[00:00:15.92] 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 of the industry. Join us each episode for insights and best practices from industry stewards and tomorrow's innovators. Now here's your host, Read Holsworth.
[00:00:36.10] READ HOLSWORTH: All right, we're back. Welcome to insurance technology podcast. I'm your host Read Holsworth. We're back with Mr. Hackbath himself. In this episode, we're going to hear why it's important to really build the team for success once you're gone, either retiring or moving on to the next thing.
[00:00:56.09] There's a big word that I just learned and don't ask me how to spell it in the industry, perpetuation. So Google that word. That's what he's talking about there. And we're also going to hear what is Jim going to do in retirement? Man, what's that guy going to do? Awesome stuff, stay tuned.
[00:01:16.86] Do you think technology has really helped the industry? We've talked a lot about it. And maybe it's a dumb question, but what do you think? How is it? You've been through it from the beginning. You were selling mainframes to the carriers when they didn't know what that was. You've been through it, how is it really helped the industry.
[00:01:38.02] JIM HACKBATH: Well, I think in some aspects it created order out of chaos. You go way back when you're selling batch processing policy processing systems. It was creating order out of chaotic paper files and getting into a electronic record. And then so you go from this batch processing. That's what the original back office systems work for agencies. They were batch processors.
[00:02:03.88] Only thing that the PC did was allow you to see everything that was running and batch live on a green screen. That was a little bit of a leap but it wasn't really until the microchip really came along and the handheld and everything else like that. I mean, now I think what we've done we've more than crossed the chasm. There's a great book by Geoffrey Moore called Crossing the Chasm.
[00:02:26.41] And it's read by a lot of people in the tech world it goes back 25 years I actually know Jeff. And you hit that bowling ball effect. And you really start to climb up. And I think right now where we are as an industry, we are there. We are scaling like crazy. And you look at data and what's happening with data.
[00:02:48.31] I do a lot of reading now. And reflecting back, people talk about Henry Ford in the Model T. Yeah, he did do the Model T, but the most important thing that he did, he invented the assembly line. Henry Ford invented the assembly line. Incredible.
[00:03:07.93] READ HOLSWORTH: Inexpensive people don't realize that. It's not like a vehicle there was tons of vehicles then that same manufacturers today. But you're right, he invented the assembly line and efficiency. So therefore, you could drive the price point down. And then there's a vehicle for the common person, right?
[00:03:23.83] JIM HACKBATH: Exactly. And what that also created, that created a need at the manufacturing floor to have just in time inventory. So you take that just in time inventory and you look ahead relative to the insurance industry. Now we're talking about just in time information. We're not talking about information that's four or five years old that actuaries are studying to set rate and to identify new markets.
[00:03:48.22] We're talking about just in time information that's readily available. Not just from internally within the carriers and the brokers but from third party sources. And so all of a sudden you have the right information where you can quickly bring a product to market, price it competitively and get it into the marketplace.
[00:04:08.77] And then so now you move from the world of the single portals to these platforms. And then you've got these platforms. And this is not an advertisement for Bold Penguin but that's what that is. But in order to have a platform, you've got to have a credible pipe. You have to have a credible pipe. I think there's this company called IVANS. I think they're in a pipe business.
[00:04:30.22] Funny thing you won't know this you can probably look in the archive of events but when I was 31 years old I sat on the board of IVANS. But that was back in the days of liter systems and AMS and all that. And thank goodness that IVANS found a home. And I think you guys are a very important spot right now. I know IVANS is a business but what you're doing and how you're doing it for the industry, it goes back to history.
[00:05:03.07] When people were talking about an APT. Taking like minded people, developing a platform. Look at the number of insured techs now that are hanging off of your platform availing the API. Who knows if they're all going to make it or not? But they all have a fighting chance. And so that's why I think to answer your question. There's been a great leap in the last probably 48 months.
[00:05:30.31] READ HOLSWORTH: Not to go on an IVANS tangent. But look, we just want to finish what we started.
[00:05:35.32] JIM HACKBATH: Exactly.
