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In The Public Eye: Alliant Welcomes Phil Williams and Kaci Snyder

By Alliant Specialty

Dan Howell sits down with Phil Williams and Kaci Snyder, Alliant Public Entity, to discuss how their expertise, knowledge and understanding of public entities enables them to provide clients with innovative programs that meet their specialized needs.

Intro (00:00):
Welcome to the Alliant In The Public Eye Podcast, a show dedicated to exploring risk management topics and challenges faced by today's public sector leaders. Here's your host, Daniel Howell.

Dan Howell (00:18):
Hello, this is Dan Howell. Thank you for joining us for another Alliant podcast on behalf of the Alliant Specialty Group, our Public Entity practice. I'm delighted to be here today with both Phil Williams and Kaci Snyder, they're both Senior Vice Presidents in Alliant’s, Public Entity Education and Pooling practice. Having recently joined us, we wanted to introduce them to the Alliant podcast world and give them a chance to give us some of their insight and where they're headed with their practice at Alliant. Welcome Kaci and Phil, glad you're here today.

Phil Williams (00:54):
Thank you, Dan, for having us. We're glad to be here.

Dan Howell (00:57):
Phil, this is your first podcast here with Alliant. Maybe just give us a little bit of your background and how you found your way to Alliant.

Phil Williams (01:07):
Yeah. Thank you, Dan. And it's good to be here and yeah, our first of hopefully many podcasts. Just a quick background, originally got into the insurance business on the underwriting side with the big insurance company, doing various things, but got into doing municipal business as an underwriter, and then transitioned over to the brokerage side, was with two other large global brokers before coming into Alliant. Oversaw a lot of both individually placed public in any business but focused a lot on pooling and at least my last role, Kaci and I both, I’ll let Kaci speak for her, but we were both dedicated to the pooling industry and our pooling clients. And that's all we did even though, obviously, there was a lot that we touched that involved other public entity accounts, but as everybody knows, our pools are made up of individual public entities, and that's what we focused on. And we're excited to be doing the same thing now at Alliant with the opportunities and the resources to bring some really valued services to all of our clients now.

Dan Howell (02:14):
Well, thank you, Phil. Now, I'd like to offer Kaci the opportunity to tell us her background.

Kaci Snyder (02:20):
Well, I started in insurance over 30 years ago. It's hard to say that these days, but it's true, like Phil, I started as an underwriter and for the first 10 years I spent my time underwriting national accounts and also reinsurance. I did casualty faculty at reinsurance. After 10 years, I was looking for something a little bit different and I fell into something very different. I became the underwriting manager for the Colorado Municipal Pool. It was a great large pool, all in-house servicing, and we worked directly with our members. So, I got a lot of face-to-face time with the actual buyers of insurance. After 14 years of that, also looking for something a little bit different. I was contacted by Willis because they had been our broker at the pool for over 25 years and asked me if I wanted to try my hand at brokerage. And I said, absolutely, that sounds like a lot of fun. And I love working with pools. I want to continue to work with pools. Alliant is an extension of that, with giving us so many new resources and a lot deeper resources. So, we're just looking to continue to do what we have with our clients for so many years being successful and growing that as well and expand that to more clients.

Dan Howell (03:32):
I've heard it called flipping over to the dark side when you come over to brokerage from pooling sectors. So, we're glad you made the switch to the dark side and we're trying to add a little light to it with the Alliant public entity education and pooling practice. Both of you have mentioned some of the resources, and I just want to say we at Alliant who do pool administration and support for pools are absolutely delighted that you're here. I can just tell you that I've been doing pool administration work since 1988 and just being able to have more colleagues and learn new things from our new colleagues. It's exciting for us who've been here at Alliant for a long time so we're looking forward to working together and seeing how we can jointly improve those. You mentioned some of resources. Maybe you can tell us some of the things you're working on. I know you've got an initiative going for software. Maybe you can kind of tell us what you're looking at in the near term.

Kaci Snyder (04:30):
Typically, the history of a lot of pools in terms of their rating, or you could call it rating policy management, issuance of the coverage forms of declarations. The quotes to the members were originally done on Excel spreadsheets. And unfortunately, that is the way we continue to do a lot of them. And while Excel is a wonderful software, it really doesn't have all of the efficiencies that you really need. So, to be able to cut down on the time that we spend and improve the accuracy of what we do, we're looking at adding a system, the particular company that we're looking at has worked with a lot of pools. So, they understand the uniqueness of each and every pool and there is no cookie-cutter in the way that they do things. And so, we're really excited to get going on that project.

Dan Howell (05:25):
Well, that sounds like a big value add. And as someone who, uh, started working with Visicalc and Lotus 1-2-3, and some of those spreadsheets are still being used in one way or another, it's kind of frightening. Once you figure it out, I'll be right behind you with some of our stuff. So glad to see that.

Phil Williams (05:43):
I was just going to add real quick, a former colleague of mine when we had transitioned to an underwriting system, her comment, and I quote her frequently, is she said that her life has just been changed and she was elated. So, we're looking forward to continuing to move in that direction to change our lives and our client's lives.

