Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Closure of 2010 and Welcoming of 2011

Well, the end of 2010 is almost upon us and for many people in our industry, 2010 was indeed a continuation of tough times occasioned by the current recession. As I have said before in previous blogs, until real estate prices increase and employment rates decrease, all retail industries will be challenged. The bail industry has been particularly hit hard, as have all retail businesses involving large purchases. Nevertheless, we are proud to say our agents have persevered throughout this tough climate. As we all know, especially at times such as these, it is very important to consistently follow solid principles of underwriting of bail bonds. With more people having less liquidity and net worth, bail agents have to be smarter and more disciplined…something that gets harder and harder as competition gets tougher and tougher.

These times also require innovative thinking. Successful businesses must constantly be creative in their approach to bringing in new customers. Things have changed dramatically in the past several years. Competition in all industries is fierce. Be aware of your local market place and strive to be creative.

Despite the overall economic downturn, we have continued to invest in ideas and technology that we believe will help our agents thrive. As you are aware, earlier this year we launched the ExpertBail Network. It is the first of its kind: a national retail bail bond network designed to draw attention to the quality and professionalism of AIA Agents throughout the country. The statistics over the past 4 months show that the brand is growing strong in every way. Whether by increased visibility on the web, or through outdoor advertising, television commercials and radio spots, the public is becoming more and more aware that there is a higher standard in the bail industry; a network of professionals dedicated to providing the highest level of service to bail consumers throughout the country. This is only the beginning of what we think this brand can achieve and we are confident that next year will be the true breakout year for ExpertBail and all its members.

As we look forward to 2011, we are confident in our ability to continue to invest in resources to improve the quality of service that we deliver to the bail industry. As this industry evolves, AIA will continue to have its finger on the pulse of these changes in an effort to assure that our agents remain on the cutting edge. In doing so, we will provide innovation and information to assure our agents can prosper in any economic climate.

I wish all of our agents and their families a very happy holiday and a healthy and prosperous 2011.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Bail Bond Industry - Investing in Our State Associations

Over the past few months I have heard a lot of chatter in our industry about the role of bail agent associations. Are they worth the time investment? Are they worth the financial investment? Do they really help bail agents? The simple answer to all these questions in my opinion is “yes” they are worth it and they do help bail agents. But there is one caveat that goes with this answer….it is only a “yes” if everyone involved (both the individual agents, the association leadership and the sureties…yes the sureties) engage together in a meaningful and productive way. In my 20+ years in the bail bond industry, I have seen a lot of good come out of state associations. I have seen agents and sureties work successfully together and it is a pretty powerful thing. I have seen everything from proposing and writing legislation to raising money for national charities to informing and educating agents, judges and other opinion leaders about new things going on in our industry…and each time when these great things happened it was because everyone left their egos and attitudes at the door…everyone brought a common sense of purpose and optimism to the table. The bail bond industry is not the dirty unethical industry that the media has portrayed us to be. We know that we are better than that, and we know the potential that we bring each and every time we come together as a group. Let’s not feed the fire and act like they expect us to act…as they say, “like bail agents.” Let’s act like we all know that we are capable of…with honesty, integrity and purpose.

In the next few weeks, our team at AIA will be attending several state association meetings: Michigan (MPBAA), California (CBAA), Texas (PBT) and South Carolina (SCBAA). Our team is coming with passion and energy to do what we can to improve the conditions and morale in our industry. We ask ALL bail bond agents to do the same. Use these association meetings as opportunities to light a fire under our industry…use these association meetings as a way to educate and inform yourself of what is happening in your industry and what you can do to help…use these association meetings to challenge and question your peers and colleagues (including your surety), what they are doing to make a difference. I know it sounds corny, but together we really can do anything. I have seen it before and I know I will see it again.

So, our entire team looks forward to seeing you all at the next association meeting near you….we will be there, ready to make a difference, will you?

I look forward to your comments.


Friday, September 24, 2010

The Oregon Bail Bond Update


For the past year, AIA, along with several other bail bond industry members, has made good progress in addressing the challenges of Oregon’s failing deposit bail system and bringing commercial bail back to Oregon. As many of you know, over 30 years ago, Oregon established a “deposit bail” system that effectively eliminated all surety bail from being produced in that state. Recently, in the face of alarming fugitive numbers, some segments of the Oregon justice system have called for the re-introduction of surety bail. The entire AIA team has been actively involved in the effort, in fact, I have personally made almost ten trips to Oregon in support of legislation that will be introduced this session. The contributing parties have drafted a completely new statutory scheme for bail in Oregon, as no laws regarding bail currently exist on the books in Oregon. Additionally, we have had the opportunity to speak to members of the legislature, plus legislative counsel and legislative staff at length about bringing bail back to Oregon. Jerry Watson actually just got back from Oregon yesterday after a full day of testimony in front of Oregon’s Judiciary Committee. Based on the report back from Jerry and team, the day went extremely well and very good progress was made. Stay tuned for a separate blog from Jerry (Behind the Paper with Jerry Watson) on his day of testimony.

