Episode 46: Full Transcript

[00:00:00.38] BILL DEVINE: By being able to articulate the business problems that I think we need to solve for and breaking them down into the component parts, that's where I think the partnership comes in, and that's where all the fun happens.
[00:00:09.46] [DRAMATIC MUSIC]
[00:00:11.43] SPEAKER: 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.
[00:00:32.08] REID HOLZWORTH: Welcome to The Insurance Technology Podcast. I'm your host, Reid Holzworth. In this episode, I'm going to be interviewing Bill Devine, from Travelers. His title is massively long. And like I said in this interview, I'm not going to repeat it.
[00:00:45.16] But Bill has been at Travelers for quite some time. He knows everybody in the industry. I've known Bill for quite a while. He's just an awesome individual. I recently spoke with him on stage, and it was just a fun time. Bill's a great dude.
[00:01:00.19] Stay tuned because, in this episode, we're going to really get into how Bill fell into insurance. Like everyone else, he fell into it. It's a pretty awesome story, so stay tuned. It's going to be great.
[00:01:12.44] Joining me here today in beautiful, sunny Savannah, Georgia is the man himself, Bill Devine from Travelers. Welcome, Bill.
[00:01:21.08] BILL DEVINE: Thank you, Reid. Thanks for having me today.
[00:01:23.01] REID HOLZWORTH: I'm really excited to have Bill on this podcast. I wish-- we should have done this sooner. Bill, you've been in this industry for quite some time, and you do a lot of really cool shit at Travelers. And I will say, we just had our annual meeting at IVANS, and we look at all-- who are our top customers? Who are the customers that have really been really good to us and done good things for the industry? And Travelers is top of that list.
[00:01:46.73] BILL DEVINE: Ah, appreciate it.
[00:01:47.31] REID HOLZWORTH: And so, yeah, great team. You guys do a really great job. You offer a great product. I mean, Travelers is no joke. And you're a bad-ass dude.
[00:01:55.01] BILL DEVINE: [LAUGHS] I don't know about that part, but I will take all the compliments on behalf of Travelers. Thank you.
[00:02:00.98] REID HOLZWORTH: So let's get into it a little bit. Let's let people learn, who is Bill Devine? So where did you grow up, Bill?
[00:02:05.39] BILL DEVINE: So similar to you, Reid, I grew up in Southern California. So I grew up right outside of Long Beach, California, right near the beach, and lived there all the way until I came to work for Travelers, 17 years ago, which I still don't know why I don't still live on the beach in Long Beach, California and live in Hartford, Connecticut, instead.
[00:02:25.02] REID HOLZWORTH: Hey, man, I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
[00:02:26.70] BILL DEVINE: We were joking about that last night. We both-- life choices, right?
[00:02:31.02] REID HOLZWORTH: That's right, that's right. But, hey, I love Milwaukee.
[00:02:34.01] BILL DEVINE: Yeah. No, we grew up surfing the same spots, it sounded like.
[00:02:36.93] REID HOLZWORTH: We did. We did, and it's pretty amazing. Small world-- it really is. It really is. So how did you get into insurance? Tell us about that.
[00:02:45.90] BILL DEVINE: So just like everybody else, totally by accident. I had went to undergrad, got my degree in creative writing, like everybody does, right? And just being in Southern California, nobody bought my screenplay, so I needed to get a real job.
[00:03:00.75] Ended up in law school, and the law school that I was literally across the street-- like, shared a parking lot-- with an insurance company, AAA. That's how they got started.
[00:03:10.08] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh, OK, yeah.
[00:03:10.89] BILL DEVINE: And their claim coverage department was actually hiring a law clerk my first year of law school. And it paid $20 an hour back before the year 2000, which I could work whatever hours I wanted.
[00:03:23.52] REID HOLZWORTH: That's awesome.
[00:03:24.03] BILL DEVINE: And I didn't need to move my car. That was the big-- believe it or not, I got into insurance because I was able to park in the lot that I already paid for as part of school and walk to the job. And that's how I got into insurance.
[00:03:36.96] REID HOLZWORTH: That's how you fell into insurance-- saving money on parking.
[00:03:37.95] BILL DEVINE: Over 25 years, now. Saved money on parking-- it was very convenient.
[00:03:41.60] [LAUGHTER]
[00:03:44.37] REID HOLZWORTH: That's awesome. So tell us about that. AAA-- what'd you do?
[00:03:48.30] BILL DEVINE: So a great job-- I started in claims.
