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Chip Bacciocco: Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of the IA Advantage. My name is Chip Bacciocco. It’s going to be a fun show today, spending some time with some old friends. Some housekeeping before we get started. This program is made possible through the support of TrustedChoice.com and the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, The Big “I. Today’s broadcast will be made available to over 300,000 professionals across north America via the Trusted Choice independent agency network. As always, before we start, I want to urge you to make sure that your agency’s digital profile on TrustedChoice.com is complete and up to date. We welcomed our 36 millionth insurance shopper and Google is now crawling our agency directory every hour. Having a complete and professional agency profile on TrustedChoice.com ensures that your agency is being properly recognized and showcased on the nation’s most important online agency directory.
Joining me today are two superstars of the IA Channel. Well, one is more of a rockstar and maybe one is more of an action superhero. Regardless, I want to welcome two very good friends. The rockstar is Sydney Roe, the relatively new director of agency marketing at Vertafore. And the action superhero is Chris Cline, the very new executive director of ACT, the Agents Council for Technology.
It’s awesome to have you both on the program today. Welcome.
Chris Cline: I don’t even know how to follow that. Right? I mean, we have to be an action… super. I don’t know which one’s which, Syd. Does it matter?
Syd Roe: Well, I was going to ask you who your favorite superhero was since you’re a part of the pack now.
Chris Cline: Wow. Green Lantern? I don’t know. That’s my go-to reference. The two shows that I spent too much time watching superheroes as a kid in the seventies to date myself.
Syd Roe: I like green lantern, but he doesn’t have a BMX bike. So I just don’t know if he qualifies, man.
Chris Cline: Like, oh then how about Cru Jones from the movie Rad. I mean, he could do a back flip and yeah. So maybe we’ll do that.
Syd Roe: Yes. I love it. I love it.
Chip Bacciocco: I didn’t know you guys were experts at superheroes. I was just throwing that in. I just needed a, an exciting noun. I’m like, I’ll just throw this in. All right. So was it a good comparison for you, to a rockstar. Who’s your favorite rock star then Syd, or our musical star of any kind.
Syd Roe: Is there a rockstar called like Skid Row?
Chris Cline: Yeah, there’s a band.
Syd Roe: Okay. So I’ve never heard this band, but I continually get, “Oh yeah, like Skid Row” and I’m like, sure, we’ll go with that. That sounds great. Go with that today since it seems to be a common theme in my life that I can understand. Perfect.
Chip Bacciocco: I like it. It occurred to me before we got on the call this morning that it’s April. And normally in the old days, the three of us would see each other in April at Elevate. Has that occurred to any of you? It would be right about now that I would see you in person. And I remember the last live Elevate was the one in New Orleans, and I think all four of us were there. I vaguely remember standing near the Westfield booth and laughing about something. I don’t know.
Chris Cline: Yeah, I mean, you’re right. A little bit of a tear or maybe excitement, right? That we’ll get the world open back up again, where we could do some of these things in person. But, uh, yeah, that one was fantastic. I actually recorded three or four live podcasts for the show, um, that we were doing at Westfield. So, yeah, I miss that immensely.
Chip Bacciocco: I do too. Maybe we can work together to bring it back. That’s another conversation. We’ll see. So I think the way we got started here, it goes back a few months. I think Syd and I were texting each other about possibly doing a podcast of her new role at Vertafore. I think that was over the winter and, um, you know, time went by and then suddenly just a few weeks ago, Chris, I learned that you were taking on the mantle at ACT and it suddenly occurred to me that I had two friends that had taken on new roles and that there was almost certainly an exciting story behind both. And I thought, wait a minute, this is, this is a podcast. And so that’s how we got here. So are we ready to talk about it? Are you guys ready to share your deepest secrets and, and insights into career management?
Syd Roe: Let’s go!
Chris Cline: And 300,00 listeners just clicked Next >>
Chip Bacciocco: Nuh uh! They can’t wait to hear it. All right. So the big theme for the day then is big change, big adventure. You both been through some big changes. Uh, I’m sure there are some exciting stories behind it. Some “what if” moments. Syd, I want to start with you. Can you tell me the story? And a little backstory to please about how you came to make this decision for this new role at Vertafore.
