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  1. IA Advantage Podcast
  2.  » On the Banks of the Savannah River: Demystifying Insurtech (and Fighting the Wind)

On the Banks of the Savannah River: Demystifying Insurtech (and Fighting the Wind)

Listen as insurtech and IA channel leaders share their insights on agency technology adoption — live from the patio outside the Big “I” InsurTech Summit 2023!
Published: February 13, 2023
Big I Insurtech Summit Podcast


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Chip Bacciocco: Hello everyone. My name is Chip Bacciocco, and welcome to another edition of the IA Advantage. Today is a very special day. We are here live in Savannah, Georgia at the inaugural Big “I” InsurTech Summit, presented by, of course, the Big “I”, Act, AscendIA and Diamond sponsor, Travelers. This event is also sponsored by, Ivans, Accord Solutions Group and BondExchange.

You might be asking, what is the Big “I” InsurTech Summit? And I’m glad you asked. The Summit was the brainchild of the Big “I” InsurTech task force established last year with the mission to support the development of IA- focused insurance technology and to encourage independent agents to embrace and adopt these technologies.

With that in mind, the task force set about to host a series of InsureTech educational events with this first one being held during the Big “I” winner meeting right here in Savannah. We have an amazing group of InsureTech leaders here today, and I am proud to be interviewing several. So here we go. By the way, if the quality of today’s recording is a little inconsistent, it’s because we are outside, enjoying a beautiful day on the banks of the Savannah river.

Chip Bacciocco:  So our first guest this morning is Steve Anderson from Catalyit. Welcome, Steve!

Steve Anderson: Thanks for having me, Chip. Great to be here.

Chip Bacciocco:  Good to see you. We’re old friends. I think I first met you at one of your Colorado Seminars many years ago.

Steve Anderson: Yes, that was a few years ago.

Chip Bacciocco:  Yeah, that was, that was a good time actually. I learned an awful lot back then. In fact, I’m gonna give you a little credit. There’s probably some reason I’m still in this business because I went to two or three of those.

Steve Anderson: Great. Thank you.

Chip Bacciocco:  Really enjoyed it. You bet. So we’re actually at a conference today here in Savannah. Which was put together by the Big “I” in pretty short order I’m amazed we pulled this all together and it’s good to have you here and there’s a lot of other insurtech leaders as well. One of the things we’re doing is trying to assess the state of the IA channel in terms of technology adoption. And you’re right in the middle of it. What would you say, how are agents doing at adopting, implementing tech? And there’s so much technology available today. Share your thoughts.

Steve Anderson: So from my perspective, agents are doing better and not great.

Chip Bacciocco:  Oh, I like that.

Steve Anderson: You know? I mean, we are making progress and actually, at Catalyit, we’ve got data because we actually do two things. One is every one of our subscribers, we encourage strongly to go through a tech assessment where we have them answer a series of questions and we evaluate where they are in their use of technology in their organization and we actually score them. So we’ve got five different areas that we do that in. And you know, as we continue to gather that information, kind of the early, and I won’t go into great detail here, but we break it down what we call the technology journey or the Catalyit success journey. Into four different milestones. So baseline, better, best, and beyond. Baseline is, okay, at a minimum, what do you need in technology to operate an agency today? And, and actually, that’s pretty good, as you might expect. But you know, once we start moving kind of down that road to other milestones, you know, better, best, certainly alluding invest to best practices. You know, what are the top agencies doing? And then we’ve added this beyond, which is a little different. And my idea there is, what are agencies using or doing today that will become best practices in the future? So how could you kind of get a little bit of a future view and start experimenting and, and be ready, you know, kind of when mass adoption, when it pivots.

Chip Bacciocco:  I realize you haven’t surveyed all the agents out there, but you probably have a sample size that you could start to…

Steve Anderson: Probably four – five hundred agencies …

Chip Bacciocco:  Extrapolate from that for me, Over the entire universe of independent agents, where do you think they are in those categories? Are 50% at the baseline?

Steve Anderson: So right now our numbers are, you know about 74% of agencies that have completed the assessment have completed about three quarters of what we consider minimum. So there’s still 25% and that probably makes sense. Again, extrapolating to the universe of independent agents and you know, typical Big “I” member, you know, is a small agency. Maybe 15 employees, maybe less but somewhere around there. And then there’s always a struggle about, okay, what is the technology? How do I find it? Why do I need it, and how do I pay for it? And then how do I maximize it? So we’re spending a lot of time in, you’ve got maybe stuff that you’re not using. How do you make sure your investment is maximized.

