Minutes of the 2021 SLA Annual Meeting

February 9, 2021

Via Webinar

NOTE: All votes highlighted below.

Opening Business

SLA Board Chair Terri Moran called the meeting to order, framed the day, and delivered the report of the chair.

Report of the Chair

Ms. Moran gave an overview of what the SLA had accomplished in 2020:

  • One of the recurring themes at the SLA is that preparing for foreseeable events helps this association to be prepared even when unforeseeable events occur.
  • The SLA created a Digital Communications Department to produce high-quality video and web productions, and that’s why it was ready to shift from in-person CE courses to live webinars when the COVID pandemic hit.
  • The SLA built the capacity for all of its employees to work from home, anticipating that events such as power shutoffs due to the growing wildfire threat might require mass telecommuting. Again, that’s why the SLA was ready when COVID shut down workplaces in March.
  • The Board of Directors raised the stamping fee because an inversion of the yield curve signaled an oncoming recession. The recession hit, but not for the reasons that the economists expected.
  • Raising the stamping fee is going to enable the SLA to fully get its fiscal house in order.
    • It paid off the $1.7-million construction loan necessitated by the move from San Francisco to San Ramon in 2017, retiring that debt two years ahead of schedule.
    • The SLA also made significant strides toward retiring its pension liability, thanks to the leadership and hard work of its new controller, Ivan Morse. In the first phase, targeting 51 former employees who were still on the books, 46 accepted a lump-sum buyout. Total participants still on the plan have dropped from 87 to 42, with most of the rest being targeted for buyouts in 2021. If there are any pensioners who do not accept the buyout, their accounts will be transferred to an outside company to administer, thereby taking this liability entirely off the SLA’s books.
    • With these liabilities removed, the SLA will work on boosting its contingency funds, which are about to lose $3 million, on paper, due to a change in accounting standards that will no longer count fixed assets as liquid assets.
  • Much of what the SLA has been doing in recent years has been this kind of work: shoring up the ship, getting the house in order.
    • For example: the SLA eliminated its filing backlog in 2019. Bringing in all those outstanding stamping fees contributed to the fiscal shoring up of the association in 2020.
    • The SLA has also been working to get the right team fully in place. Over the last year or so, it created new positions or departments, bringing in David Kodama as executive vice president, and James Greene as vice president of digital communications.
      • Additionally, the SLA has brought in talented leaders to replace longtime senior staffers who retired. It welcomed Jo Ann Del Gatto to lead Education and Compliance, and promoted Glenn Leung as the head of Financial Analysis.
      • Barbara Trumbly, who had worked with the SLA as a consultant, became vice president of HR.
      • Vani Ganti was promoted to lead the Technology Department, and she, along with Barbara Trumbly and with Jody Black of Data Analysis, became part of the Senior Staff in 2020.
    • The SLA also has been well-served by the fact that surplus lines, as an industry, can run countercyclical to economic cycles. During tough times, a lot of business flows from the admitted market into the surplus lines sector.
  • The combination of shoring up the ship and the continued growth of the surplus lines market, even in uncertain economic times, has put the SLA in a very strong position coming into 2021. And its ability to pivot in the face of unexpected circumstances has served the SLA well also. The SLA reflects the flexibility of our market sector.
    • One key example of that flexibility was how the Education and Compliance Committee, and the department, pivoted from an internship program, which it was unable to do in 2020, to more of a focus on live CE webinars.
    • Although this move was born of necessity, the results indicate that attendance for the webinars is much more robust than what might be expected for in-person courses.
      • 220-500 attendees for online webinars.
      • In-person courses typically ranged from 180 to 240 attendees total, roughly half attending in San Francisco and half in Los Angeles.
      • In short, the low end attendance for SLA webinars is roughly the same as the high end for its in-person courses.
    • These results point to how the SLA can continue to provide a valuable service to our members. Think about it: of course making live CE courses available via the web adds value. Rather than having to take the better part of a day to drive into San Francisco or Los Angeles, brokers taking CE courses via webinar can simply log in and log out, saving valuable time and helping them to be more productive.
  • In addition to focusing on what the SLA can do for members, it also homed in on how to keep its team thriving during these unusual times.
    • The SLA’s COO, Joy Erven, has taken on the role of chief cultural officer, leading the efforts to look after our employees’ health and wellness.
    • Cliston Brown, vice president of public affairs, has been tasked with an internal communications strategy to ensure that we are reaching out and keeping the staff together, even while they are forced to be apart. A recent anonymous survey of a statistically significant sample of staff found overwhelming support for the strategy, with 100% of those responding indicating that the SLA’s communications to employees have been just right.
  • Key statistics for Fiscal Year 2020 included:
    • Revenues came in at $24.5 million, more than $4 million ahead of the $20 million budget.
    • Operating expenses came in $17.9 million, about $250,000 below budget.
    • Capital costs $1.9 million, slightly more than the $1.8 million budgeted.

Elections

Ms. Moran announced that a prior vote taken electronically had confirmed the Nominating Committee’s slate for the 2021 Board of Directors:

  • Ms. Terri Moran, SLA Chair
  • Ms. Janet Beaver, SLA Vice-Chair
  • Mr. Rich Gobler, SLA Secretary/Treasurer
  • Mr. Robert Gilbert, SLA Past Chair
  • Mr. Tim Chaix
  • Mr. James Faley
  • Mr. Hank Haldeman
  • Mr. Jason Howard
  • Ms. Pam Quilici
  • Mr. Charles Rosson
  • Ms. Kathy Schroeder
  • Mr. Terrence Villar
  • Mr. John Washington

Utilizing the same procedure, Judge Harry Low was retained as mediator for 2021, and the membership approved the 2020 Annual Meeting minutes.

Additional Comments

SLA CEO and Executive Director Benjamin McKay addressed the SLA’s key goals for 2021 and Dr. Robert Hartwig of the University of South Carolina delivered the keynote address.

Adjournment

All business concluded, Ms. Moran declared the meeting adjourned.

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