In 1975, the Sandler, Balkin law firm in Kansas City and Contract Surety Consultants in Wichita invited surety company claims representatives who were located in the Midwest to join in a two-day retreat at the Lake of the Ozarks to discuss common interests and trends and to become better acquainted with each other in a relaxed, recreational and social atmosphere. Initially, Bernard L. Balkin and C. A. "Joe" Doolittle acted as sponsors, together with Carl Gilliland, then with Employers Reinsurance Company, and David Pharis, then with Reliance Insurance Company. The sponsors provided an informative program on claims handling techniques and new case law developments related to the fidelity and surety industry. Since 1985, these programs have been accredited by various state bar organizations and insurance departments for continuing legal education and continuing education purposes for fidelity/surety claim adjusters.
As invitees shared information with their peers, the sponsors received requests for additional invitations from other company representatives. In addition, other attorneys and consultants soon recognized that an event where claims representatives and their outside counsel and consultants could participate in an informal educational program and share their experiences from working in the fidelity and surety industry would increase professionalism in claims handling. They suggested that an event that would meet in an informal, family-oriented setting where industry personnel could learn from their peer group and where their families could become acquainted with their peers within the industry would best serve the needs of claims representatives. In response to those requests, the original sponsors agreed to sponsor just such an annual event, which was originally known as the Midwest Surety Association.
To assist the sponsors in planning and hosting the annual event, surety company claims personnel, attorneys and consultants agreed to serve on a planning and steering committee and became officers and directors. By 1990, the annual event had grown to such an extent that all participants recognized the need for a more formal arrangement for the continuance of the annual event. At a meeting in November 1990, the planning and steering committee authorized the formation of a not for profit corporation to be known as Surety Claims Institute and, in 2009, by action of the Board of Directors, the name was changed to Surety & Fidelity Claims Institute. An informational newsletter for members was also established.
So much has happened since the original handful of founders met to realize a new idea that appeared worthy. The Surety & Fidelity Claims Institute is now in its 35th year. Over the years, our annual meeting has grown from a regional organization into one of national scope. Since 1990, our meetings have been held in suburban Chicago, southern New Jersey, Williamsburg, Virginia, suburban Washington, D.C., Miami, Florida, Hershey, Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Massachusetts. We continue to provide high quality educational seminars dealing with all aspects of fidelity and surety bond claim practice that have earned national recognition. Our membership consists of representatives of a majority of the principal companies in the field together with leading practitioners and consultants. Our continuing objective is to provide the opportunity for an exchange of ideas and opinions with highly qualified experts in the field on topics of interest to fidelity and surety claims professionals.
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