Syd Roe: Yeah, absolutely. Um, I, I do have to say it’s so nostalgic being, uh, being back at Agency Nation. So I do really appreciate you having me on and, um, you know, I remember moving to b atomic and thinking, “We’re going to change everything in the industry. We’re going to change the world. It’s going to be a revolution and no one understands and no one knows what’s going to happen. It’s coming for them.” Um, and we did some really amazing things. I think that, uh, you know, at the time when b atomic was first started there wasn’t a lot of talk about other forms of connectivity, aside from Ivans. Um, you know, I think agents really understanding data ownership and data management, uh, you know, was, was really unheard of and insurtech was much more carrier focused. There were some technologies out there that were agency focused, TrustedChoice.com being one, but you know, the bulk of what vendors that you would see at ITC for example, were carrier focused. Um, and so I think, you know, b atomic along with a number of other players in this space were trying to pull the industry forward and say, “Hey guys, we need to think about bringing vendors, carriers, agencies closer together, and have that conversation, um, agency to pay attention to data ownership and the data that they’re collecting and being better stewards of it.” And, um, and we need more agency focused insurtech. Just need more of it in this space, um, more focus on it. And, um, you know, I, again, I think we were one of the players that, that really fired up that charge. And, um, I was, I was very excited about that.
Um, you know, I was employee number one, literally like right out of the gate. Uh, I remember I bought my camera and my laptop with savings that I had because we hadn’t even gotten our money yet from our investors. So I remember, uh, calling Seth and saying, “Should I just put this on my personal card?” And he’s like, “Well, um, we don’t have another choice.” And then it’s like, “Okay, well, I guess that’s what I’ll do then.”
Um, so it was the beginning of the beginnings. And, uh, we, you know, a lot of progress three years in that, but I would say at that point in, you know, every company goes through these life cycles.
I think when I came on board, they needed that story to be told they need the needed the message to be heard. By year three, there was a different focus for the company. There was more focus needed on product development and product roadmap. And, you know, the story had been told. The message had gotten out there and the company just needed to be, uh, you know, the resources, which are scarce in a startup, needed to be focused in a slightly different direction. And so, you know, I think, uh, you know, my departure allowed them to, to refocus those resources, you know, into that space. And it just so happened that at the same time, you know, as the universe does, uh, I was approached by a Vertafore exec who said, “Hey, you know, we’re looking for someone to tell our story.” And I will be honest. I did not think that I wanted to tell that story at first. So I remember the conversation with this person and I remember saying I don’t think you want me to come work for you. I feel like I’ve made it a tough place for Vertafore to be in this space as I’ve thrown out a lot of, uh, sticky points, I would say, with some of the areas that you guys are struggling with. And they said, “No, that’s, that’s why we want you to come.” And that response, really, that’s a very honest response, right? When someone can say, “Hey, um, you know, I realize I’m paying attention to what you’re saying. I hear you, but I still think you should take a look under the hood.” And I think I had to come to Jesus moment looking under the hood and saying, okay, what’s really going on here?
I talked to people at multiple levels within the organization. It took about four months and, you know, ultimately said, okay, these guys, while they’re not where they want to be, they are, you know, striving very hard every day to try and make it to that goal. And that’s what I mean, that’s all you can ask for. And so to be able to have that opportunity to be another change maker— I’m not the only one there’s, this is a company of 1600 people. There are many, many people inside Vertafore who are, who wake up every single day and say, okay, how can we turn this ship? Right? We’ve maybe been moving in a certain direction for a bit. We need to turn this ship. We need to be think more innovatively. We need to think differently. We don’t need to…
I remember a conversation that we had as a, there’s a group of people, you know, 20, 30 people on this call, product development, roadmap conversations. And there’s a, you know, they get a little feisty sometimes. So when you’re talking about features that don’t do or don’t go into to the software and, uh, someone said, you know, offered an opinion and someone else said, “Hey, you know, that’s the way things have been done. And we need to think differently. We need to do it. We need to do a little differently going forward.”
So I think just hearing, you know that internal change, knowing there are other change makers, I said, that sounds like a pretty fun ship to be on. So let’s go. Um, so I’m very excited to tell the story of what’s happening and, um, you know, just, it’s a little bit more responsibility, a bigger picture story to tell. But definitely a fun one that I’m looking for.
Chip Bacciocco: Well, that’s great. And obviously, um, you’re, you know, part of your adventure was, as you said, at Agency Nation and TrustedChoice.com. So I know you’re, you’ve been on quite the interesting journey for the last couple of years or several years, whatever we’re at— COVID screwed up my whole calendar in my head —so, um, but yeah, that’s, that’s awesome. Any, um, well, we’ll come back. We’re going to do a little advice question a minute. So I’ll hold onto the second part of that question.
