2023 WSIA Annual Marketplace Guide- Part Two - Evolution of WSIA
The Evolution of WSIA and its Impact on the E&S Industry
In our coverage of this year's WSIA Annual Marketplace, we aim to delve into the rich history of the E&S industry and the association itself. Every year, professionals from the industry gather for this exceptional networking conference. However, WSIA is not merely a networking event; its significance goes far beyond that. We sat down with Brady Kelley, Executive Director of WSIA, to discuss the organization's history. We sincerely appreciate Brady's valuable contributions to the article as we take you along the evolution of WSIA.
History: The Merger of NAPSLO and AAMGA
In 2017, NAPSLO and AAMGA, the two predominant E&S industry groups, merged to create WSIA after recognizing their overlapping interests and industry bases. NAPSLO and AAMGA successfully executed a merger. Staff from both associations worked together to bring the specific needs of AAMGA around focusing on the MGA and delegated authority space into the broader industry association: WSIA. A strong committee ensured a smooth transition and efficient organization. Most of the original team members are still actively involved, contributing to the continuous growth of WSIA. One of these original team members is Executive Director Brady Kelley. Kelley shared that the surplus lines market has experienced a twofold increase over the past two decades, reaching a premium of $95.7 billion as of 2022. Wholesale and specialty insurance remain prevalent in today's market. Some estimate the wholesale channel is now responsible for intermediating over $120B in annual premium. A sector such as E&S, with substantial activity, requires a central body to provide uniformity with education and development. WSIA is the central member service association for the wholesale, specialty and surplus lines industry, dedicated to advancing and supporting E&S professionals — we'll highlight a few key areas.
WSIA Today: Empowering Wholesale Insurance with Growth, Education, and Diversity
WSIA provides an expanded range of educational programs, catering to members across diverse roles and levels of industry expertise. The association also remains dedicated to advocating for and promoting the value of the wholesale distribution system. Here are a few notable examples:
- In 2016, Conning, Inc. conducted a wholesale distribution cost study, later updated in 2021. The study revealed that the total non-loss cost ratio for the wholesale composite was 1.8% lower than that of the retail composite. WSIA regularly shares this study with stakeholders to emphasize that wholesale distribution doesn't increase transaction costs for insured individuals. Moreover, wholesalers bring additional benefits to the table.
- In 2020, the WSIA Diversity Foundation was established with the support of member firms. The foundation's primary goal is to foster diversity in various aspects, including race, gender, disability, and the LGBTQ+ community. Its mission is to drive meaningful progress in promoting diversity within the wholesale, specialty, and surplus lines insurance industry and its talent pipeline. The foundation provides resources to assist member firms and professionals on their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) journey. It also offers opportunities to support diverse students, cultivating their interest and understanding of careers in the industry. Furthermore, the foundation spearheads association-focused initiatives to strengthen unwavering dedication to DE&I at the highest level.
The Main Event: The Annual Marketplace
Since its inception, WSIA has been continuously growing in membership and event participation. The most prominent of these events is the Annual Marketplace, a unique gathering exclusively tailored for WSIA members. It offers attendees from all roles a convenient platform to connect with like-minded professionals and exchange valuable insights at a single location.
Since the merger of AAMGA and NAPSLO, the Annual Marketplace has experienced extraordinary growth in attendance. In 2017, there were 4,433 participants, but the number of registered attendees for 2023 has reached 7,430. Interest and participation have consistently increased each year despite the challenges posed by the pandemic in 2020. WSIA creatively adapted by organizing a virtual event with breakout rooms for one-on-one meetings, successfully simulating the traditional in-person experience. Despite the circumstances, attendance remained relatively high. However, WSIA was thrilled to bring back the in-person event in San Diego the following year, as there is a shared preference for in-person connections by the committee and members. The event's growth has led to utilizing the Marriott Marquis and Manchester Grand Hyatt as primary venues, making the most available meeting spaces at both hotels this year. Brady Kelley highlights, "This year, we have established two Hospitality Zones, providing attendees with dedicated areas at both headquarter’s hotels to unwind and recharge between meetings. These zones offer refreshments, foot massage stations, professional headshot stations, and toiletries for a mid-day freshen up.”
In addition, this year, nine overflow hotels are available for accommodations. For the first time, shuttle services will be provided on five separate routes, connecting all WSIA hotels. This will seamlessly facilitate the movement of attendees between the WSIA meeting spaces and their respective accommodations, especially for newcomers unfamiliar with the event. When asked for advice for first-timers attending the Marketplace, Kelley, like many others, suggests wearing comfortable shoes, scheduling meetings in advance, and utilizing the WSIA microsite for easy access to pertinent information like the attendee listing, meeting room directory, and The Club directory. The WSIA Marketplace is widely recognized for its exceptional networking opportunities and vibrant energy by attendees every year.
WSIA's Other Networking Opportunities
You still have other options if you do not possess a ticket to this year's Marketplace. WSIA offers multiple captivating in-person events that you can actively engage in. Throughout the year, WSIA arranges nine distinctive technical trainings and professional development programs, each designed to assist professionals at various stages of their careers. These programs are conducted at diverse locations and are accessible to all employees of WSIA member firms, whether they are early-career individuals or seasoned executives. Whether aiming to enrich your technical expertise or broaden your industry knowledge, these programs are tailored to meet your needs.
One notable occasion is U40 Connect, scheduled to occur in the vibrant city of Kansas City from October 15-17, 2023. This exclusive event is designed for employees of WSIA member firms who are 40 years old or younger. U40 Connect offers engaging activities, including a philanthropic team-building event, thought-provoking panel discussions, updates from association leaders, and ample networking opportunities. For aspiring insurance professionals, this is a genuinely unique opportunity tailored for individuals in the early to middle stages of their careers.
The WSIA Underwriting Summit is an essential event for professionals in the underwriting, delegated authority, program specialist, professional, and financial lines segments. Scheduled from March 3- 6, 2024, in Phoenix, AZ, this summit offers dedicated networking opportunities, business meetings, and the chance to engage with firm leadership to enhance the underwriting experience.
Then there's the WSIA Insurtech Conference, taking place from April 7-10, 2024, in the thriving tech hub of Austin, TX. This conference welcomes members and non-members, offering invaluable sessions illuminating industry disruption and technological opportunities. This event features a diverse range of sessions, exhibitors, and ample networking opportunities, making it imperative for those interested in the future of insurance technology. Attending this event is uniquely advantageous to members, given that insurtech continues to be a prominent industry trend.
Lastly, you can engage with WSIA’s talent outreach programs by participating in student symposiums and career fairs or by hosting interns. Not only does this contribute to the talent pipeline, but it also presents potential hiring opportunities. Volunteering for committee service and engagement further strengthens your industry involvement and commitment, enhancing your brand and presence within the community. Embrace these unique opportunities to maximize your professional development journey.
Benjamin Franklin once said, "The greatest investment lies in equipping oneself with the right tools." WSIA offers diverse resources and opportunities for organizations and individuals to thrive. From industry-leading events like the Annual Marketplace to localized engagement through student symposiums and career fairs, WSIA is committed to enhancing the professional journeys of countless individuals in the industry. By fostering a network of knowledge and connections, WSIA goes beyond being a mere association; it ignites professional growth and development. Embrace these invaluable offerings and unlock your full potential by actively participating in the WSIA community.