The program will be held from Sept. 18-20 at the Gaylord National Hotel in National Harbor, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C., according to Mary Ellen Freyermuth, director of MIS with the Catholic Mutual Group and an IASA volunteer with the executive education program.
“We fully expect even better attendance this year than in the past,” says Freyermuth. “We tweaked the program a bit to add another session which we thought would be interesting for everyone. And as we’ve done in the past, we tried to secure some top-notch speakers. We feel really good about what we’ve put together thus far. It’s shaping up nicely.”
The extra session this year deals with leadership and the soft-skills side, according to Freyermuth. The session is called “Navigating the Seasons of Change: New Thinking for the 21st Century.” The speaker is James P. Harris.
“He has an interesting perspective on how the seasons of the year affect leadership and change,” says Freyermuth, who has heard Harris speak in the past. He has been a speaker for nearly a decade, entertaining audiences as he discusses the differences in generations and what those differences mean for corporations, communities, and the nation.
The opening keynote address is always a major event at the Executive Edge Conference, according to Freyermuth, and this year the speaker is the famed author and journalist Bob Woodward, whose topic is “The Obama Wars.”
“We wanted to get someone who was familiar with the Washington scene,” says Freyermuth. “But we didn’t want to try and draw too much from a defined political party. We wanted to try and get someone we thought would appeal across the board to everyone and would have an interesting story to tell.”
Woodward made his name as a young reporter with the Washington Post as he and partner Carl Bernstein uncovered many of the major details around the cover-up of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon in 1974. Their subsequent book, All the President’s Men was a best seller and was turned into a successful film starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein.
He still writes for the Post and has authored several books
“In the past we’ve tried to bring in speakers who can share a lot of interesting information with the group,” says Freyermuth. “Certainly Bob Woodward falls into that category. We’re thrilled to have him on the program.”
Another change in the program this year is the addition of a second keynote address. This event will feature Michael Durant, a former helicopter pilot for the United States Army who crashed his helicopter in Somalia, became a prisoner of war, and was one of the subjects of the book and movie, Black Hawk Down.
“We felt a second keynote would be a nice way to start off the second day,” says Freyermuth. “We wanted everybody to be upbeat before we start breaking in to the nuts and bolts sessions. We again wanted to bring in someone we thought would have an interesting story to tell; someone who had to deal with leadership issues. We wanted someone who was dynamic. We thought Michael Durant was a great choice. He’s going to have an interesting story to tell. Beside his story he’s an interesting gentleman.”
In addition to the panel discussions, the conference committee has put together a senior executive panel to discuss the state of the industry, according to Freyermuth.
“They are going to talk about pricing, regulatory issues, opportunities, and how technology impacts the insurance industry,” she says.
There also will be the annual point/counterpoint session, which Freyermuth explains has been successful in the past.
“We bring in CIOs, CTOs and CFOs and have them interact and discuss the relationships they have with each other and how they impact one another—negatively as well as positively,” she says.
On the second day, following the Durant keynote, the committee is bringing in a yet to be determined speaker that Freyermuth hopes will speak on what the future holds and things that impact everyone’s lives.
Following that will be breakout sessions, which Freyermuth reports are always well received.
The CIOs and CTOs will go in their own area and the CFOs, COOs and the chief investment officers will get together.
“We plan to have a facilitator with each of those groups,” says Freyermuth. “We also solicit information from the attendees on what the topical issues are and the kinds of things they want to talk about. It’s a great sharing of information. Because it involves carriers as well as vendors it is interesting to get the variety of perspectives.”
Freyermuth believes the Executive EDGE Conference is an opportunity for insurance executives to come together to talk about the things that are most important to them.
“We think it’s a great educational offering and it has taken off so well from the first year,” she says. “It’s a nice continuum from the annual IASA conference itself.”