Episode 65: Full Transcript

[00:00:00.08] LUKE MAGNAN: You need to have the confidence with what you say to give people faith that they've got a safe place to operate in.

[00:00:07.61] SPEAKER 1: This is the Insurance Technology Podcast, where we bring interesting people from across the insurance ecosystem to discuss and debate technology's impact on the industry. Join us each episode for insights and best practices from industry stewards and tomorrow's innovators. Now, here's your host, Reid Holzworth.

[00:00:29.71] REID HOLZWORTH: Welcome to the Insurance Technology Podcast. I'm your host, Reid Holzworth. Well, we're back with Luke Magnan.

[00:00:36.43] In this episode, we're going to get into a bunch about leadership and also how Luke and his company gives back. Really, really good stuff. Stay tuned. You're going to love it. If you could change one thing in the insurance industry, what would you change?

[00:00:51.72] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah, look, I would want the industry in the States to do more cooperating. I think that insurers need to cooperate with one another where it makes sense. And I'm not going to talk about the business side of that, although I think there's an argument there.

[00:01:07.75] But even on the technology side, we need to do a better job coming together, making standards, adopting each other's APIs. We just have to start working together. Reid, your company, IVANS, right, the greatest story of cooperation in the world. They did something so revolutionary with Semsee so much earlier than anyone could have imagined.

[00:01:31.53] I think we need more things like that, and I'd like to see that change, especially for technology where so much of it, like I said, it's just a commodity, it's a necessary evil. Let's come together and figure out the best ways to do this. And that's what I would ask.

[00:01:45.85] REID HOLZWORTH: Well, there are organizations out there. I'm not going to name names, and I'm laughingly saying there are organizations out there that have been around for a very long time that should be doing this type of stuff but really don't.

[00:01:58.99] LUKE MAGNAN: Well, I know exactly who we're talking about, and I want to name names, but we won't. They boggle my mind. Yeah, OK, we'll just leave it at that. I could not agree with you more.

[00:02:09.73] REID HOLZWORTH: Right? But I feel like, to your point, I would agree with you there. I don't know if that's the one thing that I would change, but I think that this industry does need that once again. And it needs to be in a modern environment, new crew, new leadership, just different I think. It's a different world.

[00:02:27.25] LUKE MAGNAN: And again, I spent time working for this company out of London. You look at how that industry competes and yet collaborates-- and look, they got their own issues with the London market over there. But I don't know how as a risk becomes more and more complicated-- cyber is a perfect example, as things start spiraling, without some level of industry cooperation, I don't know how we're ever going to retain the hard-to-insure stuff versus it going over to London so yeah.

[00:02:58.67] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, all right. Any advice you have for entrepreneurs coming into our industry, the insurance industry?

[00:03:04.81] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah, I mentioned this. Maybe I hinted at it. I think that you need to spend time understanding the industry, right? I think that-- I bet that six months as an underwriting assistant would be the most valuable education you could possibly get to be doing this.

[00:03:21.73] I think that time really getting deep in the industry-- and if you're going to come in and say, I'm going to be like a renter's insurance guy, maybe you don't need it. But I think that understanding the more complicated things is the most important thing.

[00:03:36.43] REID HOLZWORTH: What does being a leader mean to you?

[00:03:39.44] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah, I saw this on a list, and I gave it some thought. So I think that for me-- I'll tell you, I think that I'm like a reasonably OK leader, but I know that I'm a terrible manager. So I had to think about it a little bit like, what does that mean to me?

[00:03:54.64] I think being a leader is able to-- so a good leader is someone who can infect the people below them with their vision. If I've got developers below me, I don't need to tell them how to code, or I'm not going to sit there and say be better at coding. But if I do a good enough job saying about how important it is to make customers happy or to always keep this in mind at a relationship level, just by it being in conversation with me, I can instill that in them as a core part of what we're doing. That's a leader.

[00:04:29.53] It's about not just communicating but really passing down the things that I'm passionate about to the organization below me. That's what I think a good leader is.

[00:04:40.45] REID HOLZWORTH: Vision casting, rallying the troops essentially.

[00:04:43.50] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah.

[00:04:43.84] REID HOLZWORTH: But not troops in like a military kind of way because you could argue that's leadership but it's different. It's different. Those are just subordinates, and it's different.

