Episode 16: Attention Hacking & Digital Scouting with Dr. Robin Kiera from Digital Scouting
The InsureTech Geek Podcast powered by JBKnowledge is all about technology that is transforming and disrupting the insurance world. We will be interviewing guests and doing deep dives with our own research and development team in technology that we see changing the industry. We are taking you on a journey through insurance tech, so enjoy the ride and geek out!
JAMES: And we are here today with our fantastic guest Dr. Robin Kiera, otherwise just Robin, just Robin. Consulting, marketing, personal and virtual speaker for Digital Scouting. Robin thank you for joining us today.
ROBIN: Yeah, thank you very much for being here.
JAMES: Yeah, I appreciate it. Where are you joining us from?
ROBIN: I call Hamburg Germany my home.
JAMES: Nice. So, is this your house? Is this your Home Office, or are you at the office?
ROBIN: No, if you do not tell anybody, it is my office, but I am the only one here, so I think that is okay, but do not tell anybody.
JAMES: That’s fine.
ROBIN: The police comes you know?
JAMES: Yeah, I know. Dude that is fine. You can be in your office if you are by yourself. That is no big deal. That is awesome. So, Hamburg, now I have not been to Hamburg, I went to Frankfurt and then I went all around Bavaria, but I have not been to Hamburg. Were you born and raised there?
ROBIN: No, I was not born and raised there, but we have been living here for the last decade at least so, I think I have never lived anywhere longer than Hamburg.
JAMES: So, let us talk about you before we talk about Digital Scouting and Insurtech and everything else. Walk me through, where did you grow up, what did you dream of being when you were a kid, and then how did you wind up here?
ROBIN: Yeah well, I always dreamed of becoming two things, a pilot but I think in nowadays it is not a good career choice anymore or a professional soccer player for Hamburg Sports Club, which I never achieved because I had a lot of passion, but I was always very bad at it. You know we always need passion but not people that are bad at it, so I never made it over the, I think second–lowest league, but at least I played a little bit of leak. But I come from Cologne, we moved to the middle of Germany which is, a few hundred kilometers or miles away. I went to school there and I did have a life before insurance. And one might not believe that. I worked for a large medical technology company for a family that owned it. Super interesting time because you know we had this senior entrepreneur that build this company from 3000 to 60,000 people into a multibillion–dollar company and he was like this very honest, very honest person. And he is still a role model when that comes to being an entrepreneur and how to do business because I never had a contract with him. And I worked for several years form them and that was very interesting to see these handshake deals work.
Yeah, and then I went to the insurance industry which is quite a different field when it comes to that and I started as and sales agent. I went out and tried to sell insurance policies on the couches, here in Hamburg and the rural areas of around it. Sometimes successfully and sometimes not and I was complaining a lot in those days because you got 15 pounds heavy laptops and cell phones that you could only call people with, you know like no mobile internet or anything and then in the same side you had like sometimes CICO’s visiting us and then like they were telling us about the new bright future and there was no contact to the relative to what we had out there, and so I was ranting a lot but instead of firing me they put me into the headquarter in Munich and there I led large scale transformation projects and also short and midterm emergency projects. So, we were never the most popular employees around, at least not for others, but that allowed me the opportunity to not only learn nuts and bolts of sales but also how insurance companies are working from the inside.
JAMES: What lines did you sell? Were your lines, were you a personal lines broker or a commercial Lines?
ROBIN: Whatever the customer wanted. I wanted the customer to buy it. No. Life, health, life health and PNC.
ROBIN: What I never did very well were financial products. Sometimes a little mortgage, which I think is a very good product, but I never went to the stock thing because you know it is not my strong suit and I think it is a big problem in insurance. In finance in Australia, you have bankers that are very good with some of these products, but they do not have a clue about insurance. And they have like, typical agents like me, that have the boldness to sell a mortgage and maybe a fund but that is it. So, I think that I was a typical agent, yeah.
JAMES: So, you found a calling in sales. Now let us, I am going to wind back for just a second.
JAMES: I too wanted to be an awesome soccer player. I mean I wanted to be a great soccer player. I did. I played goalie from when I very first started, I was always a goalie. You know the high–pressure position. The last person and the best I ever got, I got to play some time at the top team in my high school but never made the select leagues. I never got to go up into the ranks, I just was not good enough. The heart was willing, but the skill was not there. It is what it came down to. Anything involving aim, I was terrible at, so I was a very physical defender.
ROBIN: Yeah me too.
