CAI Education for Business Partners

When I obtained my Property & Casualty insurance license in 2006, I knew from the beginning that I would need to attain the Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) professional designation if I wanted to pursue a promotion. After five years of intense CIC instruction and five different 20-page essay exams, I was finally able to append the highly recognized CIC letters after my name. However, this effort didn’t convey the level of required knowledge to provide insurance services to community associations.

The very first time I had the opportunity to work on the insurance program for a community association, I negotiated additional coverage for improvements and betterments within the units of a condominium association, modified the coinsurance terms and achieved a significantly lower renewal premium. When I presented the terms to my supervisor for a final review, I realized that what seemed to be a competitive renewal insurance proposal, was actually not in compliance with the association’s governing documents and didn’t meet secondary lender requirements.

That was my very first lesson when I stepped into the unique Common Interest Community industry. However, a bigger lesson was that it didn’t matter how many insurance designations I collected after my last name, I needed to educate myself about Common Interest Communities in order to utilize my insurance knowledge properly and provide the best advice to boards of directors and community managers.

Later on, during a Community Association Institute (CAI) local chapter awards event, I observed that many CAI business partners were being addressed as “Educated Business Partners” (EBP) during the ceremony. Does that make me an “Uneducated Business Partner?” I asked myself. This triggered my interest to learn more about it. I found out that this is a three-hour course credentialed by CAI, targeted to all business partners of any industry who cater to community associations.

Whether you are an attorney, accountant, insurance professional, reserve provider, banker/lender, builder/developer, pool service contractor, realtor, software provider, landscaper, or roofer, among many other service providers, taking the EBP course will allow you to learn the intricacies and nuances of working with community associations.

For example:

  • The different types of community associations and ownerships
  • The critical importance and hierarchy of an association’s governing documents
  • Federal and State Oversight that applies to community associations (FHA, FEMA, etc.)
  • The roles and relationships between a Community Manager and the Board of Directors
  • Introduction to CAI and its governance: Board of Trustees and Membership Representation Groups (MRGs)
  • Additional education if you intend to become “the expert”, such as:
    • RS – Reserve Specialist
    • CCAL – College of Community Association Lawyers
    • CIRMS – Community Insurance and Risk Management Specialist
  • Understanding your client’s qualifications. Does the manager you are working with hold a CMCA, AMS, PCAM, LSM, AAMC? What are all these designations?
  • The dynamic and frequency of board meetings, which can directly affect your plans for responding to an RFP
  • The bidding process – who is the decision maker? Can a committee or Community Manager make a recommendation? Why is there perceived resistance to change service providers?
  • Ethics – gifts, lunches, concert tickets – What is acceptable? What is legal?

Taking this course requires a one-time investment of $99, and this includes an exam that may be taken upon the completion of the course, with immediate results. Passing the exam awards the EBP distinction. Subsequently, your name will be added to CAI’s national website to recognize your EBP distinction. Visit to see the directory. The EBP distinction can also be used in press releases, brochures, proposals, email signatures, business cards or any other type of promotional material that will distinguish you amongst your competitors.

While it is impossible to determine what your individual return on investment would be for completing this course, I can certainty tell you that gaining this distinction will give you the confidence and education needed to improve the way that you do business with community associations. This will naturally convert into winning more contracts. Your buyers, boards of directors and community managers will recognize your personal and corporate commitment. You will be more capable of navigating the challenges and particularities within this industry.

The community association industry has been rapidly growing in the last 30 years. According to 2019 Community Association Fact Book produced by the Foundation for Community Association Research (FCAR), there are approximately 351,000 community associations in the country, which represents 26% of the U.S population. This includes 8,725 community associations in Virginia, and 6,785 in Maryland. CAI’s has over 40,000 members, but surprisingly, only 1,058 members hold the Educated Business Partner distinction as of April 2021.

During the pandemic, CAI has provided alternative avenues for completing the course. I encourage you to take the next step to earn the EPB distinction and attain the special recognition amongst thousands of companies and professionals who support community associations.

To take the next step, you have two options:

  • If you are attending the 2021 Washington Metropolitan Chapter Community Associations Institute (WMCCAI) C&E, a two hour EBP virtual class will be provided live on June 12th at 12:00 pm. To learn more visit
  • If you prefer to go at your own pace, you can register online and complete the class within 120 days of the registration. To learn more visit

By Jessica Knutsen, CIRMS, CIC, EBP

Jessica has been practicing insurance for 15 years. She has developed expertise designing insurance programs and developing risk management plans for condominium associations, cooperatives and large HOA’s. She is a vice presient at the USI Community Associations Insurance Practice. She was recently elected to the 2020 – 2022 CAI’s Business Partner Council in an At-Large position (Insurance Broker). She is an active member of the Quorum, Education, Virginia Legislation and Membership committees.

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