Filed Under:Agent Broker, E&S/Specialty Business

Dave Leonard: Ready for what’s next

Incoming NAPSLO President on the work that lies ahead and the industry’s future

Photo attached; from left, NAPSLO Executive Director Brady Kelley; incoming NAPSLO President Dave Leonard; and 2015-2016 NAPSLO President Gil Hine. (Photo courtesy of NAPSLO.)
Photo attached; from left, NAPSLO Executive Director Brady Kelley; incoming NAPSLO President Dave Leonard; and 2015-2016 NAPSLO President Gil Hine. (Photo courtesy of NAPSLO.)

When Dave Leonard is installed this week as NAPSLO’s acting president for 2016‒2017, his term will be the latest in a long series of professional milestones achieved over more than three decades in the insurance industry.

The chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based RSUI Group, Leonard began his career in the P&C insurance industry in 1979. He joined RSUI in late 1999 and served as its president from April 2008 until being appointed chairman and CEO four years ago.  Prior roles in the industry include Casualty Underwriting management for the Crum & Forster Companies and Treaty Reinsurance Underwriting for Employers Reinsurance Corporation.

Leonard currently serves as vice president on the NAPSLO Board of Directors after serving as secretary and previously as co-chair of the Legislative Committee as well as co-chair of the Education Committee. He has been a panelist for the NAPSLO E&S and Advanced Schools and for the NAPSLO Annual and Mid-Year conventions. Additionally, he has also served on the NAPSLO Internship Committee and as an instructor for the NAPSLO E&S School.

An alumnus of East Carolina University (where he earned his BSBA) Leonard holds CPCU, ARe, AIAF and ARM designations and has completed the AICPCU/Wharton School Insurance Executive Development Program. He lives in Alpharetta, Ga., with his wife, Pamela.

“I’m proud and honored to serve as president,” Leonard says when asked about what the honor means to him. “I’ve watched NAPSLO evolve over the years from primarily a volunteer organization to still being a volunteer organization but with a professional staff that augments the efforts of those volunteers. That’s been very gratifying.”

A NAPSLO member since 2002 (when he served as a panelist for the annual conference in San Antonio), Leonard joined NAPSLO’s board five years later. “There are 15 people on the board, and you get to know those people pretty closely,” he says. “People who are attracted to the board are highly dedicated to the industry, they have achieved successful careers during their time spent in it and they want to contribute to the well being of the industry. It’s easy to share common ground with those folks.”

During his term, Leonard says he intends to focus on, among other things, correcting some of the language in current statutes that gives the banking industry some pause when dealing with E&S insurers on Flood coverage; continuing NAPSLO’s education efforts and emphasizing the value proposition of wholesale brokers.

“That value of the wholesaler expertise is something that we’ll stress even more this year,” he says, “trying to help them see that value and understand it better. We want to continue to bring forth information and education to insureds and retailers about the value that the wholesale broker brings to the insurance transaction. That’s something important for NAPSLO to continue to support.”

Speaking to the E&S business a whole, he said, “As an industry we need to keep our entrepreneurial and innovative spirit and develop products to provide that support,” citing network security and privacy coverage as examples. “We need to maintain that willingness to look at those risks and provide product solutions.”

The year he joined NAPSLO, Leonard became a member of the internship committee. The evolution of the association’s Next Gen initiative is something he’s particularly proud of, and those junior members are expanding their influence – and experience – far beyond the areas they had previously.

“As an organization, we’ve focused on making sure that the various committees have participants that are part of Next Gen, so they can participate in NAPSLO, not just in Next Gen,” he explains. “Since they’re actually working on those committees, doing the actual work and having professional support, they can have a voice in how those committees operate.”

Leonard acknowledges the collective departure of institutional knowledge that the P&C industry will see over the next decade as many of its thought leaders retire, but the young talent coming into the ranks makes him hopeful for the surplus lines market’s future. “My entire career I’ve heard that we’re going to have a talent shortage.” He says. “I’ve been in the business since 1979, and that’s always been a topic.

“People are always lamenting the future of the business, but I’ve never thought that way,” he continues. “I see the quality of the talent coming in. Particularly now, the outreach into universities is really impressive; young people are increasingly being made aware of the opportunities in the E&S business. Next Gen leaves me with a very positive outlook for the talent level that’s available and that we’re attracting.”

As for his own career motivations, Leonard cited the one key reason why he remains in the insurance industry.

“It’s an honorable business,” he says. “On a personal level, it’s a technical, complex business where you can gain a deep understanding of how the numbers work – but it’s equally a great opportunity to work with and interact with [insureds] in these transactions. I love that balance between the work and the relationships you share with people. And in the instances in which we are needed most, I see how our business works to make things right again.”

He noted how much the P&C industry has contributed to the U.S. economy and the people in our communities, citing as an example the $42 billion in insured losses paid out following the horrors of Hurricane Katrina. “It’s a business that’s contributed greatly to the good of our society.”

When his term as president ends a year from now, what does Leonard want to see NAPSLO accomplish in those 12 months?

“If we perpetuate what this organization is doing now and do it even better, I’ll be very proud of that,” he says. “If I look back in a year and we’ve still retained our focus on networking and legislative advocacy at the state level, if our educational efforts remain strong, our Next Gen integration remains a top priority and our Wholesale Value proposition is loudly and clearly communicated, I’ll feel we’ve done our job well.

“I’d like to see us get deeper and do better than what we’ve accomplished to date,” Leonard added. 

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