The Executive Vice President of Operations for AmWINS Access Insurance Services discusses her journey to leading the premier organization of Surplus Lines professionals — and what’s next with National Underwriter Editor-in-Chief Shawn Moynihan.
This is the first WSIA Annual Marketplace since the merger of AAMGA and NAPSLO, with you as president of the unified organization. How has this experience been for you, so far?
I think back to when I was starting in this industry and I used to practically beg to be able to go to NAPSLO and to AAMGA, because it was one of the greatest learning experiences that you could get and meet so many people. To be the named leader of that is actually quite surreal, that I would be standing on a podium in front of a microphone. I feel good, I’m getting used to it.
How did you get into the insurance industry?
I’d graduated from high school and I had good friend who was working at what was Bliss & Glennon [in Torrance, Calif.] at the time; a very small MGA. They needed someone to do filing, a part-time worker. I went on an interview that was very short, basically they asked me if I knew how to type and I said yes. I started working part time there and going to junior college.
Maybe two years into it, I was getting my associate’s degree, and I was getting ready to transfer to get a bachelor’s. I wasn’t picking a major and one of the owners at that time asked me, “Why don’t you just work full time and get your CPCU?” and that’s what I did. From then on I’ve been working in this industry for the same company.
We’ve had a couple of different owners, but when I started at Bliss & Glennon at that time, there were only nine people, and then we grew when we sold. In 2003, I was a minority owner and we sold to what was then HRH. There were about 100 people at that time, so we had grown. I started as a file clerk, then I was a Personal Lines assistant in Underwriting, then I went to Commercial Lines, and went on from there.
At some point, I ended up going down the path of operations and focusing more on supporting the process after the bind. So then I was the COO, and then HRH had purchased us and we started to gain a few more offices, because we were mainly West Coast. AmWINS acquired Bliss & Glennon in 2014.
They provided the opportunity, and it’s up to you to make the most of the opportunity, so that’s what I did.
WSIA's first president Corinne Jones sits down with NU editor-in-chief Shawn Moynihan. (Photo: Kelly Farrar)
When did you first become involved with AAMGA?
I’d always gone to the conferences but I really hadn’t been on a lot of the committees. I was too busy raising a family and working, so that doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else. But Scott Anderson, who is an AAMGA past president, called me to ask if I would consider being on the board.
I had to ask my boss at the time to make sure they supported that, because there’s a time commitment and travel. So I did three years on the board. AAMGA had an election process, so you served three years and then you’re up for the presidency. At that time, I was standing with R.C. Chaffin and he won that presidency, which was perfectly fine; I still had a lot to learn. Now, being here in this position, I feel like there was some fate to it, like there’s a reason for everything.
Now, when you didn’t go on to the presidency, you were finished. So I took a break and then I was asked again to go on the board, about a year-and-a-half later. Now that time, I knew what I was getting into, so when I said yes, that time I truly knew the commitment.
I did three years there and then I was nominated and elected as the AAMGA’s second female president. The first one was in 1983, so it was a proud moment in a lot of ways for me personally, but also for the female professionals.
My current role has just been a great experience. I always feel that I’m gaining more than I’m giving most of the time. On the board you’re just around these successful people that are dedicating themselves to the industry and promoting it so passionately. It’s a very caring industry, I find. They are so genuine. They are truly friendly competitors, for the most part.
In light of everything we’ve been talking about, including seeing an increasing number of smart, powerful women in this industry, what does the WSIA presidency mean to you?
To be in this position is deeply meaningful. It’s great to actually be able to give back and be the ambassador for WSIA. I feel like it was a great position to be in, on the merger committee and be able to explain to people what this organization was going to be, and allay any concerns over what anyone might have thought wasn’t going to happen.
I feel like I can bring something to all the constituents, whether it’s binding authority or brokering an agent. I feel like I’m comfortable with talking with everybody. I feel good about that.
The work of the Merger Committee was solidly impressive.
It was very, very organized and a very thoughtful process. It was a great merger committee team, and then (what was at that time) the NAPSLO staff was helping us document everything and attended to the many details.
All those details helped us get through that transition very easily. The WSIA staff and its leaders are amazing to me. They’ve made it look really easy, even though I know it wasn’t. It was lots and lots of time and thoughtful discussion.
Members in good standing of NAPSLO and AAMGA became members of WSIA.
I would think one of the biggest challenges right now for this organization is to first articulate the value position around a unified organization, and then communicate that to the industry. It seems as simple as that, but daunting at the same time.
You do have to keep articulating that and helping people understand that we’re here for every facet of the wholesale industry, wherever you are in that part of the business. So we will keep communicating what we’re bringing to them.
There is so much that we do that sometimes goes unseen by some people. They don’t always comprehend the legislative work, the advocacy — so much of what WSIA does at that level. When I listen to our governmental affairs people and legislative committee, it’s amazing what they’re doing for every member.
We need to keep articulating to members all the things we’re able to do, that we’re here for them, we’re providing education, and we’re really constantly saying what the wholesale value of our distribution system is.
What’s next for you in this position? What do you want to achieve?
I hope to keep creating. We’re now getting through the full transition to WSIA; then the next step, to me, is, “OK, what else can we provide? What else can we create for the future and just make us as relevant as possible, as innovative as possible, and reach as many people as we can to help them make a career, enhance their career, and find this hidden treasure?” I still think there’s nothing like learning on the job.
It’s a very forward-looking mindset to make [the Annual Marketplace] the first combined event under the new banner, just months after the vote was finalized. I think that speaks to the steadfastness behind the merger, that this is the way forward, let’s start right away.
I had a friend give me some amazing advice. On one hand, I needed to plan for how things were going to go in the event we had stayed AAMGA, but I also needed to plan for the [likely] possibility of the merger, especially since they had told me that I was on the slate to be the WSIA president. I was thinking, “How do I plan for that? How am I going to get all this done?”
My friend advised me, “Corinne, just plan for success.” So I didn’t worry about it. In my mind I just planned for success of the merger without presuming what the vote was going to be or taking that for granted. And we were fortunate; we had an overwhelming response in favor for the merger. There was really good participation on the number of people that voted, so that was also validating, that was a good feeling. So we’re ready, we’re ready for success.