[00:03:49.68] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh, wait, did you become an actual-- are you an actual attorney, then? Did you finish law school?
[00:03:52.70] BILL DEVINE: I am an actual attorney.
[00:03:53.63] REID HOLZWORTH: You're an attorney? I didn't know that.
[00:03:55.20] BILL DEVINE: Full disclosure, I have to say, I've been disbarred.
[00:03:58.29] REID HOLZWORTH: OK.
[00:03:58.86] BILL DEVINE: So I was an attorney in California, passed the bar, did all of that. And since I haven't lived in California in nearly 20 years now, I've stopped paying my dues.
[00:04:09.54] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:04:09.81] BILL DEVINE: And it was funny. It took, like, 15 years for it to happen, but, eventually, I got this legal notice in the mail, this notice of disbarment. So it's this whole-- so, yeah, apparently after 15 years of not paying your bar dues, they come after you.
[00:04:23.40] REID HOLZWORTH: Wow, it's that long. Wow.
[00:04:24.69] BILL DEVINE: So I never really practiced much law. I did a lot of general counsel-type stuff, but mostly-- I have one court appearance to my name. Did not actually speak. But I walked in. It was a motion hearing.
[00:04:39.70] And the judge told me that I had won, unless I said something dumb. So as a smart, first-year lawyer, I just sat there and smiled and let the other attorney try to beat me and did not. So my only court appearance-- all I was able to do was state my name for the record. That's it.
[00:04:55.08] REID HOLZWORTH: But you have never lost in court, though.
[00:04:56.97] BILL DEVINE: I have never lost in court. But I would not recommend me to represent anybody. How's that? But, yeah, so I started at AAA in their claim department doing coverage litigation and all of the really ugly-- and you don't really realize this-- anybody in the industry gets this concept. But when you first start, you learn everything by taking on some of the worst stuff, not the easiest stuff.
[00:05:22.56] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:05:23.07] BILL DEVINE: So as a claim coverage attorney, as a baby claim lawyer, I got all the biggest loser cases.
[00:05:28.50] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh, totally.
[00:05:29.31] BILL DEVINE: Right? So if our insured was three times the legal limit, and drunkenly drove through a trailer park and took out seven units, which is actually the first case I handled--
[00:05:41.28] REID HOLZWORTH: No way.
[00:05:43.11] BILL DEVINE: They don't give that to the experienced lawyer because you can't win that. So as the baby lawyer, you get all these losers. That's why you never go to court-- because you can't win.
[00:05:52.98] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh, yeah.
[00:05:53.28] BILL DEVINE: So everything is about settling and about learning to work with the-- so all of my cases were these just obscure, weird loser cases. Anytime a dog bit a mailman, that was the one I got. So I did that for a little while and realized that, man, that was just not where I wanted to spend my life.
[00:06:10.23] [LAUGHTER]
[00:06:11.58] REID HOLZWORTH: That's got to be depressing, man.
[00:06:13.53] BILL DEVINE: But I had a great opportunity to move over with a friend of mine who was working with the woman who did all of the product development for AAA. And this was back before the year 2000, right? So they had this little German lady. Her name was Inga. I have no idea what happened to her.
[00:06:30.57] But she manuscripted all of the insurance contracts for the company. And she wrote-- German was her primary language, so she wrote all the insurance-- we weren't an ISO company. She would write out every one of the contracts in hand on a legal pad in German.
[00:06:46.98] REID HOLZWORTH: Holy shit.
[00:06:48.06] BILL DEVINE: And her admins, who also spoke German-- had to, obviously-- translated all of that into English. And my job and my buddy Art, who I worked for, who was also an attorney-- our job was to take what she wrote out, what got transcribed, and make sure that it was legally compliant and was going to do all this stuff and then put the filings together and get it out the door.
[00:07:07.59] REID HOLZWORTH: Wow.
[00:07:08.37] BILL DEVINE: So I somehow back-doored into product development. And, at that time, Travelers hired one of the-- sorry-- AAA hired one of the first Progressive product managers. Those guys, all those cowboys that were that first generation of Progressive guys-- and one of them, Ron Lovett, left Progressive. He was the guy that started motorcycle insurance for them--
[00:07:31.79] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh, wow.
[00:07:32.09] BILL DEVINE: --or one of the early guys that wrote motorcycle insurance. And he left to come to AAA and run product management. And, somehow, he decided that the guys that wrote the policy contracts were going to be part of product management. So I ended up there. But it was a weird-- if I had to move my car, I would have never gotten into insurance.