[00:05:37.06] READ HOLSWORTH: And that's just it and being on the other side and being insured tech and all of this. To solve all of these issues in the industry, not all of them, but the bigger issues. It's all about connectivity. It's all about that pipe. And to your point, by powering these other companies, they don't have to figure out how to power themselves and figure out all the connectivity, which is the real dirty heavy lifting stuff.
[00:05:59.68] They can focus on building cool shit, right?
[00:06:02.80] JIM HACKBATH: Exactly.
[00:06:03.19] READ HOLSWORTH: And then help in solving those problems and efficiency. Building that assembly line like you said. They have to figure out how to make steel. Let us do that.
[00:06:15.94] JIM HACKBATH: Well, you take what Henry Ford did just in time inventory. Having parts readily available when they are needed to put on the car. In the insurance industry, now you got just in time information which now leads to just in time insurance.
[00:06:34.15] And so now you've got quick data that you can quickly analyze. And then when you take artificial intelligence and machine learning and you throw that on top of it, the rapid amount of change and the efficiencies that are going to get gained in the industry the next probably 36 months are just awesome.
[00:06:55.75] READ HOLSWORTH: We think so, man. We've been talking about all throughout this. This stuff's really happening now. And you're right. I think you're right. I think it's a lot of new people, new blood, and new minds coming into the industry.
[00:07:08.62] Maybe not, new, new. They've been around for a bit because it takes a while to really get into the industry, develop a reputation, and know what the hell you're talking about. It does. It takes time. It's a lot.
[00:07:20.95] But I do believe though that there are founders within this industry that are still leading the charge by helping us young bucks and new minds that are in the industry and guiding us through a lot of this. And so we're learning from the past.
[00:07:36.07] JIM HACKBATH: Well, as I transitioned to a next chapter of my life, one of the things that I'm focusing in on is what can I do to help some of these insurance tracks? What can I do to help young people? I love mentoring young people in the business. I always had some wonderful mentors.
[00:07:53.48] When I came out of college, I didn't realize it at the time, but they were unbelievable looking back and what they did to help me and how much I learned from them. They never closed the door. And I'm at that chapter where you want to pay forward and help people that have the right values.
[00:08:09.26] And there's a funnel. I don't have to get into that today that I drop through if it's worth my time to help that insure tech or to help that individual. And not to get philosophical. But if someone doesn't have the right values I don't have an interest. No, thank you.
[00:08:28.10] READ HOLSWORTH: Well, to be fair I mean look there's a lot of companies that are startups that are doing their own thing. And we want to help all of them. We want to help good people.
[00:08:39.38] That's the reality. And it's not the only qualification but we all have a lot going on. We want to make sure you're serious. That you're doing good things that you're smart about it. You're coming prepared, right. And have something real. I've been to so many startup things and everybody's walking around saying Oh, I got the new Facebook and this not and the other.
[00:08:58.04] Give me money. I'm looking for money. And they have no clue about our business. What it takes the whole 9. And look, we're just not in the business of teaching somebody how to be an entrepreneur. Even though you may have a great idea, there's a lot more that goes behind that. And then like you said, the reason why we're all friends is because we're all the people we trust each other.
[00:09:19.01] We develop a network in that way. So talk about though-- go back a little bit. So everybody knows, so 18 years CEO Assurex, but CEO know more.
[00:09:34.10] So tell us. You're thrown in the towel Oh, dean. By the way. And so what's going on? Tell us about that. Tell us what brought you to that and then what's next?
[00:09:46.67] JIM HACKBATH: Well, that's great. Let me go on that a little bit. I mean we started-- I think one of the most important things that a leader can do and I learned this from the 108 firms that are part of Assurex Global. I've got to work with some of the best minds in the industry. Some of those firms are left Assurex and all that.
[00:10:04.17] But I think one of the most important things that a leader can do and I had to learn this, is the perpetuation of leadership, your replacement. That could happen at a moment's notice or that you're going to say OK, In 3, to 4 to 5 years. I had actually considered leaving Assurex about five years ago because I believe that every organization needs fresh minds and fresh leadership.
[00:10:26.12] And a couple of board members at Assurex said this is not the time. And you need to find a leader that's going to take Assurex to the next level. So I reflect it a lot and I knew what I thought we wanted. And I actually met Dean Hildebrand when his firm, his previous mom and Martin was part of a shirks. I brought him in.
