How to Build Positive Relationships with State Regulators
I once had a state regulator tell me the best relationships she has with brokers and filers are the ones that started with significant challenges. I thought to myself, is that what it takes to have a great relationship with a regulator? No one wants to be on the radar of a regulator! There has to be a better way.
As last year was a monumental year of change, frustration, and concern, we all encountered challenges. States adjusted their surplus lines filing requirements, extended surplus lines deadlines to accommodate the work from home structure, changed their signature requirements, and in some cases changed the surplus lines tax and stamping fee payment process. Not only did agencies experience the upheaval of change, so did our state regulators.
Did you change the way you interacted with your state regulator?
Did you contact them more frequently than you had in the past? Did the ever-changing environment increase your interaction with the stamping offices?
In the book Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen R Covey, he states, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Since embarking into the world of Surplus Lines, I realized that our states and their surplus lines associations all want to help us stay compliant with state laws and regulations. They want to be a resource for us to go to when we have questions related to reporting, policy structure, and more. They take that responsibility seriously. They don’t only want to feed you the proverbial fish; they want to teach you how to fish.
How do we build that lasting positive relationship with state regulators?
How do brokers bring business through the door? By building relationships with their Agents. Building relationships with their agents allows them to better understand their needs, their client base, and their areas of specialty. How do personal relationships and friendships last? By building relationships based on trust, openness, and communication. How do coworkers work amongst each other accomplishing the department or companies overall goals? By open communication, respect for each other, and understanding the company goals and individual perspective. This is true of all relationships, no matter what type: coworker to coworker, between friends, broker to agent, or regulator to filer. Positive relationships are built on a foundation of understanding the individual, open communication, and mutual respect.
Genuine Interest in the Individual
Why is understanding an individual necessary in building positive relationships? Because it is the people that matter the most. Creating a connection on some level with an individual, whether a regulator, broker or filer, can create openness and a willingness to approach challenges that may be hard to discuss. Building a friendship starts with common interests. We are lucky that we have a built-in common interest, Surplus Lines. The world of surplus lines is vast and, depending on the individual’s point of view, exciting! Which is it for you? Which is it for them?
Our perceptions influence how we interact with individuals. If we approach with a mindset that the individual is coming from a place of openness and respect, how does that change the way you interact with that person? There is so much we can learn from each other. To break that barrier, let’s “seek to understand first, then to be understood.”
Do we speak the same language?
Open communication is a language all on its own. Dialogue occurs in many forms for individuals, both internally and externally. Articulating thoughts for some is scary. How do we break the barrier of communication with our regulators and examiners?
In a large number of agencies, your filer happened upon the responsibility of reporting surplus lines transactions to states. As I’ve implemented many clients to the InsCipher products and services, I’ve found commonality between most agencies and their team of individuals who handle the reporting aspects. In all cases, they started brand new into surplus lines with no previous knowledge. Perhaps they were accounting admins, assistants, account managers, licensing or compliance individuals who became assigned to the responsibility of reporting surplus lines transactions due to need or excellence in their performance. Each one of these individuals had a crash course on surplus lines or was expected to “figure it out.” Sound familiar? Some may have had predecessors who were organized and provided training material, but most were not so lucky. Communication, research, and outreach become a lifeline for these individuals.
Our states work with many individual brokers and filers with varying degrees of knowledge. Open communication, explaining the challenge, and finding a resolution are essential to successfully working with any regulatory authority. Recognizing that regulators are there to help makes a world of difference when approaching them for guidance. Create that personal connection with the individuals who can teach you how to stay within state compliance. Creating that personal connection makes it easier to ask questions and explain circumstances you are experiencing so they can teach you the “How” and the “Why” of surplus lines compliance. I have encountered multiple state regulators that I enjoy talking to. They all have examiners who are willing to assist when needing clarification on questions that come up.
In every field, success occurs through the building of relationships
In a world where technology, efficiency, and numbers are of utmost importance, it can be easy to forget that there are people behind it all. Pick up the phone and call the state regulator who questioned a policy. Pick up the phone and call the examiner who tagged a transaction or scrutinized a report. Learn from the individual the whys and the hows of surplus lines compliance. Go to them with openness and a willingness to learn, and they will give you the key to efficiency by sharing with you the tips and tricks of the state or the compliance rules which can help your agency avoid negative action. The state regulators and examiners are people like you and me who are doing the best to help us accomplish success in our roles and responsibilities. Let’s build positive relationships with our regulators not based on the challenges but based on the desire to learn and understand.
Inscipher is an insurtech software solution revolutionizing inefficient insurance processes. Save your agency time and money by automating surplus lines compliance, filing, and reporting. Want to learn more? Request a free demo today.
Kahea has been in the financial and insurance industry for 15+ years. She specializes in agency operations, workflow, and user perspectives when working with different teams within InsCipher. She loves understanding the complexity of state regulations and creating solutions that impact the insurance industry in a technology-focused way.