The biggest annual broker convention of them all has just wrapped up in Perth. According to organisers, about 2,000 insurance industry professionals attended the Steadfast Convention in the Western Australia capital.
For brokers, the three days included updates on the Steadfast network and the opportunity to peruse a convention floor with stands run by insurers and underwriters. There were industry panels, keynote speeches, broker only sessions, prizes, entertainment, drinks, a gala dinner and a charity fundraiser.
Keynote speakers included former Labor Party minister Kim Beazley and singer Kate Ceberano.
Steadfast describes itself as both the largest general insurance broker network and the largest group of insurance underwriting agencies in Australasia. The firm has growing operations in Asia and Europe.
“It's terrific and the general feeling has been fabulous,” Steadfast CEO Robert Kelly (pictured above) told Insurance Business on the final day of the convention. One challenge, he said, is this event’s popularity. The convention was fully booked out.
“We had to stop taking people because we just couldn’t fit them in, which was really hard,” he said. “There's nothing worse than having to do that.”
Monday’s keynote speech by Kim Beazley particularly impressed Kelly.
“He spoke about the history of and the position of China and Taiwan,” he said. “It was very informative and very clear. He articulated like a 40-year-old starter.”
Kelly said the speech was “perfectly timed” given the current challenging relationship with China and the fear of conflict.
However, a focus of the convention was interacting with the mainly broker delegates and assessing the firm’s achievements over the last decade. It’s now 10 years since Steadfast listed as a public company.
“We reflected on whether Steadfast as a public entity had changed in any way from Steadfast the network,” Kelly said.
He said they projected a slide from the April 2013 conference. The slide summarised the aims and undertakings of Steadfast after it went public including growth and other expansion targets.
A decade later, he said, the questions and comments from Steadfast members in response to this slide showed that his firm has “a great scorecard.”
“We have accelerated everything that we promised to do and expanded it dramatically and fulfilled everything we said on those slides,” Kelly said.
He said the last 10 years have also been spent raising capital and buying insurance brokerages and underwriting agencies. According to the Steadfast website, there are now nearly 420 brokerages in the network.
“Now roughly 50% of the network sales are owned by Steadfast and nothing’s changed,” said Kelly. “So if you're a little small guy with a small staff, you still get the benefits of all of the services that we had back in 2013 plus all of the extended services that we now do in 2023.”
The Steadfast CEO said one of the biggest insurance industry challenges right now is that claims costs are exceeding insurers’ gross written premium (GWP).
“Claims are going berko [berserk],” said Kelly, referring to the escalating cost of claims in recent years. He said insurers are being forced to put premiums up and together with mounting costs the situation is unsustainable.
However, Kelly said “the questions that were the most salient” during his discussions at the Convention concerned how to nurture new talent.
“How can we get more talent into the insurance sector and how can we have a pathway for people to see this as a real profession and want to get into it?” Kelly said.
At the convention, Kelly said he proposed that industry colleagues emulate Steadfast’s graduate program as a model for “bringing in a range of people.”
“Our grad program has been really good and so we encouraged people to start thinking about fishing for smart people who don't know anything about insurance and to start using all of the 50-odd training modules that we've got in our education hub,” Kelly said.
He said Steadfast has found that taking “smart people” and teaching them about the industry makes effective insurance professionals “very quickly.”
IB asked Kelly if industry peak bodies and the government could do more to help. He said it’s very difficult to get everybody to pull together.
“I think that everybody could do more, yes, including ourselves, including the network, including the insurers, including everybody,” Kelly said. “They all could start to actually really strive to make this a career that people want to come into.”
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