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  1. IA Advantage Podcast
  2.  » Insurtech: Enhancing the Transaction, Not Eliminating the Tradition

Insurtech: Enhancing the Transaction, Not Eliminating the Tradition

Live from the inaugural Big “I” InsurTech Summit! Chip Bacciocco and Chris Cline take a minute to sit down with Bill Devine and Sean Ramalho of Travelers to discuss the IA channel’s urgent need to take ownership of insurtech strategy in order to avoid the possibility of external players or factors dictating the way agencies do business. This is a must-listen for all insurance industry change-makers.
Published: February 2, 2023

Live from the inaugural Big “I” InsurTech Summit! Chip Bacciocco and Chris Cline take a minute to sit down with Bill Devine and Sean Ramalho of Travelers to discuss the IA channel’s urgent need to take ownership of insurtech strategy in order to avoid the possibility of external players or factors dictating the way agencies do business. This is a must-listen for all insurance industry change-makers.

For more information:


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.

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. The sun is out. I might actually get a little tan. I might angle my chair that way. What the heck, wouldn’t hurt. And there might be a little bit of wind noise, but we’re going to do the best we can. The paper’s blowing around. But I want to start with you, Bill, because you’re kind of to blame for a while. We’re all sitting out here. You called me last summer. Why don’t you share a little bit about why you called?

Bill Devine:You know, 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… Chris liked that idea. Maybe we could do a road show…

Chris Cline: And we still might.

Chip Bacciocco: We still might. Yeah, absolutely. Still might. We’re going to rent the RV and we’re going to drive around the country together. We could podcast from the RV to Atlanta.

Chris Cline: Yeah, that sounds like a blast.

Chip Bacciocco: That does sound like a blast.

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, absolutely.

Chris Cline: I was going to say, I think that’s a great, a great point. We talk a lot about… let technology remove the things from the human’s tasks that will allow them to add the human value, right? Which, you know, are the traditions, are the advice, are the insight. And not typing the same address five times to get a quote with number of markets. But one of the things that’s interesting and Deloitte’s thing is an interesting example, but when I was in the carrier days, and even now, I ponder this thought. We’re at a point in this journey where, you know, carriers like yourself are making significant investments. Almost every carrier’s making an investment of some kind. Agencies are choosing, but the prioritization of what folks are investing in seems to differ greatly. Some of it is just chewing up core legacy processes and platforms, and some people were tip of the spear, right? And they’re investing in top of the funnel activities.

Bill, you alluded to this a little bit, so maybe the answer was in that, but, will we always deal with competing priorities? Is the concept of an independent agency channel a blessing and a curse in all of this, right? 40,000 agencies, 2,500 carriers, all kind of figuring out how to differentiate.

Bill Devine: And as we know too, it’s not the number of agencies, it’s the number of producers, CSRs and it’s… I mean, it’s a multiple of a multiple of a multiple.

Chris Cline: Yeah. Exponential, right?

Bill Devine: You know, we, we’ve talked for years that, you know, you, you could sit with the agency principal and you will get one very clear declaration of what that agency needs…

Chris Cline: Until you run a report?

Bill Devine: And then we run a report…

We used to call that the carrier-that-we-won’t-name problem that you know, oh, we don’t write, we, we don’t ever write what that carrier. And then you pull the report and it’s like, well, 50% of your personal lines auto business is going there.

Chris Cline: On the carrier side I had those things. “Oh, we always write these limits and these deductibles.” I’m like, well, here’s the last 50 quotes that were run out of here.

Bill Devine: So, so I, while I think that historically that’s been a challenge for us, at least at Travelers, and again, the reason that we’re trying to get this session going and sessions like this going is it’s been so important for us. We’ve brought hundreds and hundreds of agents and agencies to our campus, to regional meetings, to sit down and do side by sides of like, how do you do your job? What are you working on? How does this work? Have you thought about that? Like, and really to develop the voice of the customer to understand all the different personas in an agency to, you know, really understand how is the work actually getting done.

We, we work with the agency principals and folks at meetings like this to, to set the aspiration of where we should go, and then we sit with the folks who actually do and transact the work, both on our side and on the broker side to figure out, okay, then how is this actually going to get done?

Because at the end of the day, this is a trade between a producer and an underwriter that we’ve got to get, right.

Chris Cline: Yep.

Chip Bacciocco: Yep.

Bill Devine: And so probably the fastest way to get it right is to talk to the producer and talk to the underwriter.

Chip Bacciocco: So where would the fun be in that?

