USA 2016 Presidential Election with American Stars and Stripes flag on wood background with added text.Property/casualty insurance lobbyists are watching the volatile 2016 U.S. presidential campaign unfold with both wariness and cautious optimism, unsure of what the future will bring with the likes of Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders drawing angry and discontented voters into the mix.

Speaking during Networks Financial Institute’s 12th Annual Insurance Public Policy Summit on March 17 in Washington, D.C., the leaders of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies said that the economic populism espoused by the Republican Trump and Sanders, the Vermont senator running as a Democrat, is creating cause for concern.

“Economic populism takes on many forms, one of which is hostility for business in general and hostility towards financial services in particular,” said David Sampson, PCI’s president and CEO.

He added that the climate “presents many challenges for the insurance industry” and that the election year has led to “a lot of crazy stuff being discussed, not just in Washington, but in state legislators,” so industry and state regulators will need to counter those movements.

Charles Chamness

NAMIC President and CEO Charles Chamness agreed, but also suggested that insurance issues can often transcend politics.

“We are an industry that sells a legal contract and therefore creates certainty in terms of the environment we operate in, so an unstable environment is a challenge for us,” Chamness said.

He added that “Looking at the election season we are in, whoever is elected president will be deeply unpopular with the opposing party, and with some members of [his or her] own party. But our issues generally are not partisan.”

Chamness argued that “over the years, our industry has been able to properly define ourselves as not the cause of the [2008] financial crisis. We have a good story to tell and we have to keep telling it.”

He added insurance industry issues that could draw consensus, even in what is shaping up to be an unpredictable election year, include approved policy around natural disasters, “things that we will find common ground with in every member of Congress.”

Both men spoke during an “industry perspectives panel discussion that also included Dirk Kempthorne, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers, and Peter Gallanis, president of the National Organization of Life and Health Insurance Guarantee Associations.