And I feel like, again, back to your original question, I feel like agencies are more aware now that they need to do something. And so kind of where we sit with Catalyit is helping figure out what they can do and how they can do it. And think of it as a journey. It’s not, I buy this shiny object today and wow, it’s gonna solve everything. Typically that doesn’t happen. And have a strategy over the next months or years for what do I need to do and how am I gonna incorporate it? And I really feel incorporating is probably the biggest area of problems.

Chip Bacciocco:  And I’m actually gonna talk about that on one of the panels. I think the culture, developing a culture of innovation and embracing and, and the change management challenges change is the hardest.

Steve Anderson: It is big.

Chip Bacciocco:  It really is.

Steve Anderson: Yeah. And, and we haven’t done a very good job of that.

Chip Bacciocco:  Yeah. Well that’s what this conference is actually about, right? It’s about sort of, let’s talk about it. Let’s, let’s don’t be afraid of this topic. And encourage each other and share success stories. I’m gonna ask you to share a success story in a minute, but first the reason, or not the reason, but the instigating conversation that led us here was between myself and Bill Devine from Travelers. Travelers has been integrating with all these comparative raters . Multiple of these. We used to throw this word SEMCI around, like, it’s never gonna happen. Remember that?

Steve Anderson: I do!

Chip Bacciocco:  It’s kind the holy grail. But we’re kind of there like that tech exists.

So, Bill was kind of like, I don’t know if agents are embracing it. So just on that specific technology, comparative raters specifically, he was interested in commercial lines. Are they starting to use it? What do you see in there?

Steve Anderson: Yeah, I think certainly commercial lines rating and, something I’ve advocated for a long time and always from the solution providers was, yeah, the data set is bigger, it’s more complicated, right? All those reasons, and actually we needed some crazy startups who didn’t have that negative history to go, “I think we could solve this problem.” And you, and you see multiple iterations of that going on. So adoption of commercial rating is low. And I feel like it’s one area of huge benefit to agencies. Again, I’ve talked about this for years. The amount of time staff spends getting a quote is terrible.

Chip Bacciocco:  Yeah, it is.

Steve Anderson: And it’s getting better. And then, then there’s always the chicken and egg problem, meaning, well, my carrier’s not on there, or this line of business is not on there, so I don’t want to use it. You know, they don’t have what I need.

Chip Bacciocco:  Right.

Steve Anderson: Well, again, I call it inventory, right? Carrier in lines of business. But again, that’s improving. And, and now agents needto experiment. Now I use that word a lot because I don’t know what’s gonna work and what’s not gonna work, but if you don’t try it, you’re not gonna know either. And so experimenting and not being afraid of failure.

Chip Bacciocco:  That’s a big one.

Steve Anderson: That’s a big one. And, and that’s a very large topic we don’t have time to go into right now, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, writing about, what I call successful failure. Which is, you have to experiment. By its very nature, experiment means you’re gonna fail because you don’t know. That’s why you do the experiment. If you know it’s gonna work, it’s not an experiment. It’s not. And so you’ve got to build a culture, kind of back to that change management, that doesn’t punish failure. Meaning, oh, we tried it, gave it a good shot, didn’t work for us maybe. And it maybe it worked for somebody else. And move on to, to something else. And then making sure you capture, what do we learn in that experiment so we don’t repeat it. That same mistake. That’s where successful players comes in.

Chip Bacciocco:  So last question’s kind of a fun one and a tech one. You and I both like to kind of go, where the hell’s it going? This ChatGTP thing, it hurts. So I was playing around with it. I’ll tell you what, I didn’t know what to do at first. I did like a, “who was the Civil War General that died at Chancellorville?” That’s easy, right? It just boom, nailed it. Stonewall Jackson. I said, “that’s too easy.” All right. So they started doing more insurance. I said, ” if I have a restaurant, what kind of insurance would I need?” And it rattled off a really good list of coverages I might need. I go, “what if the restaurant was in Colorado?” And it actually changed a little bit because, “oh well you might have some snow exposure,” whatever. It had some other things. Then I said, I started getting into marketing when I said, “write me a jingle to sell life insurance.” And it was a, I wish I had kept it. It’s a perfect little jingle. And then I said, ” write it in the style of William Shakespeare” and it did that. And all this happens in seconds. And it was in perfect iambic pentameter. What do you think about this? Did it hurt your head?

