Episode 28: Full Transcript

[00:00:00.18] ALLAN EGBERT: I think speed is always one of the first things that's discussed, and I don't necessarily know that that's the most important thing. I think getting it right is more important.
[00:00:12.94] 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.
[00:00:26.98] [MUSIC PLAYING]
[00:00:34.69] ALLAN EGBERT: Welcome back to the insurance beer podcast. That's not right. This is, obviously, The Insurance Technology Podcast. But we are not Reid Holzworth, obviously. Still. I'm Allan Egbert. Mike Albert. What's going on?
[00:00:53.87] All right. So part two of the takeover. Today we're going to talk about the commercial lines segment panel which was moderated by Taira Mandy. Also a former Ask Kodiak legend who came over with the team when we joined IVANS.
[00:01:11.66] MIKE ALBERT: Can you be a former legend? I think once you're a legend, you're a legend.
[00:01:14.61] ALLAN EGBERT: Once you're a-- did I say-- I did say--
[00:01:16.73] MIKE ALBERT: You said former legend.
[00:01:17.42] ALLAN EGBERT: I meant formally from maybe Ask Kodiak. But yes, still a legend. We had Risa from Bindable, we had John from Simply Business, and Bobbie from Coterie. They started-- I think their conversation was around online platforms for commercial and where they are today. Which, of course, is something near and dear to our hearts. Mike. Mike Albert, so how are we doing with online distribution platforms today? Before we get into what they were thinking.
[00:01:50.88] MIKE ALBERT: Boy it is remarkable. Without necessarily answering that question, because this panel does a really nice job of that, I will preview something. If you haven't already heard the session, they talk about looking forward into the future 20 years. In one of the replies, somebody talks about looking backwards and at some of the things people were saying five, seven, 10 years ago. And it is clear that we have some hype cycles in this industry, and sometimes we get a little ahead of ourselves in terms of how fast things may come.
[00:02:25.71] So it's my way of answering the question without necessarily answering the question. But some really good discussion about what's to come there. I will also say, in this session there was some really great discussion about third party data, which has been a very hot topic for us lately. We have lots of good partners at IVANS in that realm. And in fact, you'll hear from at least one of those partners in the coming weeks on this podcast. So some good discussion there around third party data as well.
[00:02:56.49] TAIRA MANDY: To kick things off, I want to know when you think about commercial lines, what are the challenges, or the different parts of the commercial lines lifecycle, where you feel like, over the last few years, technology has really stepped in to improve it for the industry? In other words, where is technology making the biggest impact in commercial lines right now? Risa.
[00:03:22.81] RISA PECORARO: I would say probably the online platforms. The fact that there are several businesses now focused on online distribution, I think that's a big change. I think because the way that people want to start their journey, start their search has changed a lot.
[00:03:38.46] TAIRA MANDY: Yeah.
[00:03:39.44] RISA PECORARO: And so I think making more information available online, even if they want to finish that journey with a trusted agent, somebody who they can consult with, having more accessible information online. Including what kind of components of a policy you might need is really helpful.
[00:03:55.27] TAIRA MANDY: Yeah.
[00:03:55.63] RISA PECORARO: And important.
[00:03:56.62] TAIRA MANDY: Completely agree. John, what do you think?
[00:03:58.30] JOHN PEGNATO: Yeah, I have a very similar answer. I think the buying process and the customer information gathering process has primarily moved online, at least first. And you're right. The agents still control such a huge part of the market. But bringing rating models online, bringing Bindable quotes online, that's something that has really changed in the last few years. And we're sort of at the forefront, but we're certainly not the only ones. It's a crowded space.
[00:04:24.95] TAIRA MANDY: Sure. Bobbie, any thoughts on that?
[00:04:27.14] BOBBIE COLLIES: I would just add in addition to those thoughts is just the impact of data and early artificial intelligence. So there are some of you in the room that I work with, third party data sources, where agents and insurers don't even have to provide their own data for us to be able to underwrite a risk. And that has completely changed the game on how quickly we can get a commercial lines quote turned around. And accurately. More accurate than in the past.
[00:04:56.05] TAIRA MANDY: Completely agree. So let's talk about the flip side of that. Where are the pain points or the challenges that you see right now in commercial lines where you feel like the technology is not all the way there yet, or we could still use some efficiencies or some help?
[00:05:14.69] RISA PECORARO: I think that there's an opportunity to move more towards personalization. I think what Bobbie just talked about is spot on. But it needs to become sort of broadly based mass market so that somebody can know that they're putting in minimal amounts of information going out to trusted sources and then turning around a quote, or at least relevant information.