[00:07:49.19] [LAUGHTER]
[00:07:50.85] REID HOLZWORTH: So what happened after AAA? How did you get to Travelers?
[00:07:53.57] BILL DEVINE: So it was really fun. I was having fun at AAA. And we were building out product management, and we were going to take on the world. And then I realized I was at a mutual company, which doesn't necessarily take on the world. They just play an important role in the world.
[00:08:09.05] They don't really-- it's not about winning. It's about not losing. It's a different mentality at a lot of-- and then AAA decided they didn't want to be product management anymore and went back to a hardcore underwriting discipline. And so, all of a sudden, there was about a dozen of us all in our late 20s, early 30s realizing that we all got trained to be product managers in a company that isn't a product management company.
[00:08:31.41] [LAUGHTER]
[00:08:34.20] So we all had to find other things to do and ended up all over the place-- people at Kemper, at Allstate. We all scattered to the wind, but it was a great group of people that I miss, even to this day, just working with. But Travelers, at that point, was starting up their product management group and was scouring the countryside for people who had product management experience.
[00:08:56.79] And in the early 2000s, there just wasn't that many of us that had done that general manager, multiple disciplinary, but still very quant-based type approach to management. And Travelers was hiring them by the bushel. So a whole bunch of us all came in at the same time. It was a great, fun time.
[00:09:16.25] REID HOLZWORTH: Is that when you moved?
[00:09:16.98] BILL DEVINE: I moved, yeah.
[00:09:17.85] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, so you moved for the J-O-B.
[00:09:19.78] BILL DEVINE: I moved for the job.
[00:09:20.31] REID HOLZWORTH: You moved for the umbrella.
[00:09:21.36] BILL DEVINE: I moved for the umbrella. I also moved-- and you can relate to this, Reid-- because the housing market had gotten absolutely insane--
[00:09:27.15] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh, yeah.
[00:09:27.60] BILL DEVINE: --in California. There was a momentary arbitrage that only became real by leaving the state of California-- not that I don't love Travelers, but that was getting a relo package to go to Connecticut, cashing out on a four-bedroom house in Fountain Valley right on the line with Huntington Beach was--
[00:09:47.46] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh, yeah.
[00:09:48.24] BILL DEVINE: --too good of a deal to pass up.
[00:09:50.04] [LAUGHTER]
[00:09:52.56] REID HOLZWORTH: That's awesome, man.
[00:09:53.70] BILL DEVINE: So, again, everything happens in a roundabout-- good things end up happening in the end but don't necessarily always start that way.
[00:10:02.80] REID HOLZWORTH: That's awesome, man. So tell us. How did you-- so the Travelers journey.
[00:10:07.44] BILL DEVINE: Yeah, so 17-years-plus at the Travelers. I always joke, all but six months of it, I've worked in the organization or directly for my current boss, Greg Toczydlowski, who, today, leads business insurance. When I started at Travelers, he led product management and was creating that.
[00:10:25.13] Then he went on to lead personal lines, and it's just-- he's a special person. You're lucky in this life if you get one really great boss, and I've had one really great boss that I've worked for for-- I always joke-- for most of my adult life, at this point.
[00:10:40.13] And it's been a great relationship. He's been a mentor. He's been a friend. And I don't know that I could work for anybody else, at this point.
[00:10:48.29] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, that's awesome.
[00:10:49.25] BILL DEVINE: We're sitting down here in Savannah, Georgia. I don't think he has any clue where I am in the world. And having that kind of a boss, having that kind of relationship and trust and everything-- it makes all the difference.
[00:10:59.07] And that's what lets me, quite honestly-- no joke-- it is what lets me work on all the cool stuff where our paths have crossed over the years is because I have a trust and a partnership with my boss, and he lets me go jump off the deep end, and we go figure it out. We get ourselves into all sorts of these interesting conversations and things like that that a lot of insurance just doesn't go towards. But it's fun.
[00:11:22.45] REID HOLZWORTH: So tell the audience. What do you do? What's your job?
[00:11:26.13] [LAUGHTER]
[00:11:27.82] BILL DEVINE: Yeah. So if you ask my mother, I'm an attorney at Travelers. She can't get her head around the rest of it. My wife, my kids-- no one can really explain what I do.