While nothing is ever certain when it comes to legislation, we remain hopeful that the Oregon legislature will see the benefits of the surety bail system and, in the strong interests of public safety, pass this important piece of legislation in the 2011 session. As time goes on, I will report back through this blog with updates on our progress. As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

Brian Nairin
Chief Executive Officer - AIA

Thursday, August 19, 2010

ExpertBail Launch: September 1, 2010

As September 1st approaches, the excitement at AIA and amongst our agents has never been greater.  There is a sense of excitement and anticipation around the launch of ExpertBail.   But as we get closer to the public launch, and the timer gets closer to zero on the site, our entire family of employees and agents are ready to burst at the seams.

I can honestly say that ExpertBail is one of the biggest things that AIA has ever done.  It represents a new strategic approach for our company, and even more importantly, a new strategic approach for our agents.  By setting an expectation and raising the bar amongst our great family of agents, ExpertBail will positively impact our industry from a perception standpoint, a legislative standpoint and from a regulatory standpoint.

The first phase of ExpertBail is what we are calling the “Face of Bail.” By telling the story of bail through the real life images and lives of our agents, we can change public perception of who a bail agent really is.  The bail agents I know are key contributors in their communities.  Our agents are professionals, small family business owners, former law enforcement, and former school teachers.  We have agents that contribute to local youth programs and start non-profit organizations.  At the end of the day, our family of agents are the best in the bail business and we believe are the best people in their communities.  Our goal is to tell their story…our story…together.

As part of the launch of ExpertBail, we will also be launching our first national television campaign.  It will air in over 10 million households across the country throughout the month of September.  It is the first part of what will be a continuous storyline of real life stories and experiences of our agents.

We invite each of our agents to submit their stories to our marketing and communications team at  Tell us how you got into the bail industry, what types of things you are doing in your neighborhood.  These stories are the heart and soul of ExpertBail and it is important for us to tell in a powerful and collaborative manner…because if we don’t tell this story, someone else will tell it for us, and lets be honest…that hasn’t worked for our industry in the past. 

Lastly, I would like to congratulate each and every employee at AIA for their commitment to making ExpertBail a reality.  This launch would not be possible without the passion, knowledge and experience of the entire team and I am proud to be a part of it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The National Conference Road Show

After one of the most successful conferences we have ever held, we decided to take the show on the road. We wanted to give our entire family of agents an opportunity to see the great things that we introduced in Las Vegas. AIA has sent Senior Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Robert Kersnick and Chief Marketing Officer, Eric Granof on the road to travel across the United States to visit with AIA’s family of bail bond agents. We are calling it “The National Conference Road Show.” If you were unable to attend our National Conference in Las Vegas, I would highly recommend you attend one of our “Road Shows”.

On Friday, Robert and Eric’s first stop was Los Angeles, California. On Monday, they made their way to Dallas, Texas. Today they are in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I am happy to report that things are going really well with the meetings and agents are extremely responsive. In the three cities they visited, they have met with over one hundred agents and by the end of this trip they will have met with over three hundred. Much like Las Vegas, the response has been excitement and optimism. Comments such as “this is the most excited that I have been about the bail bond business in twenty-five years” definitely makes the trip worthwhile for AIA.

I am incredibly excited to have our team connecting with agents on the road and further building those relationships and for agents they haven’t met, forming new ones. We always talk about having the best agents in the business, and when you get a chance to hear their stories, you really understand why. From school teachers, to former law enforcement officers, to third and fourth generation bail agents, our agents consist of a broad and unique spectrum of real people doing real things to help their communities.

The next stop is Orlando, Florida. Look for another update and blog soon. Until then the “Road Show” will keep on keepin’ on.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

AIA’s First National Bail Bond Agent Conference…Get Ready for the Greatest Show on Earth

I just got out of an executive team meeting and immediately came to my computer to write this blog. To be honest, I haven’t been this excited for our agents and for our business in a very long time. This meeting lasted three hours and solely focused on our National Conference…and let me tell you, what our team has in store for our agents is unbelievable. I challenged everyone eight months ago to come up with a game changer, something that our agents have never seen or have even contemplated before. My challenge was intended to encourage them to push the envelope a bit, little did I realize that they would push it out of the ballpark.

As many of our agents know, AIA prides itself on what we refer to as “What is Behind the Paper,” and one of the most important things behind the paper is our ability to listen to the needs of our agents. If we haven’t addressed a need before we hear about it, than we do everything we can to address it as quickly and smoothly as possible. Our ultimate goal is to continuously improve our levels of service and response for our agents on an ongoing basis. When I challenged the team last year, it became absolutely a requirement that they spend time with our agents, asking questions (about their individual business and the bail bond industry overall), listening, taking notes. Find out the things that keep them up at night, their biggest challenges and concerns, find out what that one thing is that AIA (as the largest family of bail insurance companies in the world) could deliver to them to help with these challenges. I wanted to know, ff the sky was the limit and anything was possible, what would help our agents the most.

