The members have spoken – the vote is now official.
Members of the National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices (NAPSLO) and the American Association of Managing General Agents (AAMGA) have voted in favor of creating a unified, national group of E&S professionals that going forward will be known as the Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association (WSIA), effective Aug. 1.
The AAMGA received 270 of 348 eligible member votes representing a 78% quorum of its membership, while NAPSLO received 241 of 452 eligible member votes representing a 53% quorum of its membership. With 89% of the AAMGA's votes and 93% of NAPSLO's votes in support of the merger, members have overwhelmingly affirmed the creation of WSIA.
WSIA will be governed by a board of directors that includes both legacy organizations' members. Corinne Jones, executive vice president of operations for AmWINS Access Insurance Services, will serve as president.
"It is an honor to serve as the first president of WSIA, and I'm looking forward to the work that's ahead," Jones said in a statement. "This merger is not simply a refresh or rebrand of two legacy organizations, but a brand-new association dedicated to developing and strengthening the wholesale, specialty and surplus lines insurance industry. WSIA will increase the strength of our organization by combining the legacy of AAMGA and NAPSLO and the best of what each had to offer: networking, education, talent development, legislative and regulatory advocacy and of course, promoting wholesale value."
“WSIA has been thoughtfully created to best meet the needs of our collective members and serve the entirety of the wholesale, specialty and surplus lines industry," NAPSLO President Dave Leonard wrote Tuesday morning in a note to NAPSLO members. "This is an exciting time for our association.”
In April, the AAMGA and NAPSLO boards of directors approved a proposal to merge the two long-standing surplus lines organizations. The merger proposal received a majority vote by the memberships of both groups.
CPA firm Mayer Hoffman McCann tallied the votes, which were returned by Monday’s deadline.
News of the vote comes of little surprise to those who have been privy to the thorough due diligence by the merger committee representing both AAMGA and NAPSLO. It also didn’t hurt that 76% of AAMGA's 437 members were also NAPSLO members, and of NAPSLO's 701 members, 48% were also members of AAMGA.
At a Town Hall meeting hosted during NAPSLO's Mid-Year Leadership Forum at the Marriott Resort in Harbor Beach in March, leaders representing AAMGA and NAPSLO spent 90 minutes laying out their strategy for the coming months — including details on which annual events would still take place (and when) should the merger come to pass, as well as a long list of additional details sorted out after months of work by the merger committee.
"WSIA has been developed through a very thoughtful and purposeful process," said Hank Haldeman, Merger Committee Chair. "Members have not voted affirmatively for a simple merger of the two existing organizations but have endorsed the creation of a new world-class member services association that will serve the entire wholesale, specialty and surplus lines industry. The committee envisioned an association that will offer members even greater services and value in one new organization, and I am thrilled by the benefits that exist for member firms of all shapes and sizes because of this merger."
Among the benefits that have been outlined to members: a single, rebranded organization with renewed energy and purpose; a simplified menu of programs and services; a larger, unified voice in its legislative and regulatory advocacy; cost savings gained by combining the management of the two separate organizations; synergy in committee and volunteer work; and refinement of existing networking events.
The latter point is one that will require further attention by the committee with regard to location planning, but NAPSLO’s annual convention this year will still take place from Sept. 10-13 in San Diego (and will be rebranded as the first official WSIA event).
"Members will see the WSIA brand incorporated into all programs and services in coming months, as we offer a combined slate of education programs that includes all the same opportunities that each organization has traditionally offered," said Brady Kelley, WSIA Executive Director. "WSIA will also continue to provide an important forum for its under-40 members by combining the programming and events of the AAMGA's Under Forty Organization and NAPSLO's Next Generation into WSIA's U40."
Going forward, however, additional changes are in store from an events perspective.
NAPSLO’s annual fall convention that currently vacillates between Atlanta and San Diego (which will now be known as the “Annual Marketplace,” under WSIA branding) will still be held in venues booked through 2023. However, the annual business meeting, including the election of directors and officers, will move to a combined event held earlier in the year that would be known as the WSIA Spring Summit — a combination of AAMGA’s Annual Meeting and the NAPSLO Mid-Year Leadership Forum. That event would be held in late February/early March.
Members of NAPSLO and AAMGA are encouraged to review all merger-related materials, including the AAMGA/NAPSLO Merger Committee's proposal, board and member resolutions, notice, plan of merger, amended and restated articles of incorporation, bylaws, and other important details at www.wsia.org, which in time will serve as the one web site serving the entire combined membership.
Both organizations invested $75,000 to support the work and due diligence in studying the risks, benefits and pure feasibility of a union, news of which first broke last October. Recommendations were made to the boards of both organizations, with each maintaining independent authority regarding the advancement of a merger proposal.