[00:11:38.23] But it's interesting. And I actually have a whole stump speech on this that I'll do sometimes because it's so fascinating. But if you think about product management and insurance, that really developed from the exact same genesis as product managers, product owners in technology and that if you go back to the brand manager, the Procter & Gamble, it really started in the same spot.
[00:12:02.23] And it was this idea that you need a business leader for whatever your go-to-market product is who understands and can facilitate all the aspects of that product. Greg calls it one throat to choke, right? You have to have that one person who is the accountable name on the product that you're taking to market, whether that's the insurance product that you sell with your underwriting rules and your rates and the coverages, or the technology engagement that you have, your self-service website, or how you integrate into IVANS. Those are all products.
[00:12:34.88] And so I have the distinct honor to be able to lead product for all of Travelers Business Insurance. So I've got 250-plus agile teams that make up business insurance.
[00:12:49.78] REID HOLZWORTH: 250-plus teams--
[00:12:51.30] BILL DEVINE: Teams-- so that's 10 people per team, but they're all cross-functional. And I have the privilege of leading all of the product groups. So whether it's the customer experience, the agent experience-- my good friend Bob Jenkins is here who you guys work a ton with. He does all the agency connections.
[00:13:11.17] So I get to oversee that, all of the For Agents and MyTravelers web properties, but then also the insurance products. We just rolled out-- we're in the process of rolling out a new auto product right now, and my team did the development of both the actual product itself and the platform that it sits on.
[00:13:29.48] And so to have that full integration of these are the products that we go to market, with it's pretty unique in the industry. And I'm really privileged to get to be able to sit in this space that really crosses agile product management with marketing and all of these different pieces, which means that I get to play in all the tech spaces, and I've never written a line of code in my life. So it's a lot of fun.
[00:13:51.50] REID HOLZWORTH: You do, and you know pretty much everybody that-- you pretty much know everybody within the tech space, right? I mean--
[00:13:58.77] BILL DEVINE: There's enough of you guys that are a lot better at this than I am that I don't need to know too much about it. It's just-- what I found is that the strength I can bring is articulating the business problems that we've got. And then you guys are the ones that then bring us the solutions. And it's like, hey, have you thought about this?
[00:14:14.87] And one of the things I've appreciated about our relationship, Reid, or Mike and Allan and Ask Kodiak or other guys, it's like, also, it's not just like, oh, well, we can fix that for you. It's like, no, no, no. You need to talk to this other guy. And have you looked at their product and what they're doing?
[00:14:28.67] And then it's really just connecting those pieces. But by being able to articulate the business problems that I think we need to solve for and breaking them down into component parts, that's where I think the partnership comes in, and that's where all the fun happens.
[00:14:40.70] REID HOLZWORTH: Absolutely. You have to see a lot of stuff that wouldn't work, right?
[00:14:46.24] [LAUGHTER]
[00:14:47.75] Or doesn't work. You have probably even experienced doesn't work.
[00:14:49.85] BILL DEVINE: Doesn't work yet is a lot of what we see.
[00:14:51.26] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, there you go. That's a good way to put it.
[00:14:52.49] BILL DEVINE: A lot of times what we spend a lot of time with-- the woman on my team, Emma Scopino, who leads our innovation group and really spearheads most of the introductions and meetups with all the different venture techs, she talks about kissing a lot of frogs. And the idea is is that we talk to a lot of people. And the first time we talk to them, there isn't necessarily a match.
[00:15:15.38] But we always file away-- it's like, what are those guys doing? What's the tech that they've brought to the problem? What's the business problem that they're going after? And what we usually find is either the business problem they're trying to solve isn't a real business problem, or they didn't really try to solve a business problem. They've got a cool piece of tech, and they're shopping that piece of tech around.
[00:15:35.36] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:15:36.10] BILL DEVINE: And insuretech 1.0-- and you and I have talked about this before-- I always say about 1.0, 1.0 is about disrupting the industry. And so you had a whole lot of people who wore it as a badge of honor that they knew nothing about insurance--
[00:15:48.86] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, totally.
[00:15:49.49] BILL DEVINE: --that we're going to build cool tech, and we're going to disrupt this industry. And the reality is is that this industry, while it's ripe for transformation, and it's ripe for innovation, it's not necessarily ripe for disruption. It's not like we're running around with big, fat margins, like a lot of other industries where tech can come in, blow everything up, and just completely redo it.
[00:16:09.64] This stuff runs on three pennies on dollar of profit margin. That's not a market that you can come in and not understand the nuances of it, and blow the lid off, and just put cool tech in and fix it-- not to say that we couldn't use cool tech, but cool tech, in and of itself, can't change something that's got such small margins.
