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Guest opinion: Global Insurance Symposium continues to establish Des Moines as an innovative industry hub


Submitted by: Michael B. Abbott, partner at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP and a GIS co-chair, and
Eden Pearson, senior director, state government relations at Nationwide and a GIS co-chair

Global risk and diversity, equity and inclusion were the main topics addressed recently by insurance experts drawn to Greater Des Moines (DSM) from 35 states and six countries. DSM demonstrated its leadership in the insurance industry in late June by hosting the seventh annual Global Insurance Symposium. With 375 participants from 35 states plus Washington, D.C., and six countries, the event was a resounding success and served as the first big insurance event as we emerge from the pandemic. The event continues to put DSM on the map as a global insurance hub.


When the committee decided to host a hybrid event in early 2021, we knew we were taking a risk, but the insurance community responded impressively. Seventy percent of the attendees were there in person, with the remainder joining online. All plans and precautions that were taken due to COVID-19 worked well and created more opportunities for participants to connect at a higher level. In charting this course, the committee was focused on providing a best-in-class experience for both in-person and virtual attendees. Also, we thought it fitting that the symposium lead the way as things continue to reopen. Looking back, we are proud of what was accomplished, and more importantly, the conversations and connections that we were able to facilitate.


Taking aim at two key issues facing the insurance industry, this year’s symposium focused on global risk and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion). These topics were explored by some of the preeminent leaders in the industry. The keynote presentation by Rebekah Clement, head of communications and engagement at Lloyd’s, set the stage for discussions around the most pressing global risks. Additionally, George Nichols III, president and CEO of the American College of Financial Services, brought a fresh perspective around DEI. He challenged attendees to explore new approaches and actively lead to bridge the divide.


A staple at the Global Insurance Symposium is the opportunity to engage with and hear from the startup community. This year was no different. The opening reception featured the InsurTech Expo, hosted by two DSM accelerator programs, the Global Insurance Accelerator and BrokerTech Ventures. Both in-person and virtual attendees were able to speak with the founders and learn more about their innovative companies.

Since 2014, the Global Insurance Symposium has been a must-attend insurance event. It is organized through the collaborative effort of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Iowa Insurance Division, the Iowa Economic Development Authority and industry leaders from local insurance companies. The “can-do” attitude exhibited by these leaders and their enthusiasm to work together to overcome the planning challenges created by COVID-19 set the stage for this year’s thought leadership and the new, creative opportunities for attendees to connect. We must commend DSM-based ITA Group and their A/V partner Bow & Arrow Communications for the stellar event production they provided for both the in-person and virtual audiences.  

We know the 2021 symposium hit the mark, provided high-caliber programming and set the stage for the 2022 symposium, which will be held April 19-21.

Plans are already underway and new ideas and topics are being explored.

We are excited about the direction the event is headed and the new discussions it will bring in 2022. We hope to see you in 2022.

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