So, Chris, what about you? What was the adventure? Was that the backstory behind getting you to this new role, which is a one of a kind role in our industry, obviously. But you’re a longstanding veteran at Westfield, so this has gotta be an interesting path..
Chris Cline: Yeah, it is interesting. And Syd you, you mentioned four months. I was trying to think back when you referenced the, the maturation of the development of this opportunity for you and try to think about the timeline I went through, but, um, you’re right Chip. I mean, I’ve was at Westfield for almost 28 years. In fact, April would’ve been my 28th anniversary and was not looking under any circumstances. I mean, I was an intern at Westfield and, uh, love the company and had done, um, a lot of different things. In fact, you know, might’ve been on the poster that talked about, uh, you can own your own career if you focused on your development and do a lot of different things. A fine art major who led distribution at the end of their cycle. So pretty cool set of experiences there. And I will be forever grateful for the people there and the opportunities that have been given and the friendships that I built and will continue to hopefully have. So that’s phenomenal.
But so really, um, in an ultra condensed version… This goes back a long time and I started to work with independent agencies in the field and immediately found a connection with, uh, a little bit of entrepreneur inside me that was stuck inside some conservative dudes body. And I always say that’s how I kind of guess why I sat on the opposite side of the desk from independent agencies. But through a lot of different roles and ultimately getting a chance to work in distribution I just became incredibly passionate about the independent agency channel. Um, 30, some odd thousand of them go on the, any given time and 30, some odd thousand different ways of running a business that kind of does the same thing. And, um, that was really, really meaningful to me. And so really over the last 7, 8, 9 years, big shout out to Craig Welsh, reported to him for a long time and, um, he was remarkable to work for. It gave me a great bit of latitude to build a team, um, immerse myself in an industry where there was maybe some loose balls and some gaps in the way our organization at the time had engaged and just fell more deeply in love with the industry and got to meet both of you, um, because of that work.
And so anyway, long, long way there of kind of getting to the point where, um, I started to get even more focused on my personal development and what might even be next. In my mind that was what would be next at Westfield. Was I going to do more? Change roles? Whatever it was, right? Just to think differently about things and hone in on where my passions were, the things that I loved, where my joy was and where I was the happiest, uh, and it was engaging the industry. And that was, you know, what prompted the podcast that I hosted and some of the speaking engagements that I did. And I found that there was a desire to be plugged in more broadly to the industry.
And so even with that, I wasn’t looking. I had an associate, um, whose name will remain nameless, but was a member of, um, I could change the roles. No, just leave it at that. Protect the NSF. And we were having a conversation and this person asked me, she, she was just like, well, what next for you? And like, I don’t know, you know, I’m working on that now trying to get my head around the things I love and where my passions lie and what could be next with, you know, a 27 year career.
And, but I said, and I, this is a, this is a hundred percent true. A role like Ron Berg’s is cool. Right. There’s only one of them. He’s iconic. He connects so many different people. He facilitates so much thought leadership and brings people together in a way with pure agnostic and sincere intent of elevating the industry and letting independent agencies have access to tools and resources, um, to do the things they want to do to become independent or join networks, whatever, just to be focused on themselves.
And within two weeks I got a random email from Ron, who I’ve known for a while, and just said, “I’d love to get 30 minutes on your calendar.” And this was prior to the end of the year. And he said, “Hey, this is not published. I don’t know, start planning my retirement. And I have the opportunity to be a part of finding my successor.” And there’s a few folks, you know, I assume, um, that were part of the process. And so that’s where I was thinking, Syd, back to the time, but it took really a few months of just talking to Ron. What are you trying to do? What’s the vision? What does the team look like? Deeply plugged in with the Big “I”‘s state level and national level and a lot of things, but didn’t even know what that really meant to work there. So condensing that down. It was just one of those things. It’s really nice developing a relationship and understanding them-me, me-them, and, um, it came together and it still blows my mind to think that I’m not where I was because of the passion and zero intent of ever wanting to leave that organization but this really, really felt right.
Chip Bacciocco: So here we are. Yeah. That’s a great story. And, um, and I’m glad you called out both Craig and Ron. Um, Craig obviously a good friend of TrustedChoice.com, Agency Nation, and all three of us. And Ron, you’re right, an icon and retiring now. And, um, and so, you know, a salute to him for all he’s done for the IA channel and for his friendship to all of us. And, uh, probably ought to mention Jeff Yates, too. Jeff Yates was his predecessor, and there wouldn’t be an ACT without, without both of them. So you inherit some big shoes to fill, I suppose. Let me put the pressure on you. No, I’m just teasing.