Steve Anderson: Yeah, well, so yeah, I have several thoughts. Probably we can’t do ’em all here, but first it’s following the technology development cycle which is everything’s becoming digitized. Right? So kind of that copywriting thing, the text based… two, it’s deceptive for a long time. So all of that is probably 30 years old. It’s been in development for a long time. Third is disruptive all of a sudden. Right? And that’s what we’re seeing with ChatGPT and actually it’s the third version. So that’s why it’s three. And text based and, and a couple quick thoughts. One is, there is nothing intelligent about ChatGPT. So calling it artificial intelligence, I think is absolutely misleading. There’s nothing intelligent. What it’s doing is it’s predicting what the next word in a sentence might be. So that’s machine learning. Absolutely. Pattern matching. All of that kind of thing. Two problems. One is it’s not reliable. Two is, it’s not truthful. So an agent using it to just, you know, and without giving advice on the restaurant in insurance. It’s just piecing words together. There is no indication that it’s actually accurate. And so as a regulated industry…

Chip Bacciocco:  Good point.

Steve Anderson: There are significant problems with using it without… it’s a tool right now. Kind of fun tool. It’s definitely a shiny object. And I think we’ve gotta be careful and I think it’s a great tool.

The one last comment I’ll make is, and as you experience the skill actually with ChatGPT specifically is the prompts. Right? That’s where the creativity will come. What it’s really good for is when you sit down to write, you don’t have to look at a blank page anymore, right?

Chip Bacciocco:  Right! You get a huge head start! Takes five seconds. So I totally, I just find it fascinating. It inspires me to think of what might be next. And we live in an amazing age, so that’s great.

I wanna thank you for coming by.

Steve Anderson: My pleasure. Chip was a lot of fun. It’s always fun talking about agency technology.

Chip Bacciocco:  I wanna welcome our next guest to the podcast, my good friend Jason Walker, president of Agency Revolution. Welcome Jason.

This conference is like, I’m really glad you came by the way. Thank you for coming.

Jason Walker: Thanks for having me.

Chip Bacciocco:  Quite a long way. This is like center mass for you. The topics are all about how do we assess where independent agents are at in terms of their adoption of technology, their use of it, their ROI from it. And we’re trying to both take assessment of that and then we’re trying to, you know, collaborate together and how do we move the ball forward.

So I’ll start off with what’s your sense of where we are at as a channel? Where’s the, where’s the typical independent insurance agent at? What do you see?

Jason Walker: The fact that we’re having this summit tells me we’re in a good spot from the perspective of agencies are having the conversation around technology. And when I was working with agencies, whether it was in a capacity of selling solutions in or consulting, they’re already well along the way of using technology in order to empower sales and drive customer service. Where there is some challenge is getting this all to work together because as we know, there are so many different solutions in the space, not all under the same brand. And sometimes they work in their, their own vacuum or silo. They don’t have the connectivity that might be expected or what they were told. And so it’s, it’s getting all of these pieces to work together in a harmonious way. And I think we’re getting there too. We’re seeing solutions start to open up and become more partners with each other. So yeah, we’re well on our way, Chip.

Chip Bacciocco:  Sure. Totally, totally agree. You, you mentioned, well we talked a little bit about ROI. Insurance companies in particular, and you and I have both worked with them, and they are very particular. In fact, one of the reasons this whole thing got kicked off is from my conversation I was having with Travelers about ROI and they were investing in integration with different systems and they were sort of like, where are the agents? Like, we integrated on our end, where are the agents? So they really are measuring this. Do you think the typical agency thinks about measuring the ROI of their technology and do you think they even know how to do it?