[00:16:28.27] REID HOLZWORTH: That's really interesting for the listeners. It's a really big point there-- three pennies on the dollar. Three pennies on the dollar-- when you think about running a business and company that way.
[00:16:35.77] BILL DEVINE: And that's the target.
[00:16:36.55] REID HOLZWORTH: That's the target, right? And so when people say, oh, carriers move slow, and this industry moves slow and whatnot. Man, it's three pennies on the dollar as a target. You don't want to mess that up.
[00:16:46.37] BILL DEVINE: You can't.
[00:16:46.76] REID HOLZWORTH: You can't.
[00:16:47.35] BILL DEVINE: There's no room for error. We are one of the few industries where the cost of goods sold are not known at the time of the purchase.
[00:16:54.34] REID HOLZWORTH: True.
[00:16:54.88] BILL DEVINE: Right?
[00:16:55.15] REID HOLZWORTH: So true, yeah.
[00:16:55.80] BILL DEVINE: When I sell you an insurance policy on your house, I may make an infinite profit, or I may lose my shirt.
[00:17:01.67] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, so true.
[00:17:02.42] BILL DEVINE: And I will never know that-- in the entire time I work with Travelers, I won't know that. We manage lines of business, especially in commercial lines, where the losses come in decades later.
[00:17:14.60] REID HOLZWORTH: Oh, yeah, true.
[00:17:14.90] BILL DEVINE: We're still talking about asbestos claims. Like, you think about-- asbestos hasn't been legal to use since, what, the '70s or earlier, and we're still handling claims for things like that. So we are selling a product that we will never know the ultimate cost on our side for.
[00:17:31.46] And so, even inside of that, we're trying to make this the thinnest of margins. Now, as an industry, we're big and fat-- we've talked about this before, too-- in how much expense we take on.
[00:17:42.65] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, a lot of times.
[00:17:43.35] BILL DEVINE: Some of that is needed because the margins are so small, and the losses are so futuristic that you've got to do everything you can find the best risks. But that's where tech is going to be the differentiator. That's where the change comes in.
[00:17:59.30] REID HOLZWORTH: Absolutely. And where do you see that? Where do you see tech really helping some of this stuff?
[00:18:04.17] BILL DEVINE: Well, so I would say that insurance is a laggard across most industries and, particularly, financial services industries, as far as customer-centricity, customer-first. And that's part of the ethos of the big tech companies that I don't think we've fully embraced yet.
[00:18:23.45] We have historically sold a product that's compulsory, right? Very few people buy our product because they want it, right? At the end of the day, you can't renew your registration on your vehicle if you don't have your auto insurance, provider insurance.
[00:18:36.59] REID HOLZWORTH: Totally.
[00:18:36.95] BILL DEVINE: Right? Your bank is not going to give you that mortgage unless you've got homeowner's insurance. The state requires workers' comp. We sell a compulsory product. And so that's allowed us, as an industry, to be less in tune to the wants, desires, and needs of our end customer--
[00:18:54.01] REID HOLZWORTH: Mmm, good point.
[00:18:55.01] BILL DEVINE: --than we probably should be at this point and when we look at where the whole rest of the world has gone.
[00:19:01.10] REID HOLZWORTH: Isn't that the competitive advantage, though? It is a big competitive advantage.
[00:19:05.81] BILL DEVINE: It absolutely can be. But we're such a fractured industry that that should be the competitive advantage, but when you're selling a compulsory product, the risk is that it becomes incredibly commoditized.
[00:19:16.58] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:19:17.30] BILL DEVINE: Right? And so then we compete on cheap and cheerful, not on quality of product and quality of how we treat our customers.
[00:19:24.50] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:19:24.92] BILL DEVINE: And there are just so many carriers in this space that the tendency for the race to price, race to the bottom is such a big challenge for us as an industry.
[00:19:35.47] REID HOLZWORTH: Let's talk about that real quick. I'd love to get your thoughts on--
[00:19:38.05] BILL DEVINE: Sure.
[00:19:38.84] REID HOLZWORTH: --the comparativeness and all of that and the commoditization of products, in general. What are your thoughts? I mean, I know some carriers like-minded. They push back hard on that. Travelers isn't like that, in my opinion. I don't know. You tell me. You're the man. I shouldn't even say that.
