When Bryan Sanders was elected to serve as WSIA President, during the annual business meeting March 2 at the WSIA Underwriting Summit in Palm Springs, California, he never imagined that it would be the last in-person meeting of 2020, and maybe for his term as president of WSIA.
National meetings began being canceled the following week because of the COVID-19 pandemic after Sanders, president of Markel Specialty, was elected. “The safety of staff and members is always of the utmost importance to WSIA,” Sanders told the Reporter. “Then getting the membership what they need comes next,” Sanders added.
“I have not had a single in-person event during the first nine months of my presidency,” Sanders said. The number of meetings he had virtually in the first month of his presidency were more than he had had in his lifetime before then.
He has almost 40 years’ experience in the insurance industry, entering the industry after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Kent State University. He has experience in most segments of the industry, including a company underwriter, a retail agent, a wholesale broker, and most recently working on the company side in various senior management roles.
Sanders has been with Markel since 2013 serving in a variety of positions before being appointed as president of Markel Specialty.
He served on the legacy AAMGA board of directors and has served on the WSIA board of directors since its inception in 2017. Sanders served as the chair of the WSIA Career Development Committee, co-chair of the WSIA Events Committee, and as a member of the Executive Committee since 2018.
The Reporter asked Sanders if the hard market is the biggest obstacle facing the insurance industry going forward. His response was that the hard market should not be seen as an obstacle, but a challenge and an opportunity for the insurance industry.
“The market conditions we had before the start of COVID, a prolonged soft market with a low interest rate environment as well as natural disasters, caused the market to tighten,” Sanders said. “Those conditions still exist, and the pandemic has reinforced those situations and created uncertainty. Those market conditions, if not the pandemic, will exist for a while,” Sanders added.
Sanders is not sure when the pandemic will be over or when things can return to normal. “As the famous quote goes, ‘all we know is that we are after the beginning but not to the end’ of the pandemic,” Sanders said.
“A hardening market is not just about rates, but about restrictive terms,” Sanders told the Reporter. “We have to make sure that our customers get the terms they need at a price they can afford,” he added.
The industry has been through a hard market before, but it has been a long time since the last one. “Education is important, understanding why we are in it and how to navigate through it,” Sanders said. “If you are a carrier, it is meeting the needs of your market, and if you are a broker it is meeting the needs of your customer,” he said.
“As carriers, we are not here just for profitability’s sake, but profitability is needed to make sure that we meet the needs of our customers,” Sanders said.
Sanders is not really concerned about lawsuits being filed in disputes over whether the government shutdown for COVID-19 is covered by business interruption. He told the Reporter that it is not really a problem unless there start to be adverse judgments which provide coverage for business interruption that is outside the wording of the contracts.
“A financially stable market that is willing and available to pay valid claims as they become owed is valued by customers,” Sanders said.