[00:10:49.64] And probably in record time, this goes back about six or seven years I was able to get him on the board. And one of the things that Dean and I tried to do is launch a Leadership Academy. And we went and traveled to a place called Center for Creative Leadership. It's where a lot of leaders like Steve Jobs and Jason went.
[00:11:08.03] And I saw firsthand what Dean was. And Dean is probably one of the-- I'm not saying this to make Dean feel good. In fact, I prefer that he never listened to this. But he is absolutely one of the smartest people I've had a chance to work alongside. Values are incredible. And like any industry, I think you've got to have value add leaders. You have the leaders understand what values are about.
[00:11:28.53] And so Dean and I started having a conversation a couple of years ago after he left Associated or he was leaving Associated. That was the bank that bought his firm. And he has a passion for independent agents and brokers.
[00:11:43.88] And so he joined the team about 2 and 1/2 to three years ago. And he was quickly off and running. And I went to the board and said listen, he's more than ready. There's no need for me to stay here and be in his way.
[00:12:00.21] And so I'm going to be moving on sooner than what was originally anticipated. But the last thing you want to do with when you have a thoroughbred in your business, you just need to let them run. He's incredible. I've learned more from Dean and he's probably ever learned from me.
[00:12:17.75] His values are impeccable. He's a visionary and all that. And I just knew it was time to leave I'd been there going on coming into my 18th year. What am I going to do next? I'm healthy. I got a lot of things that I want to do.
[00:12:32.03] And like I said earlier, I really want to help young companies and young people. So I expect to stay engaged. When you can find someone better than yourself that you can replace yourself with, that's the ultimate.
[00:12:47.06] And you know that you're leaving the business in better hands, especially at a time when the industry is going to go underneath a lot of change. So you need vibrancy. You need new vision. And I got to that stage and say listen, it's someone else's turn. Get out of the way. And I haven't looked back. So it's been a lot of fun.
[00:13:11.45] I'm not going to go play five days of golf a week. I'm not that great of a golfer. I've got an 18 handicap. And I learned if I got any better, I'll lose money. If you're an 18 handicap, you can win money. And I plan to get engaged with a lot of small start-up companies and help them, especially in the insure tech space and young people.
[00:13:34.79] I just helped a young man get inside and get a position with a company called Branch which is here in Columbus. So a lot of insure tech in Columbus. So that's what I plan to be doing and all that stuff.
[00:13:48.18] READ HOLSWORTH: What does Branch do? I don't know that well.
[00:13:50.09] JIM HACKBATH: Branch is a startup that selected Columbus. They had ventured money right from day one. And what they're trying to do is replace a lot of the back office functions within the insurance companies at the branch office level.
[00:14:02.78] So when you break down the paradigm of what happens at an insurance company, you got the branch infrastructure very expensive. And so what they've done is come out with a technology platform. And that they're replacing a lot of those functions as best as I can understand it.
[00:14:21.17] But you have companies in Columbus like Root and Bolt Penguin and Being Dental. I remember when the folks from Being Dental showed up on my doorstep. Very similar to the first time you and I met, they were a little bit nervous. They came in with a toothbrush with a Fit bit in it.
[00:14:38.06] And I said--
[00:14:41.38] --that's not really I don't know much about that. But I don't think a lot of people are going to buy a toothbrush with a Fit bit in it. And Alex Frohnmayer, the CEO, he said, well, that's not what we're doing. We're going to collect data.
[00:14:53.69] And we're going to reinvent dental insurance. And that's what they've done. And so companies like Maddik is a portal type, I'm going to say similar to that maybe a lemonade or something like that. So anyhow, I don't know if I answered your question but that's what I'll be doing.
[00:15:13.49] READ HOLSWORTH: Living in Columbus and going to Ohio State what not-- that story is fairly common. I've talked to a lot of people that have gone into the industry because there's so many carriers there locally that promote this hey, come in and do insurance. And it seems like a lot of people in turn within these carriers and just get into that world. That is fashion there, right?
