By Association Adviser staff
For 86 years, the American Association of Managing General Agents (AAMGA) has been the leading voice of international wholesale insurance professionals, representing the interests of its members before federal, state and local governmental and regulatory agencies.
The King of Prussia, Penn.-based organization has roughly 500 member companies that are entrusted with $27 billion in annual premiums. Employees of each member company are entitled to full member benefits.
|Bernie Heinze, AAMGA
That gives the organization effectively 40,000 to 50,000 engaged sets of eyeballs, according to Bernie Heinze, AMMGA’s executive director since 2000.
AAMGA is committed to providing authoritative expertise on every aspect of wholesale insurance transactions “from beginning to end,” said Heinze, who practiced law for 17 years, including 10 years on Capital Hill for congressman Jack Kemp, before taking over the helm of AAMGA. “We want our members to understand the full range of wholesale insurance implications, from HR to IT to reinsurance and more.”
Through its website, member newsletter and new quarterly magazine WIN (Wholesale Insurance News), Heinze said AAMGA’s mission is not only to report the news and legislation that affects its members, but explain to them why it’s happening and how it influences the way they conduct business. “We take these things, drill down deep to the basement, and then build back up from the foundation so members can have a clearer, unique understanding of the most important issues of the day,” said Heinze.
That’s a unique perspective on the wholesale insurance profession that members simply can’t get anywhere else, including Insurance Journal,National Underwriter and other longstanding industry trade publications, he added.
Genesis of an idea
WIN launched in May in conjunction with AAMGA’s 2011 annual meeting. A kick-off email blast was sent to all members just as the opening keynote presentation was starting. That got WIN out of the gates in a hurry, and it hasn’t looked back since, Heinze said.
The idea for WIN was born out of the consultative marketing meetings that AAMGA regularly has with its partners at Naylor. Unlike the member magazines published by most associations, WIN does not contain any information about the association itself – that’s what the member newsletter is for, noted Heinze.
“We feel very strongly that WIN should be a trusted portal of immediately usable information for the wholesale insurance industry. We’re getting great content from all corners of the profession, and we’re utilizing the latest advances in page-digital publishing, QR codes and the like,” he said. “It’s just great to see how a small idea has really exploded and the digital edition makes it very convenient for members to forward along to their colleagues, clients and customers.”
Distribution multiplier effect
In addition to AAMGA’s company members and their employees, WIN is sent digitally to nearly 7,000 past and present conference attendees and has been picked up by Insurance Broadcast Media. That gives WIN a total reach of about 250,000 sets of eyes.
“To say that our advertisers and the sales team are excited about this reach is an understatement,” said Heinze. “At the same time, I want everyone on the publishing team to know why we exist and what insurance is all about: trusted relationships. You’ve got to sell the industry and the people first, not just the magazine.”
No. 1 voice
Associations have an opportunity to give members a unique perspective they can’t get elsewhere. Heinze, who reviews every article published by AAMGA, said he’s able to get the industry’s top thought leaders to write and comment for WIN. That includes widely recognized regulators, legislators, academic experts, consultants and even leaders from other wholesale insurance associations.
“Our readers have come to look forward to the Winner Circle thought leader interview in every issue,” said Heinze. “We also take one high profile article from each issue – for example, ‘Hold, Fold or Double Down’ – then ask various agents for their opinion on how they’re dealing with tough economic climate and significant reduction in their exposure base. We transcribe those comments into a roundtable-style article for the next issue.”
With the recent contraction in the industry – MGAs buying one another – AAMGA has been aggressive about reaching out to younger members of the profession. As an incentive to join, any under-40 employee of an AAMGA member company can join the association for free. AAMGA also helps younger members go abroad for a year so they can learn about the global side of the insurance business.
Established 20 years ago, the Under Forty Organization (UFO) elects its own president and vice presidents for the board of directors, holds an annual meeting in September of each year, sponsors a reception open to all attendees at the AAMGA annual meeting in May, and conducts special education and leadership training sessions.
Interactive member directory
AAMGA has partnered with Naylor since 2004. Its directory is published in both print and online form, with the online version searchable by state, specialty, company executive, contact information and area of expertise. “We’ve gone from about 5,000 users per year to nearly 50,000 users per month,” said Heinze. The website is now updated every day. It includes videos, podcasts, downloadable white papers and webinars.
Social media and integration
Although AAMGA’s members have traditionally been “ink-and-paper” folks, Heinze said they know that’s changing and younger members are especially mobile. AAMGA now has Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages to build community, and its continuing education curriculum (called East and West University) now offers courses on social media for insurance professionals.
“We’re certainly not experts in this, but we’re looking closely at how to integrate social and mobile media with our overall publishing and communications platform,” said Heinze. “We’re not publishing on social media to be cool. We’re looking for ways to keep the conversation started in our magazine and live events going.”
Reader note: See today’s lead story for more on social media’s impact on associations.
Heinze said many organizations don’t realize how helpful social media can be in terms of reaching many sub-communities of its membership. In AAMGA’s case, that means catering to individual lines of business: trucking, restaurants, construction, cargo, oil and gas, marine, pharmaceutical, satellite and medical malpractice. They each have unique issues, challenges and opportunities.
Looking toward the future
Said Heinze, “I’m always asking myself: Are we staying ahead of the curve? Can we be proactive rather than reactive when anticipating members’ needs? Can they use what we produce to differentiate themselves from their competitors?
“Our parents always warned us to have something to fall back on in case our dreams didn’t come true. Now we’ve got to teach the younger folks how to fall forward, how take a chance. Like a lot of people in leadership positions, I’ve learned more from my failures than I have from my successes.”
Teaching risk-mitigation specialists how to take calculated risks to build their businesses and professional credentials is no easy task in this tough economy. But in the long run, bold thinking will always WIN out over inertia.
Don’t forget to take our latest online reader poll. Fast results. Find out what your peers are thinking.
Rate this article 5 (Excellent) to 1 (Poor). Send ratings and comments here.