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The Value of Attending Industry Conferences - An Underwriter's Perspective

As more and more demands for time are placed on our professional and personal lives, it makes me wonder if getting on an airplane to head to yet another insurance industry conference is the best use of my time.

While it can no doubt be taxing, I find the rewards of these conferences and face-to-face meetings increasingly beneficial and important to my role as an underwriter. This article contains some key takeaways from my point of view as an underwriter.

As more and more demands for time are placed on our professional and personal lives,
it sometimes makes me wonder if getting on an airplane to head to yet another insurance industry conference is the best use of my time. While it can no doubt be taxing, I personally find the rewards of these conferences and face-to-face meetings increasingly beneficial and important to my role as an underwriter. Here are some key takeaways from my point of view as an underwriter. 

1.  See the expertise and passion of our clients in action
It's always fun to attend a session to see one of my clients present, and I enjoy seeing expertise and passion on display. Watching these presentations reminds me of what I enjoy most about my job. It is inspiring to see the dedication of our clients to their public entity, educational institution or pool. As you can imagine, being an underwriter can make
a person just a bit cynical or jaded, but seeing the good work of others is invigorating.

 2.  Gain a deeper understanding of clients’ concerns
Our clients attend these industry conferences to sharpen their risk management skills, address emerging issues and compare management issues with their peers. My approach is to attend the sessions with my clients. I want to learn what is important to them.  What policies are they looking to improve or implement? Perhaps they’re concerned about new coverage for unmanned aircraft or updating minors on campus policy. Attending these sessions with clients gives me the insider's perspective. The conversations before or after a session generally lead to talking about other concerns, such as a potential change in tort cap or some regulation that helps me stay out in front of understanding a particular jurisdiction.

3.  Improve your understanding of "who's who" at a company
Sometimes it takes working through a difficult claim to really get to know one another. Having the opportunity to meet with clients in person allows me to get a better understanding of the motivation or authority level of our client companies’ decision makers and influencers, before a difficult situation arises. These conferences allow us to “break bread”. 

4.  Help set underwriting goals
After getting a better understanding of a client’s current and impending needs, I determine where to offer my insights or where I can add value. For example, should we work together on amending MOC language to better describe the sexual molestation trigger?  Do we need to define the type/capacity of dam to be insured? Conferences provide a great opportunity for Genesis underwriters to work with their clients to help set underwriting goals for the coming year. 

 5.  Build personal relationships
While we certainly visit with our brokers and insureds throughout the year, conferences are a good place to easily connect with each other. The activities around a conference help build these working relationships. And through the years, I've formed friendships with a good number of folks in the industry, including our competitors. It's always great to take time to celebrate each other's personal milestones like new babies and grandbabies. Plus, I look to some clients for suggestions regarding my next TV show to binge watch on Netflix or Hulu! 

6.  Check in with my coworkers
Conferences also provide a great opportunity for me to meet with coworkers from other regions and compare notes. While I email and talk with many of them daily, it is a face-to-face connection that sparks new creative thinking. What trends are they seeing in their market?  What are their clients talking about?  Have they come up with any creative new solutions for a client? Meeting face-to-face makes it so much easier for a more detailed conversation than one can have on the phone. I generally come away from these discussions with a few new tips to incorporate into my underwriting and marketing.

7.  Play tourist
Traveling to conferences has given me an opportunity to visit parts of the country I otherwise might never have seen. I am fortunate to have heard fantastic music in Nashville, watched some alligators on a swamp tour in Florida, had the best bowl of pasta in Boston and completed a challenging but gorgeous waterfall hike in Oregon. Even when I've returned to a place I’ve been to before, I find something new to see or appreciate.  I feel lucky for these opportunities.   

8.  Meet the next generation of leaders
I've recently noticed a lot of young attendees at our industry conferences. I'm excited to get to know and learn from the next group of public entity and educational institution risk management leaders.Their new, fresh ideas are sure to have a positive impact on the community!

I'm looking forward to meeting YOU at an upcoming conference. Please look for me!


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