[00:15:36.98] JIM HACKBATH: It is fashion. There is fashion here, Wendy's. There's fashion fast food and insurance.
[00:15:42.59] READ HOLSWORTH: What's the fast food?
[00:15:44.69] JIM HACKBATH: Wendy's corporate is headquartered here. It used to be a company called Fish and Chips or Arthur Creature Fish and Chips. White Castle is headquartered here. And I believe Chipotle, this is their second headquarters.
[00:16:04.85] But all that got built around Wendy's and it's just like any industry and things spring. Yeah, Columbus has become somewhat of an insurance hub. And reflecting back, if it wasn't for the Griffith Insurance Foundation.
[00:16:18.25] When that Professor came to me and said, we've got money if you'll change your major. I said absolutely, I will because I needed the money. And I went from having three part time jobs to selling life insurance for Prudential and being a watch-- listen to this, a librarian at the insurance library.
[00:16:36.68] READ HOLSWORTH: Oh, man, I'm sorry but I would shoot myself.
[00:16:40.01] JIM HACKBATH: Yeah, I end up getting fired from that job because at night when I was the librarian I'd lock the door it was about three rooms. And I would have poker games in there. And I got caught doing it and they asked me to leave. That gave me more time to sell life insurance at night.
[00:17:00.05] READ HOLSWORTH: So all right, another question.
[00:17:02.63] JIM HACKBATH: Yes, sir.
[00:17:03.14] READ HOLSWORTH: I would say that you are a career salesperson, right? And you are a very good salesperson.
[00:17:11.21] JIM HACKBATH: I love selling. I love selling.
[00:17:14.24] READ HOLSWORTH: Why are you good at sales? And why do you love sales? And why is sales important as a CEO?
[00:17:22.17] JIM HACKBATH: Well, I just love sells because one, I learned many years ago from IBM how to sell and how to do it the right way. And not necessarily to oversell and to see the positive impact. A lot of people look at salesmen and say, Oh, are you kidding me, you're a salesman? You must be the slime bag.
[00:17:44.81] Well, I don't think anyone's ever said that about me. Maybe they have, I don't think so. But you can really make a difference in people's lives, especially when business to business sale. And you can really show massive improvement with how a company can do business.
[00:18:03.05] And I always live my life if you don't sell something and then the rest of the business is going to shut itself down. And then in the leadership role, I've been fortunate to have a Assurex Global. I've been exposed to some of the best leaders that all come from sales in the insurance distribution industry.
[00:18:24.41] And you probably know some of these people. Folks like Bob Coley, Bob Clunk, Rob Cohen, Jim Bailey. The list goes on and on and on and on. And when you look at a successful brokerage firm, they all have leadership that came out of sales. I just love it because you can find a way to make a difference. You develop some wonderful long term friendships.
[00:18:50.45] And you can make a difference in people's lives. And when I go way back to what I wanted to do, that's how I wanted to be a high school football coach because when I go back to when I was a young person, going back to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade and into high school and a couple of years in college, it was those people that made a substantial impact on my life.
[00:19:13.70] And so in terms of values the right way to do things there's no shortcuts and all that stuff. And that going back to the insured tech world that's some of the things I know you've been exposed to and I've been exposed to are some of these young startups when I'd take a shortcut.
[00:19:29.42] You can't do it. You've got to serve the customers, deliver what you promise, adjust to make it better, get funding, use that funding, other people's money diligently, and then keep climbing up the ladder.
[00:19:44.36] And I've got to see that with you. I got to see that with Bob Penguin. I've got to see that with several other companies. So I've been very fortunate.
[00:19:54.02] READ HOLSWORTH: I think it's a lot of it is just you have to honor your work. Being honest to people. And you're not really selling them if you're helping them, right?
[00:20:04.10] JIM HACKBATH: You're right.
[00:20:05.60] READ HOLSWORTH: And I think the key to it is just being able to build relationships, which only build relationships with real people if you're a real person yourself. You can't fake that stuff.
[00:20:18.28] Some can and some are good at it but only for a period of time. And especially in our industry, it's a small world. It very much is. And so yeah, I think a lot of it is. I love sales too. I actually even love the thrill of the kill. I love getting in there and just closing deals and doing that a little more transactional.
