An out-of-this-world Annual Conference

June 18, 2024

One of the most exciting insurance events in the cosmos was held June 2-4, 2024, at the Hard Rock Hotel Casino in Atlantic City: the PIANJ | PIANY Annual Conference. At the event, more than 1,600 insurance professionals gathered from around the region to forge connections with their fellow professionals, expand their business at the trade show, acquire cosmic knowledge at the education seminars, and more.

These professionals had a constellation of activities to enjoy at the multiday event. There were credited education seminars to attend, including a mock trial. The trade show was as busy as ever this year, featuring over 150 exhibitors in attendance, presenting new products and services to help an agent’s business grow. There also were many opportunities to network, whether it was at the Networking Cocktail Reception, YIP Nitecap or at the Networking Lunch, featuring corporate entertainer Chris Blackmore. There were times for these insurance professionals to have fun, like at the Nighttime Beach Party at the LandShark Bar & Grill, featuring the outstanding cover band, GoodMan Fiske.

Keynote addresses of galactic importance

Saturday evening included the annual PIANJ Board of Directors Dinner, featuring PIANJ immediate past President Connie Mahoney as the master of ceremonies.

“As I stand before you today, I am filled with immense gratitude and pride. Serving as the president of this incredible organization has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career,” she said. “Together, we have achieved great milestones, tackled rate and market-share challenges, and set the stage for a future full of growth.”

“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you. Your dedication, time and unwavering commitment are the driving force behind our success,” Mahoney continued. “It is your passion and hard work that have made this association what it is today—a supportive community for industry professionals.”

The address also was bittersweet. While there was much to celebrate, like the association’s milestones, the changing of the administration, and the presentation of the Awards of Distinction, the association lost past President Andrew Harris Sr., CIC, CPCU, ARM, CRM, AIS, earlier this year.

Mahoney said, “Andy was a giant in the insurance industry—a man whose professional contributions have left an indelible mark on everyone who had the privilege of knowing him.” For his work and efforts over his 48-year career, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement in Industry Excellence award, which was accepted on his behalf by his son, Andrew Harris Jr., CIC, AAI, the newly elected PIANJ president.

The conference’s Networking Luncheon was held Monday afternoon, featuring PIA National President Richard A. Savino, CIC, CPIA, as the master of ceremonies, and corporate entertainer Chris Blackmore as the keynote speaker.

Savino opened by thanking everyone who was able to participate in the conference this year. “I’d like to acknowledge the contributions of all the agents, brokers, and companies participating in this event—thank you for your strong commitment our organization. I’d especially like to thank the New York agents who made the trip to New Jersey. You help make this joint conference a success!”

Then, he acknowledged the ongoing efforts of PIANY’s officers, as well as PIANJ’s recent change of administration. He highlighted the efforts of both states’ Young Insurance Professionals groups for cultivating future insurance industry leaders, as well as the leadership and staff of PIA Northeast.

“The Young Insurance Professionals ensure the future of both our associations and our industry by identifying trailblazers, and building the next generation of industry leaders,” said Savino.

“I want to acknowledge the PIA Northeast staff, expertly led by Jeff Parmenter, CPCU, ARM, and Kelly Norris, CAE. PIA employees work hard every day to serve agents and their diverse needs—and to make sure our members have the tools and resources they need to be successful.”

Savino’s remarks were followed by a presentation from Corporate Entertainer Chris Blackmore. Blackmore is notable for his work with the entertainment company Disney as a motivational speaker: when Fortune 500 companies send their leaders to Disneyworld for training, Blackmore is there to entertain and educate. He brought that same energy and technique to the Networking Lunch, emphasizing the importance of treating customers as guests through his CARE! Patient Excellence method, emphasizing Compassion, Action, Results and Excellence.

To see photos of the luncheon, click here.

