Looking out 10 years from today, what’s a reinvented, successful agency going to look like?
I think probably the most important thing is that the agencies will become less clerical and more advisory in their work. For better or for worse, quite a lot of an agent’s job today is coaching the client through how to complete an application and the types of policies they need. The part where they’re literally just helping a client fill out an application is totally unnecessary. There are tools and technologies that are scalable, which agents can adopt, and those will allow them to offload that work, which is how they become more efficient.
They can then reinvest that time into relationships with clients and advisory work with them and end up having a more trusted relationship with them. It gives agents the opportunity to help clients get exactly the coverage they need…and they may even use technology to help figure out what their clients need.
As technology plays a greater role, do we reach the point where it takes over? Can artificial intelligence and machine learning replace the agents and brokers?
In some situations, yes, but certainly not in all situations. The commercial P&C space I’m very familiar with, and I do think that artificial intelligence and machine learning can be very helpful for underwriting policies at the small, simple risk level. I think over time what’s defined as small will grow. How far that will grow, I’m not sure. What I can tell you is that anybody who is spending, today, $5,000 or more on an insurance policy, is going to want to have a conversation with somebody about what they should do.
So maybe the AI there can help make recommendations and tips, but the anecdotal experience that an agent gives you to say, “Hey, here’s what I think and why,” is critical, and a business decision maker making a choice about what limits to get, what coverages to get, and the buyers don’t have time over the course of their year to figure this out on their own.
Broker Buddha has announced deals recently with wholesalers and leading brokerages. Can you talk about your overall strategy and how those deals fit in?
Our goal is to be an operating system for the entire commercial insurance industry. We’re talking about being an interface for the insured to access their policy information and apply for policies. We’re talking about having an interface for retail brokers to be able to engage with their clients, collaborate on applications, review policy information and then also an interface for the brokers to interact with their market partners—the wholesalers, carriers and MGAs.
So at the end of the day, the end goal is to connect everybody on the same platform at the same time, reducing the amount of time it takes a business to get the coverage it needs. One of the key focuses of our approach is to have a very design-led customer experience. And by customer, here, I mean insured, broker and carrier. So having spent 10 years in the consumer internet space, I recognized how important design was when it comes to building a brand and creating engagement with your users.
When you build a mobile app, you can’t train people how to use it. You don’t have that freedom. It’s got to work intuitively out of the gate; it’s got to look great; it’s got to be addictive. Those are a lot of the lessons I learned at my time at Shazam and Tumblr and building my own businesses. And so we’re using design as a weapon to enter the space and compete with, candidly, what are some pretty poor-looking technology products in the insurance space.