As the coronavirus and its COVID-19 disease spread, Insurance professionals going to industry conferences over the next few weeks and months could find themselves having their temperature taken at the door and being told not to shake hands with fellow attendees.
They will also be encouraged to wash their hands frequently.
Other than that, it’s mostly business-as-usual for insurance conference planners, thus far.
Insurance Journal checked in with organizers of various global and national conferences and found that while they are monitoring the coronavirus situation closely, none of the organizations has cancelled a conference.
[Editor’s Note: The day after this story was published, Insurance Journal learned of one insurance conference cancellation, or conversion. Insurance data analytics and risk modeling firm Verisk has converted its Cyber and Casualty Seminar scheduled for March 10 in New York City from an in-person to a free virtual event “out of an abundance of caution over the global spread of the novel coronavirus.” Learn more.]
The organizations are emphasizing that registrants who are ill should not travel, while working with the managers of their hosting venues to sanitize their meeting spaces and provide convenient hand washing facilities.
From RIMS to Insurance Innovators, WCRI to PLRB, NAMIC to NAIC, the meetings are on.
A key influence on the thinking of some organizers to forge ahead with their plans: they do not have many, if any, registrants from areas hard hit by the virus.
MarketforceLive, creators of the Insurance Innovators series of conferences including Claims 2020 and Fraud 2020 in London on March 11 and USA 2020 in Nashville March 30-31, has decided to move ahead as scheduled but with limitations on registrants from China.
“Currently,” its advisory said, “we do not have any delegates from China registered to attend our events in Europe or the USA and we currently do not expect any delegates from China to register in the coming months. We will not permit entry to any delegates from Hubei or Wuhan provinces, the specific lockdown areas in Northern Italy as designated by the Italian government and parts of South Korea. Furthermore, travelers from China would need to show proof that they have been outside of China for 14 days prior to the event before being allowed to attend.”
Michael Brode of the Property Liability Resource Bureau (PLRB) said his organization is well-prepared for its annual Claims Conference and Insurance Expo on March 8-11 in Washington, D.C. “PLRB always has contingency plans. Big meetings get canceled from time to time due to weather events also known as acts of god. PLRB works with the host cities, hotels, and convention centers when these things happen. PLRB is prepared to adapt at a moment’s notice,” Brode told Insurance Journal.
Bode said PLRB’s audience is mostly domestic and it does not have a significant number of international participants from countries with significant outbreaks.
MarketforceLive is taking precautions further than the others. All attendees will be temperature checked upon entry to a MarketforceLive event, anyone registering a temperature above 37.5°C will not be admitted to the event, according to the company.
Furthermore, forget the self-serve buffets at an Insurance Innovations event. All food will be served by venue staff to “stop cross contamination at buffets.” Registration will be conducted by MarketforceLive staff to “avoid multiple people using the same touchscreen devices.”
Also, all of its events have adopted a “no-handshake policy” until further notice.
The thinking on handshakes is similar at the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, which is meeting in Boston this week. WCRI said the conference hotel is “reinforcing recommended measures on appropriate sanitation standards and following the guidance” of the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and local health authorities.
“While the risk remains low at this time, WCRI encourages a handshake-free meeting,” its memo to attendees adds.
RIMS 2020, which is among the industry’s largest meetings and draws a global audience, is scheduled to go an as planned for Denver in early May, according to a statement from the risk management group. “The safety and well-being of our attendees is a priority. We are taking the potential impact of COVID-19 virus very seriously and are working with local agencies and partners to ensure that we deliver a safe and productive environment,” RIMS said.
Crista Hassett, vice president of event operations for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, said her organization is continuing its current event schedule without interruption. “That said, we are following coronavirus updates to address the safety and well-being of attendees at all future events,” she added. “We realize that the situation may change in the coming days and weeks and we will reevaluate as needed.” Among NAMIC’s upcoming meetings are a Commercial Lines Seminar this week in Chicago and a CEO Roundtables event on March 22-24 in Orlando.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners said it currently does not believe the immediate risk of COVID-19 warrants any change in its meeting plans “However, we are actively monitoring the situation on a day to day basis, with the safety and security of our attendees in mind,” the organization told Insurance Journal. NAIC’s upcoming conferences include its Spring Meeting on March 21-24 in Phoenix and its International Forum on May 4-5 in Washington, D.C.
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway announced it is proceeding with its May 2 annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, which attracts as many as 40,000 people from around the world, as planned no matter what happens. It posted this notice on its website:
“The Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting will be held on May 2, 2020 irrespective of conditions at that time. The scope of the meeting and associated activities may be modified by circumstances at the time, but we have no present plans to do so.”
While insurance professionals may not feel the effects of the virus in their convention plans, some may come to feel its effects elsewhere. Fitch Ratings says that while the coronavirus outbreak is not expected to have a big impact on insurers, event cancellation is one area where they may have losses.
There have been a number of cancellations of large events in other industries and regions hit by the coronavirus. Last month a major telecoms conference– Mobile World Congress– in Barcelona was canceled and more recently two major energy conferences in the Middle East were postponed. A conference on the world economy scheduled for Italy later this month with Pope Francis has been rescheduled for November.
Facebook pulled the plug on its March 9 global marketing summit in San Francisco and yesterday it pulled out of next week’s South by Southwest (SXSW) music and tech festival in Austin.
*This story ran previously in our sister publication Insurance Journal.