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2023 WSIA Annual Marketplace Guide- Part One - First-Timers Guide

By Pathpoint

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Pathpoint's First-Timers Guide to the WSIA Marketplace Event

Each September, the Wholesale and Specialty Insurance Association (WSIA) hosts the annual Marketplace event in San Diego. While the association organizes various events throughout the year, the Marketplace is the flagship event. This unparalleled industry gathering has attracted over 7,000 attendees from the broader wholesale and E&S marketplace in recent years.

Unlike typical industry conventions featuring numerous panels, speakers, and vendors, the Marketplace focuses on cultivating relationships between insurance partners. This event is not exclusively reserved for top executives; it brings together professionals from all levels of organizations, including those new to the industry. Navigating the conference can be incredibly challenging for those attending for the first time.

Like stepping into the insurance industry, particularly the E&S sector, we understand the significance of supporting newcomers' experience at the Marketplace event. Pathpoint has developed this guide for first-time attendees of the Marketplace. We have gathered valuable insights from seasoned WSIA professionals, including our team, partners, competitors, and clients. By engaging in conversations with over fifteen industry experts, we hope to offer insight into the upcoming 2023 WSIA Annual Marketplace event.

"Plan and define your objectives. Failing to seize the opportunities presented would be the gravest mistake you could make." - Ralph Blust, CRO, Pathpoint

Recommendation #1: Establish Your Goals Beforehand. Before you arrive, it is essential to establish your goals. These can include meeting and networking with new trading partners, deepening your industry knowledge, and nurturing social relationships with existing clients and partners. Clearly defining your objectives will help you maintain focus amidst the hustle and bustle of social engagements. While these events can be enjoyable, taking advantage of the opportunities they present is crucial. This was a recurring theme echoed by multiple experts we spoke with.

  • You want to establish clear goals prior to WSIA. - James Wells, Senior Vice President, Acrisure London Wholesaler
  • Focus on face-to-face relationship building and quality time with priority people. Basic hello/catch-up sessions can be saved for video call meetings or the various broker/carrier events around the conference. Those are great places for quick handshake intro meetings -Christyn Yoast, Head of North American Distribution & Underwriting, Beazley Digital
  • WSIA is an amazing opportunity to network with your industry peers and learn about what is happening in the Marketplace. Not only do you have meetings set up with your key partners, but you are apt to meet a former colleague, new acquaintance, or key contact walking in the halls between meetings. The fact that over 7,000 industry professionals converge into one space can be overwhelming but also exciting. - Angie Fylak, Product AVP, Nautilus
  • Try to be discerning when filling in your schedule; otherwise, it'll be filled by those who ask first. - Jamie Martin, Head of Underwriting, VAVE
  • To prioritize my meetings, I categorize them into three buckets. First, 1:1 core partners- this is most critical. You need to prep and have the right people there. It's also a good idea to find time 1:1 with the people with whom you have the strongest relationship. Group two: new
    partners. You should always learn about carriers and markets that might find value in partnering with you and get their feedback on what they're looking for. Finally, group three…learning and fun! One of the things that's special about WSIA's energy is the chance to meet with competitors and companies in adjacent spaces. Often, I try to pick one topic I want to learn about and do a few meetings around this. Last year it was London delegated authority property and how technology was being applied, so this area is where you orient around a specific thing you want to learn about. - Alex Bargmann, CEO, Pathpoint
  • WSIA helped me gain insights into the dynamics at play, including underwriters, wholesalers, MGAs, and distribution models, expanding my industry knowledge. - Melissa Chi, Head of Product, Pathpoint
  • Attending the WSIA conference is a great opportunity to meet brokers, carriers, and reinsurers in one place, maximizing your time. We scheduled our annual team gathering around the conference, and our tech and ops teams will arrive a day early for an offsite meeting to take
    advantage of the presence of underwriters and executives in town. - Gage Caligaris, Founder & CEO, Ledgebrook Specialty Wholesaler
  • One of the great things about WSIA is quite simply having a lot of people under one roof and getting the overall mood in the room. I'm a believer that there is value in seeing people in person to prioritize the next steps for that particular relationship, even if the details of that are hashed out in a later meeting, which is more conducive to setting those goals. - Emma McGovern, Head of Distribution, VAVE
  • You are essentially speed-dating, but you will get what you put into it. - Brian Hoover, Strategic Partnerships, Pathpoint
"It's all about the people. Make sure you are deliberate about carving out time." - Mark Schauss, Executive Underwriting Officer Markel

Recommendation #2: Pace yourself by maintaining a focused schedule. Blinking and suddenly finding yourself with back-to-back meetings for more than two days in preparation for WSIA is all too easy. While the industry may glamorize this road warrior mentality, it's crucial to prioritize and adhere to the advice of many who warn against overwhelming yourself. Make the most of in-person opportunities, but remember that focus and balance are key to success.

Overloading your schedule with back-to-back sessions can result in missing out on essential information and connections, leaving you exhausted. Instead, refocus on your predetermined goals and prioritize your meetings accordingly. Pace yourself strategically to ensure you can keep up with the demands. And remember to allocate time for rest, rejuvenation, and reflection on the knowledge gained. Scheduling is a skillful practice, as our panel sheds light on their strategic approach to planning their conference schedule.