Well, after an eye-opening and incredibly insightful journey, I think we have done it. On June 28th in Las Vegas at the first full day of our National Conference, I believe that all in attendance will think we have done it as well. Stay tuned, because you won’t want to miss what we have in store for our family of bail agents.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bail Bonds: The Vital Role of Bail Bond Agents in Improving the Economy

In keeping with my last blog post on the need to change the general public’s negative perception of the bail bond industry, I wanted to point out some important facts about bail bond agents that many people don’t know or understand. And many of these facts stand out to me even stronger now as we all still face tough economic hurdles.

Just yesterday, I heard another report on how the worst of the economic crisis is behind us. We, nevertheless, continue to hear reports about state and local government projects that are reaching dangerous and unsustainable deficit levels. These various crises are not limited to just one state but are a common occurrence across every state and local government in the country. But as one looks at this grim news, I still come back to the role of the bail bond agent and bail bond sureties and how we all demonstrate our value not only to the criminal justice system, but to the economic landscape overall. We do this through both tax dollars saved and tax revenue generated. As a private enterprise, the surety bail system in America provides a guarantee that a defendant will appear in court…all at no cost to taxpayers or the government. Even further, the bail bond system generates revenues for local, state and federal coffers through a variety of taxes paid by both the bail bond agencies and their bail bond insurance companies. Just ask a pretrial service agency how many tax dollars they saved today.

In addition to these revenue generating and tax saving facts, the bail industry also addresses another key concern in this economic downturn…the record high unemployment levels still facing most regions of this country. The commercial bail bond industry employs thousands of individuals in small businesses while protecting our constitutional rights and improving public safety in our communities.

Bail bond agencies throughout the country are the classic small business engine of our economy and like all small businesses their success is the success of our nation’s economy. So the next time you hear someone make a derogatory statement about the bail bond industry or a bail bond agent, stand up and correct them. Our industry is one of the most colorful, interesting and noble professions around and I invite everyone to learn the truth. Stay tuned for more on this subject.

I encourage your thoughts and comments.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bail Bonds: Overcoming Negative Media Stereotypes

This week I am spending Spring Break with my family. As I spend time relaxing with my wife Tracey and our kids, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have my family. What most people do not realize is that the bail bond business is very much a family business. 

Throughout the United States, bail agencies are operated largely as family businesses, where husbands and wives, their children, and in some cases grandchildren work side by side providing a valuable service to their community and the criminal justice system. These small businesses are what America is all about. Independent, entrepreneurial enterprises where generations of family members work together to support their families and serve their clients. Unfortunately, popular media stereotypes of the bail bond industry portray a false and distorted image of bail agents as greedy, flashy and unseemly members of the criminal underclass. This false portrayal could not be further from the truth. In fact, today, more than one-half of the bail agents, including many of the best ones, are women.

Recently, I had the good fortune to speak before a large group of bail agents at a state association meeting. Yes, bail agents do work together to improve their profession and participate in continuing education. I reminded the group of agents how their daily work literally saves families and lives. By responsibly helping individuals charged with crimes get out of jail pending trial, our industry helps these individuals get back to work to help support their families. By working with a defendant and their families, bail agents encourage good behavior, which helps reduce criminal recidivism and avoid further crimes.

Bail agents and their surety companies support local charities and are involved in community affairs. Just this year, three bail agents were elected to their respective State Houses of Representatives. Personally, I am very proud of our agents and hope more people recognize that bail agents are decent, hard working members of their communities.

Please stay tuned for further commentary on this topic.  It is one that I strongly believe in and one that I think is extremely important that the bail bond industry overcome.

I encourage your comments.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bail Bonds: The Importance of Collections in the Post Lehman World

In an effort to provide valuable information to our family of bail bond agents around the country, we are constantly scanning the financial environment to look at trends and identify issues that could be important to our industry. Since the “great recession” began in 2008, one area of particular interest to AIA and its family of agents is the issue of collections on bail bond premiums and forfeitures.

Due to a declining real estate market and high unemployment, the availability of cash for all large retail transactions has shrunk compared to the period prior to 2008. The impact of this lack of liquidity has been felt by bail agents throughout the country who are trying to provide a valuable service to the criminal justice system and their clients yet are confronted with indemnitors who do not have the adequate funds to pay for the premiums due on bail bonds. AIA is exploring ways to help our agents improve their collection systems in instances where they are owed money either for premium or costs relating to forfeitures on bail bonds.

One example of the importance of speedy recovery on accounts receivable is some information we discovered when looking at the National Collection and Credit Risk Conference currently being held in Miami, Florida. According to the people running this conference, the numbers of credit issuers (e.g. Banks and other lenders and providers of credit) who have signed up to attend this conference far exceed the number of collection agencies. This phenomenon is a clear indication of the emphasis that issuers of credit are placing on how to assess the risk of lending in today’s economy to speed up their recovery in 2010.

As I have said before in this bail bond industry blog; effective underwriting and the thorough assessment of an indemnitor’s ability to pay on credit extended coupled with solid collections practices at the retail level are going to be key drivers of success in the future for bail bond agencies. This is true not only for bail bond agencies, but for all retail operations that provide credit to their customers and clients. At AIA, we are continuing to explore ways that we can help our family of bail agents improve their collection processes. You should be on the lookout for these innovative changes to be announced sometime in 2010.

