The Nevada Division of Insurance is beefing up its staff by about 20 percent, largely to help move decisions on rate applications from insurance companies through the pipeline more quickly.
And the division looks to open new channels of communication with the insurance industry during an all-day conference at Lake Tahoe this month. About 120 people 50 percent more than initial projections have signed up for the conference.
The additional staffing comes as the Division of Insurance in this fiscal year is funded for the first time entirely by the fees paid by the insurance industry it regulates. Previously, the division also got a portion of its funding from the state's taxpayers.
Fees have gone up about $1,300 for insurance companies regulated by the state, says Insurance Commissioner Scott Kipper. Individual agents will see a fee increase that amounts to $20 a year.
Most of the new staffing, Kipper says, will come in the division's corporate and finance section, which processes rate filings and ensures that insurers that do business in the state are financially healthy.
"We need to do what we did a bit better and a bit faster," Kipper says.
The Division of Insurance oversees nearly 200 entities that call Nevada home everything from traditional insurance carriers to funeral fund trust companies.
So far, Kipper notes, the insurance segment of the financial services industry has largely escaped the financial meltdowns that swept through banks and securities firms. He credits state insurance regulators.
"We've had a very strong and very conservative regulatory structure in place," says the Nevada insurance commissioner.
And he says state analysts don't have significant worries even though they keep a close eye on insurance companies whose investment portfolios have been eroded by the recession.
"We're somewhat satisfied that the companies have done the responsible thing," Kipper says.
Kipper, who came on the job in January after stints as a regulator in Oregon and Louisiana, also has focused on development of captive insurance companies in Nevada during his first months on the job.
The state currently is home to 127 captive insurance companies insurance companies owned by a single company or an industry association.
State officials view them a positive economic development because captive companies use Nevada services ranging from lawyers to the hotels that host their annual meetings but otherwise have no physical presence in the state.
Nevada now ranks among the top five states in the number of captive insurance companies who have established legal homes in the state, and Kipper says several proposed captive companies are working their way through the regulatory pipeline.
In fact, part of the the division's first "Industry Day," scheduled at Harvey's Lake Tahoe on Sept. 11 will focus on the state's efforts to woo captive insurers.
The event, which will draw executives of insurance agencies and carriers as well as professionals such as lawyers who specialize in insurance issues, will cover subjects ranging from the rule-making process to ways that insurance companies can reduce the likelihood of errors in the paperwork they file with the commission.
"This is a collaborative business," Kipper says. "We want to enhance our lines of communication with those interested parties. We're trying to create an atmosphere where there is a lot more dialogue."