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Channel Check by Kevin Amrhein Networking Magic

Wholesalers meet for the first time in a new, exclusive gathering.

By  Kevin Amrhein

Excited, curious and skeptical are just a few of the words some of our industry’s finest choose to describe the events scheduled to unfold in early May; a time when The Council stirs the sleepy grounds of White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., as it has done so many times before.

This time, The Greenbrier will awaken to find its hallowed halls buzzing with members of the wholesale community, attendees hopeful the Wholesale Insurance Leadership Forum will succeed in promoting this growing segment of the industry as it has done for retailers for more than 90 years.

Loti Woods, Co-CEO and president of McAuley, Woods & Associates, a past participant in The Council’s premier fall Greenbrier event, is optimistic, though she admits that others may be a little skeptical. “There’s a lot of people wondering what’s going to happen, what’s going to be different,” she says.

But as with the fall Insurance Leadership Forum, it is the high-caliber professional firepower—CEOs and top executives from distributors and carriers in the wholesale arena—that will make the event a success.

The Wholesale Insurance Leadership Forum is attracting talent from all over the U.S. and beyond. “Ninety percent of the carriers whom I do business with are on the east coast; I can get to them in two hours,” says Tony Strianese, president of Peachtree Special Risk Brokers and regional executive vice president of Brown & Brown. At the Wholesale Insurance Leadership Forum, he says, “I’m hoping for a UK presence. That could save me a trip across the pond.”

There’s more to his interest than time management. In addition to the benefits their presence would bring to the group, Strianese believes reps from the UK will help with the promotion of Decus Insurance Brokers, Ltd., the London-based wholesale brokerage Brown & Brown launched March 1. Strianese is CEO of Decus, Brown & Brown’s first operation based outside the U.S.

Tim Turner, president of CRC Insurance Services, appreciates The Council’s efforts in providing a platform where the non-standard, non-admitted marketplace is the focus. “There’s a sense that the non-admitted marketplace doesn’t have a strong voice in Congress,” he says. “One of the compelling reasons for this event is to better industry uniformity in terms of legislative and regulatory concerns.”

And then there are the carriers.

Market changes zip through the wholesale community at speeds unparalleled in the rest of the industry. Members are expressing great interest in hearing how carrier representatives foresee business changing and what brokers can do to keep ahead of the changes.

“Our priority will be setting up meetings with markets, trying to figure out who’s there. Our primary interest is on the carrier side,” Woods says.

For some, the primary objective is an expedition for new products. For others, the focus will be setting new goals with old friends. Woods says opportunities for the kind of face time available at this event are rare. She plans to spend a majority of her time with execs of the carriers with whom her organization already works.

While priorities vary, my conversations with members planning to attend were uniform in one sense: Everyone appreciates the intimacy of the event. The wholesale community is a close-knit group. Most have known each other for some time, cutting their teeth together in some far corner of the industry universe before finding their niche in…niche. There is excitement among members who genuinely enjoy working together and about doing so in a place described by more than one member as being “in a class of its own.”

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The Council Calendar

Wholesale Insurance Leadership Forum, May 10-12 2010

Employee Benefits Leadership Forum, June 1-4 2010

CFO Workshop/Leadership Development Conference, June 16-18


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