[00:05:37.82] Right now I think it's just too complicated for people who are just sort of ordinary people who don't know what general liability means. And I think that bringing them on the journey more quickly with more convenience and personalization can help.
[00:05:54.26] TAIRA MANDY: Yeah.
[00:05:54.92] JOHN PEGNATO: Yeah. Building on that, just using the power of data, I think the commercial line space just has an opportunity to do more of that. Personal lines does a fairly decent job of that today.
[00:06:08.22] TAIRA MANDY: Yeah.
[00:06:08.78] JOHN PEGNATO: Applying some of those same concepts and then using some of the same tactics that agents do face to face with customers and taking those data points and really being consultative in the digital space. I think that's the biggest opportunity.
[00:06:22.07] BOBBIE COLLIES: And I think Chris alluded to this a little bit earlier, but bringing our agents along in this journey, and what's your value proposition as technology gets inserted into the commercial line space? And I think there's an opportunity to automate a lot of things, but the small commercialized customer versus the middle market commercialized customer, where are those moments when it really matters to have a personal touch point? A human touch point? And where does the technology actually bring value? And I think that's one of the challenges we're trying to solve collectively. That's why we're all here, right?
[00:06:53.95] ALLAN EGBERT: I think speed is always one of the first things that's discussed, and I don't necessarily know that that's the most important thing. I think getting it right is more important. I don't necessarily think thinking in terms of less fields-- it's still very sort of antiquated topics. You can get through my portal in 7.2 minutes and get to a quote.
[00:07:22.79] When I'm thinking about booking airline tickets or if I'm thinking about doing anything else online, I want correctness. I want quality. I want to be able to get to an outcome that makes me more informed and intelligent than when I started. And I don't I don't hear that a lot. Mike Albert, you've always got good opinions on this stuff.
[00:07:48.77] MIKE ALBERT: Yeah. Speed is totally overrated. What it ends up being a substitute for is almost ease of use, which is important. Speed is important, don't get me wrong. But at the end of the day, I think functional completeness is equally important. Can somebody do everything that they need to do? Whether they can do it fast or medium speed, can they get the job that they're trying to get done done? I think that's paramount.
[00:08:14.94] And as well, can we take away any sort of sense of mystery as part of the process? There remains, even to this day, a big issue of things kind of disappearing into workflows and processes. So if you think about it in terms of the new business underwriting process, maybe something goes to an underwriter. As a broker, you're dealing with your client. They're asking questions about when the quote's going to come back, and you don't know the answer because it's in some other person's hands, and there's no good way to track it and to know.
[00:08:44.61] And I always think that good communication and keeping folks out of that place of mystery is as important, or more important oftentimes, than speed. Because, frankly, you might still sell the policy if it takes an extra hour or two as long as you're doing a great job of communicating with the client along the way.
[00:09:04.50] ALLAN EGBERT: And I also think, when ease of doing business is a term that's been thrown around for so long, I think that's just a synonym for speed in a lot of the minds of folks who are using that term. A couple of extra steps checks the boxes, I think. A lot of the things that you just discussed, Mike, versus get on an agent page, a portal page and see one question, and then 20 more appear, and then 10 more.
[00:09:35.50] You know? It's like, I don't know. That seems to be some sort of, again, some sort of shortcut for this is the right-- we're sort of trying to fool the agent or the policyholder into thinking they have less questions to answer than they really do. And you just think you're being cute, and it's not overly.
[00:09:53.38] TAIRA MANDY: Thinking about how technology is impacting commercial lines, one of the pain points that I feel like we hear a lot about that a lot of technologies are working to fix right now is speed, right? Clients want more speed. And when I say clients, carriers want more speed, agents want more speed, consumers want more speed. In commercial lines, specifically, do you all feel like there is a risk in moving too fast through the commercial lines lifecycle? Is there any risk to the speed or the automation that we're trying to create in commercial lines?
[00:10:23.65] JOHN PEGNATO: I think always there's a risk when you go fast, but it's a matter of how fast you learn and then apply those learnings. So can you be nimble enough to understand that you're taking on more risk and then address those risks? We do quite a bit of that with some of our teams. And in different partnership opportunities, sometimes a light gets shown on them.
[00:10:43.26] We won a big partnership with Amazon last year, and we were speed to market nut jobs about it. And we learned a lot, but it was more about how we applied those learnings to refine the risk that we were taking on and that we were inviting for the carriers that joined that journey with us. And that has really helped us refine. So again, it's not just about how fast you are for the customer, it's about how fast you are for the carriers who are protecting them.
