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OIA Welcomes Craig Niess to Agency Valuation Role

GAHANNA, OH - Ohio Insurance Agents Association is excited to announce that Craig Niess has joined the association as Business Planning and Valuation Manager.

Craig Niess headshotGrowing OIA’s vision to be a “change agent for agent change,” Niess will lead the association’s initiatives to build and develop business solutions in the areas of agency valuation, succession planning and business planning. As an expert advisor, he will help independent agents set up a plan for long-term success.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to develop and manage the consulting practice within OIA and bring much needed services and solutions to Ohio’s independent agencies,” Niess says. “In 2018, we want to offer high-quality business consulting to as many agencies as possible.”

Niess shares OIA’s passion for independent agents and the IA channel. He has more than seven years of financial and operational consulting experience with independent agents through his tenure at Marsh, Berry & Company. In this role, he launched new products, provided customized consulting services, developed and implemented business plans, and created financial models.

“Independent agents are pillars of the communities they serve,” Niess says. “We want to empower them so they continue to thrive in an ever-changing insurance landscape.  We want to help these agencies and provide them with solutions that will keep them viable for generations to come.”

Recently, Niess also worked for a startup in Cleveland and brings his entrepreneurial spirit cultivated from that experience to his new role at OIA. He holds an MBA from the University of Iowa and a Bachelor of Arts from Ohio Wesleyan University.

Ohio Insurance Agents Association

Ohio Insurance Agents Association (OIA) is the collective voice of 1,300 independent agencies that employ nearly 10,000 Ohioans. We promote, progress and protect the professional advice and guidance only independent insurance agents provide. OIA members write 82 percent of the commercial insurance policies and 44 percent of personal insurance policies in Ohio. OIA helps agents by providing agency valuation, succession planning, generational health, operational benchmarking reports, other business solutions and industry thought leadership.

IACON17 Energizes and Empowers Ohio’s Independent Agents

Bold. Energizing. Forward-thinking.

Those are just a few of the words used to describe IACON17, OIA’s all-new conference that moved independent agents beyond their comfort zone to transform their futures.

We are truly grateful for the agents and carrier representatives that came with their eyes and ears open, looking to learn and grow with each other.

Not your typical insurance conference

IACON17 brought more than 300 industry professionals together at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Columbus for this one-of-a-kind event.

It kicked off with OIA’s mission to be a market differentiator and “change agent” for the IA channel.

OIA is committed to helping the IA channel thrive. That’s why IACON17 content was centered around several critical areas: digital marketing, recruiting and training, perpetuation, improving the customer experience and cyber awareness.

All-star speakers

IACON17 kicked off with Marcus Sheridan, a powerful speaker that Forbes named one of 20 “speakers you don’t want to miss the opportunity to see.”

Sheridan talked about the many ways the insurance buyer has changed and the steps agents need to take to successfully adjust to these changes.

With his riveting presentation and no-nonsense approach, Sheridan advised attendees on how to transform their sales and their mindset to bring in more leads and engage clients.

“After listening to [Marcus Sheridan] talk about the importance of online marketing and blogging, I stopped delaying setting up my blog on my website,” said an IACON17 attendee from Central Ohio.

“The speakers were fantastic and gave me many ideas to help drive our business forward.”

IACON17 attendee from Central Ohio

A unique twist to the traditional panel discussion, IACON17 featured IA Talk, a TED Talk-style chat with four different insurance carriers.

Each carrier took the stage for 15 minutes to set the record straight on a variety of hot-button issues:

  • John Ammendola, president and CEO of Grange Insurance, talked about industry-wide digital technology trends and solutions that Grange is providing their agents.

  • Mike Lewis of Nationwide Insurance discussed the changes taking place at his company to give captive agents greater flexibility in the distribution channel.

  • Jon Wade of United Fire Group (UFG) shared why UFG launched in Ohio, what’s working and what’s not, and why Ohio is a truly great place for independent agents to do business.

  • Mike LaRocco, president and CEO of State Auto Insurance, talked about the innovation trends he sees in our industry, and what State Auto is doing to equip agents with tools to stay relevant.

“The speakers were fantastic and gave me many ideas to help drive our business forward,” said another IACON17 attendee from Central Ohio.

IACON17’s next keynote speaker, Bobby Reagan of Reagan Consulting, shared secrets from the highest-performing agencies to help attendees avoid perpetuation “worst practices” and get the most value for their agencies.

“I thought the keynote speakers were second to none,” says an IACON17 attendee from Northwest Ohio.

“A lot of insurance conventions are very boring and have a lack of content. The speakers were very informative, while keeping our attention for the hours they were there. It was nice to hear the speakers talk about how we can make our business better and not just stand up there and rattle off statistics. All of the speakers had a direct message on how we can become better agents.”

The fun side of IACON17

The action-packed first day of conference concluded with an entertaining evening at The Bluestone, a beautiful live music venue that is also an historic church!

Some conferences are all work and no play, but having fun was an essential part of the IACON17 agenda.

Attendees enjoyed food and drinks while rocking out to one of the region’s most popular cover bands, Shucking Bubba.