PIANJ honors industry professionals

In addition to honoring Harris, PIANJ also presented its Awards of Distinction to four deserving individuals:

Professional Agent of the Year was awarded to Carrie-Ann Crockett CPIA, CISR. Crockett is personal lines manager and affluent and family office specialist for Schechner Lifson Corp., in Summit, N.J. This award is given to a professional, independent agent who has demonstrated excellence and achievement in insurance marketing and service; has shown a personal commitment to professionalism; and has contributed to PIA and the community.

Company Person of the Year was awarded to David Gant from Plymouth Rock Assurance Corp. This award is given to individuals who foster a strong working relationship with agents and brokers, and who exemplify a commitment to professionalism and service. Gant is chief of agency marketing, and a longtime supporter of the independent agency system, as well as PIA.  

Distinguished Insurance Service was presented to Aaron Levine, CIC, member agent for LG Insurance Agency in West Long Beach, N.J. This award is presented to individuals in the insurance industry who have a history of significant contributions and support to the regional insurance community.

Director of the Year was presented to Michael Beckerman, CPCU, partner in Acrisure of New Jersey located in Colonia, N.J. The award recognizes the hard work and dedication of a member of the association’s board of directors who has contributed remarkable time and talent to help support the association and its many programs.

To see photos of the awards dinner, click here.

Newly elected PIANJ officers

PIANJ also elected a full slate of officers during the annual business meeting. Following are the new officers who will lead the association in 2024-25:

  • President: Andrew Harris Jr., CIC, AAI, CISR
  • President-elect: Roger Butler, CIC
  • Vice president: Beth Frederickson, CPIA
  • Vice president: Aaron Levine, CIC
  • Treasurer: Lisa Hamm, CIC
  • Secretary: Michael Beckerman, CPCU
  • Immediate past President: Connie Mahoney

Newly elected NJYIP officers and directors

NJYIP elected its officers and directors during its annual business meeting. Following are the new officers who will lead the association in 2024-25:

  • President: Timothy Latimer, CPCU, CIC, AAI
  • First Vice President: Michael S. DeStasio
  • Second Vice President: Walter Conroy
  • Treasurer: Shanna Muscavage
  • Secretary: Josh McManigal
  • Immediate past President: Peter Leone

The following individuals will serve as directors with terms expiring in 2026: Matt Culkin; Stephanie Danzis; Michael S. DeStasio; Joe Ferri; Josh Fertel; Peter Leone; and Kelly Raser.

Additionally, outgoing NJYIP President Peter Leone was presented with the Distinguished Service Award for his dedicated service and outstanding contributions as NJYIP president.

To see photos of the New Jersey board elections, click here.

Tapping into cosmic knowledge

The conference featured four education sessions, which were approved for continuing-education credits in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The first session was The Seven-Ten Split Mock Trial: Navigating Agent Errors & Omissions, presented by Utica National Insurance Group. Held on Sunday afternoon, the mock trial featured representatives from Utica National and PIA playing out a real errors-and-omissions case involving damages to a bowling alley after it was appraised by an insurance agent.

PIANY President Gary Slavin, CLTC, CIC, who presided over the mock trial as a judge, said the event was “entertaining and enlightening.”

“It teaches about what you need to make sure your client is fully covered, so you don’t end up in an E&O situation,” Slavin said.

To see photos of the mock trial, click here.

The next education session was Monday morning, titled Bridge Over Troubled Water: Understanding & Navigating the Hard Market. The class focused on the current hard-market cycle. Taught by PIA Northeast’s Director of Government & Industry Affairs Brad Lachut, Esq., this class armed insurance producers with the knowledge to tackle the dynamics of the hard market head on and inform their clients of its effects.

Monday afternoon featured Builders Risk 2024–Unraveling the Maze of Coverage Differences. This session was led by Steve Lyon, CPCU, CIC, CRM, AAI, ARM, AIS, CRIS, and covered the exposures clients face when buildings are under construction or renovation. The session also discussed New York Labor Laws briefly: New York’s decisions have broader implications for the insurance marketplace.

