AMERIND is pleased to introduce our new Cell Commissioner, Mark Murray. He brings extensive expertise in the insurance industry and will help us maintain financial strength throughout our growth. Having partnered with AMERIND in the past, Mark understands our mission to protect Tribes and keep Indian money in Indian Country, while creating affordable and sustainable insurance products. We visited with Mark to get his perspective on the direction of the insurance industry, the impacts of the economy, and what he plans to accomplish during his time with AMERIND.
Describe your role as Cell Commissioner.
In this role, I serve as an external insurance expert, providing insight to the committee based on my many years of experience in the industry. With independence from the Tribes, I can be an external party providing expertise and advice to AMERIND’s Board of Directors and leadership.
How did your prior career experience prepare you for this role with AMERIND?
I think there are two components. The first is my industry experience. I’ve spent more than two decades on both sides of the exchange, serving as a rating agency analyst covering a portfolio of insurance companies, and later, as a consultant helping clients manage those rating agency relationships. I understand third-party capital models and the benchmarks they use when evaluating companies.
The second component is my past involvement with AMERIND, helping them acquire their first rating from AM Best in 2020. I assisted the team in preparing for the presentation, essentially mimicking the steps the agency would take with their analysis to ensure AMERIND was uniquely positioned against its peers.
What do you consider to be the Cell Advisory Commission’s top goals in the coming year?
The goals we set at the beginning of the year differ from what they are today. We’re experiencing an enterprise risk management event. Navigating this takes a good deal of attention, but our end goal is to develop a more consistent approach in pricing to ensure more predictability from year to year in a volatile environment. We’ll focus on building resilience within the organization despite the challenging environment outside the organization that we’ve seen in the last year or two.
How has the insurance industry changed? Are there new challenges?
There’s been a lot of development in analytics aimed at a better understanding of risk and subsequently improved pricing models. This is geared towards pricing for loss cost trends to proactively address underwriting volatility in years with weather-related claims that will always be out of our control.
I think the most immediate challenge we face is the heavy impact of inflation. We’re selling a product where pricing is something that is based on a cost that is not fully known until much later. When inflation comes quickly and lasts for a while, it’s not factored into coverage costs and pricing. That, along with a higher frequency and severity of weather-related losses adds an extra layer of challenges. Beyond the changing dynamics of coverage costs, inflation affects jobs and economic development. All these things are highly interrelated to the degree that there’s stress in our economy, which adversely affects the loss experience.
How do you feel the economy has impacted the insurance industry?
It’s a double-edged sword for the insurance industry. On one hand, it creates near-term stress on the investment side where values are depressed that is somewhat offset longer term by increasing interest rates. On the other hand, there is a high correlation of underwriting loss experience with economic activity. When the economy is depressed, loss experience tends to be worse. The value of insurance is realized through claims. Experiencing and recovering from loss through the claims process helps people recognize the importance of insurance coverage. With so much loss, there’s an opportunity to demonstrate the value and build-up goodwill with policyholders to combat the industry’s often negative reputation. Of course, that ebbs and flows based on individual experiences.
What does work with AMERIND in this capacity mean to you?
I have a special place in my heart for AMERIND. Going through the rating process and helping them get that first AM Best rating allowed me to learn a lot about the organization, its mission, and the people. When I got the call to participate as cell commissioner, I couldn’t accept the offer quick enough. Our values align and their commitment to help others really resonates with me. It’s something that I can’t necessarily put my finger on, but I get a good feeling in my stomach and in my heart, knowing I get to be a part this mission that everybody rallies around.
What do you hope to accomplish at AMERIND?
I’m coming into AMERIND at its maturity. There’s been a lot of hard work put into the company thus far. My objectives are to continue with the great franchise that was built, providing coverage and building resilience in Native American communities through insurance and loss prevention. With reduced loss, premiums can come down even as the value of the insured assets increase or improve – making for healthier communities. Insurance should be a facilitator for growth as opposed to a hindrance.