As always, I encourage your comments or questions regarding this bail bond industry blog.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Virginia on My Mind…the Importance of Education in the Fight Against Pretrial Service Agencies

I would like to start this bail bond industry blog by taking my hat off to the hard working bail agents in Virginia and the work of Virginians for the Preservation of Bail. They set a new standard in our industry for getting bail bond agents to rally and fight together for a cause…something that historically has been sort of an achilles heel for the bail bond industry. I also was impressed by their creative use of both traditional and online communications, especially the utilization of social media in getting people to participate in the conversation and keeping them informed. Even the bail bond insurance companies all seem to be in alignment around this particular fight. It was actually really exciting to watch everything unfold. Unfortunately, with the Senate voting 8-7 against HB 728, the momentum has been interrupted. While this may seem like a roadblock, it really needs to be seen simply as a bump in the road. There will be more opportunities to continue the fight and I urge our friends in Virginia to keep their heads up and not to go away in defeat (and from the initial look of things, that does not look like it will easily happen to this new group). The progress that has been made should be seen as a way to go back to the drawing board and come out again stronger. In fact we are seeing other states like Florida rallying off of Virginia’s efforts and energy. My guess is that this is only the beginning.

Upon hearing the results out of Virginia, our executive team got together last Tuesday to discuss Virginia as well as other pretrial services hot spots around the country. What came out of this meeting was a lot of new ideas and strategies, but there was one consistent and important tactic that everyone thought was paramount to having success in the fight against Pretrial Services, and that is education. While the Virginia effort did a fantastic job of educating and informing the public (proven by their recent survey citing 75% of consumers prefer private surety bail bond agents over pretrial services), we can only wish that the message got more fully absorbed by key decision makers in the house and even more importantly, the Sheriffs groups.

Law enforcement has always been a tough audience for the bail bond industry, especially in its fight against Pretrial Service Agencies. While it is not their fault, it seems that many Sheriffs have the mentality that “we lock them up and bail agents let them out.” As much as we all know that this is far from reality, it unfortunately seems to be their perception and a tough one to get past. Additionally, law enforcement has a pretty strong connection to Pretrial Service Agencies through their “public service” make-up and sometimes even their physical locations. In fact, in many circumstances Pretrial Service Agencies sit right in the Sheriff’s office. So it is not difficult to see where this affinity comes from.

So why would the Sheriffs support a function in Pretrial Service Agencies that increases crime and crime victims (a fact proven by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics study) while admonishing a group of taxpaying small businesses (being Bail bond agents) who fully support Sheriffs’ and their important role in the justice system. We think it comes down to a lack of understanding and education. Sheriffs are just like consumers, legislators and other influential groups in their lack of knowledge around the role of bail bondsman. It is incumbent on the entire bail bond industry to try and educate these important audiences on the true value of the bail industry. They need to understand the role of the bail agent in ensuring that defendants truly have their day in court and that they are not recidivistic while they are awaiting trial…two areas in which we all know Pretrial Service Agencies fail.

I will continue to post blogs on the topic of education and its importance in our fight. I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pretrial Release Programs Looking to Buy Some Facts

The Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) sent out their monthly newsletter on Friday with a story about a new tool they have developed intended to help Pretrial Services Agencies identify the risk associated with a specific defendant. According to the PJI, this new tool, “The Pretrial Risk Assessment is an objective, quantifiable instrument that provides a consistent and valid method of predicting risk of failure-to-appear, new criminal arrest, and technical violations while on pretrial release.” As I read this, I could hardly hold back the laughter. To hear the words “objective, quantifiable and Pretrial Services” all in the same sentence is not only laughable but pretty amazing. Especially since nothing they do, especially in terms of their effectiveness, has been quantifiable by them. In fact, I recently read through the ongoing conversation on the “Facebookers Against Pretrial Release” Facebook page. This community of over 600 people talks of how they have been sitting around for months waiting for any kind of “proof, numbers or statistics” that backup any of the claims being made by Pretrial Service Agencies and their ability to lower jail populations and reduce costs. We all know from the Pasco County Florida example that doesn’t happen, let alone their inability to track defendants and lower their rates of recidivism.

In the hope of finally trying to justify their existence, Pretrial Agency supporters have developed this new tool based on research conducted by a company called Luminosity. Luminosity as a group is extremely pro-government sponsored pretrial release and obviously anti-bail…and to be honest, in my opinion, anything but objective in their research. So it looks to me that when supporters of Pretrial Release Services make their claims and attempt to show supporting statistics, they use biased, store-bought research that is tailored to give them the answers they want.

