the world's other large insurance markets. India's complex bureaucratic system is of interest to insurers looking toward Asia's fast-growing economies.

“We should hear from experts in the industry to get their perspective,” Gerhart said. “We expect a lot of good ideas, some thought leadership. And we hope to show how our system has worked for the last 150 years.”

Once the symposium is underway, Gerhart said, the exchange of ideas may yield unexpected results. For example, it may be valuable to understand why crop insurance is such a contentious issue in India.

Gerhart said the goal is to hold the conference regularly, whether it's every year or every other year. So far, no future date has been selected.

The symposium's location is important, too, he said. “Let's take the discussion out of Washington, D.C., and New York and put it right in the middle of the heartland.”

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Insurance in the Midlands

California has the most people working in finance and insurance with 778,100, which is 20 per 1,000 population.

The top 10 employers in finance and insurance, ranked by employees per 1,000 population:
Employment Per 1,000
1. Delaware 44,800 48
2. Dist. of Columbia 29,000 45
3. Nebraska 72,100 39
4. Connecticut 130,700 36
5. South Dakota 29,600 35
6. New York 676,700 34
7. Iowa 103,800 34
8. Minnesota 180,600 33
9. North Dakota 23,800 33
10. Massachusetts 206,100 31

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census, state insurance departments

Article source: http://www.omaha.com/article/20140517/MONEY/140518810

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