Bill Devine: I mean, you know, I mean, we’re all really bright people and could probably figure some great solutions out. I don’t know if it’ll solve their problem, but it’d be great solutions. So let’s, let’s spend more time talking to them and understanding exactly what they do.

Chris Cline: Yeah, I think that’s a fascinating dynamic though, right? Even in this role, we talked to agents and as they’re thinking about a technology deployment, it’s before you even start, are all of your CSRs and account execs doing the thing, whatever it is, the same way and start there, right? Because if you apply a new tool with change management, the denominator’s different for every person in the conversation. The change has such less chance to succeed.

Bill Devine: Totally agree. Chris, and we, we even talked to folks about, you know, when they’re trying to do that work of, do you know why you’re bringing that technology in? Like, what’s the outcome you’re trying to get? Forget the technology. Screwing in that technology is not an outcome. What is it that you’re hoping to improve? How is, how are the people in your office or your end customers… how are their lives going to be better by this piece of automation, this piece of technology that we’re bringing in? If we can understand that then it unlocks all of the different solutions and how we can go about it.

Chris Cline: It makes a lot of sense.

Sean Ramalho: Yeah. You know what’s interesting, Chris? I mean, you both, you and Bill, you state the problem very eloquently, right? I mean, it’s a challenge for all of us. But I think, Chip, you opened the conversation by saying, why are we doing this? And I think I don’t know if this industry is ready for 40,000 producers or agencies to sit down and have a collaborative discussion. I don’t know if the 2,500 carriers will ever sit down and have a “let’s come together” conversation. So that’s why we’re doing this. I think it’s going to be the Big “I”, it’s going to be Trusted Choice, it’s going to be organizations that will be the thought leaders in how we take this initiative forward and why we should do this. Because I don’t, I just don’t see the, the carriers or the, or the large population of agents and producers sitting down and really trying to figure out what a common or close-to-common solution could possibly be.

Chip Bacciocco: Yeah, I think, I think they want a leader. I think they expect us, they expect companies like Travelers, they expect ACT, they expect Trusted Choice to not, not dictate by any means, but they would like to have us thinking about it. Encouraging. I really am a big believer, you guys know this, in sharing agency stories, trying to get agents to talk on video if possible, right? And talk to each other because an agent wants to hear, a broker wants to hear the experience of another agent or broker. And I’m sure insurance company guys want to hear the experience of other insurance company guys. You want to hear from, you know, the folks that have the same challenges as you. And that’s one of the things we can do to your point, Sean, is we can share, we can lead. And we can encourage.

Chris Cline: I like to call them, like, letters to the editor, right? I can’t, I can’t influence 30 carriers, let alone close to 3000 on behalf of agents. And we certainly can’t influence all the agencies to do the same thing. But I think leveraging the stories, and not only just the successful stories, but those that are willing to share the skin knees, or maybe even worse, can allow a communication or, and exactly what we’re saying here, a collaborative message back to the industry. So everybody’s at least hearing and getting a chance to kind of think about this in their own way, but with a common set of expectations.

Bill Devine: There’s so many problems for us to solve for. Like, we don’t have to tackle the big stuff first. That’s the, that’s the exciting part of this, right? What we’ve got to do is get back in the habit of solving things together. And that’s the challenge.

Chris Cline: I think you’re right. Yeah.

Bill Devine: I mean we, a group of us over dinner last night, were talking about agency cybersecurity. And how we’re all developing different standards because we, we lack the muscle memory of collaboration, of cooperation, and so we’re all off building different standards and so multi-factor authentication could get adopted a dozen different ways by the tech for the, each of the technologies that end up in a broker’s office. And then that brokerage is going to have to figure out, that agency is going to have to figure out how to navigate 12 different ways of signing on every morning to the applications that are necessary. And different obligations in the contract. And it’s just, and I will tell you definitively, there is no competitive advantage for any of us in differentiating our multifactor authentication.

So maybe something like that, like maybe there’s those easy wins that we can start with and say, how do we come together and do less? Less harm, do less dumb things, and then we can start to tackle some of the harder stuff. Because there are really hard things on the horizon that we’re going to have to talk about… very serious conversations about in the space of data, data privacy, data ownership in the space of AI and whatever’s coming next on that horizon. Those are really hard questions. God help us if those are the first questions we’re going to have to tackle together.