[00:20:40.19] But really you have to stand behind a product that you really believe in in order to be good at what you do. And I think that that's the difference. You're a guy that has huge integrity. And you're not going to bullshit people. You're not going to provide an inferior product by any means. And you've made an amazing career out of that.
[00:21:02.96] JIM HACKBATH: Well, thank you. Thank you very much. I appreciate those kind words.
[00:21:07.13] READ HOLSWORTH: So who do you think I should talk to next? What are some influencers, some names, some people that just come to mind that'd be good for other people to get to know?
[00:21:18.21] JIM HACKBATH: Well, like I said, I've been very fortunate in my career, very fortunate at Assurex Global to have really gotten to know some phenomenal people. And some of the names, I'll have 3 buckets in my mind with that question. I look at carriers and talk to Dino Robusto, CEO of CNA. Paul Krupp, Vise chair at Chub, Jack Roche, CEO of Hannover.
[00:21:55.10] Selina Moog, she's a CEO of a new startup called Join insurance. Before that, she was with AIG. John Neal, Lloyd's of London. My gosh, what an interesting guy? And they certainly haven't been. And I'll tell you, Tim Turner RT Specialty. They just went public.
[00:22:15.01] I mean Tim Turner, and Pat Ryan, Ed, McCormick, solid team. There's so many people like that at the carrier. Mark Pervan at Nationwide Insurance company. He's president of the PNC. And you see what they've done with moving to the independent channel and the investment that they make and automation to change their front how they bring insurance to the market.
[00:22:41.11] Broker side, you know him. I urge you to talk to Dean. What he's doing with the large independent brokers. People like Rob Cohen who IMA dipped in her pocket and invested in a startup called Piling. On the tech side, Mike Tchaikovsky, CEO of Duck Creek. I was privileged to sit on their board of advisors a couple of years back.
[00:23:11.83] READ HOLSWORTH: I didn't know that.
[00:23:12.70] JIM HACKBATH: Oh, Yeah, and I was there because of Larry Wilson. Jay Weintraub who leads up the big tech conference. Smart young man. I don't know where, he's good. And then in the venture capital world, Andrew Eldritch at American Family, bright young guy.
[00:23:38.77] I tell you I'm going to throw you for a loop, invite me to be a guest host and interview you sometime. I'd love to do that.
[00:23:46.75] Johnny Carson would always bring a guest host once a month. Let me be a guest host and I'll interview you.
[00:23:53.83] READ HOLSWORTH: All right.
[00:23:54.58] JIM HACKBATH: I'd like to drill you between the eyes. I think that's a good idea.
[00:23:59.95] READ HOLSWORTH: Hey, I'd love that it'd be fun.
[00:24:01.42] JIM HACKBATH: It would be fun. It really would be fun so.
[00:24:04.46] READ HOLSWORTH: So all right for the audience, what do you like to do for fun? And by the way, I ask people this all the time as a conversation starter. A lot of people do. It's like, Oh, what do you want to do for fun? And it's funny like when I'm out at the bar sometimes and I ask just random people that, they're like, what? And I get mad at me about it.
[00:24:22.00] But the general answer is always like, I have kids. I'm busy. I do that. We all have kids. We love with our kids. And that's totally cool. But outside of that, what does Jim do himself for fun?
[00:24:40.22] JIM HACKBATH: On the weekends, we go about two hours North up to the Western shore of Lake Erie. I've got a boat up there that has about 800 horsepower.
[00:24:54.34] It's a family boat, but--
[00:24:59.62] -- I've been spending more time on that with my family. We've got four dog kids from 28 to 38. And they're all phenomenal. It's like people saying, why do you like to play golf for business? Well, if you can get on a golf course for 4 and 1/2 hours with somebody in the business conversation, you really get to know them.
[00:25:18.40] And now with four adult children, you get out on a boat-- when they do visit us and we get on a boat for three or four hours. You really get into some great conversations. We've got three grandkids, a three-year-old, a one-year-old, a seven months old and one on the way. Two of them are moving from San Diego, believe it or not to Columbus.
