UnisonSteadfast Independence Day Conference is one of the most highly acclaimed conferences for international insurance professionals worldwide, which, by our tradition, takes place in different countries and cities around the globe. Every year, our annual event attracts associates from our members and selected business partners, representing over 140 countries.

In June 2023, our members and partners will reconnect in Ireland at the annual UnisonSteadfast Independence Day. The three-day event will take place under the motto “Meitheal: Share.Connect.Support”.
Melinda Keller spoke with Wolfgang Mercier (UnisonSteadfast President & CEO) and Polina Balko (IDC Project Coordinator) about the IDC 2023.

Wolfgang, why did you choose Ireland as the hosting country of the upcoming event?

WM: After our exciting IDC 2022 in Big Apple hosted in June, we literally wanted to get down to earth and offer our attendees a location which is inspiring and energizing but at the same time has a decelerating effect to be able to focus on the essential. Ireland is not only famous for its breath-taking green landscapes and fascinating culture, but also for its outstanding welcoming nature. For me personally, Ireland is the unique combination of people and culture, strong traditions and innovative spirit. It is the perfect place to meet, share ideas and reconnect. Further, Ireland is easily accessible for our global partners who travel to our event from all across the globe. Our choice was very well received by our network and in particular by our American and Australian brokers, as many of them have their family roots in Ireland.

How did you come up with this exotic title “Meitheal: Share.Connect.Support”? I have never encountered the expression Meitheal before. What does it mean and how is it connected with an insurance-related event?

PB: The title of the conference was actually born during a conversation with our Irish event partners who told us about “Meitheal”. It originates from the Gaelic language and stands for an ancient Irish tradition of an community coming together and working together to help each other. This wonderful piece of
Irish heritage has survived until today. In times of the increasing geopolitical uncertainty and challenging risk environment, we believe that our brokers can work together to benefit from the expertise and experience within the group to become resilient towards crises, keep their independency and thrive.

This brings me to my next questions: Will this be encouraged during the IDC as well? What is the IDC about?

WM: Well, today, the world is experiencing a level of disruption and business risks not seen in generations. Like many other organizations across the world, brokers now need to build more resilient businesses and look at our rapidly changing risk landscape as an opportunity to evolve. To pick up on the recent challenges for the worldwide community, we have designed a varied program - including the major topics Resilience, Risk Management, Reinsurance, Digital Transformation, Leadership & Talent, Ecosystems & Networks.

You said you wanted to “get down to earth”. What is it that makes the upcoming IDC special?

WM: The exotic title is not the only thing that makes the IDC 2023 special. We have taken the feedback of our members shared with us after our last conference in NYC to heart. Within the framework of the upcoming event, we would like to offer our attendees a new event format with open discussions and invite everyone to take an active part. At the IDC 2023, our member brokers will be in the center of attention. We invite our attendees to participate in broker roundtables, practice groups, workshops or to be a speaker about a particular topic. We want to create an environment in which all our partners can make their voices heard and experience the benefits of being part of a strong global community. No big slogans and promises – we would like to step back and redefine the core values and services of the network and talk about the future strategic orientation of UnisonSteadfast.

What does it mean exactly? How can members actively contribute to the conference program? Can further topics be suggested to be added to the program?

PB: The IDC 2023 will be an event for our members and about our members. The most of our speakers will be brokers of the UnisonSteadfast network, as we would like to offer our brokers the stage. Our brokers will shape the agenda of the event. It should be tailored to their needs. As of January 2023, we will be sending surveys to our members to vote for suggested topics, define subjects of their interest and propose their own topics. All our members are invited to participate. We believe this is the best way of giving them an opportunity to position themselves within the network and foster an open discussion with other brokers members, insurance carriers and our organization.

I am totally excited to let the readers know about our plans for the accompanying program. What can you tell us about the venues and networking events?

WM: We have chosen Carton House in the Irish countryside as our main venue for the IDC 2023 to make our attendees experience what Ireland is famous for: the blend of history with the modern mindset, fantastic landscapes, and the outstanding Irish hospitality. It is a country house in Kildare, built in 1739, and just 25 minutes from Dublin International Airport. The resort has two championship golf courses, top-class restaurants and spa facilities.

PB: Following our tradition, we are planning an opulent program of networking events and fun activities, which will pay tribute to the hosting country. The pre-conference activities kick off with a Golf Tournament and Celtic Games on Sunday, June 11, followed by the Summer BBQ at the gorgeous Carton House. On June 12, we invite our attendees to celebrate Ireland and its Celtic roots at a magnificent Gala Dinner, followed by an exciting private show with traditional folk songs, original instrumentals and amazing Irish dance. The program will be closed by a Farewell Party at the world-famous Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Further, based on the feedback of our members, we are planning an exclusive get-together for first timers on the first day of the event, where our first-time participants can meet other attendees, our event ambassadors and our staff prior to the official conference opening.

Polina, I know that you have recently visited Ireland in connection with the event planning and that it was your first visit. What were your personal highlights?

PB: I found Ireland fascinating in every aspect – endlessly green, steeped in tradition, a bit mysterious but at the same time so modern and vibrant.However, what impressed me the most were the people. We were given such a warm welcome! My personal highlight? Our 70-year-old driver Paul, accompanying us on the three days of site inspections, with 50 years of working experience and this very special sense of Irish humor. Whenever we had some time between the meetings, Paul was teaching me Irish words and wisdoms and even the basic steps of Irish dance. I’ll always keep these memories in my heart.

Oh, this is a very heart-warming story and I bet a long-lasting memory. As we approach the end of our short interview, is there anything you would like to add, Wolfgang?

WM: I would like to underline once again that the people in Ireland are very hospitable and welcoming. You can feel the special spirit of social solidarity. I would like to see this same sense of togetherness in our UnisonSteadfast community. Together, we have built a tremendous global network and we continue to evolve. As we plan to jointly take major decisions on the future of our organization, I personally invite all our brokers to attend the IDC 2023. This way, you can make your voice heard and contribute to our common approach. I am really looking forward to meeting our members and partners in Ireland to bring the tradition of Meitheal to life.

Register for IDC 2023!