The final class, held Tuesday morning, was Cyber Coverage Explained in Depth–Finally!, featuring Jim Venezia, CPCU, CCIS, CCIC. Cyber liability attacks are not only increasing, but they are becoming more complex to handle. This class dug deep into the nuances of cyber liability coverage and what specifically it covers. That way, when participants speak with their insureds about this coverage, they will be able to so with confidence.

Diving deep into perpetuation planning

In addition to the education seminars, the conference held a Deep Dive Live session, an ongoing series of sessions from PIANJ that tackle issues of concern to independent insurance agents. Previous sessions have covered cyber security issues, and this session focused on perpetuation planning. The featured panelists included Tim Latimer, CPCU, CIC, AAI, vice president of The Barclay Group and president of NJYIP; Brooke DeWyze, chief development officer at PCF Insurance; Everett Shaw, ASA, of BH Burke & Co., and Chris Weldon, Esq. partner at Winget, Spadafora, & Swartzberg LLP. This event was moderated by Ken Bull of the Iroquois Group.

Networking with agents across the stars

The biggest attraction for many of the agents in attendance would have to be the trade show, featuring over 150 exhibitors in attendance. Hundreds of agents trekked across the trade-show floor, exploring new possibilities for their business and career. New this year were Exhibitor Micro-Sessions, during which select exhibitors had the opportunity to present their products in 15-minute presentations. Attendees appreciated the energetic atmosphere of the event, as well as the opportunity it presented to address carriers directly during a hard market.

To see photos from the trade show, click here.

The best beach party in the Milky Way

On Monday evening, the LandShark Bar & Grill opened its doors again for PIA. There, attendees were able to unwind after two jampacked days of networking and education sessions. They enjoyed the food, the beverages, the atmosphere of Atlantic City’s iconic Boardwalk, and the company of each other. All of this was backed by the music of GoodMan Fiske, one of the most popular cover bands on the East Coast.

To see photos from the beach party, click here.

Fun Run for Special Olympics NJ raises over $80,000

The NJYIP 40th Annual Fun Run 5K was held bright and early on Tuesday morning to benefit Special Olympics New Jersey. Over 80 runners participated in this year’s event, hosted right on the Boardwalk outside of the Hard Rock Casino. Attendees had an excellent view of the beach as they ran, jogged and walked for a great cause.

The top finishers this year included: Clare Mojica as the first-place female finisher (29:01) and Francis Kelly as the first-place male finisher (19:42); Angie Spallas as the second-place female finisher (29:53) and Ed Chadwick as the second-place male finisher (24:55); and Nicole Reppert as the third-place female finisher (29:58) and David Mojica as the third-place male finisher (26:03).

As to be expected, the friendly rivalry between the NJYIP and the NY-YIP was in full swing this year. While the competition was fierce, New York defended its title with vigor and gusto.

“It’s something that brings is all together,” said NY-YIP Director Marshall Glass. “We get to do something meaningful that betters ourselves and others.”

“I love this event,” said NJYIP immediate past President Peter Leone. “It’s a great cause to support, and seeing the Special Olympics athletes every year is very inspiring. It shows the worth of the cause.”

“I’m very proud to be part of NJYIP, and support Special Olympics New Jersey,” he concluded.

PIA thanks all the fundraisers who contributed to this event. This year’s top fundraisers included: top overall individual fundraiser: Stephanie Tocco ($4,650); top agency fundraiser: Jimcor ($7,068); and top company fundraiser: FMI ($24,052).

To see photos from the Fun Run, click here.

Plan for next year

Thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s event a success.

Plans are underway for next year’s event: we hope you can be a part of it, too. Watch your PIA publications for more details. And, save the date: June 8-10, 2025.

Matt McDonough is PIA Northeast's writer, editor and content curator. Matt joined PIA Northeast in September 2023. Before that, he had been an editor for the online entertainment magazine Collider from 2021-23 as a copy editor for its lists section. Matt entered the world of journalism at his alma mater, SUNY New Paltz, writing and reporting for the college's student run newspaper, The New Paltz Oracle. He graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Creative Writing in 2020.

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