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Doctors and carpenters aren't the only ones who volunteer for foreign missions. Insurance specialists like Bill Cundiff are needed, too
Bill Cundiff (seated far left, with Deborah Senn of the State Department) meets with insurance regulators with the Cambodian Financial Industry Department. Having an insurance network is critical to economies of developing nations.
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By CATHY DYSON
Bill Cundiff volunteers his time in developing countries, not to treat the sick or build houses and schools but to tell people everything they need to know about insurance.
The 65-year-old Spotsylvania County man teaches government officials about insurance principles and practices, and helps them set up their own training centers. In the past two years he has made three trips to Albania and Cambodia.
Having an insurance policy may seem irrelevant in a land where people are struggling to survive. But as nations develop, insurance becomes "an incredibly important piece of the economy," said Joe Hudgins, a Richmond resident with the Independent Insurance Agents of Virginia.
"In order for companies to attract industry, there has to be an insurance market," Hudgins said. "Businessmen won't take a chance if that infrastructure's not there."
And Cundiff is just the person to help build the foundation, said Hudgins, who has known his fellow agent since the 1970s.
"He just has a real passion for people doing the right thing when it comes to the insurance industry," Hudgins said. "You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice."
Forty years ago, Cundiff began his career in the Fredericksburg area as a retail agent. Starting in 1972, he worked downtown in the old Sears building as an Allstate representative.
Later he ran his own agency, then focused his business on training other agents in the mid-1990s, when new laws required insurers to have continuing education.
He and his wife, Gloria, run the University of Insurance, which he calls a boutique training and consulting company.
He said his "saving grace," in terms of grasping the technology available, is his grandson, Bill Cundiff IV. He's 26 and a graphics designer who also works for the company.
These days, the elder Cundiff deals more with agencies than individuals. He does a lot of work through the Internet and conducts Web-based seminars. He also travels to London twice a year for training sessions.
A few years ago he joined the Financial Services Volunteer Corps, a nonprofit dedicated to helping developing countries build sound financial systems.
When a trip to Albania was mentioned, he asked about the cost and was delighted to learn that all his expenses would be covered. He merely needed to give of his time.
This story from Bill Cundiff illustrates the differing mindsets of Albanians and Americans in terms of lawsuits.
On a crowded boulevard in an Albanian city, a woman and her daughter, age 8 or so, were walking when the child darted into the street. Traffic was barely moving, and a taxi clipped the girl's foot.
The cab driver jumped out, afraid the child was hurt. The mother scolded the girl for running into traffic, then shook the driver's hand and told him to be on his way, that her daughter was fine.
"People who sue other people in Albania are not looked upon with great respect," Cundiff said. "Here, it's kind of the American tradition."