Chris Cline: Nowhere to hide, right?
Chip Bacciocco: Yeah, no, it’ll, it’ll be exciting. So I wanna, I wanna switch to advice mode a little bit and start with, you, Syd. There must have been some stressful moments around it. Uh, it couldn’t have been just a total cakewalk to make the decision and go through all the process and all that stuff. So any advice for people that are facing similar big decisions in our, in our industry?
Syd Roe: Yeah. That’s a really good question. Well, it’s interesting, Chris, that you ended with, you had zero intent to move to a different organization. The role presented itself to you. Um, so let me rewind for a sec. I would say, you know, this startup journey is very stressful. Um, more stressful than I thought it was going to be stressful and it was even harder than I thought it was going to be. Um, it actually ushered in some pretty big personal transitions in my own life. Uh, it made me question some just the way I saw the world, the way I walked through the world, the way I treated people, the way I thought about business, the way I’ve thought about the way an industry works and society works. I think a lot of things come into question when your “why” is questioned every single day. And so there were actually many moments along the b atomic journey that I woke up and thought, I don’t know if I can do this anymore. And do I go out looking for something else? Right. I, and I think when I came up against those moments and I wasn’t the only one on the team that had them, I think everybody goes through the 2:00 AM, “is this worth it?” conversation with yourself while staring at the ceiling fan. But I knew I didn’t want to make a fear-based move. I didn’t want to make a move out of negative motivation because I’d done that before in my life. And I didn’t want to repeat that pattern. I wanted to make a positive move and something where I was being asked to step up or step into something. And so I think the hardest part was waiting for the right transition, waiting for that opportunity to present itself to me. Um, and so that, that was the one, one piece of it.
You know, the other conversation, so interesting. I was talking to Kat Ternes about this at AgencyZoom just a few days ago. There’s kind of a bit of title congestion going on in the industry right now. You know what? I was a CMO, Chief Marketing Officer, at b atomic and I wore that badge with pride. Right. I wore that title with pride and I think, you know, moving into this new opportunity, becoming a director, at first it felt like a blow to my ego saying, “oh my gosh, I can’t take a Director role. I was a Chief Marketing Officer. That’s not right.” And I would, for those of you who are making a transition, there’s a lot of factors at play. I really had to consciously put that aside and just say if both were named the same thing, let’s see. If I was going CMO to CMO or Director to Director, what am I getting out of each situation? Who are the people in the room also? Where does this opportunity set me up in five to ten versus the past opportunity? What am I missing in my current role in terms of developing skillsets and networking with certain groups in the industry? Because believe me, I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be in insurance for a while. Um, that were gaps in my current position that I could maybe fill out and create a little, a little bit more of a holistic professional self with this other opportunity. And so I think there was a lot to work through and a lot to struggle through. Um, and at the end of the day, you know, to me, what really mattered was being able to have that corporate experience was a big thing for me, I’d sat and said, well, I don’t like the way the corporate runs and they shouldn’t run this way, but I’d never actually been inside the machine to really understand specifically why it works that way and what I didn’t like about it, how, how do you change a corporation? Can you change a corporation? Um, all questions that I felt I needed to answer for myself.
I had the opportunity to run a team of people, manage a team of people to have experience and management there’s before. Right. But I haven’t had that. Um, and just the ability to be a part of an organization. That’s I would say at the, you know, right now technology is one of the biggest issues that agencies face and Vertafore is in a prime spot to lead that conversation. What, what an amazing opportunity to take on.
So I don’t know if that answers your question. It was a little bit wandering. But yeah, it was a very tough decision making process, but one that I’m proud to have gone through. And actually I’ll tee it back up to you Chip. I made a couple of phone calls, I actually called my dad and talked to him about few things. And I called you and asked you some advice on what you thought. And I would say for those of you making that transition, don’t make it alone. There are people who’ve been through many transitions and can offer you lots of perspective. So, definitely don’t feel like you have to go through that pros and cons list by yourself.
Chip Bacciocco: I’m really glad you expounded on all of that and really talked about the whole picture, because I think that is the challenge we all have when we’re trying to think about, you know, what, what’s our situation. Everybody in every organization sees that, “oh, I wish things could be a little different. I wish this, I wish that.” And becoming, as you mentioned, very often, one of the best moves is to be a change agent in the organization you’re currently in. That’s something everybody should think about. But yes, that’s it. I agree it’s a challenging thing and certainly tapping into friends, uh, for alternate perspectives, I think is really helpful and I’m glad I could be of help in your process and thinking about it.