[00:11:08.57] TAIRA MANDY: Yeah.
[00:11:10.99] BOBBIE COLLIES: Traditionally, we have not been an agile industry. So speed is scary.
[00:11:15.71] JOHN PEGNATO: Yeah.
[00:11:16.51] TAIRA MANDY: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:11:16.83] BOBBIE COLLIES: And I think we're learning how do we be all agile together. Last panel talked a little bit about carriers and how slow they move. So it's just like this friction between carrier and technology, and how do we all kind of figure out that comfortable speed to work together.
[00:11:32.80] RISA PECORARO: Yeah. That's one area where I think maybe the segment does matter because of the complexity of maybe underwriting for mid-market versus a micro business or somebody with less than five employees. Because you can probably test and learn a little bit more easily without the kind of risk that you might feel like you have in those scenarios.
[00:11:54.25] MIKE ALBERT: Fair to say. I mean, that ties into another topic that this panel touched on which was customer experience. Customer experience is everything. From entering that information in that form, you mentioned the website field. I mean, it starts there, and it goes all the way through the journey as a policyholder.
[00:12:13.51] And frankly, your agents are customers, too, from the carrier standpoint and their experience dealing with your technology. So some really interesting discussion in that arena as well here.
[00:12:25.57] ALLAN EGBERT: So the audience member, someone from the audience-- going back and looking at the audio notes-- basically said, I think they were implying or asking, this customer experience, is it a throwaway or is it being taken as seriously as possible? And is anyone doing it well? And who's focused on it?
[00:12:52.55] That's a good question. I don't know-- do you think writ large our industry is like focusing on customer experiences? Anyone with good online customer experiences come to mind that we can name without producer like Christen hitting us out in production?
[00:13:11.34] MIKE ALBERT: That's a really good question. Here's what I would say-- thought is paid to it. However, I think it takes a backseat sometimes to other constraints that folks have. So from the carrier standpoint, as carriers are designing systems, yes. They'll give thought to customer experience. That'll be important, especially in early cycles.
[00:13:29.46] But at the end of the day when they're trying to get the project done, I think perhaps some of what might be considered good customer experience might take a backseat to what needs to be done to get the project over the finish line. I think that's true on agency tech occasionally as well.
[00:13:43.68] There are examples out there of good customer experience, for sure. And I think the group talks about some of those things. In fact, the group even gets into the implications of things like Amazon and insurance in a couple of places, which obviously ties into customer experience as well.
[00:14:01.76] TAIRA MANDY: OK. I want to pause for a moment. See what questions the audience has for our commercial lines experts. Any questions?
[00:14:10.37] AUDIENCE MEMBER: I hear customer experience on a daily basis as like a throwaway, right? People just say it as like, good morning, customer experience. I don't think they understand it. But as you're dealing with that on a daily basis, how much does it actually change the industry and the outlook and the tech that's required?
[00:14:28.40] JOHN PEGNATO: Our space in particular, where we're focused on that micro business, it does mirror closely to what their experience is as a consumer. So we're consistently trying to hold ourselves to the same standards of what they interact with every day as a consumer. So what does it look like when they log into their Amazon account and are shopping there? What does it look like when they're on their home and auto account and looking for new quotes there?
[00:14:53.24] So using some of those as a guidepost to help us understand what it is they expect when they engage with any kind of online platform. That's what we really try to bring to life. And, obviously, insurance has so many more complexities than some of those other things.
[00:15:09.87] But, again, that's where data, speed, all that stuff kind of comes into play in making sure we have a tight feedback loop from what the customer is engaging with, how they're engaging with it, and how we're taking those learnings and applying those to our iterations. That's really the key. So listening as much as we can, but also using reference points throughout just the general marketplace and how they expect to engage with platforms as a consumer.
[00:15:36.23] RISA PECORARO: I think, for me, what I think about is convenience. Not so much customer experience. I don't know that anybody is going to buy their commercial policy and then be delighted by it. But I think convenience matters a lot. And I use this analogy around peanut butter and jelly and bread. Peanut butter and jelly are next to each other in the grocery store. The bread is in a totally different aisle, which is fine. Still in the store, right?
[00:15:58.24] But the way that we distribute insurance sometimes is that we've got peanut butter and jelly in one aisle, and then they never talk about the bread. It's not even close. Who knows, right? So we've got to bring the bread at least into the store so that people can bridge that gap of things that they might need that their broker might not have, but it can at least make a sandwich.
[00:16:22.06] BOBBIE COLLIES: Yeah. And I'll reflect on something I said earlier and expand on it a bit. If you think about definition of relationship today-- I feel like I have an excellent relationship with Amazon, and I never talked to a person there ever in my entire life. But they've made my life so easy. And I think we're just-- our expectations of instant gratification are there.
