The merger of two major insurance associations has taken another step forward.
The Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association (WSIA) Underwriting & Leadership Summit in Phoenix wrapped up a few weeks ago and counted among its attendees several familiar faces from the insurance industry. A key networking and business opportunity, the event also marked a crucial move forward after AAMGA and NAPSLO joined forces last year.
“It was important for the two organizations to merge because we really look at it as the difference that one unified association can make to our industry with a single rebranded association representing the entirety of today’s wholesale and specialty insurance market,” said WSIA vice president Jacqueline Schaendorf.
The new association has been highly effective in promoting the value of wholesale distribution and speaking with one voice on behalf of its members, who collectively bring in around $40 billion in premiums annually. A simplified menu of programs and services has eliminated the need for members to choose between similar offerings from two organizations, Schaendorf told Insurance Business, and there’s now a unified voice for legislative and regulatory advocacy in the wholesale and specialty surplus lines space.
According to the VP, three issues on the mind of the newly-formed organization are recruitment, technological change and the effects of excess capital.
“The one that typically stands out for us right now because of excess capital is pricing, and it’s relatively flat – a little bit up in some areas – but it’s the ability to really grow organically. There’s a lot of merger and acquisition going on right now, but not everybody is being acquired so it’s recognizing that excess capital is keeping rates a bit suppressed,” said Schaendorf, who is also president and CEO at Insurance House.
Acquiring new talent as insurance professionals age out of the industry presents its own challenges. WSIA is doing a number of things to grease the talent pipeline, including having an active career awareness and internship committee, increasing university and campus visits, and maintaining the Under 40 Organization (U40).
“The wholesale distribution system and the retail distribution system is an extremely resilient group at adapting to challenges and changes in the industry. It’s why we’ve not been eliminated,” explained Schaendorf. She recommends taking advantage of what associations are doing on the talent development front and getting involved in the process to help new entrants succeed.
“A challenge on that side is depth of experience versus bringing new people into the industry,” she explained. “They effectively have to season over their career and it takes a little bit of time, so invest in the programs to educate these folks because one, you want to get them in, but you want to also be able to take advantage of getting them experience and seasoned.”
The WSIA VP also advises retail and wholesale brokers to become aware of technological changes and make adjustments in how they do business today instead of waiting for a tipping point.
“There have been now an excess of $1 billion to $2 billion investment in insurtech and that’s been going on for some time, so that investment has been turned now into concepts and actual solutions, and it’s really changing the way that you can gather risk information, the way that you can quote that information and just the speed that you can now service.”