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James A. Skarzynski is president of the Minneapolis-based Professional Liability Underwriting Society. Mr. Skarzynski, who specializes in directors and officers liability insurance and other forms of professional liability coverage, is chairman of law firm Skarzynski Black L.L.C. in New York. He talked about the insurance society's plans with Business Insurance Senior Editor Judy Greenwald. Edited excerpts follow.
Q: Please discuss your involvement with PLUS.
A: I have been involved in one way or another for many years with PLUS. In my capacity as president-elect, I was the chair of the 2014 annual PLUS conference, which was held in Las Vegas. And from November 2014 through November 2015, I am serving my one-year term as president of PLUS.
Q: How do you juggle being a busy defense lawyer with your PLUS work?
A: There certainly is a significant time commitment to being a board member of PLUS and particularly an executive board member and chair of the conference. One way you juggle this is by simply adding more hours to your day or spending, in my case, nights or weekends to make sure everything is being taken care of in terms of my responsibilities with my firm, my clients and my duties as a PLUS board member. And I'm fortunate to be a partner in a law firm where there are many other capable lawyers who have been more than willing to help out in terms of assisting with the inevitable emergencies.
Q: What are some of the future programs planned?
A: During the course of this year we have a number of symposiums that have been planned. There will be a medical professional liability symposium in Atlanta on April 28 and 29, and we are also having for the first time a standalone cyber symposium this September in Chicago, then the annual conference, which will be in November.
In addition to that, there is a robust program of webinars throughout the year. One of my goals has been for PLUS to put on a webinar about once a month, so that we'll have at least 12 a year, and we have successfully achieved that.
Q: How has PLUS been increasing its international presence?
A: We had very successful events last year in London, Hong Kong and Singapore, and we are putting on an event on May 14 in Singapore with a presentation entitled, “How to manage and insure reputation.” And there will be a program in the fall in London. We want to be a truly global community for the professional liability industry. We have roughly 7,000 members now, and we could see that there certainly could be a significant increase in our membership for international members alone.
Q: Please discuss the upcoming management change at PLUS.
A: Derek Hazeltine, who has been the executive director of PLUS for 20 years, is going to be retiring as the PLUS executive director at some point later this year. We have a committee of the board headed by our immediate past president, Chris Duca, heading up the search for the new executive director. We look forward to, at some point in the year, bringing on board a new executive director to continue the fine work done by Derek Hazeltine, who carried the organization forward.
Sharon Cunninghis is the leader of Mercer L.L.C.’s private health insurance exchange, known as the Mercer Marketplace, which offers coverage to about 500,000 employees and retirees. In an interview with Editor-at-Large