Chris Cline: So I heard somebody in a completely 180 degrees different topic and conversation, but the narrative was such that there are principles in life that we can debate, and there are those that will divide. But let’s be intentional about where we’re… and so MFA is one where we might want to debate the best way to do it, which is collaboration, right? And there are things that are divisive, which maybe in this case correlates to competitive decision-making. But how you log onto the system is absolutely not a competitive…

Bill Devine: Or if that is your competitive advantage, I can’t wait to beat you in the market.

Chip Bacciocco: Absolutely!

Bill Devine: Let’s go!

Chris Cline: It’s only competitive until the next carrier comes out with the next tool. So yeah, those are, those are fascinating examples, Bill

Chip Bacciocco: Yeah, those are, very much so.

We probably should finish with something a little fun though. I know, I know we want to solve easy problems, but I don’t want to avoid… there’s some interesting things on the horizon and I can’t help, but, you know, in the news recently was the ChatGPT thing and not, you know, I’m not in any way thinking that that’s going to, nobody should think that that’s going to replace the expertise of an insurance agent anytime soon. That’s not why I’m mentioning it. I’m mentioning it just because that’s interesting technology. The thing understands pronouns and it can, I… I’ll tell you one thing I did with it… I said please write a jingle about car insurance and it did so in six seconds. And it was quite a good jingle. And then I said, well, change it to a poem in the style of William Shakespeare. And it did that in about six seconds and it was perfect iambic pentameter.

Yeah… you try it. I encourage…

Bill Devine: No, he was actually shocked that you knew iambic pentameter. Yeah. So well done, Chip.

Chip Bacciocco: Thank you! What do you guys think of that? Have you tried it? Thoughts on what it might mean for the future? Anything at all, Sean?

Sean Ramalho: Yeah, I haven’t tried it and I’m not certainly as deep or immersed in it as you are. So I’ll punt that one.

Chris Cline: I’m, I’m loving it. So there are a number of tasks that I can see on the near horizon that are automation-ready. So, you know, one of the things that I’ve seen is some of the video conferencing systems are starting to adopt things like ChatGPT into their core system. I know Microsoft’s a big, big user of ChatGPT and things like the ability to not just transcribe a meeting that we have, but then also summarize it and also abstract out the agreements and takeaways from the meeting. Like, those are the little things that, let’s be honest, nobody likes doing. Those are the little things that I’m excited that that’s, that can pick up.

Bill Devine: The one I’ve been playing with is beautiful ai which is, you know, it’s beyond PowerPoint, but they have a PowerPoint extension too, where you can actually do what you did, Chip, but actually have it put into a presentation format so you can pop on stage and in six seconds you can get a presentation fully ready to go.

Chip Bacciocco: I wish I had known that before today. We have something coming out in an hour that would’ve been helpful.

Bill Devine: It’s scary how good that stuff is, but it, but again, it’s soulless. It, it lacks the connection. It lacks so many of the components that are so critical to how we work and how we transact business. I’m not, I’m not worried about it. I think it’s a lot of fun though.

Chip Bacciocco: It is a lot of fun. So Sean will be okay if I do my board presentations just, you know, looks like it comes from ChatGPT…

Sean Ramalho: You know what, Chip? Go for it. It would be an improvement.

Chris Cline: So last night at dinner, Aubie Knight was showing us a software that made an avatar of him. So he is using ChatGPT to write something and then uploading it into the avatar thing. And it was like, I’m not ready…maybe the rest of the world’s willing to like, get me out of the way and make me digital, but I don’t know. It’s a weird thing, but I’ve played with it as well too. And there’s definitely some limitations. But I put in, “write an article in the top 10 Cyber risks facing independent agencies,” and it was publish-ready. But that doesn’t require a human element, right? It’s fishing, it’s spearfishing…

Bill Devine: and it’s not creating new connections.

Chris Cline: Correct.

Bill Devine: That if you actually sat down and really thought about it, it does a nice job of summarizing top 10…

Chris Cline: Right. I asked the “top 10 classic rock bands of all time”, and, looked at it and thought, “no, I’d never agree with this!”

Bill Devine: It did make a disclaimer though, right? Best is subjective.

Chris Cline: It was, it was decent, but…

Chip Bacciocco: It’s fun. And we live in exciting times. I always say at the end of my regular podcast that we live in the golden age of insurance innovation and I still feel like we are. So…

Bill Devine: The interesting thing I’m just going to say about that… so right now it’s fun because it’s new. So it is a quintessential shiny object example. So, you know, in a year, how will it persist and will it be baked into, sort of, day-in-the-life of operations, whether, you know, whatever, whoever’s listening will be interesting to see or how that evolves to be used.

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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