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Electronic Chat with Chris Cheatham, CEO, RiskGenius

Chris Cheatham is CEO of RiskGenius, which uses pending Policy Analytics technology to analyze insurance policies and categorize them based on common industry terminology. Users can then instantly locate key clauses across one or more policies, streamlining the review process. Cheatham is also managing partner of Cheatham Consulting LLC, which provides advice on construction and surety issues.

You describe yourself as the “Luke Skywalker of Insurance Policies.” What are the main similarities between you and Luke? And if you’re Luke, who’s Darth Vader?

Ha! Luke is constantly fighting a battle between the Light Side and the Dark Side of the Force. As a recovering attorney, I do the same thing, but for me, the battle is about insurance policy language. The Dark Side demands that commercial insurance policies should be like personal insurance; that no one should read the policies and the language should be the same. However, the Light Side believes that contract language matters and that commercial insurance demands nuances among product offerings.

Darth Vader is anyone who believes commercial insurance is a commodity.

Your professional background is wide ranging – your degree is in political science, you’re an attorney, you’re LEED accredited, and an insurance consultant. What’s the common thread running through all of these?

The common thread is that I like to learn about new or emerging ideas. When I was an attorney, I loved to dig into a new construction case and try to figure out what went wrong. When green buildings and LEED certification became all the rage, I wanted to learn about possible legal disputes that could result. And, with RiskGenius, and now Bold Penguin, I wake up and wonder how digital insurance is evolving and how I can help.

Also considering your background, how did you become involved in insurance?

It was mostly luck -- out of law school, I got a job at a law firm that did insurance and surety disputes. It was not my first choice, but once I got started, I realized I enjoyed sorting out who was right.

RiskGenius has been around long enough to no longer be characterized as a startup. What are your plans for the near and distant future?

We recently announced that we were acquired by Bold Penguin. We are very excited to contribute to the Insurance Intelligence effort at Bold Penguin.

The company recently entered into a partnership with Guy Carpenter to enhance surveillance of cyber exposure. How do these “ecosystems” help insurance overall, and does RiskGenius have other such partnerships in the pipeline?

Commercial insurance is complex. Much of this complexity is necessary -- with tons of business classes, exposures, and perils -- it’s a lot to juggle. Our company was built to tackle these complexities and make commercial insurance simpler, faster, and smarter for agents, carriers, and insureds. We live to make the ecosystem better. We’re not here to disrupt; we’re here to supercharge. That’s why these partnerships make sense.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your business?

There are obvious impacts. We are all working remotely. I used to travel every other week but I haven’t done that for six months. My tolerance for multiple zooms every day has gone way up.

We have also seen a dramatic escalation in digitization of commercial insurance. Bold Penguin saw a surge in quote starts after March 2020; they are quoting 100,000 small businesses per month now. Businesses expect to buy insurance online. The worldwide pandemic requires that the commercial insurance digitization work move from multi-year roadmaps to being ready now.

In general, where do you see technology taking the insurance industry over the next few years?

I think two things are happening now and will accelerate into the future. First, commercial insurance carriers are fixing the “pipes” that allow them to digitize the buying process. Bold Penguin is one example of this solution as it is now quoting over 100,000 small businesses per month.

Second, as carriers look to make the commercial insurance buying process even faster, augmentation and automation will have to be introduced. This is where artificial intelligence solutions, like those introduced by Bold Penguin’s Insurance Intelligence, will come into play.

What was the deciding factor for RiskGenius to merge with Bold Penguin?

Our cultures are aligned. Neither of our companies believes that commercial insurance is broken or needs disruption. Instead, our companies work to supercharge the commercial insurance buying process.

And the time is now for the digitization of commercial insurance. With COVID-19, small businesses are now open to buying insurance online. Bold Penguin and RiskGenius can better tackle the complexities of commercial insurance together. 

How will the merger improve services to existing customers of both companies?

The two companies are joining forces to deliver Insurance Intelligence solutions, both within and outside the Bold Penguin exchange. We expect that the velocity of released features will increase as the RiskGenius and Bold Penguin engineering and data science teams join forces.


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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.


April 5th – 7th, 2020
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