Dan Howell (06:02):
Amen on that, Phil, I was going to ask you if we're here in the middle. Well hopefully we're near the end, but we're certainly in the middle of a hard market. And I know that that's really impacted our pooling clients. Maybe you could provide some insight as far as what you see as challenges for pools as they navigate this market.

Phil Williams (06:22):
Yeah, obviously, it's going to vary a little bit and to some degree, a lot from one client to the next, but probably the biggest area, the two biggest areas that have impacted our clients is on the property and state and the obvious us there, especially those that are in a coastal cap prone area, that's going to impact the capacity and the market's flexibility if you will. But then the other big area that we've seen with our pools and public entities in general is some of the unique issues and coverage aspects that have impacting them from sexual molestation to the law enforcement issues and how that's impacted, especially in the last, I'd say 18 months or so, markets kind of retracting and cutting back on capacity. And for some of our pools that put out significant limits, that's become the biggest issue is continuing to be able to find markets that can provide the capacity that our clients need and want. And again, that will vary from one state, one pool to another. But so that's been a big challenge and trying to structure those, those casualty programs with what used to be done with potentially one or two markets and a lot of cases, just one now, all of a sudden you're needing half a dozen or, or more potentially yeah. To fill out capacity.

Dan Howell (07:43):
Yeah. We've surely seen a lot of changes in the terms and in the appetite, as they say Kaci, any other thoughts in that area?

Kaci Snyder (07:51):
I think the big difference in what the hard market has brought as well is needing to pull in some of the more traditional reinsurance markets who may not really be familiar with pools in the way they operate because it's a really kind of grown up as a completely different market. Those markets that are willing to write pools and understand pools and spend time to dig into them, understand that a lot of times that the structure is unlimited per occurrence, both on property and on liability, which gives the traditional reinsurance market, absolute heartburn to say that's not something that they want to do. So, it's been pulling in those, those markets that have the capacity that are willing to dip their toe into the difficult coverages, but understanding what pools do, why they need their quotes very early on, and why aggregates are a problem for them or certainly has not been a structure they've had in the past.

Dan Howell (08:48):
Yeah. It's times like these, that really are presenting a lot of challenges for pools, but this is the kind of market where so many of the pools were born and this is the kind of market where pools can really add their value and help their members in ways that the soft market makes them seem less relevant. And it's kind of easy to deliver a 5% or more decrease with broad terms and here we are needing to band together. So, I think that if we can help pools deliver on the promise that they originally formed, we'll be doing a good job for our clients there. We’re going to have to have a bunch of other podcasts for different topics. But I do want to ask since we have this opportunity on a first podcast and you both came to insurance, starting with underwriting, but I always like to know how the heck did you even end up being an underwriter in the first place. So, how did you end up coming into the business? I came at it truly by mistake. I majored in art history and medieval history. So, you know, I was perfectly unemployable, but I have a feeling you guys have better background than that.

Phil Williams (09:58):
Speaking for myself. I'm not sure I can say I have a better background and I'll keep the story short. But because I got started in underwriting as an aviation underwriter and then transitioned to property casually and international business. But so being an aviation underwriter, I got into insurance pretty much at a whim. I was at a large aviation school in riddle aeronautical university and was in my junior year. An insurance company was coming down to interview and the placement person on campus talked me into at least doing a practice interview with this company that was looking for underwriters. At the time I thought underwriters so, that must have something to do with literature or writing which wasn't my gig. And so, I tried to blow it off, but she convinced me to go do the interview and here I am. I got the job and now I'm in insurance 30-plus years later.

Dan Howell (10:46):
That's a good one years later, you need to track her down and send her a gift for making you go do that one. Kaci, what's your story?

Kaci Snyder (10:55):
Well, I think I have one of the more rare ones, I actually tried to get into insurance. My father actually, while he was a trained petroleum engineer by school, and he did work in that field for a while. He gave that up and opened independent insurance agencies all around Colorado, where we lived at the time. So I spent my junior high and high school summers in college working in the agencies, and some personal lines, some commercial lines. So, I actually started college as an actuarial science major. That's what I wanted to do in insurance. I did get my minor in math. However, I was not able to complete all four years. I always say it was differential equations that took me down. That was it. That was my nemesis. So, I did get a business marketing degree said and underwriting seemed like a great fit. So, I knew what I wanted to do. And I, that was what I did. I applied to insurance companies.

Dan Howell (11:47):
Good deal. Well, we all find our way somehow or other, but here we are. And I'm so glad we got to have this opportunity just to introduce you to the Alliant podcast world. And thank you so much for your time. I'm sure we'll have more installments as we navigate the next several months towards the renewals for 2022 and beyond. So, cheers to you. And we're delighted you're with Alliant and look forward to the next episode. For more information about Alliance, public entity education, pooling practice, please go to and navigate your way to the specialty groups, public entity page.


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