Episode 030 — The Digital Broker Podcast

Confronting Agency Fears To Step Outside and Try New Technologies


The following is a summary of Episode 30 of The Digital Broker, an Indio produced podcast hosted by industry veterans, Steve Anderson and Ryan Deeds.

This week, the fellas discuss insurance technology, also known as Insurtech, in the context of InsureTech Connect 2018. By listening to this episode, you will learn:

  • What InsureTech Connect is and what you can expect to find there
  • Why you won’t find any brokers there, and why that’s a problem
  • How to improve broker representation by taking a more inclusive view of technologies

Ryan leads out with some exciting news of his own. After five years as IT Director of The Crichton Group, he’ll be moving into VP of Technology and Data at Assurex Global, where he will ensure the operational excellence of a worldwide network of insurance brokers. It’s a tall order, but for as big a data nerd as Ryan, it’s a dream come true.

Ryan just returned from Las Vegas, where he spent days looking at new products at InsureTech Connect 2018 (8:01). Now in its third year, InsureTech Connect attracted over 6,000 attendees earlier this month, which is huge for an insurance technology conference that isn’t vendor-specific. Several products were on display by small businesses and big corporations alike. All the big vendors were there, plus a lot of carriers — the technology being carrier-specific most of the time.

It was an exhilarating display of the insurance industry’s well-being, except for one problem: barely any brokers were there. It isn’t as if Ryan got to check everybody’s badge, but in a sea of thousands of attendees, he saw maybe ten to fifteen brokers.

If we don’t start having a collective voice, we’ll be left out of the conversation entirely (10:25). This could not have been any clearer at ITC, where the agencies were barely spoken about, let alone represented. By refusing a seat at the Insurtech table, we fail to leverage the most effective tools available and shirk our duty to provide the greatest amount of value to our clients and associates.

So why do we hesitate to go to these things? (11:46) Is it a lack of awareness? Is it the old age of many agency shareholders, who lack the energy to pick up and learn new things?

Is it that everything seems kinda spacey when you talk about A.I, bots, etc., and therefore the tech illiterate tune out altogether?

All of these play a part, but as Steve points out, the biggest obstacle is fear (14:09). There is no doubt that some technologies aim to cut the distribution system, and it is no fun to run into your foes at shows like this. But not every Insurtech is hostile to the distribution system. Case in point: Indio. Its digital platform helps agents and brokers streamline the interaction with customers when filling out forms. (That’s just one of the benefits. See the rest of them here.)

Separating Insurtechs into friends and enemies of the distribution system yields a two-fold imperative to go to shows like InsureTech Connect. There are products out there that want to make your job easier, and they want to meet you. As for the threats, you don’t eliminate them by sticking your head in the sand and pretending they don’t exist. If the distribution system is under siege, don’t you want to be on top of how, where, and why, so you can strategize a pushback — maybe with the help of friendly technologies?

InsureTech Connect is a place where you can go see what’s out there. It doesn’t mean you need to fall for every pitch, but you need to go in search of the options you have (16:41)If you meet a tool that you could leverage to increase your operational excellence, why aren’t you using it?

There could be several reasons. Maybe now is not the right time, so you promise to review in six months. Some products, it should be said, work well and seem useful, until you find out that they solve a problem that doesn’t exist. (Ryan has a funny story about this at 18:36.) But the impediments to adopting new technologies seldom have to do with the technological features themselves. It is more a matter of perseverance and focus: does your organization understand the work required to make any new technology effective?

This is where Insurtechs contribute to the problem by promising that “it just works” (17:49). Take it from Ryan, who has some experience running an IT department or two: it is almost never that easy. You will spend a lot of time and effort trying to integrate new products successfully. This is always harder than defaulting to the status quo in the short term, but in the long term, your gain will be determined by how good you were at failing, learning lessons, and probably failing again.

Even products that appear inapplicable in the present are worth evaluating because the next iteration of a currently useless product might be better and more beneficial — you can even have a hand in steering the organization toward the product you’d like to see. Some of our best ideas about what will work are born out of evaluating what doesn’t (21:55). Unfortunately, the generation of ideas in our environment is happening without us. Those Insurtech firms that partner closely with the agencies will be more successful — but we gotta show up.

So put the dates on your calendar for next year. Find other ways to get information about the new stuff that’s out there. Read the trade publications you trust. Not to toot our own horns or anything, but you’re already ahead of the game by listening to this podcast. Continue to listen and we will continue to grow your awareness of what’s happening in the world around you.

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