Before my father, G.D. Crain Jr., founded our company in 1916, he operated a news service in Louisville, Ky., where he and several colleagues served as local correspondents for more than 100 business papers.
One of the papers they served was the old Western Underwriter, an insurance journal edited for agents and brokers. Way back then, my father thought it was unfair that corporate insurance managers didn't have a publication dedicated to them. He kept that idea on ice for 50 years before he decided to start what he named Business Insurance.
Timing is everything, they say, and when he first thought of his insurance paper, there probably weren't many companies that even had corporate insurance managers. He had to wait for the market to develop, but, as you can imagine, he had other diversions along the way as he built his publishing company.
Fifty years later, in 1966, I was a young reporter for our publication Advertising Age, in New York. I came home to Chicago for the Christmas holidays and my Dad and Mom and I were driving somewhere when my Dad asked me how I'd like to be editor of a weekly insurance paper he was thinking of starting. I didn't know anything about insurance, but I thought it sounded like a good opportunity for advancement so I quickly signed on.
One thing I did know, however, is that I didn't want our new paper to be a dry compilation of the arcane details and theory of this complex field. Insurance, like pensions, is a worldwide business and I wanted to play off general news developments to feature the insurance angle. So if there was a disaster anywhere in the world, our reporters would ferret out the details of the insurance coverage. So for our “pilot” issue, which came out just as the Detroit auto companies announced a new contract with the United Auto Workers, our lead story carried the details of the employee benefits of the new contract, including the Big Three's pension plans.
Pensions & Investments was started six years later, in 1973, as a spinoff from Business Insurance. We covered pensions from the first issue of BI (as evidenced by our UAW story), but only from a benefits point of view. I thought a new publication was needed to cover the growing complexities of pension investments. P&I started as a biweekly, and has retained its every-other-week frequency.
Steve Gilkenson was our first editor and Al Malecki was our first publisher — they both came over from Business Insurance. Al remained publisher of P&I through its startup period and until 1976, when he returned to devoting his full attention to BI. Steve succeeded him as P&I's publisher, and Michael Clowes, who had been executive editor, became editor.
As with BI, our emphasis from the start was on news. In our first issue we ran a front-page story headlined, “IH dumps Harris, two other managers.” We still cover the comings and goings of investment managers, but we don't put it quite so inelegantly!
As our opening editorial put it: “Looking through the issue you've probably noticed that we're a lively publication. We've written about some things that have not made headlines before; things, let's say, that until now have been left on the luncheon table. It is not our intention to be sensational or gossipy. However, we are very aware that our primary audience — the persons moving $283 billion of money around — live, breathe and sleep pensions. We believe they work in an alive and lively world, and we intend to report it as it is.”
If I may be so bold, I think over the years we've succeeded in our mission. And now, 40 years later, P&I and its sibling publication are drawing closer together. Chris Battaglia, P&I's publisher, has taken on oversight responsibilities for BI as well, and the two publications are doing joint editorial projects as the insurance term “risk management” takes on similar meaning in the pension arena. A recent story that ran in both publications told how “a small increase in allocations from institutional investors — mostly through hedge funds — is playing havoc with the property-catastrophe reinsurance markets.”
So exciting days continue to be ahead for P&I. Pension reform has become the watchword of the day, but there are strong, countervailing forces working to water down the reforms, and our cities' fiscal survival hangs in the balance.
Our readers need to be alert to these perils, which will affect both public and private pensions as never before, and we pledge to keep you up to date in this new era of around-the-clock and around-the-world information.