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What Does Nelson’s Appointment as NAIC’s CEO Mean for Insurers?

Industry associations and commentators praise Nelson’s government and insurance experience at a time when the industry is under closer scrutiny by the federal government.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC, Washington, D.C.) has named former Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson its Chief Executive Officer, based on what the organization calls his unique combination of executive, legislative and regulatory experience.

Senator Nelson
Ben Nelson, NAIC

Nelson will lead the NAIC’s efforts to meet the needs of its members and represent their interests as the primary advocate and chief spokesperson in Washington, D.C., according to an NAIC statement. His responsibilities will include outreach to federal and international governmental entities, as well as state government associations, consumers and insurance industry representatives.

NAIC has made a wise choice in appointing former Sen. Nelson’s appointment in the wake of the founding of the Federal Insurance Office, established by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, suggested Howard Mills, chief advisor with Deloitte LLP’s (New York) insurance industry group. “The central issue facing the NAIC going forward is how the commissioners will interact with the new federal authorities looking into insurance,” Mills comments. “With Nelson they have someone with deep Washington experience and deep insurance experience as a former commissioner.

Nelson was elected to the Senate in 2000. After his first term, he was re-elected with 64% of the vote in 2006. He announced his retirement in late 2011 and did not seek a third term in 2012. Prior to retiring from the Senate in 2012 after two terms, Nelson served as Governor of Nebraska from 1990-1998. He also served as Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff for the NAIC (1982-1985); Director of the Nebraska Department of Insurance (1975-1976); and Executive Vice President and then President/CEO of the Central National Insurance Group (1977-1981). Nelson earned a Juris Doctorate, as well as undergraduate and graduate degrees in philosophy, from the University of Nebraska.

“As a state insurance regulator, governor and U.S. Senator, Ben Nelson has shown that he understands the role and value of free enterprise unburdened by excessive and unnecessary regulation and red tape,” commented Charles M. Chamness, president and CEO of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. “We look forward to working with Senator Nelson to not only improve the opportunities for more competitive insurance markets resulting in more consumer choices and lower costs, but also to initiate much-needed reforms within the NAIC that lead to greater transparency and accountability in its work.”

Kirk Kempthorne, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) said that the NAIC had “distinguished itself” through appointing one of the most respected figures in government as its new CEO. “Ben brings outstanding qualities to his new position,” Kempthorne commented. He added, “His knowledge of our industry and the issues we face is first rate. During his tenure in the Senate, Ben always worked to reach across the partisan divide in an effort to reach consensus.”

[For more on the insurance industry's relationship with the federal government, see Groundhog Day for Insurance Reform: Zero Mention in Geithner's Dodd-Frank Update .]]

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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