Five minutes with your PIWA President Tony Sidoni
The Professional Insurance Wholesalers Association took a few minutes to chat with its recently elected President Tony Sidoni, executive vice president of AmWins Brokerage NY Inc., Syracuse, N.Y., to discuss his history with the association; his plans for his presidency; and more. Here’s what he had to say.
How did you get involved in the insurance industry?
My entry into the insurance business was somewhat accidental. During my junior year at Syracuse University, I started a painting contractor company with a partner. It was 1973, which was a difficult employment year, so it was important to generate income.
While the business was successful, the prospect of contracting for a living did not interest me. My desire to find a career that appealed to me led me to interview for a sales manager for a national insurance carrier. I got the job and my mentor at the company was an exceptional guy who shared his talents and experience with me, which eventually led me to where I am today: the executive vice president of AmWins Brokerage NY Inc.
Tell us about your history with PIWA.
I learned about PIWA when I transitioned from retail brokerage to wholesale brokerage. Once again, I gravitated to the serious professionals who were involved with PIWA and who were dedicated to the insurance business. Over time, they taught me the industry and its importance. They also were role models who reinforced in me the importance of ethical business practices.
As president of PIWA, what are your priorities for the association?
I have four major goals that I would like to accomplish during my PIWA presidency: 1. to expand membership in PIWA and prepare the organization to create more opportunities for its members; 2. to inform and attract young professionals who are essential to the future of the industry; 3. to be aware and active in matters that could create legislative barriers or obstacles to our industry; and 4. above all, I don’t want to mess up the good work that was done by the dedicated folks who came before us.
What do you find most valuable about PIWA?
The association is the vehicle that permits groups of professionals to band together to achieve their common objectives. There definitely is strength in numbers as well as in the divergence of opinion on a wide spectrum of issues. It’s a lot like the saying: “many hands make light work,” except in this case it’s “many minds make better decisions.”
What would you say to encourage more wholesalers to become active in PIWA?
The PIWA organization has evolved from its early origins of the excess business into an important player in all aspects of the wholesale brokerage business. Over the years, its members had to be vigilant about the potentially damaging effects of disruptive legislation and regulation. That was the front line.
Those efforts were serious, hard fought, and in the end, have contributed to the maturation of our industry. None of that work was free or easy.
As professionals in an important industry, you shouldn’t expect a few PIWA members to carry the entire load. As a professional, you need to be prepared to help carry your part of the load. Much like freedom, if we don’t defend and protect it, we can lose it. Nothing is guaranteed to us.
What is the No. 1 issue that you think affects the industry today?
In one way, the insurance industry is like all other industries, it needs quality people to do the work.
As an industry, we need to do a much better job in attracting talent to the insurance industry and retaining it. While technology is a powerful tool, the human mind is essential in our business and there is always a place for human judgement in that equation.
Finding, training and cultivating our next generation of employees is essential to the economic growth of our companies and the nation.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
That’s a difficult question. Perhaps it is that I have a great respect for all of the men and women that have come before me in our business. Also, that I have had the privilege of knowing and working with some of the finest professionals who shared their knowledge with me. Maybe just that it is my honor and privilege to share what I have learned with others.
Serious professionals support their industries with their time and commitment. Whatever business you are in, do that and you elevate your value to your company, to your organization and yourself.
Executive Vice President
AmWins Brokerage NY Inc.
PIWA members will continue to face a number of issues in 2018
The 2017 legislation has been carried over into 2018, so PIWA’s concerns from last year will remain as its legislative agenda for the new year.
New York state faces over a $4 billion dollar deficit—$1.6 billion if it holds itself to a 2 percent spending cap. It is an election year, so the governor; attorney general; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; all congressional seats; and all state legislative seats up are up for re-election.