On the other hand, the research that we, the bail bond industry, have shared with legislators, bail agents, bail bond sureties and judges around the country is from the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. The bail bond industry did not pay for this research, a group of bail bond insurance companies did not pressure politicians to conduct the survey, it was a completely objective look at what is the most effective and efficient form of pretrial release looking at all forms available. The amazing thing about the BJS research is that time after time, year after year, from the early 1990s through the early 2000’s, until the research was stopped and then conducted again in 2007, the results have been incredibly consistent. In fact, in each case government sponsored pretrial service agencies performed the weakest while private surety bail performed overwhelmingly the best. If you would like to review the results of the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics, visit and download a FREE whitepaper.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pretrial Release Programs Finding More Tax Dollars to Waste

If you already subscribe to AIA Insight, than you probably saw a great article in our “Special Pretrial Issue” sent Friday afternoon…if you don’t receive our Insight newsletter than you may have seen this article through another source. However, if you have no idea what I am referring to, please click here to see a powerful WebMemo written by David Muhlhausen, Ph.D., the Senior Policy Analyst in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation, on how Pretrial Service Agencies are able to tap into funds provided through the “Economic Stimulus” program.

After reading this article, it is hard not to cringe with frustration and disbelief. The fact that our hard earned tax dollars are being spent to give grants to organizations that are designed to save money, but have only proven to do the complete opposite of that, is incredibly disheartening and flat out disappointing. I have written a couple blogs on Pretrial Release over the past few months, but I thought I would share my thoughts once again. At the same time, I invite everyone out there to comment and share their thoughts with me.

Anyone who has been in the bail bond industry for the past 30 years has seen these Pretrial Programs surface and disappear over and over again. However, today, it seems like wherever you turn there is another article on a county adding Pretrial Services or dropping Pretrial Services. Even though there is so much noise on the subject right now, the reality is that government sponsored pretrial release programs have never been able to stand up to their promises or hype. And the best part is, when asked to justify their existence; they are incapable of providing tangible statistics other than how much a jail bed costs or how many people who happen to be in jail. So, what is their solution? Let everyone out…because people are naturally good and responsible and will show up for their day in court because it is the right thing to do. Unfortunately this “Fantasy Land’ view of the world and the criminal justice system comes at the expense of taxpaying citizens who go about living our lives in a responsible way, only to have our tax dollars go to making our streets and neighborhoods less safe. Pretty crazy stuff, huh?

If there is a silver lining to all this, I can honestly say that I have been impressed with the tenacity and fight that bail bond agents and bail bond insurance companies have shown. With the Virginian’s for the Preservation of Bail making headlines in Virginia, and now Bail Works starting up in Florida, it is nice to see the bail bond industry work together in a cohesive and singular way. At the end of the day, I know in my heart and my mind that we will continue to win the fight against these ineffective government programs. Ultimately, there is a place for them and a place for us to coexist and do what we do best. Let them provide release to the truly indigent, and let private surety bail provide release to those individuals who can afford bail and even more, take on the responsibility of ensuring that those release ultimately show up at court…because that is the goal right?

I look forward to hearing your comments.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How to Differentiate Your Bail Bond Agency in the Marketplace

As the retail bail bond business gets more competitive, our team is often asked by our agents, “How can I differentiate myself from my competitors?” While the answer to this question is not a single thing, there are a number of strategies that retail bail bond agents can execute to better position themselves against the competition. I have provided a few of the basics below.
  • Define yourself - Who are you and what do you want to be? I know this may sound like a weird question, but it is an extremely important one to ask yourself and your employees. If you want to tell customers why you are different, you need to have something meaningful to tell them. Start by thinking about what makes your company unique. What do you do better than everyone else? Is it service, reliability, trust, etc.? Find that one or two things and stake your claim to it.

  • Talk with customers - What do your customers want and need? How well do you know your customers? What are they looking for (products/services)? I have heard the following statement from several marketing consultants over the past few years, “You can want to be the best ‘blue’ company in the world, but if everyone wants a ‘red’ company, it doesn’t matter how good of a blue company you are.” I think this statement does a good job in emphasizing the need to be meaningful and relevant to your customers. Give them what they want not what you think they want.

  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – Once you know yourself and your customers, communicate like crazy, but remember to do so consistently. Why do we all know Nike’s tagline, “Just Do It”? Because they hit us with it over and over and over again. Good communications are about consistency, relevance and impact. Achieve all three of those and you will reap the benefits.

  • Deliver – Once you make the promise of your brand through your communications, you must now deliver on it. And delivering on that promise translates into everything you do…what your service level is like, what your retail office looks like (is it clean, dirty, welcoming), how your employees act, etc. You can’t just “talk the talk” in this business…it really comes down to “walking the walk” and delivering for your customers. That is how great reputations and companies are built.

The last thing I would add to the above items, is to look for the things around you that you can leverage in your communications that are complementary to who you are as a company. The best way I can explain this is through a recent interaction we had with an agent of ours. This agent told us about a recent call he received to post a bail bond. The woman on the phone had never done anything like this before and she was very nervous and unsure to say the least. Our agent calmly began to explain to this woman that his bail bond agency was part of a network of other agents that wrote for the industry’s oldest and largest bail bond insurance company, AIA. He then directed her to our website and explained that we had over 176 years of experience through our family of bail bond insurance companies. Ultimately the agent was able to put the woman at ease and write the bond. When I first heard this story, it really got me thinking about the role that a bail surety can play in the marketing of bail bonds to consumers. As much as we are in the background, our brand is an asset to our agents and how they potentially can differentiate themselves in the market. At the end of the day, that really is something special and something that fully represents what is behind the paper at AIA. I would love to hear your comments.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Far Does Your Bail Bond Insurance Company Go For You?