[00:04:54.19] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah, I give very few prescriptive direction or orders, right. I don't know that-- there's other people who are better at that than me. If it's not-- if I'm not telling people what to do, I hope that I'm giving them a foundation for how they should do it. And that to me is what a leader is, what they should be considering, what should be important to them while they're doing it. And that's what I think a leader is.

[00:05:20.28] REID HOLZWORTH: Are you a leader, Luke? Do you really truly consider yourself a leader? So this is a little bit loaded. I asked this because frankly, myself, I'll speak for myself, I just realized not that long ago, truly, deep at my core, I realized that I am a leader.

[00:05:38.46] And it took me a really long time to understand that because I've spent most of my career just doing what I do, managing people and the whole nine. And I was leading and I've always been a leader. But I never really-- I don't know, maybe it's a self esteem thing. I don't know what it is, but I never really truly saw myself as a leader and I do now.

[00:05:57.69] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah, I will tell you why I do think that I'm a leader, but I'll tell you how I see it. So we've got three offices here in Hartford, Connecticut. Our US people are based around. We got an office in Montevideo, Uruguay, and in Tbilisi, Georgia, and Belgrade, Serbia now.

[00:06:12.54] When I'm here in Hartford with the people that I interact with all the time, I rarely feel like a leader, right? You know what, I feel like a bad leader, sometimes almost a little negative. It's when I get out to the offices with people that aren't so much in the orbit of my day-to-day where they are saying things back to me where I'm like, yes, this person is so smart and I'm like. Or is what I'm doing cascading down to a level where that's coming-- that's when I feel like I'm a leader.

[00:06:42.73] So I guess it depends on the day, right? Like today here everyone's going to be frustrated with me for 100 different reasons when I blow off meetings or whatever. I won't feel great. But I do think that at some level, my vision is shaping organizational behavior at all levels. And what I do see that, I feel pretty good about myself, I guess.

[00:07:03.54] REID HOLZWORTH: I think for the listeners, leadership is so much bigger even than just in the workplace. I think as a leader of people, you don't have to necessarily be in a leadership position per se within an organization to still be a leader. You can be the leader of your pack at home. There's so many ways to look at that. But no, that's really good.

[00:07:24.69] So what do you think is the most important trait a leader should have?

[00:07:32.29] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah, man, I got to say-- and maybe this is just because it's a trait people ascribe to me often negatively. I think that it's confidence. I think that you don't always have to be right, and you don't always have to be the most cogent. But you have to be confident.

[00:07:53.88] People are coming to work, right? I am not-- and maybe this is just from a professional perspective. Nobody's life depends on me, but their paychecks do, their careers do. And I think that you need to have the confidence with what you say to give people faith that they've got a safe place to operate in, right?

[00:08:10.41] I think that if you're not confident, that's what makes people get a little squirrelly when you're going over a little bit of speed bump, bumpy terrain and they're like, I don't know about it. I think being confident in what you're saying and having whatever's required inside of you to be confident, like, I've thought through this enough. I'm there. That confidence I think is probably-- I don't know how you could be a leader without it quite honestly.

[00:08:29.82] REID HOLZWORTH: So how do you define success, Luke?

[00:08:33.94] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah, that's a good one. I think there was a big time in my life where it was like the things I had or the things that I could do. I don't think that's what it is anymore. I think it's the level of enjoyment that I can pull from my life measured against the level of stress and anxiety and unhappiness I have in my life. As long as I'm in the positive there, I think that that's successful.

[00:08:59.14] So look, listen, good times, bad times owning your own company but it just gives me such flexibility to focus on what I want to focus on in life and to make my own decisions. And I think that that's the bigger part of what defines success for me than anything else.

[00:09:16.48] REID HOLZWORTH: What do you do for fun right now?

[00:09:18.84] LUKE MAGNAN: Oh, yeah, so I'm really into photography. I'm a real avid passionate photographer.

[00:09:27.87] REID HOLZWORTH: Are you the guy with all the camera and all the things, all the lenses and stuff or like iPhone photography?

[00:09:33.33] LUKE MAGNAN: Oh, no, no, no, like a camera but the douchiest, most hard-to-use camera. I'm a Leica camera guy for anyone that knows. No, the camera with the lenses but small and unreasonably hard-to-use successfully for no apparent upside, just for the benefits of it.

[00:09:51.66] But no, I'm into photography. I'm a bicyclist, although I think that I'm pretty much done for the season here. I still play video games. I'm a Dungeons and Dragons guy. A lot of nerdy pursuits, I'm still there. Yeah, I'm very involved in watching youth sports right now. I don't know that that's a hobby, but it is something that eats up a lot of my time so yeah.

