A Closer Look: Nick Gerhart
Iowa's next insurance commissioner
Friday, September 07, 2012 7:00 AM
• Age: 37
• Hometown: Ankeny
• Education: Bachelor’s degree in history, University of Northern Iowa; law degree, St. Louis University School of Law; master’s degree in health administration, St. Louis University
• Family: Wife, Jessica, and two daughters, Marlowe and Corinne; baby due in December
Nick Gerhart was appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad in June to become Iowa’s next insurance commissioner. He will succeed Susan Voss, who will retire at the end of this year. Gerhart was significantly involved in a national effort by the insurance industry that led to the July 2010 reversal of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule that had reclassified fixed indexed annuities as securities rather than insurance products. The connections he made working to overturn that rule while a compliance executive at American Equity Investment Life Insurance Co. led to his present position at Sammons Financial Group, as well as his appointment as insurance commissioner. Gerhart initially worked for a law firm in Wisconsin before he and his wife moved back to Iowa in 2003.
How long did you practice law?
About 18 months. I was in a situation with a law firm that wasn’t financially stable. I was looking for opportunities and had a couple in Wisconsin. But we said, “Let’s go back to Iowa; that’s where we want to be long-term anyway.” I met the folks at American Equity, and they gave me a job.
Why did you decide to get into the insurance industry?
I had always had an interest in doing something in business. My background before I got into insurance was health care; I have a (master’s degree in health administration) and I was doing mostly small business health-care law work. ... When the American Equity opportunity came up, it just seemed to make sense. Rather than practicing law, I could learn the business from the inside out.
What led to your move to Sammons?
American Equity, Sammons Financial Group and a couple of other companies got together to form a coalition to fight (the SEC rule reclassifying annuities as securities). I got to know these folks (at Sammons) real well through that effort. They had an opening at a pretty high level, so I just started talking to them. It was hard leaving American Equity; I didn’t make the decision lightly.
How well do you know Susan Voss?
Commissioner (Susan) Voss and I had known each for a while because I had done some work at the division. We worked together closely on that (SEC annuity rule) effort and formed a real friendship.
Do you feel you have a lot to learn about insurance products beyond annuities?
There’s a learning curve, but I’ve always stayed abreast of the health issues and the insurance marketplace for health care. Property and casualty, I’ve got a little learning curve there, but I think I’ll be able to pick it up pretty quickly. ... My goal is always just to surround myself with good people that are smarter than me and hope that I can learn from them.
What’s the transition plan this fall?
I’m actually going to be on loan to the United Way (of Central Iowa). Sammons is a company that sponsors the Loaned Executive Program. ... The timing of it just worked out for them to put me on loan, so I start there in a few weeks as a loaned executive. Susan (Voss) and I are still working out the details of the actual start date, but it will probably be in November. We’ll overlap for a couple of months, and I think that makes sense because I’ll at least have some idea of what the legislative priorities are that they’re working on and I won’t be just dropped in when the (legislative) session starts.
How do you feel about leaving the private sector?
I’m pretty excited about the opportunity; it’s going to be different. The private sector has been pretty good to me, and I’ve worked for some great companies. But I think this is a pretty good opportunity to serve the state of Iowa and to lend my expertise from the business side of it to the state government. (Insurance) is a huge industry in the state of Iowa, and it’s going to be navigating that balance between protecting the consumer and the healthy industry we have here in Iowa.
What do you like to do on weekends?
I play a lot of tennis, and I try to play golf. I used to be a pretty good golfer, but given the time commitment, I’ve let that one lapse quite a bit. We like going to the farmers market, and we live in Beaverdale, so we’re always doing something there. And we like hanging out with family and friends.
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