Episode 072 — The Digital Broker Podcast

InsureTech Connect Embraces Agencies: Interview With Jay Weintraub


In this episode of The Digital Broker, Ryan Deeds interviews Jay Weintraub, CEO and co-founder of InsureTech Connect, about the brand new Agency Connect event at this year’s InsureTech Connect conference. By listening to this episode, you will learn:

  • How the magic of getting people together remains the lifeblood of InsureTech Connect.
  • Why the show has historically lacked in insurance agency representation, and what Jay has decided to do about it.
  • Everything you need to know about Agency Connect, InsureTech Connect’s brand new event focusing entirely on insurance agency issues.
  • What you can expect to get out of InsureTech Connect 2019 and Agency Connect.

There has never been a more exciting time to be in the insurance industry.

That statement might make people laugh. Insurance? Isn’t that the dullest industry ever?

Whoever thinks so has never been to InsureTech Connect. Past attendees have testified to the energy you feel when you get so many insurance professionals in one place; it’s like LinkedIn on steroids. And the show isn’t even five years old. In its first year, in 2016, the show drew a modest 1,000 attendees; this year’s show, taking place on September 23-25 in Las Vegas, is expected to attract over 7,000.

Why has the show done so well? Possibly because its co-founders — Jay Weintraub and Caribou Honig — understand the magic of getting people together. Before entering the conference industry, Jay had been an Internet advertising executive. Out of all the people he’d worked with, he remembered how insurance professionals tended to be the ones who needed the most help figuring out the Internet. After moving into the conference industry, Jay met Caribou Honig, a venture capitalist who thought insurance technology was due for its own show. InsureTech Connect was born.

Getting the right people together has remained the lifeblood of every subsequent show. “Not only do you get to see people that you may have read about,” Jay tells Ryan on this week’s episode of The Digital Broker, “but it’s really a chance to come away with new partnerships that could help you sell more, sell faster, reduce costs, or increase customer satisfaction.”

Let’s face it: not all networking amounts to much. But that is no reason to write off networking altogether. As a previous episode taught us, partnerships are essential to growth: you need to keep your focus on your core strengths, and partner with people who can do everything else better than you can. Since 2016, InsureTech Connect has been a venue to meet those people. There was just one problem: the show catered primarily to carriers, and the few insurance agencies that did go had a hard time figuring out which companies were there to serve them.

The result was a sad underrepresentation of insurance agencies; we even made this the central theme of our recap of last year’s show. Jay must have read it, because he’s taking action. This year’s InsureTech Connect will mark the inauguration of Agency Connect, a day dedicated entirely to insurance agencies, their issues, and their points of view.

As far as first editions go, Agency Connect 2019 already flaunts a stunning agenda. For one thing, Ryan Deeds is on it, and so is Indio CEO Michael Furlong, who will contribute to a session about operational excellence. Other speakers include McKeel Hagerty of the Hagerty Group, Amy Zupon of Vertafore, and Jeff To of Safekeep (formerly of Salesforce). Panels will debate topics such as “Building the Agency of the Future,” “The Evolution of Distribution,” and “Carrier 2.0: Friend or Foe.”

Jay is transparent that this year’s agenda was designed primarily with large and midlevel agencies in mind, but he promises that next years’ agendas will be more inclusive. In the meantime, every agency, big and small, should consider attending if it is interested in growing. Agency Connect will be a place to see what other agencies are doing, what they’re interested in, and what the everyday concerns become when you make the leap from a small agency to a middle one, and from a middle one to a large one. Agencies that take the study of these issues seriously are going to have an advantage over agencies that are indifferent to them.

The remainder of the conference would be worth your time as well. Who says you have nothing to learn from the carriers? Keeping an eye on what they’re doing, which vendors they’re talking to, and which technologies they’re investing in can help insurance agencies refine and strengthen their own strategies. Even the sight of unsettling developments, such as a carrier investing in direct-to-consumer technology, can give you a heads up about the conversations you need to start having. But you need to get out of the office and go places.

It is sometimes said that the independent insurance agency channel is suffering. But is that really the case? Google is throwing millions into it. And the channel enjoys the support of people like Jay, who are driven by a pure desire to see the channel grow and do well. “Insurance is kind of a thankless job,” Jay says. “You enter it to make people’s lives better, but you rarely get the thanks you deserve. This community deserves a little bit of inspiration, and not just in the form of sales talk. What are people trying to do to create new products, new propositions, and new business models that will actually help this space grow in ten years? How can we give these agencies the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their own destinies?

Agencies, therefore, aren’t lacking in friends or allies; they just have to start helping themselves and go meet these friends and allies in person. Talk to your agency’s leadership about who’s going to InsureTech Connect. Ask whether you can come as well. Bring a list of problems, and be ready to hear solutions. Meet people, ask questions, give out business cards, find Jay and badger him.

Find Ryan, too! Look for him, and for Indio’s booth, in the Agency Connect area on Monday, September 23. Message us on LinkedIn to let us know where you’ll be and if you want to hang out. We’ve created the Digital Broker LinkedIn group as a way to pregame for this sort of thing. Get in touch, and we will see you at InsureTech Connect!

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