[00:16:42.07] And so I think solving for those moments when we, again, we need to be there as a true person and talking to them versus having them do self service is going to be really important in the future. And even if I compare the analogy to airlines-- I book through my travel agency that my company forces me to use, and if I need to change my flight I have to call the travel agent to change my flight.
[00:17:04.90] Or if I book directly through the airline I can just change it at a whim. I would much rather just self service that. So as a policyholder, what do they really want to self service, and where do they really want to talk to an agent or a licensed professional? And that's, I think, a big piece that we need to solve for.
[00:17:19.12] RISA PECORARO: And you can personalize that, right?
[00:17:20.62] BOBBIE COLLIES: Yeah.
[00:17:20.80] RISA PECORARO: You prefer to self service, other people are going to want to talk to an agent. That should be an easy break off path.
[00:17:26.50] BOBBIE COLLIES: Yes.
[00:17:28.53] MIKE ALBERT: So one of the questions came up from the audience. If we had this panel 20 years from now, where do you think we're going to be when it comes to technology? How do you answer that question, Allan?
[00:17:38.99] ALLAN EGBERT: I hope we've made more gains than we made in the past 20 years to present. Because I don't think a heck of a lot has changed. I think we need maybe a better understanding of the policyholder as a customer. A recent experience for me just re-upping my insurance through a local agent after a move, seeing the same forms get emailed to me that I have to fill out. And I'm not going to plug that entity on this podcast and those forms.
[00:18:16.58] But a lot of these things, in terms of me as a customer, should be sort of well known. Even if you did a quick search of me online you'd be able to answer a lot of these questions and using that data just for better risk assessment. I want risk assessment. Price matters, but I want to know that I'm taken care of versus-- or I have everything I need versus finding out at the time of a claim that it's like, oh, crap. You're not covered for that.
[00:18:49.73] I've been in this industry working as a technology person for a long time, but I still need risk assessment and guidance. And that's the things that are most important to me as a policyholder for feeling good about the policies I carry. How would you answer that question?
[00:19:08.27] MIKE ALBERT: Where will we be in 20 years? I'm a little more bullish than Allan is. I think we've accomplished more in the last 20 years than maybe he gave full credit for. A lot has changed. We've still got a ton of room for improvement I think is my larger reflection. I believe progress will be made incrementally.
[00:19:26.51] I still go back to something I've said before. I don't think it was on this podcast but on various panels and whatever. The thing that everybody always kind of, for whatever reason, tends to drift to in their thinking on this question is around consolidation and whether there'd be one winner. Or sort of the fear of Google entering the market or Amazon entering the market or Apple entering the market.
[00:19:48.62] That's where you maybe start to miss what's really going to happen. Insurance has always had a lot of folks in the value chain that add value. It is a game of middlemen but not in a bad way, necessarily. And I think that there's going to be incremental progress. There has been and will continue to be incremental progress for everybody in terms of the tech. In terms of their levels of service, in terms of what they're able to accomplish, how profitable they are, how well they serve the customers.
[00:20:19.55] Everybody from the front line CSR at an agency to an underwriter to a principal at an agency is all going to have incrementally better tools in their management systems. And new offerings that don't even exist right now that 20 years we'll look back and see there's still plenty more to tackle.
[00:20:40.46] ALLAN EGBERT: That's a good take. Maybe the lesson here-- if there's a venture capitalist listening, you may want to write this down-- that you can't give someone an investment and put a giant circle around the entire insurance value chain. Which you guys have attempted to do for the past 10 years.
[00:20:59.68] MIKE ALBERT: You can't pick a winner at something that's balkanized. It's too complex, and the people in the industry are not dumb. There's very savvy, sophisticated technologists, financial people, risk folks. This is an undisruptable space, in a way. There's money to be made. There's tons of opportunity. It's just not the somebody sweeps in and it takes the whole thing.
[00:21:25.96] AUDIENCE MEMBER: If we had this panel 20 years from now, where do you think we're going with this? When it comes to technology, when it comes to commercial lines, what do you think will be some of the most exciting and transformative things that we'll be talking about 20 years from now?
[00:21:42.47] JOHN PEGNATO: I think integration of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics in all these processes that we've talked about. We're hearing about that as a buzz word, I think, in every industry. And it is something that, in the insurance companies I've worked at, were taking tangible steps towards. So harnessing that power is going to be really interesting. I am not the person smart enough to explain to you how the hell that works. But that, to me, is the really exciting thing. Integrating those capabilities into our processes.
