In the midst of the CHART Exchange’s 2nd Annual Summit Event, Paul Lavenhar of PL Communications, a CHART Vendor Partner, sat down with CHART’s Earliest Adopter, Glenn Clark, and asked clear questions about what CHART aims to accomplish. What follows is a conversation that cuts to the core of how CHART is becoming the answer for insurance specialists who want their own program. Anyone interested in the CHART Exchange will find the following interview enlightening, as Glenn Clark, an evangelist for the industry, lays out the genesis and future of the association.
With CHART, what are your goals, what are you hoping happens, where are we going from here?
Number one, it is a work in process. We do have a vision and goal. The super vision is more U.S. commerce with Lloyds of London. That’s our core goal. We had an experimental event the first year (2015) in Philadelphia. We called it “Declaration of Interdependence.”
Now in 2016, this is our first official event that's members only, paid dues, vendor partners, or risk taker partners. We're still sorting through who really gets what ‘exchange’ means –it’s pretty easy for us to tell someone who wants to come to our event and harvest our contacts from someone that understands ‘exchange.’
Someone who understands ‘exchange’ is somebody who wants to invest in a concept or, perhaps, wants to build a farm system (pipeline) of new deals for years to come. Perfect example, is our first event (as we track EVERYTHING). We now have $70 million worth of U.S. commerce and with some sort of line slip or new tribunalization activity in London.
If that $70 million all hits and they all progress to maturity we believe that the ultimate from just our first meeting will be $150 million moving from U.S. paper to London. Now to some that’s not a big deal. But it is still $150 million? $150 million is over one-per cent of the ENTIRE premium of what Lloyds of London does in the entire U.S. now. So we know we have a good idea. We just don’t know yet if we have all the right partners.
Now we have probably refused more people attending this event than we've accepted. We managed it to 300 people. We have lots of outsiders who want to come- “I want to check you out.” “I want to see what this is about.” We've had contacts from other countries say, “Hey, how do we get involved in this thing that’s Lloyds centric?” Well, we are not going be successful if the first time we saw another pretty face we abandon our model.
Our core model is to do more U.S. business with London. We seek committed London partners. We have 14 syndicates with us today out of 93. Can we keep 93 syndicates happy? No way. Can we keep 14 happy? We think so. Okay, but do we have the right 14? We will see who came here ready to do new business, who came here ready to defend us and our intent.
We've been attacked by some outside sources with some disinformation about us so it is essential that our partners help us by going back to their networks reflecting on what a good experience CHART was. It is natural to incur resistance whenever you do something new. Maintaining our core vision, providing value for U.S. agencies that are entrepreneurial and building new commerce to London will ultimately win the day.
It’s a phenomenon in the U.S. that there is more growth via acquisitions than there is new organic growth on the merits of new ideas. The acquirers are very aggressive. God bless them. Once they acquire you, you are no longer an entrepreneur. You are saluting “another’s” flag. We’re Rockwood Programs. We’re entrepreneurs. We have people call us all the time wanting to buy our agency. Our response has been: How are you going to make our lives better? We’ve already built a great work life. We’re evangelists for doing this for a living. We have partners here like SIAA. They created 3,100 new independent agencies. They are the kind of people we want to be around.
So who listens to entrepreneurs? People who want to grow. There’s organic growth (and entrepreneurs are the authors of organic growth) and there is acquisition growth. Entrepreneurs are different animals. CHART’s future is to provide those entrepreneurial outlets for creators of new ideas and risk takers that are acceptors of new ideas. These risk takers are often more willing to do a smaller program, yet that smaller program can start a relationship that can last a very, very long time.
Long answer for one simple question, Paul. But thanks for asking.
I like it. So I want to go back to the $70 million deals. One of the things that I think is unique here is that it is more intimate. It is smaller in scale and I've heard that from a lot of people. I think one of the things that's a big differentiator here among others is there is real deal-making going on. And that was your plan. So tell me about that.
Well, it was not only our plan, it was our strategy from day one. When we recruit attendees and advertise to U.S. producers, we go, “Do you specialize?” or, “Do you want to specialize?” “Do you have a specialty idea?” People will criticize us and say we are trying to appoint retailers. We don’t even use that vernacular. Retail or wholesale distribution is not a significant issue to us. Our issues: Are you an expert? Do you have an edge in an area where you can bring value to an industry segment? Our targeted marketing is to people who specialize.