[00:25:39.82] READ HOLSWORTH: Oh, wow.
[00:25:40.42] JIM HACKBATH: In about two months unexpected. It was a great surprise. And I look forward to showing them how to break windows and spit and do all the things that--
[00:25:50.38] READ HOLSWORTH: You could buy them a slingshot first.
[00:25:51.91] JIM HACKBATH: Exactly. On a serious note and I've said this way too many times, I love spending time with young people. Susan my wife will tell you. You've met Susan. If a young person calls me and says, Jim or Mr Holsworth whatever I don't care what, I would love to get your advice on something.
[00:26:09.85] And I'd say sure, let's get a phone call tomorrow morning at 6:30. And if they're in Columbus, let's sit down at 6:30. And they say, 6:30? I said, Yeah, I get up at between 4:30 and 5:00. I'm ready to go. And I'll be glad to sit down with you and help you any way that I can. But you've got to be willing to help yourself.
[00:26:28.67] So I really enjoy helping young people. And looking back, there were so many people that I've mentioned in this interview that have helped me. And I love paying forward. So pretty simple in terms of spending my time these days and all that.
[00:26:47.02] And first and lastly, anything that I can do to help Dean and Assurex, I'm always available to them.
[00:26:54.61] READ HOLSWORTH: Last and final question.
[00:26:56.14] JIM HACKBATH: Yes.
[00:26:56.92] READ HOLSWORTH: What's your favorite drink?
[00:26:59.98] JIM HACKBATH: Well, with my ADD and my ADHD which I'm blessed to have. I have to have a couple, is just not one answer.
[00:27:07.51] READ HOLSWORTH: Yeah, there.
[00:27:09.60] JIM HACKBATH: And they're cold months, I love a good Manhattan. That's a really good Manhattan. And in the summer, Tequila and Tonic. And then every once in a while sip on a good red wine.
[00:27:29.64] So that's my favorite drink. I actually looked at recently buying a little Tavern up on Lake Erie. And then I looked at the numbers and I said, why in the hell would I want to buy a bar. think I'm better sitting here. The only reason I was going to buy it is called Jamestown Tavern.
[00:27:48.12] It's got the right name.
[00:27:51.81] And I talked to the owner. He showed me the numbers. And I said, Oh, boy, well, I'd rather just be a good client.
[00:27:59.76] READ HOLSWORTH: Just put a bar in your house.
[00:28:02.32] JIM HACKBATH: Exactly.
[00:28:06.12] READ HOLSWORTH: You'll come out ahead for sure. Well, that is awesome, Jim. I appreciate you for coming on the show. You've been a great mentor, friend, all the above with me. And I've really enjoyed our relationship over the years and just awesome. I set it on another podcast, I forget which one. I said, anybody that doesn't like you, I don't like that person.
[00:28:27.77] JIM HACKBATH: I can give you a list of three starting with a nun that I had in sixth grade. She never liked me. Anyhow, and the list goes on.
[00:28:39.04] READ HOLSWORTH: Wow, that was awesome Jim Holsworth. What a guy? I totally agree. As I said in the interview that being a good salesperson is critical as a CEO. But really in owning a business, you don't necessarily have to be the CEO.
[00:28:56.59] As a founder, you have to know how to sell. You're selling so much in so many ways all the time. So it's really, really great. It was also really good to hear that Jim is bringing back if you recall, he wanted to be a football coach originally. But now he's bringing that back.
[00:29:18.85] In his retirement he's coaching Young Bucks in the startup world. And I thought it was really cool how he said, Oh, you want to meet with me 6:00 AM. So really, really great tactic because we're all busy. We have a lot going on.
[00:29:34.27] And if you're not serious. If you don't want to sit down with this dude at 6:00 AM, man, you're not serious about what you're doing. I thought that was really, really awesome. So hey, if you see a Hackbath out there, it's warm out. By the guy at Tequila and Tonic. If it's cold out, get them in Manhattan.
[00:29:52.45] But honestly, I know this dude. If you're out there, just buy him anything. Have a good time. Shake his hand, you'll really enjoy it. Thank you Jim for being on. Now stay tuned. We got more cool people, interesting people coming up in future episodes.
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