Earlier this month, more than 7,500 insurance professionals descended on San Diego to participate in the Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association (WSIA) Annual Marketplace. 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 WSIA.
The Gallagher Bassett (GB) Carrier Practice team was on site to connect with industry colleagues, meet with industry leaders, and strategize on what matters most to our strategic partners. Several members of our team, including Jon Stambaugh, Caryn Siebert, Amy O’Brien, Julia Houk, Jerilyn Kelly, and Sarah LaWall, discussed their conference highlights.
Tell us about your experience at this year’s WSIA Annual Marketplace.
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 Risk Placement Services (RPS) and Gallagher Re, among others seeking new partnerships.
Julia Houk: As a first-time attendee to WSIA, I found the conference to operate unlike any other. The scale of operational meetings and partnering opportunities is endless over the fast-paced few days. Meeting attendees who volunteer on the different WSIA committees (Events, PAC, Internship, Technology, and more) truly shows the dedication industry colleagues have to make WSIA a stand-out organization.
Jerilyn Kelly: With over 7,500 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. I enjoyed meeting some amazing up-and-coming female executives, a sign that the industry continues to be more diverse.
Amy O’Brien: There is a real sense of camaraderie at WSIA, and getting face time with carriers and program administrators is invaluable. We aim to be where our clients meet. In meetings, I routinely experienced business leaders 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. Our team at GB is particularly excited about the future of the transportation sector, which has seen growth in various portfolios, especially in the small fleet space.
In particular, what sessions stood out to you as timely and important for our Carrier clients?
Caryn Siebert: The WSIA Diversity Foundation delivered a fabulous panel that 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 (DEI), as well as to accessibility and recruiting underrepresented students. Additionally, it was exciting to hear specific examples of what they’ve accomplished, how they did it, and where they still have an opportunity to expand efforts in the future. The WSIA Diversity Foundation has received pledges and contributions of $3.4M over the past three years, and WSIA members can access the DEI resource materials at no charge.
Jon Stambaugh: Overall, the mood was very upbeat and focused on a positive future, especially in light of the recent surplus lines stamping office report, which indicated a 16.1% increase in total U.S. surplus lines direct premiums written from mid-year 2022 to mid-year 2023 (from $31M to $36M)—and that’s just for a six-month period YOY. There are strong prospects for the sector, including auto liability, multi-peril, cyber, construction, transportation, and professional liability, all of which GB services. 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: The themes that stood out during our discussions with partners focused on inflation, binding authority, and CAT cyber response abilities. From a 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 toward diversification. After the recent increase in cyber incidents, cyber coverage and incident response were key topics among those writing stand-alone cyber or adding to property binders. As always, it was exciting to be able to connect our U.S. team in person with the London market.
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’s Carrier Practice value proposition, which was enlightening to many across the table.
Jerilyn Kelly: 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 who haven’t set up firm career pathing and talent recruitment strategies are having a challenging time bringing new professionals on board. This differs from past years where the main topic at WSIA and other industry conferences was technology, though artificial intelligence was brought up in a few meetings. The U40 (Under 40) group discussed learning via in-person lunch-and-learn sessions and seeking out mentors.
Amy O’Brien: In line with our cross-Atlantic initiatives, I had more meetings that engaged both U.K. and U.S. partners around the table. 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. Using 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 a key priority.
Caryn Siebert: As a member of the WSIA Events Committee, it was fabulous to break an attendance record and 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 the productivity of in-person events, some of which have seen record-setting attendance, such as WSIA and Target Markets Program Administrators Association (TMPAA). Attendees in “the Club” area were also discussing the number of new entrants to the market—a sure signal of the strength of the specialty arena. Attendees’ PAC contributions for 2023 surpassed $300,000 (and broke the 2022 record of $253,000), which will enable the protection of the industry’s future, ensuring the interests of the E&S market are represented. As my colleagues above mentioned earlier, technology is a significant focus area. WSIA is holding a Tech Conference on April 7–10, 2024, in Austin, TX, to discuss disruption, transformation, emerging risks, and opportunities created through technology and innovation.
If you are interested in discussing how we deliver best-practice claims management solutions, please reach out to our team to learn more.