[00:10:15.60] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, that's a good-- yeah, that's a good way to put it. That's awesome, man. That's awesome. Yeah, so if could-- if you had all the time in the world, what would you be spending your time doing?

[00:10:28.39] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah, so I've got a place-- I've got a place out in Maine, and it's on the coast but not the fancy part of the coast. It is way down east so far away. And in that town there's a bar and two restaurants, and I've got my little place, and I would be there.

[00:10:47.41] And what I would be doing is like a real question. I don't know. Maybe I'd get into ice fishing or maybe there. But I would be away from everything, and I would be living my life there. I really feel-- I'm a big reader, nothing of any interest, like spaceships and wizards.

[00:11:05.05] But I feel like I have a book in me, not to publish or anything, but I do feel like I got a book in me. Maybe I would write, but I know that somebody on the last podcast said that same thing. So I don't want to lead with that.

[00:11:17.23] REID HOLZWORTH: How do you give back? Do you give back? And what does give back mean to you?

[00:11:22.06] LUKE MAGNAN: So I will tell you when we first started this company, we very much wanted to be like one of these socially responsible startup companies. We were going to give back. We were going to involve things, and not just from a charitable giving perspective, but we wanted to do something more fundamental.

[00:11:38.88] But then the dollars and the reality of dollars and cents catch up. And when you're trying to build something, it's easy to lose sight of that. But this year we really-- end of last year, this year, we're really doing our first thing that I really consider giving back. We're working with a not-for-profit organization to build out a US-based testing team with people-- staff by people with neurodivergence.

[00:12:09.15] I think that for anyone that's spent time anywhere--

[00:12:12.18] REID HOLZWORTH: What does that mean? Say that again. What does that mean, neuro what?

[00:12:15.48] LUKE MAGNAN: Neurodivergent professionals, neurodivergent folks.

[00:12:19.48] REID HOLZWORTH: Got you.

[00:12:20.44] LUKE MAGNAN: Doing quality assurance testing. I think that quality assurance testing has become a commodity. I think that some big guys offshore do a lot of it. I wonder if anyone's really happy with that, but there's such a--

[00:12:33.88] REID HOLZWORTH: Interesting.

[00:12:34.45] LUKE MAGNAN: --there's something that comes together so well with people who could be very detail-focused. They can get really deep in the weeds and have a personality that drives them towards a purity of vision. And what's required from testing, I think that there's huge advantages also in having people onshore that are doing some of this testing as opposed to all of it being offshore.

[00:12:56.59] So that's one of the things we're doing. We're working with this not-for-profit organization, bringing people internally first in our organization. But starting this year, we're going to talk more about offering it as a practice out in insurance. We think that-- we think it's an interesting proposition, and we think that it would be an easy business case beyond the fact that you're doing more to make this a career in our industry more accessible to people with neurodivergence.

[00:13:26.11] REID HOLZWORTH: That's super cool, man. I could totally see that. That's awesome.

[00:13:30.02] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah, and we're partnering-- other people are smarter behind us, but we're the first ones in there. I want to be-- we want to be the first people there. And I want to be a reference for something. As opposed to needing other people to reference for me, I want to be the one saying, this is working great, this is a real-- something that really everyone should consider. So we're very excited about it. And our partners that we're working with are really fantastic.

[00:13:52.19] REID HOLZWORTH: That's awesome, man. All right, Luke, so what's your-- last question, what's your favorite drink? And do you drink? I actually don't know. Do you drink alcohol? Do you like to drink alcohol?

[00:14:04.90] LUKE MAGNAN: Our office is right above a bar and we're there quite often. I'm a beer guy. So the bar downstairs, it's a bar/restaurant. I prefer if people think of it as a restaurant, but it's a bar too.

[00:14:15.91] They put on-- they had heard that Mike and I went to Oktoberfest on a layover, and they put on a hofbrau on tap. And they've had it ever since for us.

[00:14:27.34] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh, yeah.

[00:14:27.66] LUKE MAGNAN: I would say the hofbrau is my favorite drink in the entire world. It's predictable. I know exactly how to drink it and not get overly drunk, tastes delicious. That's my drink.

[00:14:40.47] REID HOLZWORTH: Here in Milwaukee we have a place called The Old German Beer Hall on Old Third Street, Milwaukee. I'm part of the Stein Club, and it's a hofbrau house.