[00:20:02.35] BILL DEVINE: I mean, so I think we try to take a middle-ground approach to it is that, by and large-- as long as the consumer is making an informed choice, and they're allowing the product to be commoditized, that's materially different than if, as an industry, we're pushing a commoditized product on them. If the only thing, at the end of the day, you could buy is a Big Mac or a Whopper, and you had no option to buy a quality hamburger-- no offense if you like Big Macs and Whoppers.
[00:20:31.12] REID HOLZWORTH: I like both of them.
[00:20:32.26] BILL DEVINE: But if you really want to get a quality burger, you still have that ability.
[00:20:36.31] REID HOLZWORTH: Yes.
[00:20:36.73] BILL DEVINE: And I think the challenge becomes is an overreliance on price comparison shopping drives quality out and leads to the least-bad solutions. And as long as we keep a playing field that's open and allows for differentiation, price, as a component, is always going to be part of any industry.
[00:20:58.04] REID HOLZWORTH: Yes.
[00:20:58.67] BILL DEVINE: Any industry that thinks they're going to compete and not have price as a factor of competition is fooling themselves.
[00:21:03.98] REID HOLZWORTH: Totally.
[00:21:04.46] BILL DEVINE: Right? Unless you're, maybe, Apple, but even they're feeling the pain of not keeping their prices close to the rest of the marketplace from time to time. Price is always going to be a component.
[00:21:15.38] REID HOLZWORTH: Yes.
[00:21:15.83] BILL DEVINE: If you allow it to be or, worse, force it to be the only factor, then shame on you. And, at Travelers, we feel like we are happy to compete on that because we stand behind our product, and we stand behind our price. And we know we can compete in a price-competitive world, particularly for the risks that are most attractive to us. If you have the best underwriters, and you have the best analytics people in the industry, you can feel really good that, if the fight is going to be on price, those places where we went on price-- we're going to feel real good.
[00:21:47.84] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah. No, absolutely. I think it's funny, too. When we have this conversation, a lot of people think-- they forget that the agent wants a higher price, a lot of them. You should because, guess what? Hey, guys. We're running a business. That equals more revenue.
[00:22:04.85] BILL DEVINE: Yeah.
[00:22:05.71] REID HOLZWORTH: And if you're giving your customer a better product, obviously-- but even let's just say it's apples to apples, right? I mean, I don't know. It sounds messed up, but I would prefer that they buy the more expensive one. Maybe, maybe not-- not extreme because, obviously, they can shop it later, and it'll drop off or whatever. But it depends on the market. It depends on who you're selling to.
[00:22:25.29] BILL DEVINE: Yeah. The way I think about it, Reid, is that there are no two carriers that are exactly the same. We all have different value propositions, whether it's how we engage with the customers or how we engage with the agents. And you guys know this firsthand. The ease of how we integrate to the desktop of the producer of the CSR in an agency-- that's as important as how good we are with the customer. Those are all factors that go into-- whether consciously or subconsciously-- that all go into placement.
[00:22:54.27] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:22:54.63] BILL DEVINE: And so I don't think that there's any one factor that wins the day. But I think what you want to do is figure out, what are those handful of things where you have to win? And be the best.
[00:23:05.37] Those are your factors of competition. You should fight like hell to always win in your factors of competition. And everything else is just-- let it go. Just be good enough. Be less-- be not bad enough that it impacts you negatively, but you don't have to win there.
[00:23:19.86] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah. It's funny, I think it's getting better and better across the industry-- across our industry. You guys have always been pretty good about it. But this whole spreadsheeting and all this, everybody pushing back and all the connectivity around that and these raters. I mean, personal lines came about. We're doing that. Now, commercial lines is doing the thing. Commercial lines, though-- it's funny because it's still low adoption.
[00:23:42.60] BILL DEVINE: Crazy low, right?
[00:23:42.94] REID HOLZWORTH: --which is another conversation. It blows my mind. It blows my mind. It makes no sense to me.
[00:23:48.41] BILL DEVINE: Yeah. So to get to true commoditization, the products need to be the same, not just the pricing.
[00:23:53.97] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:23:54.33] BILL DEVINE: And I think that, as an industry, being challenging to work with has been one of our competitive differentiators, which is lousy to the customer and lousy to our broker partners in the long run. But it's something that we'll not maintain.
[00:24:10.92] And I think when you see the growth of some of the newer players from personal lines coming into commercial lines, you can see where streamlining, improving the adoption-- you I have been talking about this for a long time. The adoption is going to come in commercial lines. We need a better experience for our broker partners.