Sen. James L. Seward, R-51, will remain as chair of the Senate Insurance Committee and Sen. Neil D. Breslin, D-44, is the committee’s ranking member. Assemblyman Kevin A. Cahill, D-103, will remain as chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee, and Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-120, continues to be the committee’s ranking member. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will announce his budget by Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, and he will have 30 days to make changes. In addition to the state’s deficit, one of the big issues is how the federal tax law change will impact New York residents.
PIWA will make an annual visit to the state Legislature to help advance its agenda for 2018. Additionally, we will monitor the bills being introduced and considered in the Legislature on PIWA’s behalf. We also will monitor regulatory changes.
PIWA representatives promoted PIWA’s members’ contributions to New York’s economy providing specialty markets for New York retail producers in 2017. Wholesalers accounted for 265,000 excess-line transactions with a New York premium of $2.276 billion in 2016. PIWA members account for about the same in the admitted market. This translates to $160 million in taxes, and 200 offices throughout New York state. We will update these numbers for 2018.
Legislative agenda for 2018
PIWA’s 2017 legislative agenda included: supporting legislation that would allow physicians and dentists to high-quality medical malpractice insurance companies (A.29/S.422, sponsored by Cahill and Seward). Under current law, excess-line producers cannot place hospital, physician or dentist malpractice insurance in the nonadmitted market unless they receive a declination from the state’s medical-malpractice residual market. By definition, a residual market does not issue declinations. As a result, these health-care providers either must physically leave the state to obtain coverage; or obtain unsuitable coverage from the residual market or potentially from thinly capitalized Risk Retention Groups.
PIWA members met with Seward to require only admitted paper for medical malpractice insurance. He was receptive to our concerns about the bill, which include providing a soft landing for insureds who currently are insured from an entity whose liabilities appear to outstrip its surplus. He was aware of concerns about Risk Retention Groups, but he was unaware of the bill’s declination requirement. On the Assembly side, Cahill suggested that perhaps to overcome the New York State Department of Financial Services’ opposition to the bill, it could be amended to include a “passive declination,” so that after a period of time, if there is no response from the Medical Malpractice Insurance Pool, it could be treated as declination under the purposes of the law. This legislation remains live for 2018.
Your association’s legislative agenda also includes support of insurability of punitive damages bills (A.4734/S.423, sponsored by Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi, D-119, and Seward). We met with Brindisi who would like to address your association’s concerns that allowing for punitive damages may encourage some culpable conduct. There is much work to be done on this legislation and it could be up in the air this session since Brindisi is running for U.S. Congress, and the Assembly Judiciary Committee, with which Brindisi was working with on this bill, has changed its leadership this year. The regular insurance industry is divided on this issue—at least one national trade is opposed to the legislation.
We also met with legislators to support the ability for active members of professional producer associations, such as PIWA, to earn continuing-education credits by attending at least one educational meeting a year. A bill, A.7012/S.3960 (sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela J. Hunter, D-128, and Seward), has been introduced in addition to the other bills that would make the licensing process more efficient.
The next deadline for the NYDFS’s cybersecurity regulation is Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. The department requires all New York-licensed insurance agencies, agents and brokers to file a certification of compliance under its cybersecurity regulation (23 NYCRR 500), prior to this date. For more information on how this regulation affects your business, see the department’s updated FAQs.
Additionally, the NYDFS has proposed changes to the FTZ listings, adding a few categories that wholesalers could avail themselves for their retail producers. The new Class 2 listings include: Directors and Officers Liability Insurance–Biotech and Nanotechnology; Crowdfunding Platforms; and several other changes. These are not yet in effect.
PIWA’s Fall Reception
More than 70 insurance professionals gathered for the Professional Insurance Wholesalers of New York State’s Fall Cocktail Reception, Nov. 2, at Chef Bobby Flay’s stunning Bar Americain in Midtown Manhattan. Company and agency attendees gathered in the restaurant’s loft for an enjoyable evening of networking.
For more information about the event, including photos, click here.
What’s next …
PIWA is planning its events for 2018. See the next issue of the PIWA eBulletin in April for more details.