It is Wednesday evening around 11:00 in the evening and I just got off the phone regarding a large bail bond approval with one of our bail agents. As I sit here now, I can’t help but think about what had just happened. An agent needed something and we were there to help them. I know it sounds simple, but the more I think about it, I can’t help but wonder why everyone in our industry does not take this same approach. In fact, just the other day I learned that several of our competitors don’t provide 24/7 agent support…even more shocking to me was that even fewer offer 24/7 transfer bond and large bond approval services. If a bail bond surety exists to support and service its agents than how do you put a limit on the hours you provide those services?

I am pleased to know that we have made it a point to be available to our agents when and where they need us. We know this is a business where the window of opportunity for writing a bond doesn’t follow a 9-5 schedule, and we know that our agents look to us to be available when they need us most.

Last week at the PBUS Convention in Las Vegas, AIA announced its “Behind the Paper” campaign. As you know from my previous blog posting, the thinking behind this campaign came from our team spending time talking with our bail bond agents and uncovering their needs, hot buttons and challenges. During this process we also gained insight into their expectations of us as their surety as well as sureties overall. Ultimately, what we learned was that there is no real defined expectation out there in the bail surety marketplace. That being said, we have taken it upon ourselves to set one. Furthermore, I have put the challenge out to each and every AIA employee to not only try to meet the expectations of our bail agents, but more importantly do whatever they can to exceed those expectations in every way…including holidays and weekends. I honestly believe that our transfer bond and large bond approval processes achieve that.

We know that this level of service provides a tremendous value to our agents and makes them look good to their customers. We are extremely proud of having the largest and only true nationwide transfer bail bond network in the country. In fact our bail bond network is so large, it is routine that other bail bond sureties will call to access our network when their agents need transfer bonds posted in jurisdictions where they lack coverage.

As you will probably hear me say many times, I am very proud of this company and its people and I believe that things like our transfer bond and large bail bond approval services are just another example of what is “Behind the Paper.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Behind the Paper

For those of you who were unable to make it to our party at Caesars Palace last night, you missed the unveiling of our new marketing campaign “Behind the Paper.” We think that this campaign will not only raise the bar in the bail bond industry, but more importantly, set an expectation in the minds of all bail bond agents around the country; An expectation that their surety must now be able to deliver on.

Our team has spent the last 5 months talking with our family of bail bond agents. We talked about their businesses, the economy, their needs, their challenges and last but not least, their perception of AIA. Are we delivering the things they need? Are we meeting their expectations? While asking these questions, we uncovered many new and interesting things about our agents…things we didn’t know or expect. Additionally, our bail bond agents discovered many new things about us…things they didn’t know or expect. The process was truly collaborative and inspiring and the outcome will be something that we think can change this business forever.

When we asked bail bond agents why they write with us their answers varied. In fact they varied more than we could have ever of thought. Price while important to everyone was not the key driver. They wrote with AIA for the extras we provide…things like service, like innovation, like stability…things that in their mind were bigger than the rate we gave them. Those types of comments are what lead us to realize that our bail bond agents don’t write with us for the paper…they write with us for what’s behind the paper.

Last night we launched a new website… It is a visual representation of the things that AIA is made of. Take your time to explore this site. It tells an interesting and emotional story about our company and brand, but does so from the point of view of our employees and agents. We hope that you will provide additional input and content. We want this site to grow and expand…and we want our agents to play a role in that creative process.

To us, “Behind the Paper,” is continual reminder of our commitment to our agents. It is our promise to continue to push the envelope and deliver products and services that make our agents more efficient, more effective and more productive. We want to be the catalyst that helps them differentiate themselves in the market and grow their businesses. In the coming months, the team at AIA will be releasing several new industry firsts…all designed to achieve the objectives mentioned previously…which is to make our bail bond agents better.

So sit back and perk up your ears….we are only just beginning to share what’s really behind the paper. I would love to hear your comments.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What it Takes to Energize the Bail Bond Industry

I was recently asked by a colleague at AIA, “What would make bail bond agents energized to join their local, state or national bail bond association?” This question puzzled me at first since I am aware of the difficulties faced by these associations in growing an active and participating membership. After a few moments of reflection, I responded by saying that typically nothing short of a crisis tends to galvanize bail bond agents to act together in a concerted manner through an association.

A recent example of this is what is happening in the Virginia bail bond industry, which up until this year was barely heard from across the country. In the last several months, a group called The Virginians for the Preservation of Bail has effectively reached out to the industry, and today are well along the way to passing pro-bail legislation in that State. AIA has tried to play its part in the efforts by partnering with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and sending out information to key legislators in Virginia to help educate and assist with the passage of this important measure.

