FAR, the Nonprofit Business Leaders' Network, December Member Spotlight
AHT’s Nonprofit Leader, Derek Symer
Derek Smyer, Partner at AHT Insurance, was interviewed by FAR, the nonprofit business leaders’ network.
Our records show you’ve been a member since 2015! Thank you! Why do you value being a member of FAR?
Yes! I’ve been an official member of FAR since 2015, however I’ve been attending FAR lunch meetings on behalf of AHT Insurance almost as long as I’ve been at the firm. This dates back to around 2005 or thereabouts. I remember when the meetings were on the 9th floor of the SunTrust building and the feeling of stepping off the elevator and soaking in the FAR experience. Through the years I have valued FAR’s unique ability to bring together the leaders of the nonprofit and association sectors. I even remember nervously presenting a lunchtime session on Cyber insurance around 2008 – this was back when cyber coverage was in its infancy. The collegiality, education, and networking opportunities that FAR provides are unrivaled. I care about FAR enough that last year I volunteered to serve on the FAR Board of Directors.
What is your favorite movie?
Although it’s a few years old now, Manchester by the Sea truly resonated and moved me in a profound way. Many people might call the film depressing, but I think it captures a man’s deep sense of shame, grief, loss, and the overwhelming weight of an irredeemable mistake. However bleak this may seem, I thought the film also offers the prospect of hope, forgiveness and reconciliation. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams give incredible performances. Living in these tumultuous times I feel there is such a heightened need for mental health services, which is something this film lays bare and explores. I think we are facing a mental health crisis and this is something I spend a great deal of time thinking about and exploring ways I can help.
What are your favorite hobbies?
I divide my hobbies into what I do today and what I aspire to do some day! I enjoy being outdoors, hiking and running as much as possible. I run a weekly 5K in College Park as part of the international Parkrun group. It starts at 9am each and every Saturday morning, so come on out and join us – it is a great community! I also enjoy listening to music, playing guitar, painting and basically anything that involves creativity. In terms of an aspirational hobby? I would like to start songwriting and learn music production.
What services does your firm provide that can help FAR nonprofit members?
For the past quarter century, we’ve built an insurance brokerage and risk management practice focused on the needs of associations and nonprofits. Some of our core areas of coverage expertise include helping nonprofits with their Directors and Officers needs, Professional Liability exposures, and International insurance and risk management. My colleague Patti Loftis is one the insurance industry’s leading experts in “Event Cancellation” and has helped our clients navigate well over 150 claims throughout the pandemic for cancelled conferences and events. It’s detailed and painstaking, yet Patti keeps help finger on the pulse of the market like no one else! And lest I forget, Cyber insurance has been a super thorny coverage line this year. Helping clients proactively navigate the underwriting and coverage aspects of cyber renewals has been paramount in 2021 and will continue into the new year.
What lesson have you learned from the pandemic that you are implementing moving forward and would like to share?
The biggest lesson I have learned coming out of the pandemic is the ability of our firm, the insurance industry, and our nonprofit clients to pivot to the virtual working environment. In the past, I spent far too much time in my car driving to and from client appointments and then racing back against traffic to compile and disseminate the meeting notes. I have found the new technologies of video communication and collaboration to be liberating in terms of time and efficiency. Over the course of the last two years, we have onboarded many new clients, and most of them I’ve never met in person. Still, we have developed an exceptional connection and working relationship with our new clients in a short amount of time. I think this is transformational to our industry and improves our team’s ability to serve nonprofits at the highest level. Don’t get me wrong, I still love seeing people face-to-face, and this will resume at some point, but the pandemic has ushered in this new hybrid model and it’s not going anywhere. We think embracing it will improve how business gets done.