I recently returned from the Securities and Insurance Licensing Association (SILA) 17th National Education Conference in Florida. It’s mostly an educational conference for those who deal with agent licensing. State regulators and licensing professionals are brought together for a few days of “how to’s” and “what-do-you-do’s.” We stayed at the Gaylord Palms right near the entrance to Disney World. Great hotel if you’re interested…

Lots of gators and turtles in this pond in the hotel (click for a larger image)

They also had a trade show for various vendors serving the agent licensing market. I was particularly impressed with Sircon, Vector One, and Interstate Background Research (IBR).

I found agent licensing folks to be a lot different from the marketing folks I usually deal with. They eat a lot more, and they smoke like chimneys!!! But they’re very nice and open to ways to automate things. Unfortunately, based on much informal chatter at meals and on the cigarette porch, they seem to be at the bottom rung of the ladder when it comes to IT resources.

Some of mel Fischer’s stuff from the Atocha find…

As a “newbie” I was very fortunate to have Jenn McQuade, Interstate Background Research sales and marketing coordinator, to introduce me to other attendees. Interstate specializes in pre-employment screening. We’re currently working on a job together, with IBR providing the screening and IdeaStar providing the online automation for licensing.

Jenn gave an excellent example of how important prescreening is. In a recent case, an automatic fraud check helped uncover three insurance agents, all related with different last names, raiding a broker database and reselling insurance on new ‘paper’. Without IBR’s work, they would probably still be in the business, and possibly leading to the downfall of the brokerage. This really points out the value of integrating services with automated online licensing. Licensing departments clearly need as much sophistication as sales departments. The only difference is that it’s not about incremental revenues, it’s more about saving money and reducing risks.

Hammerhead shark with the eyes on the ‘hammer’!!!

Next I’m off to E-Fusion 2006 in Boston. The A.M. Best annual fall event is dedicated to highlighting new developments in insurance through resourceful uses of technology as applied to business strategy. I’m hoping to bring home the grand prize with our client MemberHealth. Theirs is a terrific story about a successful e-commerce site being in the right place at the right time. I’ll also try to catch the Head of the Charles rowing regatta. Pictures to follow.

Oh yeah… I’m reading this great book called “Don’t Make Me Think,” by Steve Krug. It’s all about Web design. It really hits the mark based on my experience with Web and e-business design. I highly recommend it.

That’s it for this week. My fortune cookie at lunch predicted “a great award will soon come my way.” :-)