  • Resist the urge to pack your schedule with meetings for two reasons. One, you will be racing between meeting venues, worsened by the distance and San Diego heat. Two, you will need to make room in your schedule for fortuitous connections at the conference, as they often lead to the most impactful meetings. - Ted Stuckey, President, Nationwide Brokerage Solutions
  • Start scheduling your WSIA meetings in July and maybe even in June. Last year, only ten of us were in the ballroom on Wednesday, so I suggest planning your meetings for Monday and Tuesday when most people are still there. - Melissa
  • There are several hotels and meeting venues outside the conference area; it's key to plan your meeting times, as you could lose out on fulfilling the agenda points you want to achieve. Speaking from a first-timer perspective (from London!), know you will need to manage your meeting locations as you're moving around a city, and you won't have your bearings unless you plan out the routes and schedule. - James Wells, Senior Vice President, Acrisure London Wholesalers
  • Be sure you understand the actual distance between your meetings and which hotel they're in because while the hotels are next door, it will take time to travel between them. - Christyn
  • Try to have consecutive meetings in the same building. I spent most of my first WSIA running between the two hotels and hadn't appreciated the time and distance between them! It is a good idea to schedule meetings with a few minutes between room changes and finding people. - Emma
  • Give yourself time to breathe between meetings. Remember, WSIA is a marathon, not a sprint. - Angie
  • Too much open time? Shadow a colleague or walk to the common areas like food courts and bars for impromptu meetings. - Ralph
"WSIA will be painful if you wing it." - Brian

Recommendation #3: Prepare, prepare, prepare. When attending the WSIA marketplace, treat it as a big event and get ready in advance. As you would for any meeting, ensure you have things like note-taking materials and business cards on hand. Remember that the convention is quite large, so consider your physical limits and prepare accordingly. Attention to detail and overpreparation are crucial, as emphasized by our experienced attendees.

  • Expect crowded, loud meetings. One word…Advil. - Melissa
  • Make sure to hydrate! - Christyn
  • Put together your agendas beforehand, especially if you have some key points/questions you want to ask in a meeting.
    There is nothing worse than leaving a meeting and forgetting that one key question you needed information on and not being able to track the person down the rest of the time. It will also help you keep organized when gathering your takeaways and action items from the event. - Angie
  • Have a question that you can ask across all or most of your meetings to gain an insight into the market, your peers, or your clients that you would find hard to get an answer to from your desk in such a short space of time. - Emma
  • Buddy up; partner with a colleague who knows the convention space well to best navigate between meetings. - Ralph
  • Avoid any meetings offsite. For popular areas, have a colleague save one of the open round tables early in the morning! - Brian
  • If you're meeting brokers, underwriters, or coverholders for the first time, it can be difficult to find the individuals if you don't plan a specific meeting place. It all becomes more streamlined every year you attend as you get into the rhythm of WSIA. Also, make sure you have your business cards and sometimes spare for an impromptu meeting if something spontaneous comes up while you're there. - James
  • Not having any business cards makes it difficult. I saved QBRs and fun cards. Try a cool card that won't fit in your wallet. Always add notes on the cards you collect and reference those fun notes in your follow-ups. Get people to like and remember you. - Brian
  • Want to make an impression? Be unconventional and stand out by using digital business cards. For extra points, follow up with an email that night! Keep the ball in your court. - Ralph
  • Make notes as you go; otherwise, it will all blur into a single amorphous event! - Jaime
  • In meetings, take notes on paper. Ideally, print out presentations. It's hard to look around a laptop. After, I take notes on my phone. Bring a charger at a minimum, ideally a portable charger (the best swag was when Markel gave out portable chargers in 2021). - Alex
  • Be prepared to have focused energy. There are a lot of interesting conversations to be had, and it can be draining, so knowing what to expect and
    preparing yourself to keep up with the pacing. Allow yourself some downtime if needed. -Melissa
  • Wear comfortable shoes. I get it; I am a cute fancy-heels person, but save those for an event with fewer steps and a lot less standing! Your feet and back will thank you. - Angie
"WSIA is like Sorority Rush." - Melissa

Recommendation #4: Enjoy the Scene; Jump into the Industry to Build Lasting Connections. We've spent time discussing the business side of WSIA, but let's talk about what truly makes the Marketplace event unique: the energy. The atmosphere at WSIA is truly incomparable. Mainly, it's fun! You can meet many people engaging with your colleagues and clients in a completely different environment than the mundane boardroom. Our panel reminds us that relationships should go beyond mere transactions. So, yes, be diligent and prepared, but don't approach WSIA like a book report. Instead, foster genuine connections and bask in the contagious energy.

  • There are three must-attend parties: RT Specialty, Markel, and Amwins. The latter is the largest and has a nightclub vibe with a long entrance queue. Invitations are required. - Melissa
  • Head to the Hyatt bar if you're not invited to any parties. It'll be packed with a hundred others. - Brian
  • Try a small dinner or drinks with your team — it's easy to spend the time bouncing around all your meetings and other events, but I like having a meal with colleagues at WSIA as it provides an in-moment way to have unstructured conversations and brainstorm. - Alex
  • Engage with people. My favorite event was a smaller party on the San Diego Padres field. There was also another dinner where we all drank out of a golf cup! WSIA is a truly unique adventure to network and engage with peers. - Ralph
  • Save presentations for the day and relationship-building for the night. No one wants to look at a report after multiple cocktails. - Brian
  • Don't stay up too late the first night because you will wake up super early, especially east-coasters. - Mark
  • Enjoy it – our industry is built on relationships, and those human interactions are invaluable! - Jaime
  • Remember, there are eyes everywhere, even outside of the event space. So, while you should have fun, remember that you are at a work event and should present yourself in the best possible light. - Ralph
  • Have fun, make new connections, and learn something new! - Angie

Attending the WSIA Marketplace presents an invaluable opportunity. Adhering to the above recommendations can optimize your time to acquire knowledge and network with industry experts. Establishing specific goals, effectively managing your schedule, preparing your resources, and cultivating meaningful connections are crucial. By doing so, you enhance your professional development and expertise and foster valuable partnerships and collaborations that can significantly influence your career trajectory and personal growth.

Download a PDF version here.