Part of our qualifications sent out in order to attend our meeting is a detailed agency questionnaire. Fill this out, tell us about yourself. We analyze to see if you're large enough, how long you have been in business; what your pedigrees are for your owners and your underwriters. Our team will check for specializations, new ideas, existing blocks that would give us the comfort factor that you understand the specialty business.
Rockwood is a Program Administrator. We’ve been doing this for 20 years. Before that we were direct response execs at AIG for 15 years. So we know what affinity is. We know how to measure the potential of a success of a risk opportunity, how to measure a marketing campaign, and the returns on investment of our marketing dollars. We employ a detailed program questionnaire that the CHART attendee will fill out to the best of their ability. CHART has committed broker partners who take our work and then try to match those interest areas with the expertise/appetites possessed by the risk takers that attend.
The qualification and “matching” are the core functions that makes us different from anybody else in this industry. To prepare our audiences we have them come to our meeting ready to do commerce. Sunday arrival is just to have some fun and casual intros. Monday night is the formal kick off and we host a cocktail party.
Since we rent the entire hotel and the meeting rooms are available the entire rooms the whole day so we took advantage of the time and scheduled 300 preset meetings before anyone even arrives. The CHART- Exchange and its broker partners had done a year's worth of pre-work before the Fall Meeting. The 300 pre-set meetings ultimately grew to close to 500 private meetings as people started to know each other and do referrals back and forth.
There are other industry groups that are larger than us, more connected than us, with hugely successful strategies. We know them all (and attend a few). They serve our audiences well. However, CHART is a unique model. Smaller, more intimate, and singularly focused on new business between the U.S. and London. CHART was built purposefully around a set of core values. The central theme is: “ to give up something of value to get something of greater value”. The definition of exchange. We also try to recruit attendees using the Biblical theme from Proverbs 27:17 “as iron sharpens iron so does one person sharpen another”.
Imagine an entire meeting populated by people who “give to get” and who are trying to help the other people they are interacting with to advance. It is dynamic and FUN. Conversely, if you are not an “Exchange” oriented person, you will either self-edit and not attend, or quickly be “outed” as not belonging in our group.
Many agents when asked: “Who or what is Lloyds” - have a stereotyped or less than accurate image of the market. Another goal we have is to demystify London while teaching the benefits to a U.S. agency becoming tribunalized (hint: increases agency value). We employ a number of techniques such as mentoring, workshops, syndicate presentations , and panel discussions to accomplish this task. It is very interesting to hear from the syndicates first hand. Some needed a bit of encouragement and/or coaching as this is not a task they are used to doing. With over 90 different syndicates it is fascinating to learn what makes each one unique.
An additional part of our values system is to be with the best of the best . We’ve just articulated our core values at the group meeting to officially open up our event. We think CHART’s value system will be well received by most. At the end, asked everyone stand up and we gave them a CHART Deputy sheriff’s badge (then deputized them).
We said, “Here is your sole job, when you leave us. If you believe in what you witness first hand in the next couple of days, bring somebody else next year. Bring the right person, not just somebody else. Bring a friend that’s made you better because that friend/ colleague is going to make us all better.”
One thing about you, you love what you are doing.
And very few people have that gift I think.
Well, I think you choose happiness. You choose to prosper wherever you are planted. It's a wonderful industry and I’m a bit of an evangelist for it.
And you are also the kind of person who absorbs everything around you, you don’t separate yourself. You become part of it and that’s –
Thank you, Paul My main job here ( if you watch me) is to find the folks that are not yet engaging with us. If you are standing by yourself, I may approach you completely uninvited. “Hey, who are you?” “How did you get here?” “Who talked you into this?” “Was it 20 phone calls, then you finally just gave up and said you’d come?” What are you trying to do?” “Hey, you need to meet Scott Addis or you need to meet Bill Fahy,” that kind of a thing.
So, I enjoy the match making. Here’s another rock solid rule in this business. You help somebody get ahead, it comes back to you. You don’t have to be out for yourself. You are out for our industry and you are blessed because you helped somebody else.
We all know the people in our lives that said: “Hey, you are smarter than that.” They challenged you and said, “You can do anything you want.” That’s the kind of atmosphere we want to create, an encouraging forum so that if you have a new idea, there is not 20 people saying, “You’re crazy.” The atmosphere of being with 300 likeminded people who want to do new things is electric. You exit a meeting like this with new friends, new ideas, a more efficient network and best of all, new business.
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