JAMES: Because I was, I was tall you know? I was 6’1 what is that? It’s about 2 meters or something and over 100 kilos so a hundred kilos and 6’1 so I had some weight and some height to really, you know get physical, and so I got physical, but I didn’t have the skill. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it but now I will second you on the pilot thing. I went ahead and did that. I am a private pilot.
ROBIN: Ah cool.
JAMES: Yeah so, I fly, usually two days a week, I will be in the air, even during all this it is a great way to take your mind off of things. I love flying. I did not find my calling as a professional pilot. I wanted to be a private pilot and I am friends with through Facebook groups with a bunch of pilots in Germany. You have a day very different thing going on there with general aviation. Your gas prices are way higher than ours, so it is a little bit harder to be a private pilot in Germany because they do not make it easy on you with the fuel prices. But, or the VAT on buying a plane. They charged this incredible amount of tax to buy an airplane, but it is a heck of a hobby. So, you and I share that passion. I also love selling. I never did insurance sales but let us walkthrough. You jumped into being a broker, personal and commercial lines, PNC, health, and life, and yeah, that is a lot of lines to cover. What led you to Digital Scouting?
ROBIN: Well, maybe one thing that I found quite striking was that you had this insane sales system, that the headquarter was deciding that I needed to sell accident insurance in February, not in March, because then it is supplementary health insurance month. And I found it so insane that we needed to call clients, they were on a list on our portfolio, and they were allocated randomly. So, I asked the CISO’s when we had the reward trips and all of that, I asked them always, how does headquarter know that Mrs. Meyer that I am visiting in February needs accident insurance. And they always said, we do not. I said, why should I sell her that, you know? Maybe she wants life insurance, maybe she wants a mortgage, whatever. And I found always that we called a lot of clients throughout the year and then they said, oh, thank you that you are calling. Two months ago, I bought a new house. I was like, that is not good because we should have provided the mortgage. We should have provided the whole house being insured and all related insurance, term life, and whatever.
So, it seems never, or almost through luck, to hit a person, to meet a client, when they were in a moment of need. So, there was a big detachment and on the same side, you had this insane sales mechanism and system that make you sell certain products in certain ways. So, I felt that it was, came in a century ago when you did not have any literature knowledge about your clients it was okay. And by the way, these insurers, at least in central Europe, they came out of the time like 100-120 years ago. Mostly same structures as armies command and control, and all of that, but it had nothing to do with the reality I think of the 21st century so that was my main anger at the time. So, I was an angry sales agent, I mean I was good at sales, but I was an angry sales agent.
JAMES: It is never good to be an angry sales agent.
JAMES: Not good. It is not good for sales.
ROBIN: Yeah. And you had also, in the internal department where we worked also insane things, so I was always very angry about these insanities. And I was this very simple kid that called out these things without thinking about how we could change these things. And Digital Scouting came into existence because, fast forward, I worked for banks and insurers and startups and we build super successful products that made me a little bit independent. Because I was thinking, well you could always find a job in IT or whatever, and then I at some point, three years ago, four years ago I went on stages and I talked about all these topics that annoyed me in the industry and I always thought that the last thing that I spelled out went I was on stage was “If I never find a job in that industry again, I don’t care.” And what happened was that I didn’t get boo–ed of or beaten off stage, but you know not everybody laughed about my jokes when I said we will meet again in 10 years but only half of you people will be here, because of AI and other things.
ROBIN: Yeah, you are laughing!
JAMES: Yeah, you know I am in professional speaker, and I have spoken at hundreds of conferences and I have said some things like that. It goes over well with part of the crowd and poorly with another part of the crowd. Because they know their heads are on the block.
ROBIN: Yes, and I always said, do not laugh. Do not worry were not laughing. But I did not say that to make them mad, but to shock them, and to wake them up, and to say guys and girls you need to do now things. You need to do massive action. There are medicine and a cure out there for the situation you are in currently. I mean if you had a multibillion–dollar company, that you cannot as it sells products that are purely digital like in insurance policy, that you cannot buy it on the home page, it is insane you know. It is almost you should exchange the whole board just because of that. But what I wanted to say that point, those in the audience that were nodding first 2, 3 then 10,15, those people gave me a call and then they said Robin come by, have coffee and in the beginning, I had a lot of coffees. I didn’t even understand what I was doing was consulting and I will charge for that, but I got busy and a little bit later Digital Scouting come into existence, first as a blog but it exploded through speaking social media and then as a consulting company where we help insurers and banks in different ways, with digital strategy, with apps and with what I called Attention Hacking.
