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Electronic Chat: Jay Weintraub

Robert Regis Hyle | September 01, 2016

This month we chat with Jay Weintraub, founder of InsureTech Connect, which he claims will bring together the largest, most focused, and relevant gathering of insurance technology entrepreneurs, investors, builders, buyers, and carriers to Las Vegas on Oct. 5-6. From distribution to pricing, new product development to underwriting, claims servicing to regulatory compliance—no part of the insurance value chain is safe from change. And, with $4 trillion in global premiums up for grabs, Weintraub believes we are at the tip of the innovation iceberg.

Do the changes insurance technology leaders face today make their jobs easier or more difficult?

WEINTRAUB: In the hundreds of conversations we have had over the past six months, we haven’t found anyone who has said, convincingly at least, that life is easier now. And, I would probably be slightly suspicious if someone actually did say that. Everyone seems unified in the belief that it will get better, but for those in operating roles, this rapid pace of innovation is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that technologies are coming to market to help improve all aspects of the value chain. It is a curse, because we all know that what we see now is the first wave. As a result, it becomes very difficult to know when to back a new technology. If you back it too soon, you risk having to go through the process again, or worse. If you back a technology too late, you risk falling behind your peers in the operational gains.

Why are companies from outside the insurance world suddenly so interested in this industry?

WEINTRAUB: In my opinion, the outside world’s interest in insurances comes from a collision of immutable forces –technological, cultural, and monetary. Many ideas we see aren’t new, but the technology didn’t exist in a way to make executing on them possible. On the cultural front, we have reached a tipping point of consumer expectations, driven both from Millennials but also from mass-tech companies like Apple, where the customers of today are demanding everything work seamlessly, digitally, and instantaneously. And, from a monetary perspective, we are still in a low interest rate environment where massive amounts of money are seeking returns. This perfect storm means we have entrepreneurs who have become aware of insurance, often as first-time consumers, as well as industry veterans with a vision to do externally what they couldn’t internally, and most importantly, money backing them.

What advice do you offer interested insurance companies that are saddled with legacy technology?

WEINTRAUB: Cliché as it may sound my advice would be to not lose sight of the core reason for one’s company to exist. You don’t exist because of the technology stack. The technology stack only facilitates what you fundamentally do. I would double down in areas that don’t require what may feel like a complete rebuild, e.g., customer service, if we are thinking externally and a culture of innovation, if we are thinking internally. By improving the former, you help improve retention, and by implementing the latter, you set yourself up for success during what will surely be difficult periods of transition.

There is a lot of noise in the market with publications, online offerings, and programs such as InsureTech Connect. What message stands out from what you are offering insurers?

WEINTRAUB: The short answer is scale, both in terms of quantity of attendees and quality. The longer answer is you are absolutely correct. Seemingly overnight, the landscape of coverage both online and off of insurance tech has exploded, and we are sensitive to the fact that we have helped contribute to that proliferation. We exist not because insurance innovation is hot, and we thought that was a good enough reason for a show. We were fortunate enough to have many conversations with entrepreneurs, investors, and incumbents, all of whom spoke of their desire to see a more complete picture of the innovation landscape and get answers to board-level questions. Each had distinct business issues that could be aided by a larger, global gathering of insurance innovation. Those conversations and our history of creating category-leading gatherings lead us to believe that not only could an event like ours add value but that we were the right people to do it.

What is one suggestion you would offer insurance technology leaders to get them through the next 18 months?

WEINTRAUB: No one has the answer. And, a close second would be, you are not alone. Related to above comment around creating a culture of innovation, the companies that I have spoken to that clearly are on the leading edge of technology adoption are those that have built a process and a practice for testing and implementing new technologies. It is clearly a monumental task and one so much easier to say than to do, but in my potentially biased and certainly limited world view, we must find a way for our companies to mirror what we would tell our children. And, what we would tell them is the importance of trusting one’s gut, being true to themselves, and arguably more importantly, being open to new ideas, knowing that every period of change comes with discomfort. The next 18 months will most likely be very uncomfortable in the traditional sense, so we must focus with the end in mind that we are living in and experiencing an incredibly exciting period that will result in us being able to serve our customers better and position our companies for long-term success. 

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The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.


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