Jason Walker: I think they, I think they want to, because even if they don’t come out and say, I need to measure ROI, they will ask, am I able to seed this out of the solution? And that usually leads to, am I getting more sales? Am I retaining my customers, and how can I prove it with your technology? So I know that the need and the want is there. Knowing how to do it is a lot on the firms that they’re working with. And I, and I pushed this even in my consulting side when I was helping vet technology solutions on behalf of agents. I was asking those pointed questions on behalf of the agency and getting the agency involved in that discussion because it is a conditioning on our part. I think it’s great as to why we’re having this forum, this summit. As these groups that are selling these solutions to ultimately help lift their business and retain their business, have to have that discussion with the agency. Otherwise, it’s just pedaling products at a price point. And that’s, that’s a disservice.

Chip Bacciocco:  Yeah, no, I, I obviously totally agree. I think it’s something we’ll have to keep working on is to, to help them understand the ROI and to help them actually calculate it and so forth.

Well, I wanna thank you for coming today.

Jason Walker: Thank you, Chip. This has been a great morning.

Chip Bacciocco:  Yep, absolutely. We have a full day ahead of us. We’re not really done and it’s a beautiful day and we’ll stay with it. So I wanna thank my guest, Jason Walker, president of Agency Revolution. We’ll be back in a moment with the next guest.

Chip Bacciocco:  All right, well, we are back with the next segment of our podcast morning. This is kind of an interesting one. I’m co-hosting this one with Chris Cline, executive Director of ACT and I have two gentlemen here, good friends of ours from Travelers. We have Bill Devine and Sean Ramalho. Sean is not only an SVP, as is Bill at Travelers, but is also on the board, so he is one of my bosses. Welcome.

All: Good morning.

Chip Bacciocco:  So we’re here, by the way if we haven’t already mentioned, on the beautiful banks of the Savannah River. Um, but I wanna start with you, bill, cuz um, you’re kind of to blame for a while. We’re all sitting out here. You called me last summer, don’t you share a little bit about why you called.

Bill Devine: You know, I, well, one Chip, you and I have known each other forever at this point since the early days of And, you know, we run into each other at all these events and have a lot of great conversations in the hallway and things like that. And, you know, across Travelers, we’ve been talking so much around inside our agency channel technology and how technology is changing and becoming a bigger and bigger component of the conversation.

When we go to big meetings, CIAB, things like that the conversation, it’s just so amazing how technology has become, you know, one of the top three topics that every broker wants to talk about regardless of size. And, you know, you and I were talking about the fact that as much as we’ve invested in technology as much as our, you know, the other carriers we compete with, and all of our broker partners have invested, the actual traction that we’re all getting as an industry just isn’t quite where it could be, where it needs to be. And you know what we need to figure out how do we create more forums where we can come together and have better conversations about technology and how collectively, collaboratively how we work together to improve the technology footprint across our industry. And I can build great tech, but if my broker partner builds something that doesn’t work with it, then all we did is build a mess, right?

Chip Bacciocco:  That’s right. Yeah.

Bill Devine: We joked before, you know, some days it feels like we’re all just building the next generation of legacy mess as opposed to improving the industry. And so, I challenged, how do we change the Big “I”‘s role in this space and help bring us together and really help drive that conversation.

Chip Bacciocco:  Yeah. And it was, it was obviously very well timed because internally within the Big “I” they were talking about, and [Chris was] taking on a new role at ACT, the Big “I” also formed an InsureTech task force at the same time. And so suddenly all these conversations were going around and I talked to Bill and he wants us to do like a… originally we thought maybe it’s a road show…

But we had to start somewhere and I think it was Lou Moran and said, boldly, why don’t we just do something in January? Which half the people were like, are you sure? That’s too soon.

We were originally thinking maybe June. And anyway, it doesn’t matter. But I’m glad we’re here. And I’m glad, Sean, you joined us,

Sean Ramalho: Thanks for having me.

Chip Bacciocco:  You bet. obviously has been working on this forever. And you know, every board meeting we talk about how are we going to get independent agents to start using the tools of, but also of others as well. Anything you want to add to the why we need to be here?

Sean Ramalho: You know, I mean, thanks for that Chip. Yeah, look at all of the industries around us, right? I mean, I use the Amazon, which is a common example of how Amazon has used technology to translate how you connect customer with, with a manufacturer or seller of a product. And the insurance product and insurance industry, I think, is ripe for transformation using technology because we have to. We have to be better at connecting with our distributors, with the carriers and the consumer. I mean, insurance and the transaction should not be that difficult as it has been over the years, and we’ve got to make it more accessible to consumer. So I think this is a perfect time to start that journey and to really create what the future of the insurance industry should look like.