This event was a perfect networking opportunity for independent agents who came from all parts of the state, from major cities to small towns. We proved that insurance agents really do know how to party!

Down to business

Day two of IACON17 kicked off with the Annual Business Meeting where Matt Simon, OIA’s Vice Board Chair, talked about OIA’s role as “champions for independent agents.”

He discussed OIA’s commitment to creating resources in critical areas for IA success like valuation and succession planning, business planning, recruiting and training, and digital marketing.

“Our mission is simple – we are here to help YOU,” Simon explained. “Our goal is to make you the best independent agent you can be by equipping you with the highest quality resources, tools and professional development to ensure long-term success in the IA channel.”

Next, OIA’s Board Chair Perk Reichley took the stage to honor the association’s outgoing CEO George Haenszel.

Through his leadership, Haenszel helped grow the association into a strong and vital organization for more than 1,300 Ohio agencies. Haenszel gave a moving speech to the crowd about his 40-year career with OIA.

“IACON17 opened my eyes to the importance of digital media."

IACON17 attendee from Southwest Ohio

Break out of the box

Later in the morning, attendees had the opportunity to attend style breakout sessions featuring experts in the following topics: Digital marketing, customer experience, cyber security and recruiting and training:

  • Kelly Donahue-Piro, founder of Agency Performance Partners talked about how to define and design an agency’s customer experience.

  • Ryan Hanley, SVP of Marketing at TrustedChoice.com and managing editor of Agency Nation, shared digital marketing best practices that agents could implement in their agency immediately after the conference.

  • Bryan Seely, a world-famous ethical hacker, cyber security expert and former U.S. Marine, gave the inside scoop on data breaches and what agencies can do to keep their data safe.

  • Claudia St. John of Affinity HR Group discussed hiring and onboarding best practices. She also talked about teaching teams about behavioral styles, conflict resolution and collaboration.

“IACON17 opened my eyes to the importance of digital media,” says an IACON17 attendee from Southwest Ohio. “Lots of good input from Marcus Sheridan and Kelly Donahue-Piro.”

Ready for more?

IACON17 is just the beginning! We’re building more programs to energize and empower Ohio’s independent agents.

Our next event will be March 1, 2018 at the Rhinegeist Brewery in Cincinnati.

IACON17 Speaker Bobby Reagan, Perpetuation ‘Worst Practices’

Bobby Reagan promo IACON17

Avoid "worst practices" in agency perpetuation! IACON17 speaker Bobby Reagan will be sharing secrets from the highest-performing agencies so you can get the most value from your agency.

With 30-plus years of insurance industry experience and creation of the IIABA Best Practices Study, Bobby is a true authority in the space. He’ll provide insights into preparing to perpetuate, maintaining perpetuation options for your firm, and increasing the value of your agency to all buyers.

You’ll also learn about Reagan’s Private Ownership Study, including why today’s environment is making internal perpetuation more challenging than ever and how you can set up a plan for successful internal perpetuation.

If you’re selling – or thinking about selling – your agency, you don’t want to miss Bobby’s presentation at IACON17, Oct. 19-20, in downtown Columbus!


New BWC Form for Ohio Employers in Not-at-Fault Motor Vehicle Accidents

Effective July 1, 2017, Ohio employers can request that a workers’ compensation claim resulting from a motor vehicle accident that is likely to be subrogated be paid from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s (BWC) surplus fund account rather than be charged to the employer’s experience.

Prior to this new process, Ohio employers had no reprieve from higher workers’ compensation premiums and loss of group rating eligibility, despite an auto accident not being their fault.

OIA member support

This new process is the result of the passage of Ohio House Bill 207, which OIA members Jim Klingensmith, CIC of L. Calvin Jones & Co. in Canfield, Mike Heister, CIC of Heister Insurance in Cincinnati, and Tom Lucci, CPCU, ARM of National Risk Management Services Inc. in Chagrin Falls provided testimony in support of this issue in the House and Senate insurance committees.

Initially, the form BWC developed for employers to apply for this new process required multiple pieces of supporting documentation that would have been difficult to obtain, such as the at-fault party’s auto insurance declaration page.

This raised significant concerns because it would likely be impossible for an employer to obtain this information. Without it, an employer would not be able to benefit from the new process to have a motor vehicle accident claim that is not their fault be charged to BWC’s surplus fund.

With this in mind, OIA arranged a meeting with several members of BWC’s actuarial and legal teams – including BWC Chief Actuary Chris Carlson -- to express concerns.

As a result of the meeting, BWC revised the form. Now only two key pieces of supporting insurance documentation are required to be submitted by an employer with the application: An auto insurance ID card can be provided in lieu of a dec page.

Educate commercial clients

A win for Ohio’s employers, this new BWC process corrects an inequity that used to exist by punishing employers that were in a situation that may be no fault of their own.

We encourage you to educate your commercial clients about this new process so they can take advantage of it should they be involved in a motor vehicle accident that meets this criteria.

Questions? Contact OIA’s Government Affairs Manager Carolyn Mangas.


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