People who wish to sell, solicit or negotiate insurance in the United States must be licensed as a "producer". The term producer includes insurance agents and insurance brokers. Producers must comply with various state laws and regulations governing their activities. There are currently more than 2 million individuals and more than 500,000 business entities licensed to provide insurance services in the United States. State insurance departments oversee producer activities as part of a comprehensive regulatory framework designed to protect insurance consumer interests in insurance transactions.
Traditionally, each state had its own licensing requirements. Producers licensed in one state generally had to meet the separate licensing requirements for each state in which they wanted to sell insurance. As licensing requirements varied from state to state, producers had to submit the same (or similar) information each time but in different formats or different information, depending on each state's requirements. This imposed significant time and monetary costs on producers, their affiliated agencies and each state insurance department.
A provision in the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 (GLBA) sought to streamline producer licensing by requiring the states to enact certain reforms to the insurance producer-licensing process. The provision was designed to create a new organization called the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers (NARAB) if greater state producer-licensing uniformity or reciprocity was not achieved (the federal statute required at least 29 jurisdictions to achieve either reciprocity or uniformity in non-resident producer licensing by November 2002). The GLBA enactment sparked a nationwide movement to implement sweeping reforms to simplify and bring more efficiency to the producer-licensing process.
After many discussions, state insurance regulators opted to pursue reciprocity among the states for non-resident agent licensing first, followed by actions to improve uniformity in the producer licensing process. In December 1999, the NAIC created the NARAB Working Group to help the states implement the requirements of GLBA. Consistent with the NARAB requirements, the NAIC adopted the Producer Licensing Model Act (#218) in February 2000 to help the states comply with GLBA's reciprocity provisions. Subsequently, the NAIC membership determined 35 jurisdictions1 had met the non-resident producer licensing reciprocity requirements under GLBA and, as a result, NARAB was never created.
In 2007, the NAIC identified producer-licensing reform as one of the NAIC's key strategic issues and conducted a national producer-licensing assessment to evaluate compliance with the reciprocity and uniformity provisions of GLBA. Following the assessment, the NAIC published the "Producer Licensing Assessment Aggregate Report of Findings" in February 2008. The report found all 35 states previously certified by the NARAB Working Group remained in compliance with the 2002 reciprocity standards. The report also found additional jurisdictions were eligible for certification.
Long before GLBA, the NAIC initiated several efforts to make producer licensing more uniform. The National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR) was established by the NAIC as a non-profit affiliate in 1996 to develop and operate as a national repository for producer-licensing information. NIPR is part of an ongoing effort to streamline and modernize the various processes involved with producer licensing. It is an electronic system that tracks ongoing licensing changes from state to state. Currently, NIPR receives data from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
While much progress has been made to improve uniformity and streamline non-resident producer licensing, there has been concern the envisioned uniformity and reciprocity was never fully achieved as there remain several large states that have not yet become reciprocal. The absence of these major markets has inhibited the implementation of national licensing reciprocity and the ability of agents to obtain licenses in all of the states.
As a result, a modified version of the national licensing proposal, the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers Reform Act (or NARAB II as it is being commonly called), was endorsed. With the support of the NAIC, Congress enacted NARAB II in early 2015 and President Obama signed the legislation on Jan. 12, 2015.
NARAB II is intended to streamline the non-resident producer licensing process and preserve the states’ ability to protect consumers and regulate producer conduct. NARAB II does not create a federal regulator but establishes a non-profit corporation, known as NARAB, controlled by its Board of Directors. The stated purpose of the legislation is to provide “a mechanism through which licensing, continuing education, and other nonresident insurance producer qualification requirements and conditions may be adopted and applied on a multi-state basis without affecting the laws, rules, and regulations, and preserving the rights of a State, pertaining to” certain specific producer-related conduct.
The NARAB is to be governed by a 13-member governing board comprised of eight state insurance commissioners and five insurance industry representatives subject to Presidential appointment and Senate confirmation. The NARAB, acting through its Board, will establish membership criteria, through which producers can obtain non-resident authority to sell, solicit or negotiate insurance. Satisfaction of membership criteria means a producer can sell, solicit or negotiate insurance (and perform incidental activities) in any state for which producer pays that state’s licensing fee for any line(s) of insurance for which the producer is licensed in the home state. NARAB membership is not mandatory for producers.
The law preserves the rights of a state pertaining to resident licensing and continuing education, supervision and enforcement of conduct, and disciplinary actions for non-resident producers, and leaves intact a state’s full range of authorities for resident producers. The act also includes important disclosures to the states, addresses business entity licensing, and protects state revenues.
- This number was subsequently expanded to 47 jurisdictions as a result of additional jurisdictions satisfying the reciprocity criteria.