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PEOPLE

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TEAM PLAYER Joel Cavaness brought decades of insurance experience when he founded Risk Placement Services more than 20 years ago. Today, he’s built a growing company that recognizes the importance of its people

MANY INSURANCE professionals find themselves working in the industry by chance, but Joel Cavaness, president of Risk Placement Services [RPS], was destined for a role in insurance. Cavaness was just 5 years old when his father bought a retail insurance brokerage in southern Illinois, and he grew up surrounded by the property & casualty business. “I guess it’s in my blood, so when I went away to college, my intent was to somehow get involved in the insurance industry,” Cavaness says. “I graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1983, and I was lucky enough to go work for Crum & Forster as an underwriting trainee ... back then, a lot of insurance companies had great training programs.” After Crum & Forster, Cavaness worked for an MGU owned by Mission Insurance Company before moving to Arthur J. Gallagher in St. Louis, where he remained for a decade. In 1996, he relocated to Itasca, Illinois, to serve as president of International Special Risk Services. The next big milestone in his career came shortly thereafter. “The next year, we started Risk Placement Services with four employees in downtown Chicago, and I’ve been the president ever since,” says Cavaness, who counts

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the founding of the wholesale brokerage and MGA as the highlight on a long list of career achievements. “My biggest accomplishment has been to start a fledgling company with only four people and no name and no business and no markets, and be able to have the tenacity to

you leave behind, so I think it’s important for all of us who have enjoyed the riches of the industry to also give back to others through involvement in the industry,” says Cavaness, adding that WSIA is asking critical questions about the fate of the insurance industry. “How we can actually move the needle so

“It’s really not what you take out of life, but what you leave behind, so I think it’s important for all of us who have enjoyed the riches of the industry to also give back to others through involvement in the industry” turn it into a firm that now has over 2,700 people who are building careers here,” he says. Cavaness’ own professional development continues to this day. He’s currently serving as president of the Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association [WSIA], where he’s contributed to the industry by collaborating with board members to make important decisions that impact a growing membership. “People a long time ago told me that it’s really not what you take out of life, but what

that we do more together? What’s the next category of risk, the next category of things that we can do together to provide better solutions to our customers? How do we create new products, how do we fill voids in the marketplace, and how do we work together to provide those solutions? People start the conversation, and that’s what [events like the WSIA Underwriting Summit] are all about – coming up with great ideas on how we can do more together.”

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