Chris, what would you say from your angle? How would you advise people? And by the way, I think you’re a great example of somebody that stayed within an organization. I don’t want everybody, I don’t want this podcast to be the reason everybody goes out and quits their job. That is not our message. Our message is there’s career opportunities. And when they come along and they may be within your organization, they may be in another organization. When they do come along, you consider them, invite yourself, open yourself to taking some risks, taking your next step, stepping up as Sydney mentioned. But take into context, the whole decision. Don’t be reckless with your careers. You know we don’t want that.
But you were at 28 years? That’s incredible. That’s a long time.
Chris Cline: Well, yeah, thanks. Right. And I think there’s so much in both in what you both just said, and it’s about intentionality and managing and taking accountability for your own development, your own results, um, in your own performance, um, and being really clear about, Syd, you mentioned the “why”. I know we talk a lot about that in our industry and probably can’t talk about it enough. It was an article in an HBR, Harvard Business Review, that I was given to at a point in my career where I was probably, well there’s no probably about it, I was thinking more about what I was paid and what title I had. So Syd, you referenced a little bit of that as well. And now it’s 20 plus years ago and somebody gave me an article that was in Harvard Business Review called Job Sculpting. And I still have it as a PDF. And even though the words were very much the consultants speak at the time, the principles apply and I think will apply forever. But it is really, really getting deeply connected to your own internal motivations. What functions and activities make you the happiest? It could be one, two or three things. And if you’re clear about that, a lot more jobs by role or companies start to look more appealing because you could, and, or at least it gives you some internal set of objectivity or clarity to respond to. And that’s hard to do and it’s hard to remain true to when you see people getting promotions or you see things happening or you don’t get a role. So. You know, Syd, you mentioned you worked for a company that’s, you know, 1600 people that was, you know, another thousand on top of that, where I came from. So there’s a lot of jobs in some of these companies and I’m just a firm believer in getting clear on your own development and really understanding the stuff that gives you the greatest, the greatest satisfaction. It’s a good gut check on bad days, on bad months, and it’s also a good gut check when you see job board postings, whether it’s inside or outside your organization, they have cool titles, um, or bigger salaries. Um, because soon as you get, if you go choose to chase something, that’s got a more romantic title and it might even pay you more the day you start everything’s relative again. So now is it, what were your expectations? What are you hoping to get accomplished? What are the politics of the role? What are the things that happen? And you’re immediately going to start evaluating, am I making enough? Am I happy? What is the bureaucracy have to deal with? So that’s whether you change jobs on the same department, whether you move into another department, the same company, or whether you leave you, whether you leave organization. So. I try to practice the advice idea and just get really, really good on that. And if you’re not, you know, there’s this whole notion of a development plan where I grew up, uh, at Westfield and I think it applies to everything, but you should continually really be refining. What are you working on? What are you trying to get better at? Getting feedback from a coach. Go find a couple of people in your network, you guys referenced that. Don’t make these decisions alone. Um, And it’s just really great to have a true, true, trusted, inner circle and people that you can count on to kick you under the table when you’re struggling, give you the positive thumbs up when things are going well. Because nobody will know what you’re working on and whether you’re actually advancing your own development, um, unless you’re talking to people about it. So you will know when I’m a flaming idiot but you won’t know when I caught myself from becoming one and I was able to redirect my emotions and control what it was. And in theory, be a better and a more viable contributor to a scenario than I might’ve been in the past. And that’s something that I work on. The stuff that most of us are working on in roles like ours, this isn’t about technical proficiency anymore. This is around emotional intelligence. Can you wrap your head around being able to be a good human, being, a viable contributor, managing your emotions, helping advance, helping other people be successful. The technical stuff anymore does get you, you know, a seat at the table, but the ability to be, um, far more in touch with your emotions and how you can contribute, and what really motivates you is key and it’s really hard work.
So I think that you referenced that, Syd, especially today a lot of startup firms, I’d love to get your take on this if we had time, but it seems like every job at a tech startup is a Vice President or a Chief of something. I had this conversation with a friend of mine just last night. We had dinner. And she is in the insurtech space. And there’s a lot of companies that look very deep but there’s not a lot of direct reports, so it’s a lot around talent attraction. So you can go make as much money as you want if you want to, but being happy and being satisfied and being fulfilled and understanding that there’s a longer game to play here as a human being, as a family member, you know, as somebody’s significant other, as a parent or something, or a member of a community that is bigger than salary and title.