[00:14:52.41] LUKE MAGNAN: Oh, we're coming. All right, we'll talk about it afterwards. Check out your calendar. We're going to do an in-person visit.

[00:14:58.20] REID HOLZWORTH: The winner of the Stein Club every year, and that's the person who drinks the most steins throughout the year, gets a free paid trip to Oktoberfest every year. And there is a dude and he wins it every single year. His name's JP. If you're listening out there, he probably-- no way he's listening to this but--

[00:15:16.89] [LAUGHTER]

[00:15:18.75] But anyways, the guy drinks like three steins, four steins on average a day of hofbrau, like 4 liters, 4 liters--

[00:15:28.92] LUKE MAGNAN: Oh, I know. Oh, we made them by the bar downstairs.

[00:15:31.92] REID HOLZWORTH: Every single day. How is that possible?

[00:15:36.07] LUKE MAGNAN: I don't know, and that's a big measure. But I think that Mike and I could come out. We'll spend a few days. We could do some training for you, Reid. We could really help you get to that next level when it comes to drinking leader steins.

[00:15:45.97] REID HOLZWORTH: I think we should do that. We should definitely do that.

[00:15:48.00] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah, we actually had-- we had combined ratio steins made for us by a potter person. So we'll bring you one. We'll go down there, and we'll work on it.

[00:15:59.38] REID HOLZWORTH: So a little fact for people. Here in Milwaukee, Milwaukee, big beer culture here, a lot of Germans. This is where Miller is from. This is where Schlitz is from. This is where Pabst is from and then a million other microbrews that are out there.

[00:16:13.60] But here, in the parks, the county park system of Milwaukee actually allows you to drink beer in the park, and they have hofbrau taps. Literally, they have-- you can go get a brat, a hot dog, and a Stein while your kids are playing on the playground.

[00:16:35.87] LUKE MAGNAN: That's the greatest thing I've ever heard.

[00:16:37.45] REID HOLZWORTH: Awesome. Then they do-- they have polka bands and stuff, and they do all kinds-- it is so cool. And people that may be like, what do you mean? All these people are drinking beers in the park? I've never seen anybody like out of hand or anything. Everybody's just enjoying themselves, having a cold beer.

[00:16:55.09] It's amazing, man. You got to come out here in the summer. We'll go to Estabrook Park, drink a Stein. It's so good. It's so cool.

[00:17:02.35] LUKE MAGNAN: Sign me up. It sounds like heaven. I'm in.

[00:17:06.37] REID HOLZWORTH: Well, hey, Luke, thanks again, man. This was really awesome. I'm sure the listeners will get a lot out of this podcast. So thanks again for joining us, man.

[00:17:14.35] LUKE MAGNAN: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It was great.

[00:17:18.41] CHRISTEN KELLEY: All right, so Luke Magnan, who is our first interview of 2024, and I think it went really well.

[00:17:27.46] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, I thought it went great. Luke's awesome. Like I said, I didn't know Luke until very recently. He was a referral from Casey, I think, right?

[00:17:37.13] CHRISTEN KELLEY: Yeah.

[00:17:37.44] REID HOLZWORTH: Casey Kempton referred him over. And Casey is awesome. We love Casey. And so we got on a call with the guy and I'm like, this guy really knows his shit. He's got it going on. And I love his attitude, his drive. It's apparent in the episode he's done a lot of cool things.

[00:17:55.02] CHRISTEN KELLEY: I think one thing that we keep saying and I know that it's like people listening are probably like, broken record. But most of the people that we've had on you have known through networking or through the industry. He's one of the newer people that we've been brought in. But it is through your network that he was brought in.

[00:18:13.12] He continues that common thread of just being a good person. And where it became apparent to me was when he was like, I just want to provide value to my clients. And there's a lot of startups out there that are in it to get bought, right?

[00:18:30.73] REID HOLZWORTH: 100%. I loved all that, all that bootstrapping because it's so rare these days. And what he says, he's like, look, I just want to drive value to my customers, and we'll figure out the rest from there. And it's so true, and he's just doing it, like giving away software and the whole policy administration side that he wants to do and all of that.

[00:18:49.39] And he's a good person in how he gives back, like what? That was awesome. That was so awesome, right? Talk about that. And it was good. We should talk about it.

