NAMIC’s New President-CEO Embarks on a Mission ‘to Be the Voice of the Mutual Industry’
Neil Alldredge talks to AM Best TV about the organization’s future post-COVID and how mutuals’ unique business model serves them well.
- John Weber
- September 2021
Mutuals must grapple with the partisan political environment, the uncertainty of the economy and a challenging regulatory environment, said Neil Alldredge, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.
Alldredge has a long and varied career with NAMIC. He joined the association in 1999, leading its state legislative, regulatory, and international advocacy efforts for 17 years.
In 2017, he was named senior vice president of corporate affairs where he led NAMIC's membership retention and recruitment events and education, public affairs, compliance, and marketing and technology initiatives.
Following is an edited transcript of the interview with AM Best TV.
You've been with NAMIC for over 20 years, which means you really know mutuals from the inside out. I can't imagine that there's a whole lot of ramp-up for you in this position.
There's always things to learn, for sure. NAMIC, for the size of the trade association … we have a $25 million-ish budget overall. We're fairly diverse for our size including our own insurance company, NAMICO, which insures and sells professional liability insurance coverage to our member companies. I'll be the chair of the board of that insurance company.
I've got some stuff to learn on that end of things. Certainly, the nuts and bolts of NAMIC, the advocacy side, the public affairs side, the services we provide member companies I'm pretty familiar with after being here for 20 years. As always, in this role, there's things to learn. I'm looking forward to it.
My vision for this organization is to innovate. We need to invest in some new technology ourselves but also to keep doing what we’re doing and to make the organization seem familiar.
National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
You're taking over NAMIC at a pretty unique time just as we seem to be coming out of a pandemic. How much of an impact did this past year and a half have on mutuals and on NAMIC?
It's something I don't think any of us ever thought we would have to guide an organization through. It had an impact on us at NAMIC in terms of our operations. We do a lot of in-person education events for member companies, an annual convention that you've been to, and several others throughout the year. We had to pivot all of those to virtual.
Now we're bringing them back. Our management conference and CEO roundtable event was actually in-person in late June at The Greenbrier. Someone told me that they believe it was the first in-person insurance event in the world. That may be the case.
It was great to see everybody. There was definitely enthusiasm. Unwinding all of those things and then putting them all back together again here has been a challenge.
Certainly, there's a great story to tell here when it comes to the mutual insurance industry. You and I talked maybe a year ago or so about the shift that a lot of companies did, for instance, to remote work.
Many people have this view of the mutual industry that it's this sleepy corner of the industry. It's been around forever and ever, in some cases 150 or 200 years. The companies aren't necessarily on the forefront of change in everybody's mind.
The pandemic has shown that the mutuals pivoted to this remote work seamlessly. They continued to serve their policyholders and provide the coverage that they needed. That's their only mission. That's the reason why they exist. It gives them a clarity of purpose.
That remote work pivot was something. If you would have lined up many of the analysts of the industry and said, “How do you think the mutual sector is going to do in six months if we have to send everybody home and work from home for a year?” I doubt many would tell you that it would have been a good experience.
The reality of that has proven just the opposite. It's shown that these companies are nimble, or they're agile. They can serve their mission. They can move at the speed they need to to serve their customers. It's really been great to see.
From that perspective, it's a challenge, for certain. But it's something that they're built to last. They've been through Great Depressions and world wars and all of those things. They really are durable entities, and they're really meant to serve their policyholders.
That being the case, do you think mutuals may actually somehow be uniquely positioned in a way that their stock brethren are not as we emerge from all this chaos of the past year and a half?
Certainly, their financial strength has helped them. Their balance sheets are very strong. Eighty-five percent of the mutual industry has been around for over 100 years. That durability, that strength has really served them well right now. They can take the long-term view. They don't have to recover in a quarter, the way a stock insurer may from a stock-price perspective.
They can take the steps they need to recover. That's truly a strength of this structure that has been around forever and doesn't get a lot of attention, but it really works in this context.
You used the word “challenge” a couple of times. What are the challenges mutuals face in this new economic environment that we're in?
There are several. We've got the challenges of just the economy itself, broadly speaking, and the uncertainty that still exists there. It's a challenging regulatory environment right now. The insurers are facing a host of issues. We advocate for them every day in the halls of Congress or in the state Capitols.
Recently, there was a federal court hearing on the HUD rule [the Implementation of the Fair Housing Act's Discriminatory Effects Standard], the rule that we're challenging and have been challenging for, it seems like, a decade now.
There were also two hearings in the U.S. Senate banking committee. That's just a normal week. [In July and August] there was also an NCOIL meeting and the NAIC meeting. There's always a set of issues.
Right now, the political environment—it's so partisan and so challenging to operate in that it creates new problems for the industry, it seems like, every week. That's really what our mission is here at NAMIC and it's what we're here to do, is to represent the interests of our member companies in those bodies.
What are your plans and vision for NAMIC as you take the reins of the organization?
This organization, like I said, it's a great place. It's full of wonderful members. We've grown a lot in the last 15 years. In the last five years alone, we've added over 100 new member companies. We're up to over 1,500 companies that are members of NAMIC.
In the personal lines market, for instance, NAMIC members underwrite 65% of the auto market and a little over half of the homeowners market. Those are also the areas where there are lots of challenges. Those areas are the ones that generate controversy, generally speaking, in legislative bodies.
My vision for NAMIC is to not just continue to grow—we will do that, we will find new ways to serve member companies—but really to grow into ourselves and be the voice of the mutual industry wherever that needs to happen, whether that's in Washington, whether that's in the halls of the state Capitols, internationally, wherever it may be.
NAMIC is the voice of the mutual industry. My vision for this organization is to innovate. We need to invest in some new technology ourselves but also to keep doing what we're doing and to make the organization seem familiar.
Our biggest challenge is we've got to reconnect our member companies to the organization as well. Just as we've all been separated, the companies have been separated from their association. That's one of our top priorities—to accomplish that goal to reconnect the staff. We've been working remotely ourselves.
We're going to reconnect everybody here shortly and the same thing with member companies. I look for NAMIC to continue to grow, continue to be a voice of the mutual industry, and to continue to be the organization that everybody knows so well.