I was in Naples, FL last week. Wayne Largent, IdeaStar CTO and insurance technology guru, went with me to a client carrier’s Managing General Agent ( MGA ) conference. Why were we there? The client’s “Agent Advisory Board” had asked that the carrier invite different partners of the carrier to their annual meeting of MGA’s. As the carrier’s Web technology partner, we arrived Tuesday night for the conference that opened Wednesday night with a reception and networking session with the vendors such as IdeaStar, Norvax, Lab One, iBoomerang, and a couple others.

Our table-top display.

So Wednesday we wake up to the big news: Hurricane Wilma is the strongest hurricane ever recorded and it is to hit Southwest Florida on Saturday. Yikes!?!? So the carrier called as many MGA’s as possible and told them to stay home if they hadn’t left… or turn around if they had. But because about a third of the MGA’s were already there, they decided to hold the opening reception and networking event anyway. So Wayne and I took an Airboat Ride in Everglades City in the afternoon, saw some alligators, tarpin, and a bunch of different birds (and some big gas lines) and then came back to the conference.

Mike and Wayne

A gator friend.

A couple spectators.

Turns out, we had a few really good conversations, one in particular with an MGA that’s big in the small group health market – agent-driven of course, multi-carrier. He’s excited to Web-enable his quoting and proposal process so that his independent agents can shorten turnaround times and improve the consistencey, quality, and clarity of their proposals. He’s convinced that this will help his distribution sell more business faster – and give him a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting more agents. I totally agree. We’ve been looking for avenues to get into the small group health market for a while…this might be the ticket.

The way out of town.

I read that Wilma went through 2 days later than originally predicted, and fortunately as a Cat 3 system. Glad I wasn’t there. Hope they all recover soon. Man, what a bad hurricane season 2005 was. I wonder if that means a lot of snow up here in Cleveland this Winter? Last year we set a record with over 100 inches.