Now on to our weekly round-up of the latest announcements, press releases and notices on career and company news of interest to our community…
Chris Listau Named President and CEO of The Main Street America Group
Jeff Kusch Appointed Chief Operating Officer
The Main Street America Group, a super-regional property/casualty insurance company, has announced Chris Listau, the company’s current president of insurance operations, will succeed Tom Van Berkel as president and CEO. Van Berkel will be retiring on Sept. 30, 2019, after being affiliated with Main Street America for nearly 30 years.
Listau, who joined Main Street America last year following the company’s historic mutual merger with American Family Insurance, has had a very successful career, including 25 years at American Family, which included multiple executive sales and leadership positions.
In addition, Jeff Kusch, Main Street America’s current president of field operations, has been appointed as chief operating officer. Kusch joined Austin Mutual Insurance Company in 1992 and held several leadership roles before Austin Mutual’s affiliation with Main Street America in 2012.
“First and foremost, I want to thank Tom for his leadership during his nearly three decades of service with Main Street America,” said Listau. “I am grateful for the opportunity and excited to work with our leadership team. As an organization, I strongly believe we have the foundation and talent in place to grow our brand with independent agents and consumers and expand into additional markets across the United States.”
Chris Listau, President and CEO
In his role as president and CEO, the heads of audit, finance, sales, enterprise solutions, human resources and legal, as well as chief operating officer Jeff Kusch, will report to Listau. He will remain based at Main Street America’s Jacksonville, Fla., headquarters.
Listau joined Main Street America in 2018 as executive vice president of insurance operations and was promoted to president of insurance operations in early 2019. Prior to that, he had an extensive history with American Family, serving in many key executive roles. He joined the organization in 1993 as an agent in Mora, Minn. From 1996-2002, he held several field marketing roles of increasing responsibility. He served from 2002-2007 as Iowa sales director and was appointed as central regional sales vice president in 2007. Listau was named Commercial Farm Ranch vice president in 2012 and promoted to president of the division in 2014.
Listau earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Jeff Kusch, Chief Operating Officer
As chief operating officer, Kusch will oversee the company’s core insurance functions – including commercial lines, personal lines, bonds, assumed reinsurance, agribusiness, and Main Street America’s claims/integrated customer solutions division. He will remain based at the company’s headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla.
Following Austin Mutual Insurance Company’s affiliation with Main Street America in 2012, Kusch became the company’s Western Region president, a role he held until his appointment in 2015 as senior vice president of field operations. In 2017, Kusch was promoted to executive vice president of insurance operations. Kusch transitioned to the role of executive vice president of field operations in 2018 and was promoted to president of field operations in early 2019.
Kusch joined Austin Mutual in 1992 as an accounting manager. His leadership roles at Austin Mutual included treasurer, secretary, president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board. Prior to joining Austin Mutual, Kusch was a member of the senior audit staff at Coopers & Lybrand LLP.
Kusch earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Winona State University, Winona, Minn. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
XS Brokers Promotes Eric Wirkus to President
XS Brokers (XSB), a leading independent insurance underwriting and wholesale brokerage group, today announced a new executive leadership structure. Eric Wirkus has been promoted to President effective immediately. XS Brokers Former President Adam Devine will strategically pivot to CEO.
“The following changes come as XSB experiences well over a decade of proven growth, expansion and profits. Our success is a testament to the firm’s internal bench strength and management leadership,” said Devine. “This new structure enhances XSB’s ability to execute on product expansion, operational efficiencies and growth strategies and strengthen our ability to meet the ongoing needs of our clients and trading partners. This new leadership structure also ensures our mission to deliver sustainable operational and profit excellence in a hyper-competitive industry.”
In his eleven years at XSB, Eric Wirkus has had an exceptional career, growing from underwriter to respected industry veteran. His roles have included growing and developing business as well as fostering relationships. “Eric is the right leader for XS Brokers,” said Devine. “Eric has had an impressive record and performance as the firm’s Executive Vice President of Underwriting. His strong industry knowledge, success as a manager, and effective leadership skills will help XS Brokers continue its solid growth path and reputation in the industry.”
Wirkus remarked, “There is no better time to lead XSB. Having largely grown my career with XS Brokers, I am thrilled to take on these new responsibilities. Adam’s vision for the company has been clear, concise and strategically well executed. Moving forward, our priority is to build on our success and position XSB as the preeminent E&S Underwriting and Brokerage provider in the markets we serve.”
Eric has over 23 years of insurance related experience including credit analysis and marketing and production roles and has a B.A. in Economics.
The following leaders have also been promoted:
Gretchen Jackman – Promoted to Chief Operating Officer (COO). Gretchen joined XS Brokers in March of 2010. A member of the Senior Management Team, Gretchen is responsible for overseeing Corporate Operations, Human Resources, Information Technology and setting policy and procedure. Gretchen has over 25 years of experience in the insurance industry. She has a background in claims, book management and accounting.
Tony Constanzo – Promoted to Chief Markets Offices (CMO), Binding Markets. As Chief Markets Officer and a member of XS Brokers’ Senior Management Team, Tony Constanzo is responsible for carrier relationships, developing strategic alliances and mentoring underwriting staff. Tony brings a vast amount of insurance experience to the company having worked in the E&S insurance industry since 1991.
Wirkus stated, “Gretchen and Tony have been mission-critical in XSB’s historical success and business performance. They both have a deep understanding of the business dynamics and requirements required to take us to the next level. I am proud to have them on the Leadership Team, and with their help, well positioned to continue our fast-paced growth and operational proficiency.”