Concurrently, in Florida, with its two associations (FSAA and B.A.I.L. Florida), there is movement to push similarly important bail bond industry legislation that would pull back the pretrial release threat to our industry. In order to assist in those efforts, AIA is participating along with several other sureties through the American Bail Coalition (ABC). If you want to learn more about these efforts, please feel free to contact our communications group at

I would also like to think that these suddenly energized movements have occurred because bail bond agents in those states have decided that becoming engaged in the process of protecting and growing the bail bond industry is the right thing to do. Hopefully this kind of collaborative action and thinking can play a part in the ongoing efforts of all state bail bond agent associations to get agents to actively participate. From these few examples above, you can see what happens when agents come together with purpose…just think of the potential impact we could have if we were able to harness and sustain these kinds of efforts.

If your local, state or national bail bond association is struggling with energizing its base or building its membership, I think it is important to create one or several key missions or strategies you wish to pursue. Make that initiative well-known to agents in your area and then, encourage agents to not just pay dues, but to get active in setting and driving policy. Do the same with the bail bond insurance companies...they can play an important role.  That’s how trade associations work and that is how they becoming important and influential bail bond industry voices. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Making Customers Brand Advocates

As many of you probably have noticed, a trend in business today is to talk about how important your customers are to you. Things here at AIA are no different, however, we recently put our money where our mouth is and asked a small group of bail bond agents to come to our offices to participate in a “brainstorming” session. The session focused on the bail bond industry overall and what we, at AIA, can do to help to continue to empower our bail bond agents to succeed. This meeting led to nearly 6 hours of discussion on a wide range of topics from technology to marketing to legislation. Of course, we discussed the impact the current economic state of affairs has had and the impact it continues to have on bail agents businesses. But more importantly, we discussed how we can address these challenges together. Understanding the needs of bail bond agents and their expectations of us as their bail surety is extremely important to us.

We also asked these agents a series of questions about how we can help them improve their bail bond business and the bail bond industry at large. Their responses were very informative and have stimulated a lot of exciting strategy discussions among the AIA team. After that exciting day of candid discussion, we are energized and focused on the role we must play to provide our agents with the innovative services they will need to confront the ever-changing bail bond marketplace.

The most important lesson we learned from this brainstorming session, is that our agents truly are a valuable part of our brand. The more we bring them into our business, the more effective we can be. Moving forward we will conduct more agent brainstorming sessions like these with different groups of bail agents and different points of view. Furthermore, I encourage all of our agents to use this bail bond industry blog as a way to communicate your concerns or thoughts about AIA and how we can help. All input is welcomed and as always will be taken seriously.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Importance of Role Models

I find it difficult to believe that it has been almost five years since the passing of Phil Konvitz. Mr. Phil, as many knew him, was the undisputed leader of the bail bond industry for over 50 years. Despite his physical absence from the scene, we feel his presence on a daily basis throughout AIA. Indeed, AIA stands as the legacy of Phil Konvitz.

I was very, very fortunate to have been able to spend time with Mr. Phil in the later years of his life. He taught me many things about this business, both through his words and through his example. He was the kind of leader that we should all strive to be, one who leads with his actions and not merely his words.

I have been lucky throughout my life to have many great role models who have helped me along the way. I learned very early on that it is very important to listen and learn from those who came before you. Too often it is easy to rush to judgment without the experience or knowledge necessary to achieve your success.

In addition to Mr. Phil, I have been very fortunate to have worked side by side with my father, Robert Nairin who has been a leader in the bail bond industry for nearly 50 years. My dad has proven to be an excellent role model for me as an intelligent, thoughtful and caring businessman who is always extremely committed to the success and well being of our agents. I am extremely lucky to continue to be able to work closely with him and, to this day continue to learn valuable lessons from him.

The lesson in all of this, as I reflect on these two great mentors, is the importance of learning from role models. I have learned a tremendous amount about both my profession and myself by just listening to men like Mr. Phil and my father. The impact these men have made on my life and on AIA is profound and continues even today in our dedication to providing the highest level of customer service and support. I am honored to have had these great industry leaders in my life. I believe that throughout a career, learning and education is something that never stops. I encourage all of you to pay attention to those around you who have been successful and listen carefully to the lessons they can provide through their actions and their words.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

NPR - National Public Radio...or shall we say...National Pro-Government Radio

Earlier today I saw an email about an upcoming piece on National Public Radio (“NPR”) about the bail bond system in the United States. This piece, which appears to have been written by advocates of government sponsored pretrial release systems proclaims that the private bail surety system may be “costing taxpayers billions, while preventing more successful, less costly rehabilitation programs from gaining traction.” This proposition is completely ridiculous. On the contrary, the bail surety system saves taxpayer dollars by providing a private sector solution to defendants waiting resolution of their criminal cases. The services of the bail bond industry are provided without any taxpayer dollars funding our system. Moreover, bail agents throughout the country work very hard to accommodate as many people as they possibly can in a way that is highly responsible and it assures the appearance of the defendant back in court.