Chip Bacciocco: Syd, do you want to react to that ?
Syd Roe: If I could that would be great. I so agree that the, the flashy title is very enticing. At face value, I would say, here’s the way I thought about it. What the startup environment allowed me to do is showcase my ability to be accountable and responsible, um, I’m sorry, showcase my ability to create without a lot of resources. Right? So put the title aside for a second. You have to. I was very bought into that too, being able to say I’m the CMO. But you’re the CFO of nothing at the end of the day. Right? And so you have to showcase your ability to truly create now on the other side, um, you know, uh, the opportunity at Vertafore is to be able to showcase, uh, responsibility and accountability to a lot of resources and that’s a different skillset and is by no means of less value because the title is different. And I think once I wrapped my head around that concept, I was really able to take the emotion of each title, right, and the face value of it out of it and say, okay, what am I developing as a skillset with each of these roles? And they both play a great part, but you just can’t be bought into that surface value proposition.
Chris Cline: Yeah, I think that’s, I would align with that and probably even adjacent to that is just do love what you’re doing and let labels and salaries come and go. But do you believe in the work you’re doing and why you’re doing it and in that, at the core, really fuel your ability to grind through those rough days and months and to feel fulfilled and understand there’s a light at the tunnel. Syd, well, I’m a runner but you’re a runner, but those mid miles are the toughest because you’re passionate about the cause what you’re ultimately trying to fulfill. So somebody who wants to run a marathon, doesn’t just to get the run mile one in mile 26, you’ve got to run mile 13, 14, and 15, and being able to get through those and grind your pace and make it through the pain. And discomfort is a true alignment with meaning and costs.
Chip Bacciocco: That’s amazing. I really invited the right two people for this conversation. We should turn this into some kind of masterclass, um, but we do not have time. I’m going to move us along into other topics, but this has been great so far. And I appreciate you guys being here today.
So let’s talk a little bit about your organizations and what their missions are. I think I’ll start with you, Syd, if that’s okay. Uh, what’s the mission of Vertafore and what’s new what’s going on there right now?
Syd Roe: Yeah, absolutely. So here’s the number one thing that attracted me to Vertafore. I think what we’re seeing at this point in time from a technology standpoint is the death of the all-in-one platform. There is no shiny object. There is no thing that can do everything. Um, you know, part of the reason that’s so much more true in the independent channel is because every independent agency works different. So regardless of the fact that it’s difficult to build an all in one platform, and I don’t even know if that’s possible, it’s really impossible to do it in the independent channel. When you’ve got agencies who are more commercial-focused, less commercial-focused. Processes are different, the way that they just run, they’re organized. They’re more sales focused, they’re more service focused. They’re in maintenance mode, they’re in performance mode. There’s so many different variations. Vertafore’s mission has been to provide the ability for agencies to customize a tech stack, to build out a tech stack, with software that’s specific to the insurance industry. And that’s an incredible value proposition. The point of becoming a part of the Vertafore ecosystem is not to buy everything it’s to choose or to have the ability to choose what works best. What a tech stack is outfitted best for your operations. So, um, you know, a lot of the things that we’re focused on coming into 2022 are around connectivity and that central customer view, not only internally, but even bringing in more Orange Partners. Right. We talked about the fact that insurtech has exploded in the agent space. We’ve got over 30, uh, Orange Partners, uh, part of the program at this point. And that number grows every week. So it’s not all about Vertafore, right? It’s about the agent, having the ability to say what type of technology is right for my operations. And what’s going to move me forward and make me competitive in an Amazon world.
Chip Bacciocco: Yeah, I think that’s well said. It’s a very evolving environment. And I think it’s really good for independent agents. And I think it embraces, as you said, the model of what it means for independent agents, they want to do their own thing. It’s their strength. And I’m glad that the technology is following them.
Syd Roe: Who, I mean, does anybody here use shampoo and conditioner in one bottle? Oh, wait, Chris.
Chip Bacciocco: Wow. That was a perfect joke. That was perfect. We’re going to have, but there’s no video, so it doesn’t work as well. But anyway, um, uh,
Chris Cline: Beat up on the bald guy.
Chip Bacciocco: Chris, what’s the mission at ACT? And by the way, more agents in my opinion, need to know more about what ACT is for what it does and it’s for all independent agents. But, tell us more about the mission of ACT and what you guys are working on..
