NCCI CEO Bill Donnell delivered the opening address to a packed house at the Annual Issues Symposium in Orlando, FL Thursday. Donnell gave an excellent presentation, speaking about the state of the industry, and, in keeping tradition with the NCCI Annual Event, delivered “The Word”, which this year is “Adapting”. In addition to the word, I believe he signaled a potential shift for the future of the data analysis giant.

Donnell spent some time discussing relevance, and what can happen when an organization fails to maintain that concept within their industry. His example, Blockbuster Video, was a perfect selection for the presentation. Blockbuster, in the year 2000, was at the top of their game; they were the largest video retailer in the world. They were approached by a small “video by mail” upstart called Netflix, which suggested Blockbuster acquire them for $50 million. Blockbuster declined. 10 years later, Blockbuster declared bankruptcy. Today Netflix is worth $65 Billion.

Clearly Blockbuster did not maintain their relevance in a changing marketplace.

Workers’ compensation is in a state of change, but as Donnell pointed out, it has always been in a state of change. I laughed to myself when he speculated that perhaps in 1950 he could have stood on a similar AIS stage and discussed the changing shape of employment and job classification codes, just as we are seeing today. The reason I thought that was humorous is because of similar conversations at IAIABC Research and Standards Committee meetings a few years ago. After long and grueling efforts to standardize the simplest of data tracking elements across multiple jurisdictions, someone brought up the minutes from the very first IAIABC Convention held almost 100 years before. The topic then was statistics, and they were also trying to standardize the simplest of data tracking elements across multiple jurisdictions.

I would say that the more things change, the more they stay the same, except that is not quite true. In the world of workers’ comp, change is the only constant we can consistently count on, so “The Word”, Adapting, is highly appropriate. 

Donnell signaled a slight shift for his organization, essentially saying that the need to adapt to a changing market place should require a different focus for them as well. He indicated he wanted to see NCCI be more forward looking, assessing the future, versus simply providing representations of financial health for the industry. Adaptation, after all, is critical in maintaining relevance, and the message today was you are either relevant, or you are dead.

Donnell also talked about the strength that exists today in the workers’ compensation marketplace. It seems the rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated. There are 124,000,000 people working in the United States, and 95% of them are covered by workers’ comp. He spoke of the passionate and talented people in the industry, and indicated that our bench of talent is deep. Finally, he called for more “fact based research vs anecdotes”, saying that we needed to be better at telling our strong and successful story.

His suggestion that the industry needs to be quicker and more agile, becoming “real time relevant”, should be heeded.

It was a good opening to an always stalwart event. We can agree that in the face of many challenges, both legal and technology based, that adapting is a proper word for this year.

After all, change is constant, and as always, change is on our doorstep.


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