In the Spotlight on Small Commercial panel Tuesday afternoon, we heard from innovators in the small commercial space to discuss how they plan to transform small business insurance, go direct, streamline inefficiencies, and remove friction in the process, with a heavy focus on the consumer journey.

According to Scott Ham of McKinsey & Company, small business is said to be over a 40 billion dollar market, and still remains underinsured, suggesting a wealth of untapped opportunities for brokers and insurers.

Ilya Bodner, founder and CEO of Bold Penguin, said that his firm was taking a more broker-focused approach by providing an online marketplace so brokers can spend time on what really matters: serving as the trusted advisor to their client. On the other hand…

…James Hobson of Attune, Guy Goldstein of Next Insurance, and Ted Devine of Insureon said their efforts focused on going direct-to-consumer and disintermediating the small business segment. Goldstein in particular had a particularly “disruptive” outlook: he believed agents, especially in the small business space, are the most ripe for disruption and may not even exist in the next 5 to 10 years.

However, one thing they could agree on was that in the end, the most important thing in small commercial is smoothing out the customer experience and removing the friction in distribution. And with the exception of Goldstein, all panelists believed that brokers are here to stay, even if the “agent of the future” will take a different form. Bodner even pushed back on the idea that agents may become obsolete in the future, declaring that though the agent of the future might work through different models or under a different definition, agents will always play a role as the trusted advisor, and there will always be areas of insurance “that are too complex to fit on a 4 inch screen,” especially as you move upstream.

The key question—and there is no clear answer—was whether these new and innovative solutions in the small business segment will be able to move upstream to underwrite, price and sell larger risks. Ham’s view was that the winner in this space will ultimately be the incumbents as they move from learning from innovative models, to building their own and partnering with innovative solutions.