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.