Chris Cline: Yeah, I appreciate that. It’s wild too, Chip. My very first day on the job I went to, um, uh, one of the state associations had their annual conference and, um, of course it’s a team in Ohio they’re intimately engaged with the national Big “I” across a number of things and I know the team really well. So, uh, Jeff Smith did a really nice job of, “Hey, Chris is here, he’s from Ohio and he’s now…” But there were agents who said, what is ACT? What do you guys do again? And so it kinda hit me that there’s some real opportunity here, but, um, yeah, you know, the mission of ACT is to kind of bring all this stuff together and it’s to bring agents and brokers and partners who are trying to solve these problems and talk about trends, make people, um, as aware as possible of the tools that are available in the industry and to help understand the strategic trends, but also connect back to the tools and resources that help each agency do what they’re trying to accomplish. And so it’s, it’s been that way for a while and I see real power in that vision. But Syd, you said something that I’m really strongly aligned with in my own point of view as I look at trying to carry forward the legacy and continue to think about the maturation of that as it comes along, because one of the things I observed on the outside, and it’s not really an ACT thing I think it’s an industry thing, you alluded this 35, some odd thousand independent agencies. There’s every bit of 30-some, more than 3000 carriers. Now add on how many different tech partners are available to an agency out there and the exponential math on that can paralyze people or cause them to make decisions around FOMO or whoever’s got the biggest voice in the industry, and those might be perfect solutions. And I heard this once. I think Billy Williams used this expression once, uh, assuming noble intent on the front side, there really isn’t good or bad in insurtech. It’s just about whether, how it aligns with the agency strategy and their intentionality. So one of the things I hope to be able to do with ACT is to sip something on top of that, or to continue to have that conversation as much as we’ve talked about tools and resources. So that people don’t feel like they have to buy everything or be scared that they’re going to be competitively disadvantaged if they don’t engage in a certain tech stack. And that’s kind of what you alluded to. The way I interpreted your message about Vertafore’s, nobody’s going to buy everything. Probably nobody should buy everything. But if you really understand what your agency’s trying to do, really large national firms that are larger than most carriers, and there are still two or three or four person agencies, some of them are trying to be mainstream. But some of those three or four person agencies are all SEO driven and they’re trying to do business across the organization. So this agency size thing or agency location thing is probably a poor proxy for how we think about focusing our tech solutions. But. Trying to facilitate a conversation. What customers do you want to serve? What geographies did you want to focus on? How do you want to differentiate your agency in the market? Are you going to focus on service? Still value. Are you going to be a sales driven organization or are you going to hire producers? You’re going to be commission driven? Are you going to be SEO driven? You’re going to use carrier service centers? I mean, you have to start to answer those questions as a core business before you can start to think about what technology is out there cause there’s technology to solve for all of those. Well, a lot of great solutions out there. But where I’ve seen agencies, even on the carrier side, struggle was they start to plug all these things in together and it’s it’s Chevy Chase in Christmas vacation, plugging all the cool stuff and he hits the light and nothing happens.
Chip Bacciocco: That’s a great analogy. I’m going to steal that so bad.
Chris Cline: You’re allowed to, alright. I might work on royalties. Bit I mean that in sincerity, so. Let’s help them through that. And I think there’s a voice and a Sherpa that can be out there. And I hope that ACT can do that. And so comma, the last thing I’ll say here is to having an opportunity to also now speak on behalf of all of the Big “I” and the tools and resources. Both of you have heard me give my kind of the big three plus one, which I’m kind of reshaping, but there’s so much connectivity across all of the trends that our industry is talking about. It’s technology. Talent management. It’s internal succession planning. It’s data, it’s analytics, it’s diversity and inclusion. Like technology can enable each one of those strategies. If you’re not talking about how your agency’s thinking about technology, while at the same time you’re talking about your remote work capabilities and how that facilitates your agency’s culture and how that facilitates the type of people you’re trying to attract in your organization then it’s a miss. And so it might be a bigger nut than we can crack it at ACT. But I think threading technology through all of these other overarching industry trends is a powerful opportunity. Yeah.
Chip Bacciocco: And one of the things as you guys were both talking, uh, I recalled to myself that one of the things I love the most about our industry is that everyone essentially acts in partnering ways, you know, and I think both of your organizations exemplify that, that concept, that we’re all here together to try to solve problems for thousands of independent agencies and ultimately all the people that rely on those agencies for their insurance, all the families and businesses. It’s a very, it’s a noble business from top to bottom. And I’ve just always found that, that the people in our space of technology and innovation really tend to be partners. And I think you guys exemplify that. So great comments there.
