What to Expect at the 2019 WSIA Annual Marketplace

A shifting market landscape will be at the center of discussion at the 2019 WSIA Annual Marketplace, but the industry focus remains on building relationships.
By: | September 4, 2019

When thousands of wholesale and specialty professionals converge at the 2019 WSIA Annual Marketplace, held from September 22-25 in San Diego, two key themes will likely dominate conversations.

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One will be growth. The excess/surplus and specialty marketplace has been enjoying several years of prosperity.

“Annual premium volume was about $34.8 billion in 2012, and we’re estimating more than $49 billion in 2018,” said Brady Kelley, executive director, WSIA. “That’s 40% growth in just six years, which is remarkable.”

As in the primary property/casualty market, however, capacity is shrinking for some lines and risks, rates are going up and terms and conditions are tightening in response to 2017’s catastrophic losses and ongoing exposure to severe property risk in CAT-prone areas — all of which will cause some difficult conversations at renewal time.

That brings us to the second major theme: change. Many E&S carriers have curtailed their risk appetites for property exposure in particular.

Christy Wolf, global director of talent, leadership & development, Gallagher

Where once a single carrier might cover an entire risk, now limits may be shared by several insurers.

“It takes more effort and expertise on everyone’s part to place the coverages needed to put an account together,” said WSIA president Joel Cavaness.

Cyber, health care and professional lines have seen similar firming.

“Some changes have sprouted up on us rather quickly,” said Bryan Sanders, president of U.S. insurance for Markel Corporation and vice president of WSIA.

“The shift in the marketplace has created challenges within a segment of our talent pool, including both brokers and underwriters, who have never experienced a market like this before.”

In anticipation of these shifting dynamics, many conversations at this year’s Annual Marketplace may be focused on preserving relationships and communicating expectations for the following year — ahead of renewal meetings.

Educational Programming

New technologies promise to help the industry improve underwriting accuracy and distribution efficiency, but they also introduce new and unique exposures.

The talent gap — which Sanders says is shrinking — could still prove problematic as the market continues its rapid expansion.

And the need for greater diversity and inclusion in the insurance industry as a whole remains a focal point.

All of which Marketplace attendees can expect WSIA’s U40 group to address as hosts of three educational sessions: two presentations on IoT technology and diversity and inclusion, respectively, and an executive panel discussion touching on career development.

The U40 group, consisting of insurance professionals under the age of 40 employed by WSIA’s member firms, “is our grass roots effort to get the next generation of leaders involved in the association,” Cavaness said.

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The group was formed during the merger of NAPSLO and AAMGA to engage the next generation of insurance leaders.

Though structured programming at the Marketplace is spare, as usual, these sessions give younger members the ability to direct some of the conversation and drive attention to salient topics.

“We look to them to think of innovative ways to address emerging and evolving risks and opportunities — and the Internet of Things and diversity and inclusion are two examples,” Cavaness said.

John Stokes, IoT and new technology segment leader for Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Company and a presenter at the conference, said the abundance of sensors, data and analytics is changing the traditional insurance model.

“The insurance companies that will be around for the long haul will be those providing sensor-enabled services that alert customers and allow them to take action before something turns into a loss event,” he said.

Businesses that fail to embrace diversity and inclusion are also putting themselves at risk.

“For our industry, we have more to lose than ever, as innovation requires diversity — not only to challenge ‘status quo’ thinking, but more importantly to reflect our customer base and understand how best to serve their varied needs,” said David Jordan, CEO, Breckenridge Insurance Group and presenter on the topic of D&I.

Joel Cavaness, president, WSIA

“It’s been shown that businesses perform better when they have diversity, and it’s about more than racial or gender diversity. It’s about diversity of thought, experience and background,” said

Christy Wolf, global director of talent, leadership & development at Gallagher and a session presenter.

“The key takeaway is that we can’t just sit back and wait for change; everyone has role to play in creating an inclusive environment.”

A Premier Networking Event

“There is simply no more cost-effective and efficient way to meet with all of your key business partners,” Sanders said.

“Our members are really checking in with their business partners on the status of their business and production within their existing trading relationships, networking and developing relationships with new partners, and strategically positioning themselves for the future,” Kelley said.

Attendance has grown steadily year over year, from 3,428 attendees in 2011 to 4,463 last September.

As of late July, registrations had reached about 4,400, which puts them on track to set a new record this year.

Cavaness believes total registrations could flirt with 5,000. All of that means greater opportunity to forge new connections.

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“We still believe that relationships matter in this business,” Sanders said. “The Marketplace is an ideal chance both to nurture and strengthen existing relationships and facilitate new ones. There’s no better place to do it.”

New this year is a focus on attracting professional and financial lines brokers and underwriters.

In addition to a discounted registration for first-time attendees, WSIA will also host a special professional and financial lines reception on Monday, September 23.

“Unlike other conferences, we offer the opportunity to network with wholesale-dedicated carriers and producers in this segment,” Kelley said.

The Brokers’ Lounge and Program Specialist Lounge also offer dedicated meeting spaces for these professionals.

Make the Most of the 2019 WSIA Annual Marketplace

The value of WSIA is dependent on time management and strategy.

“You get out what you put in,” Cavaness said.

“You can get a lot done, but you have to plan for a tight schedule.”

He offered a few tips for first-time attendees:

  • Attend the opening reception. “It’s a great opportunity to shake hands and meet a lot of people in a relaxed setting,” he said.
  • Be specific about meeting location. The venue is large. A vague rendezvous point could mean wasting 10 minutes trying to find your contact.
  • Start planning early for 2020. Often, schedules fill up months before the conference begins. According to Cavaness, it’s best to start scheduling meetings as early as February. &
Katie Dwyer is a freelance editor and writer based out of Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]