JAMES: And I think what I am hearing too, is that you had me broader thesis, that using a digital toolset, you can more accurately pair when people want to buy with who wants to sell to them. Because, that was the big disconnect before. Insurers were trying to sell insurance policies to people that either already purchased them or were not ready to purchase yet. And they were trying to shoehorn it into an artificial timetable.
ROBIN: Exactly. And what I found out when I was due to my passionate, believe about the state of the industry when I was ranting on stages, and when I was also producing a ton of content and at some point with team members that would produce bad act graphics, and animations and videos and all of that, and suddenly these insurers came to me and I said like, this is a nice sales situation that the client comes to us and we don’t do any things around then the client comes to us. And then I was thinking, this is what very-very good agents do over decades. They create a situation in which everybody in a community knows them, and they come to them, the client comes to them in the moment of need. So, there is no detachment but because they did the work. And I think in these days insurers and banks and especially insurers, can create a situation where they do not push into the market, but where the clients, the ones that are in need, they pull themselves out and come to you. But you need to do a lot of things about that.
ROBIN: And I always say we need to make the customer and the client come to us.
JAMES: Yeah exactly. I mean, that’s marketing. I always say marketing is generating demand, sales are converting demand into revenue. There seems to be a lot of people who are confused about the difference between marketing and sales and they use the phrases interchangeably which just bothers me. I am like no, no, no. Marketing is thought leadership, content, its campaigns, marketing is getting people who want your stuff and then sales are taking that demand and converting it to revenue like, they are two very different things. Ideally directed by the same person. I like having a chief revenue officer who overseas revs marketing and sales, but not everybody does that because of political battles and all the things that happen at the insurance companies. But you know what I am saying.
JAMES: It is a fascinating Robin. Rob, now you introduced me to Robin. I would just love to hear how you all met and then what your thoughts are on the digital transformation of the sales process. I know that you spent time thinking and writing about this.
ROB: Yeah so, I do not remember exactly how I Met Robin. I started following him on social media, he is well known out there, then Attention Hacking got my attention, from Digital Scouting. I know we met at a couple of ITC’s and it probably most memorably, we were at The Magic of Innovation in Vienna last fall.
ROB: And we got to both be on stage talking and I got to meet Robin’s beautiful bride and beautiful daughter. And we got a little bit of time there to hang out in a way that most often at these events we just kind of very much ships passing and then I get to say a quick hello but-but don’t get to spend a lot of quality time together. Robin was kind enough to have me on his life show that he started over the past month during the Corona Virus, so we all stayed home and whatever. The Attention Hacking continues for long and he’s had just an amazing guest on each day over the last month, kind of talking about the state of Insurtech, pretty all around the globe so, yeah Robin, and I’ve seen some of his speeches and particularly the passionate speed about insurance agencies and where they need to go and from his upbringing and experience and in Germany so Robert, I was just kind of curious if your recollections of connections and some of these events over the years, and maybe you have one or two or events that are stood out you and I don’t know if it’s because of its location or the people that you met or whatnot so I’m curious to get your thoughts as we both kind of travel the globe and casually run into each other at these events.
ROBIN: Yeah. You were all very kind not to mention the place, the restaurant, we dragged you into which was the doubtful food quality. But you were very kind and we made you eat all our specialties. German specialties and so we all got very excited about it, and he was very kind to eat it all. I am not sure how you felt the next day, but it was very–very kind of you that you ate all that you know my daughter was tearing the place apart. But again, so yeah when it comes to the conferences, we had great events. Magic of Innovation in Vienna I think it is very familiar. Not too big you know but a very-very special atmosphere, I think. I am a big fan of the large ones, InsureTech Connect I think, I keep my fingers crossed that Jay, Somara, and the whole team and MJ can pull this through and if it is going to, I will come no matter what. At least when they let me into the country.
So, let us see about that but then I am not allowed to leave. DIA in Europe is super important. You have InsureTech insights also very important. I think we have a lot of great events and small regional events and all through Europe and even some companies that do great events internal ones, in Holland. I was at Keelan forward which was some form of inland company which also a very nice regional event where you could learn and feel a lot about the region. I think they have a lot of great events and I hope, I really-really-hope that they take off again with this whole very beautiful InsureTech community insurance community that, you know sometimes we are competitors, some service providers are competitors but there is so much help going on. Not only lawsuits but really-really-much help going on behind the scenes and trying to make insurance better. It sounds pathetic and maybe I am blind, but I think that is something very beautiful, but I hope, I think we need to work on this and that is why it is so important that you guys also do this podcast. We need to work on this that it stays like it and that we return and become stronger after this end continues this very nice culture.
