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SERIES: Meet Your Regulator: Michael S. Smith

I would like to introduce you to Mr. Michael S. Smith (“Michael”) from the Virginia State Corporation Commission, Bureau of Insurance.  Michael is a Manager with the Bureau of Insurance, Rates and Forms for Commercial Multi-Lines. 

Background:  Michael has been in the insurance industry for over 40 years and honored to have many opportunities with various insurance carriers.  Through networking with several alumni, he entered a career in insurance.  He began with the Travelers as an Underwriting Trainee in New York City.  After completion of this 18-month program, he stayed at Travelers as an Underwriter for several years.  Then he moved to General Accident and then to Kemper, starting in 1989, and moved up the ranks from Supervisor, Commercial Lines Underwriting Executive to running his own branch.  He went from Kemper to Marsh from around 2002-2005, then to CNA and then to Berkley holding officer level positions with each company where he moved to Virginia.  Whew…  What a ride.  He experienced lots of changes but made time to regroup.  From there, he took a risk and entered the world of regulatory oversight.  He was privileged to begin with the VA Bureau of Insurance in April 2016.

Education:  Michael attended Colgate University in Hamilton, NY.  He was preparing to root for his Raiders at the big dance for March Madness before the onset of COVID-19.

He has received various designations, like the CPCU in 2019, the ARe and APIR designations.  In addition to his responsibilities as Manager of Rates and Forms, Michael is also chair of the Education Working Group for the Information and Technology Committee created by the VA Insurance Commissioner, Mr. Scott White.  Within six months of Mr. White being named commissioner, he started this committee to make certain the Bureau of Insurance was well versed  with the advancement of Insuretechs and how they impact them as regulators.  As the Education Chair, he knows he needs to research and explore training deliverables that are critical today and tomorrow for the Bureau.  He sees firsthand how technology has changed the landscape over the years.  For example, rate submissions included rate manuals and experiences, etc.  Now, he receives predictive models that are reviewed to validate they are actuarially sound and predictors of loss. He believes this is a fascinating time to be a Regulator!

Influences:  Michael credits his parents, especially his father, which gave him a very positive foundation for his life.  Michael grew up in Harlem, NY in a very dynamic time period.  His parents instilled in him a couple of foundational believes: 1) your word is your bond; and 2) you can do anything you set your mind to.  They impressed upon him, and he saw at an early age, there were consequences of the choices you make.  As difficult as it was, he stayed the course as it was critically important for his future.

Family:  Michael’s father passed away in 2002, but his 96-year-old Mother still lives in Harlem.  He stays in communication with her almost every day.  He also has 6 sisters and one brother, so living with a large number of siblings brings a different perspective to one’s life.

Michael has two children, a son and a daughter, and he has a 1-year old grandson.  His son will be graduating from high school next year.  Recently, his son completed a 10-day tour of Europe, which was an eye-opener for him.

Outside of work:  Michael enjoys golf, as we discussed many of the great golf courses he has played.  The farthest away he traveled and played golf was in Egypt.  He got to experience the Sphinx, pyramids at Giza, Suez Canal, Alexandria and Cairo, and great seafood dishes.

Besides golf, Michael also coaches a youth recreational basketball team.  When he’s not doing that or golfing, he collects coins and paper currency.  He inherited this hobby from his father.  He is in possession of paper currency dating back to 1899.  One is an 1899 $5.00 silver certificate, called “Indian Chief” (did you know, it is called “silver certificate” as it was backed by silver?).  He also has a $1.00 silver certificate dated 1899 with Lincoln and Grant on the bill. Both are in “fine” condition and in the top 20 of the 100 greatest American currency notes. His oldest coin is an 1835 Capped Bust Lettered Edge half dollar in fine condition.

As if that is not enough items to do in his spare time, Michael also serves as Deputy Chief Officer of Elections in his precinct.  He could be at the poll for 15-16-hour day for set-up and tear down.  He was keeping an eye on what transpired in the Iowa primary. 

Guiding principles:  Michael’s parents have instilled in him some common-sense principles that guide his life. One of them is, “Education is the great equalizer, but it is meant to be shared.” Another is: “You can either sit around complaining or you can do something about it.”  Another one is, “The biggest battle you have is with the person in the mirror.  If you get right with yourself, you will be aligned where you need to be.”  And yet another one is, “Biggest risk is not taking a risk at all.”  All good mantras for a very centered life!

Closing:

If you have not had an opportunity to work with or meet Michael, I hope this gives you a glimpse of his personality and background.  He has been such a good friend to the AICP; hope we continue to see him at annual conferences and E-Days. 

 

Karen Crooks

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