At a recent Assurex Global Conference, IVANS CEO Reid Holzworth and ennabl CEO Kabir Syed sat on a panel about insurtech. Sometimes with differing opinions, they shared their insights across several focus areas:
- Relationships: Leveraging insurtech to enhance and efficiently manage relationships with prospects, customers, staff, and carriers
- Removing Friction: Increasing efficiency, quality, speed, and lowering costs
- Change: Disruption coming from having a problem, taking some innovation and coming up with a solution for your problem
What should people be thinking about when it comes to insurtech?
I think people get taken back by the shiny objects within insurtech in general and say, “Look at this new thing that’ll solve this problem. It’s really cool!” thinking it will help them in so many ways, but there are some core problems within our industry that we need to be thinking about, especially when it comes to technology.
Let’s not go and focus on the new and shiny things when our operations aren’t running as efficiently as they could be. It’s easy for us to look at the tech we have now and go, “This works fine now, but let’s go do this next new thing.” What we need to do is finish what we started with what we have today.
A lot of people are investing in new solutions, but let’s take a step back and look at what is running our actual business and what things we can leverage to help with the overall efficiency. That’s where technology really comes in. It makes you smarter, but it helps you and your staff work smarter to be better at what you do.
What do the next five years look like for insurtech?
I believe we are going to see a lot of newcomers come in. Industries aren’t changed by the people who are in them, unfortunately. For example, take Netflix or Amazon. Anybody could have done what they’ve done but no one did. What’s coming next is, do we want to be changed, or do we want to be the change? We are going to see a lot of tech-driven companies come into the space, which will make us better, however, they are going to set the standard.
Next, the way insurance is being distributed will change. Do we need agents all the time? I’m not saying agents will go away, I am saying the way insurance is distributed will be different. Insurance will become a part of the product in many instances. And this is going to impact us as an industry.
Lastly, we as agents and brokers seem to be working for the software, rather than the software working for us. We are still collecting and entering data multiple times over, which was supposed to make our jobs easier. We have not put the philosophy to make it easier for us and into the product, and so that is what I think is going to change dramatically in the next five years.
What you all do in insurtech isn’t cheap. But you say that you can’t look at it as an expense. What does that mean?
It is obviously an expense, and as leaders of organizations, we are always looking at costs. But investing in technology is investing in your future.
I think that there is a happy medium of course, and again, it’s being smart about your investments. Stay away from those shiny objects and start to solve some core problems within the industry. Invest there, and you’ll see that return on investment. All technology should have an ROI. If it’s poor, get rid of it and get something else. Figure out another way because there are other options now, and other options outside of our industry too. Technology is changing so much, and I feel that if you’re not investing in technology and not finding that edge with it now, you’re going to be passed by in the future.
All of this money is being spent on technology, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. Can you go further into that?
The question we need to ask before we invest or make any changes is to ask ourselves who we want to be. This is a very important question. Do you want to be the greatest distributor? Do you want to be the greatest servicer? Do you want to be the greatest hunter? You can’t be all three. You’ve got to pick who you want to be first. Next, you have to say, if I want to be the greatest servicer for example, then I have to invest in servicing technology.
Don’t just buy new tech because you are a big company and you have to have it. Salesforce or any CRM doesn’t solve a sales problem or a producer's drive. What does the client or the organization need this software or technology for? What problem does it solve for the organization or the client? The point I am trying to make is that we have got to think about what we want to solve, and why we want to solve it before we decide to invest in technology.
Adding on to that, agencies have the power, as the distributor for the carrier. Agencies have the power to push back and say, “I want to do this, this way, and the premium we have can make it happen with those carriers.” Carriers will make the changes to help. The ones that aren’t and are being stubborn about it are going to end up being passed on because agencies will start placing business with the ones that will. So I agree.
How can businesses leverage thought leadership and different platforms to form deeper connections than what they are doing today? There are a lot of one-on-one relationships, but how can we leverage tech to get deeper relationships?
I don’t think we need any more thought leadership. We need action to solve problems that we have within our business and with our customers. Technology exists today to solve these problems. We just need to act to solve the challenges.
Here’s a great example. We approached our broker to buy insurance for our new company, and he says, “Yeah, no problem, this is the best one,” and then they give me multiple forms to fill out. I asked how many times had they given the same form. He answered that he had done it thousands of times. My question was if you have done it numerous times, was it not better to have digitized/automated the form? It doesn’t make sense to redo the same action 10,000 times without improving it. He answered that this data was not for them, saying that the carrier needs this data. This is the big mistake we make that data is meant for carriers and not for brokers and agents. The form could have at least been filled out with the client name, address and details they knew about us (about my company). We have not made it easy for the client to work with us and buy insurance.
Technology can help with relationships in a number of ways. It’s the speed of being able to talk to somebody. For example, I called a vendor and my call went to a call center. They answer the phone and say, “Hey Reid, how are you doing today? How can we help you? Are you calling about 123, XYZ?” They obviously knew who I was from my phone number, but that personal attention and helping me quickly made me feel special as opposed to calling in and them knowing nothing about me. Technology is helping with relationships.
All this newer tech is helping us all be more efficient. We are leveraging the ability to contact people quickly all the time. In our industry, it is seen as this giant thing, but just start to think about the small stuff and how we can use these tools to strengthen the relationships with our customer base.
There is a lot of thought leadership around, that seems like a lot of noise. Going back to the blockchain, AI, machine learning, and all these acronyms people love to throw around. Let’s focus on the real things that help us strengthen our relationships, connectivity, speed and different things like that. Understanding our customers is what is important.