THE thousand-plus participating members of the General Agents and Managers Association (GAMA) were all aboard during its 27th Annual Leaders Conference recently held at Okada Manila. This was the first time that they were doing it face to face since the pandemic happened. The ones held in 2020 and 2021 were done purely on virtual platforms. While the online conventions were full of great sharing and learning, everyone was excited to attend this year's convention in person. As GAMA President Magda Chua said: "I am pleased that we are finally gathering in person this time. Nothing beats smiling and learning with one another physically." This was evident throughout the convention. The room was filled with laughter, banter and wonder.

The insurance industry was one of the few industries that managed to do well amid the challenges of the pandemic. Thanks to the resilient leadership and collaboration between management and distribution (agency) leaders, the industry continued to do its mission of providing Filipinos financial protection amidst the Covid crisis. In his address, Insurance Commission head Dennis Funa said: "It was a difficult time we've been through but the insurance industry proved to be resilient, enduring and productive. I trust that you will continue to produce leaders who are equipped with the expertise and skills to propel the financial and insurance industries into further heights."

Aptly, this year's convention theme is GAMA Air: Fly Higher, Go Farther." When asked why this theme, GAMA Convention Chairman and First VP Pauline Uchi said: "Our theme has made us realize that leaders are truly pilots. With continuous learning and the right values upheld by GAMA as one, we are trained to be better captains, steering toward the right direction to guide our agents and our valued clients. The destination for us is never final." Chua added: "I read somewhere that you become excellent when you fly at a level that creates a wide gap between where you were before and where you are now. This year's convention aims to push its members even farther and to spread their wings wider. It aims to provide them with the new essentials they will need in this rapidly changing and evolving society."

In her speech, GAMA Global President and CEO Bonnie Godsman commended the local officers and organizers. "We are thrilled to bring the insurance industry leader together to educate, share and celebrate. This convention creates an atmosphere that enables our industry professionals to ensure all Filipinos are financially secure and their loved ones, businesses and livelihoods are protected. We could not be more proud of the work that GAMA Philippines is doing to make the Philippines & the world a better place," Godsman proudly said about the convention.

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About 10 of the local insurance companies were represented in the convention, which was a blend of face-to-face and virtual participation. Some of those who opted to attend physically came all the way from different provinces. And they didn't mind traveling because the learning and the camaraderie were all worth it.

AIA Phils Cebu-based managers Nilo and Ez Matunog are one of the consistent awardees and attendees of the GAMA convention. In the past, they willingly flew in from Cebu to attend the convention. AM Ez said: "Attending the GAMA conference gave me a fresh perspective, especially on our current situation. Listening to the speakers inspired me to pursue our goals with more enthusiasm and resolve. It helped me appreciate and maximize the tools and resources that I have in addressing the opportunities before us." DM Nilo quickly added: "There is power in the fellowship and gathering especially with our collective focus on learning and developing by sharing ideas and concepts. The value we got from the topics discussed by the speakers is multiplied many times over by the energy of everyone's presence, affirmations and the desire to grow together."

The recent past years have challenged the industry to evolve and adapt to many changes and uncertainties. In all these, insurance leaders were at the forefront, enabling and empowering their teams not only to survive but thrive. They needed to introduce strategies and programs that will equip their members to face the "new normal." And this convention was a good source for them, especially for the new leaders on the block. As Prulife UM Jendee Sapo puts it, "The GAMA annual convention has always been a great venue for us leaders to share the energy and excitement in building a stronger team. I always look forward to it because despite the fact that we come from different companies, we are one during this event. The exchanges of ideas and strategies during the event allowed us, especially our junior leaders to embrace agency leadership as a form of a blessing."

The event was graced by 12 local and foreign speakers who shared their experiences and insights on how to make it post-pandemic. The speakers and the topics were carefully selected by the organizers to give the participants a holistic, practical and relevant learning experience.

For Allianz' CAO Orange Galsim, she found the presentations by GAMA president Godsman and by The Financial Haus from California in the US, the most exciting ones. "Ms Godsman very clearly conveyed the evolution of a leader from the past to the present and future, spotlighting intangible values that we now see to be as important as structure and systems, such as the ability to embrace vulnerability, the alertness to give feedback and recognition in real-time and the acceptance of building collective intelligence among many versus having information being controlled by a few. The Financial Haus, on the other hand, is a dynamic team of financial advisors who decided to change their approach during the pandemic to be more relevant, sensitive and effective, thus gaining the trust of their clients. They made financial advisory cool and fun, while maintaining the heart of the mission — to protect and prepare their clients," said Ms. Galsim.

It was a short two days of sharing, learning and fellowship, but it was more than enough to recharge and reignite the passion of the insurance agency leaders to fly higher and go farther this 2022 and beyond!