[00:24:30.28] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:24:31.28] BILL DEVINE: It just doesn't make sense to have to go-- like, in what industry is it still OK to have to go to a half dozen web portals and rekey all of the information around your purchase? I mean, can you imagine if Amazon didn't exist, and you had to go and put in 50 data attributes to find a book on six different websites to figure out where the price was the best?
[00:24:52.97] REID HOLZWORTH: Right.
[00:24:53.51] BILL DEVINE: There's just nowhere else where that works. So it's going to happen. It's just, what's the controlled way of breaking into that that we can partner together to get to? But we believe that's really important.
[00:25:05.80] And that's one of the reasons we've been such big partners with IVANS and Applied and just really think that it's such a big deal to-- we are the larger partner. Our job is to be available where our distribution partners want to do business.
[00:25:22.72] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, totally.
[00:25:23.65] BILL DEVINE: So if any of the Applied family of applications is their preferred, we don't care. We will strive to have the best carrier connection to that application because that's what's important to our broker partner, and we are here to support them.
[00:25:40.30] REID HOLZWORTH: It makes total-- it's so obvious, but so many carriers push back on it. Again, it blows my mind. It doesn't make any sense. You want to be there for your distribution, and you want to enable them with the best tools possible, so then they write more business with you. It's pretty simple.
[00:25:53.84] BILL DEVINE: Some of my competitors want to dictate what those best tools are.
[00:25:57.52] REID HOLZWORTH: This is very true. I'm not going to name names.
[00:26:01.24] BILL DEVINE: And I understand the logic on that. But, at the end of the day, we're partners, right?
[00:26:08.54] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, right.
[00:26:10.00] BILL DEVINE: Whenever there's a contentious relationship between groups that need to work together, you're just going to get a suboptimal outcome. Even if you get the near-term outcome you want, it's going to hurt in the long term. And so, at Travelers, we've spent a ton of money saying, bespoke connections-- Mr. Producer, Ms. Producer, tell us how you want to come into us, and we will make that work.
[00:26:37.10] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:26:37.55] BILL DEVINE: Tell us how quickly you need us to respond. We will make that work. And we aren't always there, but we are investing a ton of money in saying, whatever works best for the agents is where we're going to be.
[00:26:49.25] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:26:49.58] BILL DEVINE: And that's where the InsurTech space has become so important to us is making sure that we are closely tracking, who's getting traction? Who is becoming-- that's when you and myself, Taylor and I have similar conversations because you guys are watching it, too, to see, where is that happening?
[00:27:08.51] REID HOLZWORTH: Totally.
[00:27:08.93] BILL DEVINE: We want to make sure that we're on that platform before our partners realize that's a platform they want to be on. And that makes it fun.
[00:27:17.63] REID HOLZWORTH: Here's a question for you. It's a little different question.
[00:27:21.13] BILL DEVINE: All right.
[00:27:21.72] REID HOLZWORTH: What do you think-- my theory is that-- it's a working theory, but I believe it because we're starting to see it-- the captives all coming into the IA channel. So we're starting to see and have conversations with the captives, and the captives are starting to come in and move into the IA channel. Does that worry you guys? Would that worry you? What do you think-- what are your thoughts on that?
[00:27:47.45] BILL DEVINE: Mixed. I've got the hubris to believe that the independent agent channel has outperformed the captive channel and, honestly, in many ways, the direct channel for years. We are nearly exclusively an independent agent carrier. And I come to events like where we are here today in Savannah, and I see the strength of the people that are here, and the things they're doing, and things they're willing to invest in.
[00:28:12.11] I don't know how a captive agent competes toe-to-toe with the guys we had dinner with last night. Right? It's not the same experience. The advantage they have is brand. The disadvantage they have is they don't have the stack to compete. They don't have the panel.
[00:28:29.27] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, true.
[00:28:29.54] BILL DEVINE: They don't have-- if you've come in every day for 30 years and sold Coca-Cola to somebody, no matter what drink they came in asking for, are you really the person that's going to help really manage a complex risk for someone? And don't get me wrong. We've helped a number of captive agents transition to become independent agents over the years. And some of our best partners started their career as captives.
[00:28:57.18] But if you're somebody who grew up as a captive and sold one insurance to every customer no matter what it-- how do you come in and compete with these guys that have had dozens of appointments for years and have really helped to build bespoke packages of protection for their customers? It's just not the same thing.
