28 Jul, 2012 Bob Wilson


It is time for a true confession. I am a committed fan of one of the best kept conference secrets in our industry. I am a giant AASCIFFER. As regular readers will know, I spent last week at the annual AASCIF (pronounced ass-kiff) conference, AASCIF 2012. It was the fourth one I have attended.

AASCIF stands for the American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds, and their annual conference is held in a different state every year, with the associated state fund playing host for the event. This years conference was hosted by the Oregon state fund, SAIF. What makes the conference so special, and it's relative obscurity such a surprise, is the extracurricular excursions always associated with the event. Don't get me wrong, the speakers are usually good, and in fact were exceptional in Portland this year, but the functions scheduled for attendees and their guests are second to none.

Now, before you pick up the phone to complain to your state representative about your state fund behaving in a fiscally irresponsible manner, you should know two things. These semi-autonomous funds are not generally supported by tax dollars. They are supported by the business revenue they generate. Second, and more importantly, these conferences and related events are funded by attendee registration fees and sponsoring firms. In fact, it turns out the sponsors are huge AASCIFFER's too, as a good number of them turn out to make this event possible. Besides, having fun is not illegal - except in the People's Republic of North Dakota, where motivational endeavors in the workplace can get a CEO 10 years in a "reeducation camp".

My first AASCIF event was in Portland, ME, in 2009. It was hosted by MEMIC, a good partner of my company, and we were a sponsor of that conference. The event that year included golf, various area tours, sailing the harbor on old schooners and an extraordinary dinner and fireworks display on Diamond Cove, a private island just outside the city. I wish I had known it would be such a great event, as I would have taken my wife. She has gone for most of them since, I can assure you. 

I've mentioned that this years speakers were exceptional. I've already written about that here. And here. But the purpose of this article is to discuss the full conference experience, which is what separates it from the crowd. 

This year we enjoyed fantastic weather, hot air balloon rides, wine tours, brewery visits, bicycle tours, more wine tours and some terrific dinners. Attendees and their guests benefit from the natural competitiveness between these State Funds, as each one hopes to outdo their predecessor. I figure at this rate we will be traveling to the moon in just a few years, although it will require an extraordinary amount of AASCIFFING sponsors.

Plus, it appears many of the fund people don't spend an enormous amount of time online, with the result being they have no idea who I am. That means I can attend in relative obscurity, which allows me to generally embarrass myself in a more privatized environment. That is also, I should add, an important point for my wife, who is otherwise reticent to be seen in public with me. 

I note that the associations name does leave them with a somewhat unfortunate acronym, one that may be misconstrued if not pronounced specifically and with intent. I would suggest they avoid that issue with a simple name change. I was going to suggest they call themselves the Society of United Compensation Corporations and Underwriting Professionals. Of course, that would make me a big SUCCUP.

I'd rather be a giant AASCIFFER.

Next years conference will be held in July, in Austin, TX, with Texas Mutual playing host for the event. I can hardly wait. We all know everything is bigger in Texas.


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