WSIA was formed in 2017 after members of the American Association of Managing General Agents (AAMGA) and the National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices (NAPSLO) voted to merge the two associations and create the Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association.
The Gallagher Bassett (GB) Carrier Practice team was on site to reconnect with industry colleagues, listen in on expert presentations from across the marketplace, and strategize on how to improve service to our strategic partners. Several members of our team, including Jon Stambaugh, SVP, Carrier Practice; Caryn Siebert, VP and Director, Carrier Engagement; Amy O’Brien, VP Sales, Carrier Practice; Michael Stogsdill, VP, Carrier Practice Sales; Chris Hampshire, VP, Carrier Practice Sales; and Sarah LaWall, Senior Business Development Manager, London Market, discussed their conference highlights.
Tell us about your experience at this year’s WSIA Annual Marketplace and how it is an important meeting with GB’s Carrier Practice.
Jon Stambaugh: The wholesale/specialty market is more dynamic than ever. WSIA is a world-class member services organization that serves the entirety of the wholesale, specialty, and surplus lines industry. This year, leaders from GB held over 100 meetings with clients, prospects, and fellow Gallagher colleagues from RPS (Risk Placement Services) and Gallagher Re, among others seeking new partnerships.
Sarah LaWall: As a first-time attendee to WSIA, I found the conference to operate unlike any other. The scale of operational meetings and partnering opportunities are endless over the fast-paced few days.
Michael Stogsdill: With over 6,500 in attendance, it was very encouraging to see the strength and growth opportunities for GB and our RPS partners in the wholesale/surplus lines sector of the insurance industry.
Amy O’Brien: There is a real sense of camaraderie at WSIA. I experienced business leaders routinely thanking partners for their business and expressing gratitude for the good relationships and results at the outset of meetings. Additionally, partners thanked each other for open communication and working well with each other’s teams.
In particular, what sessions stood out to you as timely and important for our Carrier clients?
Caryn Siebert: Two sessions I enjoyed focused on the importance of attracting and retaining diverse talent and being proactive in recruiting ahead of anticipated retirements. Panelists discussed how their firms are acting on their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) as well as accessibility. Additionally, it was exciting to hear specific examples of what they’ve accomplished, how they did it, and where they still have opportunity to expand efforts in the future.
Jon Stambaugh: Overall, the mood was very upbeat and focused on a positive future, especially in light of a recent AM Best report, which reported that total U.S. surplus lines direct premiums written increased to a record of more than $82 billion in 2021, with strong prospects for the sector. Two consistent themes across our meetings were the impact of inflation on loss costs and the “war for talent.” It was interesting to hear different perspectives on these challenges and explore how GB can potentially provide solutions.
What topics did you find interesting in your conversations with fellow attendees?
Sarah LaWall: Themes that stood out during our discussions with partners focused on inflation, binding authority, and systems to help brokers quote business more efficiently. From Lloyd’s perspective, conversations around new syndicates dedicated to unique liability practices align with the market trend to steer away from heavy property books and towards diversification. Our team at GB is particularly excited for the future of the transportation sector, which has seen growth within our affiliate RPS, especially in the small fleet space.
Caryn Siebert: It was encouraging to meet members of the next generation of professionals joining and progressing in the industry. Our teams joined several carriers for their receptions where there was a resounding theme of “better together” and having an opportunity to return to in-person events. Attendees in “the Club” area were also discussing the number of new entrants to the market—a sure signal to the strength of the specialty arena.
Jon Stambaugh: Innovation was a key theme of many conversations. Leaders are specifically interested in how they can leverage technology to create efficiencies, improve quality, delight customers, and drive profitability. Additionally, the post-COVID-19 battle for talent was a consistent topic across our market meetings. This provided a natural opening for us to outline GB Carrier Practice’s value proposition, which was new news to many across the table.
Chris Hampshire: The number one topic that I discussed with my carrier and program administration contacts was the talent gap. Everyone appears to be struggling with finding experienced professionals to support the dramatic growth in the program space. The wave of retirements continues unabated in our industry, and those that haven’t set up firm career pathing and talent recruitment strategies are having a challenging time bringing new professionals on board. This is quite a shift from past years where the top topic at WSIA and other industry conferences was technology. Utilizing data in new and more granular ways to make better business decisions remains a need in our industry; however, having the right people in place to lead the growth of carriers, MGAs, reinsurers, brokers, and other insurance entities is now a key priority.
Amy O’Brien: Perhaps partly due to our own cross-Atlantic initiatives, I saw more meetings that engaged both U.K. and U.S. partners around the table than in the past. Presentation of new technology in carrier platforms and broker/agent tools came up in several meetings. Folks are looking for ways to make that experience faster, more succinct, and more enjoyable. The topic of telematics, especially in the transportation space, was presented as a requirement for new startups.
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