Unleashing the Power of the Pin

Unleashing the Power of the Pin

The CISR designation was born in 1986. The Big “I” of Arizona, or IIABAZ signed up to be the licensee for our state on January 11, 1988. It’s great to see the evolution of the program blossom and grow from five core parts to nine in the past five years.

With the expansion of the program, the birth of CISR ELITE distinction was created five years ago. Since that time, we currently have 25 designees, and each of them have taken and passed all nine of the CISR seminars, including:

The original five—

IC—Insuring Commercial Casualty

IP—Insuring Commercial Property

AO—Agency Operations

PA—Insuring Personal Automobile

PR—Insuring Personal Residential

AND the newer courses:

ELR– Elements of Risk Management

LHE—Essentials of Life & Health

PM—Insuring Personal Lines Miscellaneous

1IC—Insuring Commercial Casualty I*

2IC—Insuring Commercial Casualty II*

*Since IC no longer exists, if anyone completed the CISR designation back when it still existed and before it was doubled and became two different classes, they would only be required to take and pass the exam for 1IC or 2IC, not both.

The National Alliance recently recognized Michelle McGee as the 1,000th CISR Elite designee. Here in Arizona, we have 25, with more than 70 others needing 1–2 more classes with a passing score to john the club.

Let’s meet some of our current 25 CISR Elite designees as they share their thoughts on their distinguished achievement and what it means to them:


Joseph Dionizio, CISR ELITE – Liberty Mutual Insurance, Chandler: “As a Quality Assurance Associate, I initially pursued my CISR designation to help me become a more effective coach to our Customer Service Representatives. After completing the first few classes, I was impressed with the thoroughness of the coursework. The classes helped me see both insurance and customer service from a different perspective. I can’t count the number of times when a co-worker has asked an insurance question and I’ve responded with, ‘In my CISR classes we learned...'

When I found out about the CISR Elite program, I was excited for the opportunity to expand my knowledgebase even further. The CISR Elite courses gave me a chance to learn about parts of the industry that I don’t work with on an everyday basis. I’m currently beginning a transition phase in my career. It’s reassuring to know that whatever career path I end up taking, there is a designation available through IIABAZ and the National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research that I can pursue to help me become more effective in my role.”


Amanda Gilpin, CISR ELITE – Select Choice Insurance Group, Mesa: “Earning the CISR Elite designation was a stepping stone to some really big things for me. The courses provided me with the knowledge and confidence to help my clients protect their assets, families, and businesses. As if helping to provide this type of protection wasn’t rewarding enough for me, I feel that the tools I learned and implemented play a huge role in my transition from Account Manager to Agency Owner. Last year I was given (and took) the opportunity to purchase the agency I’d worked for, and truly believe that the commitment to learning and the knowledge gained from this designation had something to do with it. I am now a proud Agency Owner and am working on my CIC designation.”


Mike Mercer, CISR ELITE – International Insurance Group, Inc., Flagstaff:When I began my insurance career in 2009, I knew I wanted to maximize every opportunity that I’d be given for continuing education, so I set the goal to pass enough of the courses to earn my CISR designation. Every time I completed another course I felt myself becoming more confident and self-assured as an insurance agent. After passing all of the P&C related courses and receiving my CISR credentials in 2014, I decided to expand my horizons and began studying commercial insurance, so I could pass the remaining courses.

Working to complete all of the courses not only earned me the CISR ELITE designation by 2017, it also helped me become better equipped to assist the customers and agents that I talk to every day. Whether I’m helping a client set up a new policy, or recruiting a new affiliate agent to help sell our cross border insurance products, I’m continually utilizing the foundation of knowledge the CISR ELITE program has provided to help demonstrate my credibility as a professional in the insurance industry and thereby close more deals.”

Tammie Bohnker, CISR ELITE – MDIC Insurance, Lake Havasu City: “As our world is ever changing, so is the insurance industry. Staying on top of all the changes is an ongoing battle which we don’t always win. The CISR Elite program allows us an opportunity to win the battle and the continuation classes allows us to keep going. Since Arizona now requires continued education, this is a great way to complete your CE and earn a designation as well.”


Riley Clark, CISR ELITE – Costello Insurance Associates, Mesa: “I work at an agency in Arizona which specializes in Aviation Insurance. I attended my first CISR Class in 2006 and found I really enjoyed digging deeper into insurance. When The National Alliance and IIABAZ announced they would be adding four additional classes in 2013, I was excited to pursue the CISR Elite designation. The additional classes provided in depth information on a few of the topics only basically covered by the previous classes as well as new classes such as Life & Health. That’s a topic I was not very familiar with other than what I learned to pass my initial insurance license exam.

While my day to day aviation insurance work can be very different than the majority of topics normally covered in the insurance classes offered by the IIABAZ, I found I was able to correlate the information to help better understand aviation insurance contracts, especially in regards to Commercial General Liability. They’ve helped me keep up to date on changes in both Personal and Commercial lines which closely parallels Aviation. Using these classes to stay current helps me with sales and service and also helps prevent errors or omissions, which benefits our clients, our agency and me!

I do believe these classes have made me a more well-rounded insurance agent. The agency I work for must agree for they not only paid for the classes, but provided monetary and career advancement for achieving each designation. I recommend pursuing the CISR and CISR Elite designation to all insurance agents, especially in states where continuing education is a requirement for maintaining your insurance licenses.”


Cynthia Plitt, CISR ELITE – Executives Insurance Agency, Inc., Tempe:Everyone should feel special when they have accomplished the task of earning their CISR designation. It is even more special when you can take the next step and complete the CISR Elite task.

As everyone knows, this industry is forever changing. To go to these classes and learn what is going on in the various sections of our industry reflects the importance of keeping your knowledge base as current as possible.

I enjoy my job every day, and absorb as much knowledge that comes my direction. I feel even more important when I can share that knowledge with our clients and see the happiness in their lives. That tells me that I have done my job.”

Once again, thank you to all who shared their thoughts and experiences since earning their CISR ELITE designation. Your strive for excellence is inspiring. Keep lighting the way!

Author: Ray A. Garcia, CIC, CISR—IIABAZ Education Coordinator and News & Views Editor