Whether experts agree on the state of the professional lines marketplace in the US, and the level of hardening it’s currently experiencing, it is clear that over the past two years, professional liability has evolved in critical ways that have impacted the work of agents and brokers – especially over the course of 2020.
During a panel entitled, “The Hard Market is Upon Us – Do You Have the Skills to be Successful?” at the 2020 PLUS Virtual Conference, industry experts provided tips on the necessary skills and tactics that insurance professionals need to employ as they navigate this marketplace on behalf of their clients.
To start off the conversation, Paul Romano, president of TDC Specialty Underwriters, pointed to the positive way that the industry has been able to adapt to the current situation, which hasn’t been easy considering the personal and face-to-face nature of many brokers’ work.
“It’s remarkable how much better we’ve gotten at virtual things. It really has put pressure on a lot of our former routines,” he said. “The work-at-home process has been quite effective for us and I think many others at this point have fully adjusted to it, [and] it’ll be interesting to see what the next chapter holds in terms of a new balance between face-to-face and the use of virtual capabilities.”
While the move to remote working has been relatively successful, professional lines insurance professionals will need to have a few skills in their arsenal to operate effectively for their clients and carrier partners. According to Romano, the professional liability space is the “high wire act of the P&C industry,” due to its high severity and low frequency of claims (although the frequency component has evolved and changed in certain lines of business over recent years). The most important skill of insurance professionals working in professional lines is their understanding of and ability to navigate this nonlinear line of business, said Romano.
“The people who succeed in it have good judgment [and] know how to break down bodies of information, prioritize them, and work with them to reach conclusions,” he continued. “These attributes involve talents that people already inherently have. We can teach them so they have knowledge and skills, and we can even give them experiences, but the differentiator, in my mind, are the natural talents of individuals suited to this nonlinear environment.”
La’Vonda McLean, SVP and industry segmentation leader at Willis Towers Watson, added that this moment in time is a good one for insurance professionals to expand their product knowledge by diving in, and truly becoming that trusted expert. Networking is another important component of staying abreast of changes in the marketplace and developing new relationships, though this activity has hit a roadblock with the social distancing protocols and other lockdown measures introduced over the past year.
“I definitely think in this environment, [networking] has to be targeted and purposeful,” said McLean, adding that she’s turned to LinkedIn to continue making connections and introducing herself to other professionals. “It’s a challenging environment that we’re in now, so we have to think differently about how we connect with people [by] utilizing the networks that we currently have.”
However, once a connection on LinkedIn is formed or a current connection is reached out to, there’s still the problem of not being able to see them in person, potentially for another few months.
To continue building relationships with other professionals in this environment, Christopher Duca, SVP of RT ProExec, a division of RT Specialty, recommends setting up Zoom calls instead of phone calls to establish a more personal connection, while also devoting more time to understanding people and being empathetic to their situations during this difficult time.
“Having that human connection, I think, is really important,” he said. “All of us coming together and sticking together as a community … will help us through this.”