Bored? Insurance Makes Great Reading For Those Summer Days!

By Chris Amrhein, AAI

WELCOME to the dog days of summer! When we were kids, and the temperature and humidity rose to the point where even lying under a shade tree was nearly unbearable, we'd mount up our trusty bikes and ride like the wind to the local library. There, awash in the cool air conditioning, we'd pass the hours (until it was time to go home or Mrs. Adams threw us out) escaping the sweltering heat in tales of imagination and intrigue!

Of course, things have changed. I now have air conditioning right in my home. The only bicycles around are those on the back of the bridge cards. And instead of reading the latest Hardy Boys or Tom Swift Jr. books, I'm ensconced in my insurance library, catching up on all those filings and magazines I haven't yet had time to digest. A pitcher of iced tea and the scene is set. Ah, sweet bliss!

What's that you say? Insurance is mundane and boring? Arcane and esoteric? You can't believe I'd waste a perfectly good summer day on such trivia? I need to get a life?

Hold on there, partner! How many of you are pursuing greater intellectual pursuits on such days? Truth be told, I'd bet far too many of you would be embarrassed to admit you are positively riveted by the prospect of seeing the WCW finally go head-to-head with the WWF! Others of you are endlessly debating whether Survivor I was a fluke, Survivor II was rigged and whether Africa really is the best place for Survivor III. And is it just me, or hasn't this whole Britney Spears-Justin Timberlake thing taken on an eerie parallel to the romantic travails of the doc and lady pilot on the late, lamented "Northern Exposure"?

Compared with these weighty issues, insurance forms attain the status of intellectual classics. And indisputably, the ISO forms are more clearly written than "The Canterbury Tales," shorter than "The Odyssey" and more entertaining than "The Scarlet Letter."

Now that we've established that insurance is a form of literature worthy of your time, here are thumbnail sketches of what's on my recommended summer reading list.

The HO 2000 Form. Oh, what tangled webs we wreak when first we practice to prune and tweak. Besides the form's student-away-at-school conundrum, which I discussed in a previous column, there is much in the HO 2000 to keep readers rummaging for hours. Golf carts gain amazing coverages, intentional acts go on forever and innocent insureds find themselves pillaged by guilty brethren. And what soap-opera writer wouldn't be proud of the story line bringing back the HO-5. Thought to be dead from a 1980s market crash, it turns out only to have been in the shower during a long dream sequence. In an effort to lessen the conflicts sure to arise from reopening old wounds (the named-perils forms were always suspected of complicity in the previous demise of the HO-5, sick of its incessantly taunting, "My perils are bigger than yours!"), ISO even created an "all-risk" endorsement just for the meek and mild HO-4. Now isn't that special.

The ISO CGL Form. Can you say "Montrose"? I knew that you could. King Friday would find himself right at home in this strange Land of Make Believe, where courts are accused of throwing out age-old policy coverage understandings. Then ISO reacts with a plethora of new, often-confusing policy language and provisions, attempting to restore the old order of things. I know: So what else is new? But whether you consider such sequels to be eagerly anticipated (think "Star Wars") or a waste of time and money (think "Ernest Rides Again"), you have to watch, since you fail to keep up with policy changes at your own E&O peril.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Personally, I'd rather wait for the movie. But this financial-services legislation is sending tsunamis of change through our system, affecting nearly everything we do now and in the future. As with "The Godfather," we originally heard almost entirely about the "Don Corleone" part of the law, which finally let the banks into our business. But the law's two overlooked "sons" have the potential to wreak far more havoc with our system than the Don ever dreamed of.

The "Sonny" of the law is the national licensing provisions, commonly referred to as the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers (NARAB). For the first time, states are grudgingly agreeing they'd rather compromise on their licensing rules than go to the mattresses with the feds. Can national CE rules be far behind? And trust me, that development will create huge changes in the what, where and how of obtaining your education credits.

And just when the 50 state "families" think the hard work is done, along comes the "Michael" provision, containing all the privacy disclosure requirements. Of course, you knew those already went into effect last month, right? And your agency has sent the required notices with the proper wording to all of your clients, right? For those who have spent too much time watching the Don and Sonny, Michael has quietly assumed the real position of power. A provision that forces even the mighty AOL and Citicorp to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars sending out millions of privacy notices (singlehandedly saving the U.S. Postal Service from bankruptcy for at least another few months) is clearly something to be reckoned with. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, contact your state agents association for the full details of what you and your state insurance departments or legislatures should already have done. Otherwise, you might just get a calling card from Michael during the next baptism. Just remember-it's business, not personal.

ISO Forms Portfolio. Great baseball pitchers often have one or two key variety pitches (cutter, slider, two-fingered fastball, knuckleball) to keep hitters guessing, but they can't survive without being able to fire up that good old fastball. In the same way, this industry has myriad forms-carrier modifications, specialty, professional and manuscript forms. Yet it's hard to survive without a solid knowledge of the good old ISO forms. Most of the aforementioned forms use some or most of the ISO language as their basis, just as that killer fastball sets up the slider. So no summer reading program can be considered complete without a doubleheader of forms and endorsement reviews. And you don't have to go to the park expecting anything specific. Just settle in, wave over the beer man, score a couple of Dodger Dogs, and kick back to enjoy the game. Check out the program to see who's on the way up (EPLI) and who's on the way to the minors (the old crime forms). Check out the new talent (market segment programs), and update yourself on the veterans (business auto and garage). And if you're a real fan and can rattle off the vital stats on any of the 332 currently approved ISO multistate forms, give your fantasy-league brain a real workout by trying to name at least half of the more than 100 manual classifications that require attachment of at least one coverage-changing endorsement. For extra credit (and a chance to make a sale and avoid an E&O claim), name the endorsement and what it does.

With such a wealth of reading available to open doors of opportunity for broadening your insurance horizons, the only remaining question is where to start mining this motherload. Pick your spot, dive in and have fun!

And for those of you still are not convinced, think of it this way. At least it will help pass the days until the next Harry Potter book comes out.

August 2001 American Agent & Broker