The Hartford Names Deepa Soni Chief Information Officer
The Hartford has appointed Deepa Soni as chief information officer, effective Sept. 30. She succeeds Mark Esposito, who is retiring after a 13-year career with The Hartford. Soni will report to Bill Bloom, head of operations, technology, data and analytics at The Hartford.
“Deepa brings an impressive combination of technical expertise and demonstrated leadership skills to The Hartford,” Bloom said. “She is well-positioned to lead our information technology strategy and delivery, with a continued focus on digital transformation through targeted investments in our business platforms. Deepa shares our passion for investing in the diverse tech talent needed to meet the evolving expectations of our customers and provide long-term strategic benefits to the company.”
Soni will be responsible for the enterprise’s information technology applications and architecture. She brings more than 20 years of technology experience in the financial services industry. Most recently, Soni served as U.S. chief information officer for BMO Financial Group, where she led innovative technology strategies resulting in frictionless customer and employee experiences, improved productivity, while modernizing the technology systems. Her previous roles include head of application development at M&T Bank and head of enterprise architecture at KeyBank, where she oversaw digital transformation, business solution delivery, enterprise architecture and business process optimization.
Soni was recently recognized by Dare Mighty Things as one of the 27 Tech Executives Changing the Future of Chicago and a Tech 50 Crain’s Chicago Business leader in 2018.
Esposito joined The Hartford in 2006 and has held various technology leadership positions for the organization. As chief information officer, he led the development and implementation of the information technology strategy across the company, driving application innovation and standardizing on an agile delivery model.
Cindy Cassata Joins Activer Solutions as Assistant Vice President, Product Solutions and Design
New Role Will Focus on Developing and Deploying the Next Generation of Solutions
Activer Solutions, a provider of business process outsourcing solutions to the property and casualty insurance industry, has announced that Cindy Cassata has joined the company as Assistant Vice President, Product Solutions and Design. This new role will focus on developing and deploying the next generation of solutions for the company.
“We are very excited to have Cindy join the team,” stated Jeffrey Glazer, CEO, Activer Solutions. “I’ve known Cindy for more than twenty years and knew she was the right person to help us develop the next generation of solutions for the company.”
“I am excited to be joining Activer Solutions,” commented Cassata. “I am excited to help Jeffrey and the company as they prepare for growth, expansion of partnerships, and launch new services and capabilities.”
Cassata has over 25 years of experience in the Property & Casualty insurance industry. With a passion for continuous improvement in both process and product, and a focus on delivering high value, complex business solutions, Cassata has a unique blend of business workflow, P&C insurance, and technical skills.
Before joining Activer Solutions, Cassata was a product manager for Carpe Data, an InsurTech startup where she led product design for all commercial lines data products. In this role, she also worked with other senior leaders to explore the market and competitive conditions to define the company’s strategic product vision and product roadmap. Before Carpe Data, Cassata was Assistant Vice President, Product and Solutions Design at Insurity, where she was one of the original employees. Cassata earned a Bachelor of Science, Computer Science from Hofstra University.
Jay Watt Appointed as SVP of Distribution Services at EverQuote
EverQuote a leading online insurance marketplace in the U.S., is pleased to announce that Jay Watt has joined as SVP of Distribution Services. Jay will focus on growing our marketplace and launching innovative products to connect more insurance shoppers with the right policies for them.
“Jay is an experienced, entrepreneurial and consumer-centric leader,” said COO Jayme Mendal, “At Amazon, he had a strong track record of designing and building innovative solutions to meet a range of consumer and partner needs. This experience will be valuable as EverQuote continues to improve and evolve our marketplace experience for all participants.”
“EverQuote’s vision is simple – make finding the right insurance easier, faster and more transparent. Today, connecting consumers with the right insurance options is complex and full of friction, with consumers spending large amounts of time sorting through carriers that do not best match their needs. EverQuote continues to build advanced analytics and technology to that process faster, more intuitive and accurate. I joined to be part of EverQuote’s relentless drive to improve the insurance shopping experience, help consumers make the best decisions possible and get the protection they need,” said Watt.
“Jay brings a rich background as a business owner and operator. His deep analytics experience and entrepreneurial drive make him a perfect fit for building our distribution services business. I look forward to building innovative solutions and products together,” said Seth Birbaum, CEO.
Jay Watt was most recently a Product and Technology Strategist for Amazon. Previously, he developed and operated a Transportation Marketplace for Amazon Sellers. Before Amazon, Jay was a Partner in an operations strategy consulting firm which was acquired by Accenture. He was also part of the early team at Kiva Systems a novel warehouse automation solution provider which was acquired by Amazon in 2012.
City of Boston and Fundación MAPFRE Turn to Virtual Reality to Reduce Traffic Fatalities, Injuries
Over several thousand people stopped by the two-day event MAPFRE and the City of Boston held at Boston City Hall
The program, Look Both Ways, Boston, supports the City of Boston’s Vision Zero Boston program, which focuses on proven strategies to eliminate fatal and serious traffic crashes in the city by 2030 and urges those who use the city’s streets to look at every situation from the other person’s perspective. Fundación MAPFRE, a global nonprofit organization, has long championed initiatives that work to eliminate traffic fatalities around the world.
Road safety is one of the most critical issues we face as a society,” said Alfredo Castello, chief representative of Fundación MAPFRE in the United States. “We are proud to work with Mayor Walsh and Boston’s transportation team on this important initiative that supports our shared Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries and protecting those who use our roadways.”
Here are some snaps from the event that MAPFRE shared with Agency Checklists:
Fore more information on Look Both Ways, Boston, continue on to the Look Both Ways website here.
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