We’re kind of running short on time. I want to give you each a chance to plug an upcoming event. Syd, I think I’ll start with you. Is there a Vertafore event that people should come and see you and shake your hand and party?
Syd Roe: Yeah. So Vertafore will be at lots of events coming up this year. So if you have a chance to stop through the trade show, we’ll probably have a booth. Mackenzie Cain, who is the coolest person ever., will be there. She’s got the most amazing personality so if you need a good boost, she’s the person to talk to. But we actually just had Accelerate happen at the end of March. It went awesomly. It was our first conference back since COVID and we had just over a thousand people. So, um, it was great to see faces again and shake hands and just, just sit down without a Zoom background and have a beer. So I would say put on your calendars, Accelerate 2023, which will be next April in Texas.
Chip Bacciocco: Awesome. I will do that. And I so agree with you. I’m looking forward, uh, to being actually there’s a Big “I” conference coming up in a few days, the, the, uh, the national legislative conference. And it’s that privilege, as you said, set of sitting with real people and having a real conversation and sharing is amazing.
Uh, Chris, what is, what does ACT got coming up? I know you have at least one big event coming, cause I know I’m going to be there in October .
Chris Cline: Yeah, that’s great. Well, we also just finished, um, the spring ACT tech summit as well. So it was virtual, it was the 19th and 20th of April. So just, I guess last week at airing 500 or so people registered for that and a number of great sessions, great insight for me to observe. I have zero credit for the quality of the work, but Ron and Jenny Winkworth ran a phenomenal event and use some interactive breakout sessions and jam board to capture some great engagement, um, which will fuel future content.
But in addition to the Leg conference and all the other things, um, I intend to be relatively active in the industry trying to get out and put, um, even though Ron and I are both, you know, hairless, uh, very attractive folks. We tried to just kind of position, um, that, you know, he’s retiring and I’m now in, in the role on a chance to meet a lot of folks, who’ve been deeply involved with ACT. So I’ll be, I’ll be doing some speaking engagements, but you’re right. Uh, October 3rd, right now we’re working with and, sorry, Syd. I know we kind of reciprocate in the past here, but, uh, the next ACT tech summit is very likely to be on the front side of AppliedNet in Nashville in October. So, um, it’s my understanding that kind of rotated that event across partnerships with, um, you know, the large tech providers out there and NetVu and AppliedNet were part of them. So I’m looking forward to do that with, uh, with the folks at Applied and, uh, hopefully get a great turnout and have a lot of people back in person and, uh, and good examples of partnerships and how we all need to come together, uh, as an industry and motivate ourselves and get ourselves excited and share ideas and collaborate.
Chip Bacciocco: Speaking of that, we should all on another podcast, work on bringing back Elevate, but that’s a whole other topic. Um, are we going to see each other at InsuretechConnect? I would guess? Wouldn’t we all see each other there?
Syd Roe: I’ll be there, yeah.
Chris Cline: I think so!.
Syd Roe: If they could not hold it, uh, in Vegas for one year, Jay, Caribou, I would love you both forever. Um, but I will be in Vegas.
Chip Bacciocco: Yes! I second that, Jay, come on. I mean, although he would probably say, well, where else would I get a place that big? And then how else would I lose money at craps every year? So it’s a good tradition.
Chip Bacciocco: But thank you both. That’s really all the time we have. But I really appreciate you guys coming on the program. Did we have some fun?
Syd Roe: Yeah,
Chris Cline: Heck yeah.
Chip Bacciocco: Yeah, I totally agree. I want to have you guys back. We could do this every single month. But anyway that is all the time we have. I want to thank my guests formally. The rockstar Sydney Roe, the relatively new director of agency marketing at Vertafore and the action superhero, Chris Cline, the very new executive director of ACT.
As always, I want to remind everyone listening, take a few minutes each week and look around. We are living in the golden age of insurance innovation. Enjoy it. Be part of it, soak it up. I want to thank all the folks that make this program possible, including Central Insurance , Encova, Main Street America, Safeco, Selective, State Auto, Travelers, Westfield and the Big “I”. And one more reminder, please check out your agency profile or your independent agency company profile on TrustedChoice.com. Your digital footprint matters more than ever in the post COVID era. Thank you everyone. Thank you again to my guests. This has been the IA Advantage and I am Chip Bacciocco signing off.