JAMES: Yeah. Robin let us just dive into some topics, but you end up working with clients on. Like, because you talked about using digital tools to more closely pair the timing. Because timing is everything in sales, it is 100%. Timing is everything to pair buyers and sellers to bring a lot of efficiency to the marketplace. Because ideally you drive the amount of time of the sale out and you help the buyer and the seller so that is one of your big topics. But walk me through what else you consult with folks on. And what are the pain points out there?
ROBIN: The two big pain points are the inefficiencies of managing sales units. So, you have the tide arm tied agent and broker, that is one story, but you have the hundreds and thousands of sales managers that manage these tied and untied or employed agents and brokers. And what is the reality? They step into the car, drive to three or four meetings a day, sometimes you go also visit them and accompany the agent or broker to a client, and that is it. So, they are 5 touchpoints a day. Then they have maybe a 100 or 50 or a 100 or 150 know people to work with, depends on the size of the company. That is super old school and inefficient. What I always say is you need to talk to your target group, and this can be your end customer, or it can be your agent or broker. You need to talk to them daily. And then they say why Robin, I have 150, I cannot talk to everybody daily and I say you can. Use technology, trade content and the magic is that you are doing it as a sales manager in that region. For you, 150 people involved in risk assistants and secretaries and employees are maybe 300 to 400 people. They know you. And it so makes so much difference.
If you run statistical tests on this, it makes such a big difference if you as a sales manager share content from the headquarters, by the way, nobody cares about that, maybe if there’s a great soccer clip behind it but that’s it, or if you do something. We have for example what we do with different sales channels, it can also be via banks being that the sales managers create content, tailor–made for a small target group their people they would normally visit, and then also call for action and say, please sell supplementary health insurance. This is not a teeth month. The magic is that the touchpoints increase and when I know one thing in sales is if you increase the number of touchpoints with a certain group, those who are likely to buy or act on your behalf will, and that is what we see. We see that the reduction of travel cost by 50% which is a big amount and we see the increase of revenue of up to 30% and I think that is something very beautiful and you know what’s funny, they have a lot of fun doing all of this. And they create a community of fans. And that is the sales manager‘s side. If you go to the agent and broker side, what we do is we able them the units that manage them you regularly or normally to enable them to also use these benchmarking tools. And it is easier for them from a cultural thing.
It is easier for them because of the very successful agents, they have done it. They went from door to door in their town 20 years ago. Now they are all like super successors and everybody comes to them, but I did that 20 years ago. Or they are super in a certain ethnic group because they belong to it or have some proximity it and I have this friend who is Croatian, and I think insurances every second Croatian in German. Because you know he walked the walk, he went there, he did it, he went to all conventions, he went to all his friends and weddings and all of that. And take this again and put it in the digital world. How can you as an agent constantly continuously communicate with your clients in a way, they are consuming information today. Nobody reads white papers anymore. Scientific audiences. Some do okay yeah, but why do not put this content for your SME for your smaller midsize businesses into animations and videos and all of that, and again it is personal. They know you and do not only share the stuff the headquarter releases.
JAMES: I have wondered about that because you see a lot of white paper publishing, and you are going, is anybody reading these? And then you think at some point a lot of this marketing content becomes an echo chamber from marketers to read other marketers stuff, and it is only the marketing staff reading the other marketing staff content, just to review their marketing content to produce their marketing content?
ROBIN: Yes, and that is why we are so disliked by a lot of agencies. And do not like the word agency because that is for me an agency, we also get sometimes nominated for prizes and I never show up because I say, nothing matters. I do not care about opinion about another marketing, I care about the opinion of the customer. As I think it’s an insane idea, but you ask about white papers, especially in the need of this space, maybe some super in a cybersecurity space, if you are a super nerd or actuary, you read it but not for the decision–maker. What we do is, when clients come to us and say we have a white paper, I say, first of all, I shout and cry a little bit, and then I say okay, to not make this a waste of money, let’s shove it up. Give me the 10 best points. Let us do animation is out of this, let us do small videos out of this, let us do if and FAQ’s about it. Because the intellectual content is great, but the performance is horrible. It is like when somebody would send you a CD.
JAMES: Yeah I call it chloroform, You know like it, you want someone to pass out, give him a white paper, give them five bullet points, like when you look at risk and insurances daily emailer it’s just five bullet points but they keep it clear cut I for a reason. Rob, I know you have a lot of opinions on this.
ROB: Yeah, it is funny since somebody that wrote a long form book that is over 300 pages, kind of going back through it, it is like chopping that up, is something that I have not done or can as easily do. I have written some shorter pieces, some articles based on the content in a book and I think those have gotten as much if not more residence then a 300-page book, so, it is an audiobook.
