A summer internship at Gorst and Compass between his junior and senior year set in motion Bryan Clark’s career path. In 1997 following graduation from San Diego State University with a B.S. degree in business management, Clark joined the firm as an underwriter trainee. Today, Clark is president of the wholesale operation headquartered in the Los Angeles, California, suburb of Chatsworth, and in mid-March was elected president of the Wholesale and Specialty Insurance Association during the organization’s annual business meeting in Orlando.
As an intern, Clark recalls not learning in depth skills at the MGA. It was his appreciation of people and the work atmosphere that brought him into the fold. Since joining Gorst, Clark has seen the wholesaler’s staff grow from 30 to 75 in three California offices. He has also seen the increasing role of technology in the business, said Clark. Technology speeds the wholesaler’s ability to respond to the customer and the carrier. Data helps us make smart decisions, he added.
Clark, who has spent his entire insurance career with Gorst and Compass, became its president in 2015.
Clark is past president of the California Insurance Wholesalers Association. He said the state association functions like a mini-WSIA, as it promotes the value of the wholesale distribution system and advocates politically for the wholesale side of the insurance industry in the state of California, the largest E&S market in the U.S. While Clark’s service to CIWA included several years on its board and serving as president in 2009-10, Clark has maintained less active status in the state association as he pursued roles in the national association. Work colleague Paul Laufer, executive vice president at Gorst, currently serves on CIWA’s board of directors.
In 2007, Clark served as president of AAMGA Under 40 when he was senior vice president of underwriting at Gorst. He was elected to the AAMGA board of directors in 2015, then continued on the WSIA board when AAMGA and NAPSLO merged in 2017. He moved up the WSIA officers’ chairs, serving as treasurer, secretary, and then vice president before becoming president.
Clark was pleased to see attendance in Orlando resume its pre-pandemic levels. He expects that WSIA will strive to keep participation numbers up despite the current merger and acquisition activity. “The firms may be fewer due to acquisition,” said Clark, but the number of attendees is up. Consolidation is a challenge, he said, but WSIA plans top education seminars and two high energy major events each year to keep people interested and engaged in the association.
The surplus lines industry itself is facing challenges, even as it experiences record premium growth. AM Best reported an all-time high $66.1 billion in direct written E&S premium in 2020, said Clark. According to WSIA, premium in 2021 in just the 15 states with surplus lines service offices had a 22.3 percent increase in premium over the prior year. Clark expects that AM Best’s next E&S report that includes all states will have “impressive 2021 premium figures.” Even with continued record premium results Clark sees social inflation, talent acquisition and cybersecurity as top industry challenges.
Social inflation, he said, is a disrupter to data, metrics and forecasts. Its impact on the industry has resulted in rising claim costs. “Signs are that this isn’t going away anytime soon,” said Clark.
Attracting and retaining talent in the post-pandemic hybrid work environment will be key, said Clark. “As more Baby Boomers retire, we must continue to supply the pipeline with new talent,” he said. He sees career development to be as important as talent acquisition, and he believes that WSIA plays an important role in both. WSIA attracts talented college students through campus and student visits, educational opportunities, symposiums, career fairs, scholarships and internships. The association also offers multiple ways of developing and retaining talent through the work of the Education, Career Development, and Diversity Committees.
Clark sees the people aspect of this industry to be like no other and wants to use that as a hook to bring others into the business. “It is amazing that we are paid to do what we do. It’s fun.” For those making insurance a career, Clark recommends building relationships, picking a specialty product and becoming expert in it, whether it is construction, professional liability, or another. “Learn it well. Find a mentor who will help you develop,” he said.
Cybersecurity will remain a significant concern for the foreseeable future, said Clark. He stressed the importance of responding to this concern with innovation and mitigation strategies, along with collaborating with state regulators.
“What is great about the E&S marketplace is that we can look at almost any challenge and turn it into an opportunity because of our industry’s ability to respond quickly and provide solutions.”
In his spare time, Clark enjoys spending time with and traveling with his wife Jennifer and two sons and a daughter. He also enjoys a little golf and attending inspirational speaker presentations. “I like learning more about becoming a better person, better every day,” he said.