[00:22:16.60] RISA PECORARO: So, related, but a little bit of a different twist, I think the impact of cyber. I'm really interested to see how cyber impacts the industry overall in terms of underwriting aggregation, how we talk about risk versus the physical risk, versus risk that you can't see, necessarily. And how personal behavior, personal activities could translate to commercial risk because there's so much that's happening now. There's a blend that didn't used to happen before, but also a wisdom from people who are threat actors that they can penetrate businesses through individuals.
[00:22:59.36] BOBBIE COLLIES: And cyber is going to have a big impact to revenue streams within our industry and how that feeds into how we all make money moving forward. So that's a really good point, Risa. I think, kind of piling on what John said, is if you think about how predictive modeling impacted underwriting 10, 15 years ago and how that kind of transformed how do we price a risk. I think predictive modeling around a lot of other things is going to really impact the future of our industry.
[00:23:27.55] Now that said, you said 20 years? Seven years ago I was sitting at a table talking about how are autonomous vehicles going to impact the P&C revenue stream. And here we sit today, and have they really impacted us that much? No. And as I said earlier, we change slow. As fast as we want to go-- I'm a really, really impatient person. And as fast as I want things to change, they don't change very fast.
[00:23:50.60] So I think we'll be talking about more of the same things 10, 20 years from now. But we'll just have more data, more sophistication around it. But I don't think it's going to be a huge dramatic change in the discussions that we're talking about. We might be talking about middle market commercial and how technology has really impacted it.
[00:24:05.32] JOHN PEGNATO: That could be it. And how that's trending towards personal lines at that point, right?
[00:24:09.45] BOBBIE COLLIES: Yes. Yes.
[00:24:09.61] JOHN PEGNATO: Yeah, exactly.
[00:24:10.75] TAIRA MANDY: All right. I want to get some final thoughts before we wrap. So in closing, what is the one theme or idea that we've talked about today that when people leave this room you hope our industry is still thinking about? And, John, we'll start with you this time.
[00:24:29.30] JOHN PEGNATO: Data. How do we process it? How do we automate it? How do we use it faster to learn as quickly as possible? To me, that's what we're trying to do every day. And the more we learn, even if it's bad stuff, even if it's failure, I think that's OK. And I think, to Bobbie's point, the industry needs to get a little bit more comfortable with that just as a whole.
[00:24:51.38] TAIRA MANDY: Risa.
[00:24:52.22] RISA PECORARO: I think about the top of the funnel. You build these products, but then how do you get people into the product?
[00:25:00.17] BOBBIE COLLIES: I'll go back to something I said earlier, Taira. I think we, collectively as an industry, have solved for every single relevant problem that we can. So how do we start to take all of these solutions that we've developed in the industry and bring them together?
[00:25:17.24] MIKE ALBERT: Great, great panel we just heard from InsurTech Boston 2022. Needless to say, there will be an InsurTech Boston 2023. Allan, tell us about it.
[00:25:28.30] ALLAN EGBERT: Well, I think you're going to see a lot of the same. I think you'll see some new companies, some new startups take the stage. Maybe pressing some of these topics we were talking about where we're going into the future. Again, some hopefully high quality panel content again. And a lot of social networking, which people really love and enjoy.
[00:25:57.49] Maybe we should do a part three take over podcast just on the open bar segment. Or maybe not. Christen's nodding no. That's fine. But it's a combination. Hopefully you learn a little something, meet some new people. And you've got opinions about what you want to see at InsurTech Boston, and you keep coming back.
[00:26:20.55] MIKE ALBERT: We've gotten some good feedback. If you have it-- whether it's positive or it's negative-- please get it in our hands. We care deeply about this event. Like I said, the last time we did one of these podcasts, I think this is the seventh one we've done. We want to keep doing them, and we want people to keep coming back and having a good time and learning something.
[00:26:40.87] So do not be shy. Let us know what's working, what's not working, and keep the feedback coming. Like I said, we've gotten some good stuff so far, but it is our intention to do this again and to do better at it. And to keep getting better at it and keep evolving this thing to be more and to be better. So I appreciate any thoughts you have on that.
[00:26:58.56] ALLAN EGBERT: That's a good point. Positive feedback you could send to Allan. Negative feedback, you can send all of that to Mike, and we will listen to all of it. Praise you could also send to me.
[00:27:11.13] MIKE ALBERT: Adulation.
[00:27:13.02] ALLAN EGBERT: Adulation. Positive feedback. Positive vibes.
[00:27:16.00] MIKE ALBERT: There you go.