The representation that government sponsored release systems are “more successful” and “less costly rehabilitation programs” is similarly ludicrous. Many studies, including those conducted by the federal government’s bureau of justice statistics have shown that releasing defendants through government sponsored programs while they are awaiting trial is a highly ineffective method of assuring the defendants appearance back in court. Further, such government sponsored get out of jail free programs, are more likely to result in an escalation in crime while defendants are out awaiting disposition of their case. If you would like to receive a booklet on the failures of these types of government sponsored pretrial release programs, please visit sign up to receive a copy.

This piece to be aired on NPR January 21st and 22nd smacks of a pro-government piece that is not informed of all the facts involved in the criminal justice system, as it relates to release of defendants awaiting trial. I find it disappointing that NPR would make statements that are so negative to an industry that for many years has provided the most responsible safe and low cost method of releasing defendants awaiting trial. I cannot help but think that this type of reporting comports with the overall national agenda being pushed by bureaucrats in Washington to expand the role of government in our daily lives. This is a misguided policy with very negative long term consequences. History has shown that private enterprise can do a much better job providing goods and services then the federal government. We should ask ourselves who among us wants the federal government controlling health insurance or any other big business.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Changing Face of Technology in the Bail Industry

As we enter 2010, I can’t help but thinking about my family, and specifically my father Bob Nairin and his 47 years in the bail bond industry. In that time, we have seen this industry evolve and change in ways that only a few bail bond industry veterans have. In fact, just in the last 5 years, I personally have seen changes that have reshaped our company in ways I never could have imagined.

The most interesting thing about these changes is that while they seem small and insignificant while they are happening, when you look back at them they are like quantum leaps in time. There is no bigger leap than what has happened in the area of technology. Even just writing this bail bond industry blog last evening on my laptop while watching SportsCenter on ESPN still amazes me. Ten years ago, no one could have imagined the things we are doing today. From our bail agents reporting bonds electronically to collaboratively tracking forfeitures online, AIA is rapidly developing systems that will help our family of bail bond agents completely manage their bail bond business. Technology is opening a new door everyday in terms of what’s really possible…not only for AIA and its family of agents, but for the bail industry overall.

While it is easy to run and hide from these changes, I am proud to say that we have chosen to embrace them. In fact, I would say we have gone as far to challenge them and push them to the limit. Just this year, we have launched a new financial management system, installed a new phone system and developed a new version of our Agent Information Management System…and it is only January 15th. These technology changes demonstrate our commitment to growing our business and will create exponential efficiencies within our organization. Efficiencies that we can pass on to our agents in better service and support.

I would love to hear comments and stories back from bail agents across the country about how technology has changed your business. I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Flushing our Tax Dollars Down Pretrial Release Agencies

As I read about state and local budget problems, I am angered by the idiocy of our elected leaders. It is completely unacceptable that the government budgets continue to fund unnecessary programs that lead to enormous budget gaps and increased taxes. Where I live in California, Governor Schwarzenegger, in his State of the State Speech, proposed a constitutional amendment that would prohibit spending more on prison operations than public schools in California. I simply do not understand how our priorities could have gotten so messed up.

In difficult economic time like these, where state and local budgets are hard hit by decreasing tax revenues, unnecessary government programs need to be summarily eliminated. One such program is pretrial release programs that provide irresponsible, unsecured OR releases. These programs cost millions of dollars per year and do nothing to promote public safety. They are of dubious value, even in good economic time. While the reduction of some government programs can be a difficult decision, the elimination of taxpayer sponsored get out of jail free programs (Pretrial Service Agencies) seems like an obvious choice.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Some Thoughts on Marketing...

While watching the endless stream of bowl games this season, I was struck by certain commercials where companies spend their advertising dollars focusing on a weakness or shortcoming of a certain competitor, rather than highlighting the virtues and core values of their own enterprise. At AIA, we have always focused on the things we bring to our family of bail bond agents. By clearly expressing our companies’ core values of innovation, agent support and service, plus integrity and financial stability we strive to help our public better understand the value of doing business with AIA, while positioning ourselves as the leading bail bond insurance company in the nation.

I believe this strategy can be effective for all businesses. Carefully consider your company’s core values and then figure out how to best communicate those values to the audience you are trying to reach. By doing so, you will increase your business by letting your customers know what is truly the essence of the valuable service you provide.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Well, we made it another year

Well, we made it another year. It was not easy for many people as the great recession impacted the lives of Americans throughout all industries. Here at AIA, we are constantly brainstorming ways to better serve our bail bond agents and help to grow their businesses. Every three to five years, we do a strategic plan to set a road map for our growth and success. During the next cycle of planning, I would love to use this bail bond industry blog as a platform to hear from our bail agents. Over the years, I have met with many of you to discuss issues and ideas to improve our industry in general and to consider ways that AIA could help grow the businesses of our family of bail bond agents. So, please use this venue to let us know, what services or support we can provide to help your bail bond business.

We are committed to investing in innovation and technology to assure our bail agents receive cutting edge solutions to manage their business. Please let us know your thoughts. We care deeply about the success of our family of bail agents. I wish you all the best in 2010, and I hope to meet with all of you at our first ever National Conference this upcoming June in Las Vegas.