[00:29:16.38] REID HOLZWORTH: Well, we're seeing the carriers coming in, offering their products-- that will be offering their products into the IA channel. So your competitors, if you will-- and they're still competitors, I guess, in the grand scheme of things. It's just different. But, now, they're going to be on the desktop of the IA. I don't know.
[00:29:35.23] BILL DEVINE: I'm not worried.
[00:29:36.19] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:29:36.91] BILL DEVINE: Not worried.
[00:29:37.27] REID HOLZWORTH: I wouldn't think so.
[00:29:39.13] BILL DEVINE: And, I mean, competition is never a bad thing. It's how you react to it.
[00:29:43.54] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:29:44.74] BILL DEVINE: They don't bring any unfair advantage into the conversation, so we'll deal with that just like we've dealt with every other challenge that's come in.
[00:29:53.95] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah. I can see it long, long term-- just everything's IA. Why? Why be captive?
[00:30:02.92] BILL DEVINE: Captive has got to be a tough world.
[00:30:04.09] REID HOLZWORTH: It is.
[00:30:04.27] BILL DEVINE: I don't begin to understand the economics under that one. But we see what a challenge it is for our independent agent partners to be successful.
[00:30:11.50] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah.
[00:30:11.71] BILL DEVINE: I can't imagine, if you purposely limited the amount of products you could put on the shelf--
[00:30:16.96] REID HOLZWORTH: Yeah, right? Well, hey, we're out of time. This is really good, Bill.
[00:30:21.04] BILL DEVINE: Oh, any time, Reid.
[00:30:21.31] REID HOLZWORTH: I appreciate you. This is awesome. One last question.
[00:30:24.73] BILL DEVINE: Yeah.
[00:30:25.03] REID HOLZWORTH: What's your favorite drink?
[00:30:26.59] BILL DEVINE: Oh. I would say I usually go for an old-fashioned.
[00:30:31.72] REID HOLZWORTH: An old-fashioned?
[00:30:32.44] BILL DEVINE: Yeah.
[00:30:33.64] REID HOLZWORTH: Like a traditional old-fashioned? You know, Milwaukee, we have the Wisconsin old-fashioned, which are very different.
[00:30:39.03] BILL DEVINE: Oh, yeah, I don't think I've had that. I'll have to.
[00:30:40.52] REID HOLZWORTH: They put, like, Sprite in it and muddle cherries. And it's a completely different drink.
[00:30:44.75] BILL DEVINE: That sounds like something I would have had in college.
[00:30:46.31] [LAUGHTER]
[00:30:49.57] REID HOLZWORTH: Well, that's awesome. Thanks again, Bill. You're really good, man.
[00:30:53.88] All right, Bill Devine, folks-- what an awesome individual. It's really interesting stuff. I love the story about how he fell into insurance. I love everybody's story on that, but it's just kind of funny. Free parking gets you into insurance, right? It's funny stuff.
[00:31:08.82] But Bill is just so connected in the industry. He knows so much, knows so many people. And it's also interesting for me-- his Southern California roots and us going to some of the same surf spots and whatnot. It's pretty cool. Bill's a cool guy, from going to creative writing, to wanting to write screenplays, to becoming an attorney, and then to falling into insurance, right?
[00:31:32.97] And he's done a lot within our industry. And I love Bill's confidence in where they stand in the industry and how they really embrace technology at Travelers. Now, I'm going to say this. Travelers is one of our top customers, not just financially, but they're one of our top customers because they really act as a partner.
[00:31:56.50] Their team-- I mean, guys like Tim Lewis, Sean Ramalho, Bob Jenkins, Bill Devine, all these guys, they're open arms and say, hey, guys, show us what you got. Show us what you're thinking about. What are you doing here?
[00:32:10.81] It's really true. The stuff he's talking about is very, very true, and Bill is just very knowledgeable. And he's a fun guy. I spoke on stage at the InsurTech event in Savannah with him. We just had a great time. It was fun stuff.
[00:32:25.57] But, look, Bill Devine-- awesome. Thank you for coming on the show. I think we're going to try to go a level deeper with Bill. We're going to set up another call. We're going to do another episode because there's a lot more there with Bill.
[00:32:40.18] And, by the way, I've got 11 puppies here in my house. If you hear this crazy background noise, that's what's going on. They're all fighting over a big ball right now, so sorry about that. But, yeah, stay tuned. It's going to be awesome.