Chip Bacciocco:  Yeah, I always say, and I know you’ve heard me say at our own board meetings, I say, all of our customers buy stuff from Amazon regularly. I bought the the microphone that’s over there, I bought on Amazon at night and had it shipped the next day to this hotel. And I instantly got the notification, you know, your, your product will be there tomorrow or whatever. We have to bring that kind of immediacy to the insurance transactions, right? We can’t, you know, wait two days to call somebody back and we can’t have that kind of have that loose stuff. So I totally agree.

Chris Cline: Well, and we’re at a point right now, Chip, where if we take leadership, we take ownership, we get to dictate how that technology gets deployed. If we keep kicking the can down the road, the tech is going to dictate how we all work. And that’s not going to be a good place for any…

Chip Bacciocco:  No, it’s not going to be a good place.

Chris Cline: It’s completely inverted, right? The strategy has got to lead the tech decisions.

Chip Bacciocco:  Absolutely. And we, you know, we clearly all agree that the IA model and what independent agents and IA companies bring… the products are better, the advice is better, the risk management… there are other countries trying things differently and you and I had another conversation about… why don’t you share a little bit about what you were in the UK, I think, a few months ago.

Bill Devine: Oh yeah. You know, I think the Lloyd’s model and some of the things going on with Lloyd’s and Blueprint too are just fascinating. And it’s really interesting to see the advancement and the, again, just a place that’s manifesting and we’ll see, like it’s all with a grain of salt because this is the first time Lloyd’s has made this move.

But I have confidence that the things they’re investing and things they’re doing are far more likely to come to fruition than in the past. But you talk about digitizing the transaction. And you talk about getting to a, you know, they joke at Lloyd’s, like, you know, when they first brought tablets out, that you had producers photocopying iPads because they wanted to…

All: [laughing]

Bill Devine: So if Lloyd’s can figure out how to digitize the transaction and get adoption and drive this idea of digital records, post-paper, post-… you know, all the ways that we’ve worked historically, there’s such an opportunity. and I think that’s really an exciting example of something like this happening.

Chris Cline: Sure. And it’s a great example of something that used to happen in the US all the time. You know, I was just meeting with my buddy, Reid, who’s the CEO of Ivans. and you know, as an industry we used to come together all the time to solve big problems like this and do it collectively— whether it was Ivans, whether it was ISO, whether it was ACORD… we loved coming together and saying like, this isn’t something we should compete on. This is a common problem that we need to figure out. And so it’s refreshing to see an example live of organizations coming together that way. But I think that hopefully can be a template, a prototype for what we should be doing in the US, you know?

Sean Ramalho: And Bill, you know, you mentioned Lloyds. When you think of Lloyds, you think of the insurance tradition and it’s an, it’s an industry that has deep rooted traditions. And the thing that we’ve got to remind ourselves, technology is not here to replace or remove the traditions, right? It’s here to enhance the transaction, not eliminate the tradition. I think we’ve got to keep that in mind. Insurance will always be insurance, will always have the relevance. We’ll always have that culture and tradition. We just need technology on top of it to make the transaction easier.

Chip Bacciocco:  Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s brave, bold times.

Well, we got to wrap up for now. We’re going inside, we’re doing a bunch of panel conversations. I want to thank you guys for coming all this way to join us at the event that you inspired, Bill. So maybe, if it doesn’t go well, it’s all your fault. You know that, right? No, no, I’m kidding. But thanks for bringing us together.

Chris and I want to thank our guests, Bill Devine and Sean Ramalho from Travelers. Thank you gentlemen.

Bill Devine: Thanks. Thanks. Appreciate it.

Chip Bacciocco: I want to thank the Big “I”, Act and AscendIA for bringing us this event today. And of course, none of this will be possible without the support of Diamond sponsor, Travelers, along with, Ivans, Accord Solutions Group and BondExchange.

And one more reminder, please check out your agency profile or your IA company profile on, making sure they are accurate and up to date. Your digital footprint matters now more than ever.

This has been the IA advantage and I am Chip Bacciocco, signing off. Please have a safe and prosperous week everyone.

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