[00:19:00.70] CHRISTEN KELLEY: Yeah, and we're going to talk about some of the new questions that we've added in for '24. But one of the questions that you had is how do you get back? And I was expecting him to talk about maybe volunteering or something that he personally does, but that their organization is working with a nonprofit to bring in people that are neurodiverse.

[00:19:23.29] And there are so many positions within our industry that that part of our society would be really good at, and I just love that he's thinking about how he can bring more people within the community into this industry. And I just think that-- you talk to people that are in the industry and they love it. So it's great that he's looking at ways to bring more people into this industry.

[00:19:47.26] REID HOLZWORTH: Super cool. I did not expect that. Yeah, for the listeners, so this year we're doing things a little different. We're adding in some additional questions because we really want to get to know people in that way. How do you give back?

[00:20:02.98] It's not all about making the coin and making sure all the investors and everybody around you is happy. It's what are you doing in life to give back? And then another big one, which we should talk about, is all the leadership stuff.

[00:20:17.79] CHRISTEN KELLEY: Yeah.

[00:20:18.81] REID HOLZWORTH: These people, all these people that we've had on this podcast now are all leaders. All of you that are listening are all leaders in certain ways. And so really digging that out and getting to know his leadership style I think was really awesome. Just a really good humble dude, awesome, yeah.

[00:20:39.90] CHRISTEN KELLEY: Yeah, I'm glad that we added the leadership stuff in. As you were saying, everybody that we have interviewed is either a founder or an executive at some level, so they are all leaders. But we never-- we dove into more of the industry side then we did into how they work with other individuals.

[00:21:01.73] So I think it's again, it's bringing that personal piece, but I think it's also going to give a lot more tools to our listeners because they're not only going to be learning about these different companies and these different technologies. But we're also going to dive into what makes people tick and what people should have in terms of capabilities and thoughts around leadership.

[00:21:25.84] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, I think it's-- look, strategically, I think it makes a lot of sense too because it broadens our audience, if you will. And it also gives-- what we found is when we do these, these leaders of these organizations, they share it out. And the people within the organization, they don't get to really know the founder or CEO, whatever it is, that leader in that personal way.

[00:21:51.76] And we've done that-- it's like painting the picture of who this person is, like, where are you from? How did you grow up? What were you into? You start to visualize who this person was and how they were brought up. But where we didn't go far enough in the past is really digging into that leadership style now.

[00:22:13.70] We just did another one, I'm not going to spoil it yet, but we went deep on leadership stuff and the next one that's coming out, which was awesome, so awesome. And I think it's great. I think it's going to broaden the audience. And so it's not just insurance technology and geeky stuff. It's like, let's get to know the people that are involved in this industry in that way.

[00:22:35.78] So that said, if the listeners continue to like it, we can even get people in that aren't really involved in insurance technology per se but just in insurance in general on the leadership side. But we're playing around with that, folks. Hey, we're still figuring this out as we go.

[00:22:50.99] So seriously, give us feedback. Please let us know. If you think that sucks or hey, maybe you should think about doing this or whatever, we don't care. We have thick skin. We want it to be the best it can be. But I really liked it, long story short. I went off a tangent there, but it was really good, and it was awesome with Luke.

[00:23:10.81] CHRISTEN KELLEY: Yeah, and I think you were talking about getting to know people as people. And we talk all the time that this industry, yes, technology can make it better, but in the end, it's people working with people. So it's great--

[00:23:25.96] REID HOLZWORTH: All business is people. That's it literally.

[00:23:30.67] CHRISTEN KELLEY: You could have the greatest technology but it's all about the people, right?

[00:23:36.44] REID HOLZWORTH: Well, I want to say something about that real quick.

[00:23:38.51] CHRISTEN KELLEY: OK.

[00:23:39.08] REID HOLZWORTH: I've seen so many really good, really smart technology solutions and fucking great stuff, but they weren't good leaders. And the organization fell apart. And people that were really great leaders that don't even have the best technology, let's say, continue to win.

[00:24:01.44] And that's because they're driving the team, teams believe in the mission. They believe in the person. And it's not just the internal teams, everybody outside. And so being a good leader is being everything in an organization.

[00:24:16.74] CHRISTEN KELLEY: So as you were saying, you were teasing out, but our next episode is going to be even diving even more into leadership with a leader of one of the most known organizations in our industry. We'll just leave it at that.

[00:24:34.36] REID HOLZWORTH: Yes, this is true. It's a good one, really good. Stay tuned. Stay tuned. That was great. Luke, thanks again, man. You're awesome.