ROB: That has become popular which is great, but, then again I think that the audiobook it’s 8½ pages and about 8½ hours of content, but its back in the days when we were commuting to work and back that’s kind of 45 minutes right there, 45 minutes back. You can knock it out in a week, so it is good for that. But I agree with you guys, is just a wide range of different content and again Attention Hacking, I love that because there is so much thrown at us on social media, and our email inboxes and everything. Robin, I wanted to go right in and to ask you, I mentioned the live shows that you’ve been having, and again, you are one of the most global, if not the most global traveler and I know that you are kind of staying at home anchored down in this time recently but you are still talking to Thought leaders from all over the world. Are there any common themes that have come out in some of those life show conversations or others in terms of where people are, kind of at this moment in 2020, as it relates to insurance and InsureTech and your thoughts on what is to come over the next year?
ROBIN: Yes, I would put it into the three f’s. I would say one topic is fast, one topic is fear and the other topic is furious. Let put me, what do I mean by that? I think everybody was surprised that the global insurance industry, with people still working with paper books, that they were able to go into a full remote mode within days. That is incredible. If you would have offered me a bet, and said, I do not know, give me $1000 and I give you $10,000 back, let us do that. I would have not invested. I would have said not in 10,000,000 years this is going to happen. Not with a gun the heads of most CTO’s, and CRO’s and whatever. I was so solemnly positively surprised, I was pretty sure about a lot of small and midsize insurer, even some larger ones that I’ve been doing their homework, and not only opening a funny lab, but doing something, so I was sure about them but a lot of other places I wasn’t sure about. So, I was deeply in disrespect for the injury, I was wrong, you were right, and I am solemnly surprised. And that is around the world. You see and hear about cases about insurers without the digital signature, without the online application process, so there are some bumps, but we have not heard about an operational implosion, so I think that is good. I mean again, there are some exceptions but overall, the market has done a very great job and I think nobody has expected this.
JAMES: Yeah. Robin, I have seen some hilarious memes of, what is it takes for my company to get serious about digital transformation, and I said profitability, cash flow, innovation, forward–thinking, massive world–ending pandemic. And it was like, it took the pandemic. It took the pandemic.
ROBIN: But taking the fast, also comes the fear. Of course, nobody will now disallow zoom or other streaming technology, I will say, again home office is a devil and will lead to the end of insurance. And nobody will say this anymore. We have other emerging technology out there. For example, voice. You know again right now, you know the same people that told me five weeks ago that home office is not possible at their company, and there and their log mainframe, and the cloud is a devil, and now they say there is a difference because COVID 19 told them so, but now they are saying the same stupid argument against other technology that will also, or has involved in other industries.
So, I think there is also the fear around the world that we do not take this positive experience off the way we adapt it to the situation and that we have the same old naysayers, saying nay, no to the next things. And I think that is something that Bill Clinton said at the funeral of Hamlet Cole, he said no historic victory is permanent. And I think that is something we can take away from here too, no historic victory is permanent. If we don’t do anything so that is so important that innovators in the insurance industry continue to search, continue to do, continue to be the pain in everybody else and say we need to do the unpleasant things that don’t feel good because it’s the right thing to do. And when it comes to furious, yeah I think when we have the industry continue this path, take our learnings from this, move forward, and keep the speed up we have today, we have a furious future ahead of us and I see this also around the world.
JAMES: Yeah that is awesome. There is a lot to unpack in what you just said, in particular around, there are things that you cannot walk back from this right? Because it forced the case in point, right? It forced the proof that first off, we can use way more digital tools, and Robin, JBKnowledge right, we build software for insurance companies, we have two products for insurance companies, we’ve got two offices in Argentina, one in South Africa and one year in the US. We were, and we are all digital, we went to work from home in 24 hours I mean, we got it done. But we are 212 people I mean, it was a lot of work and our IT staff was crazy busy, but we were not still just fully utilizing all the tools that we had, even to connect internally with our staff. We are using teams about 10 times as much now as we did before this.
To get to know each other, to connect, and then we have completely transformed our strategy on how we are connecting to our clients. The way we call them, the way we email them, the way we reach out on social media, the content we post on social media, redo our schedules. It is been a wholesale rework so I think what has been exciting is that we realized that there is a lot of things that we could have been doing 3 months ago that we were not that we can do now. So, I agree with you completely. Let us force the issue, let us prove the point. Robin you and I both know though, that there are going to be some very traditional, old–line insurance folks that will seize on one or two failures during this time and exploit that to return to old habits. How do we combat the inevitable naysayers that is going to try and roll this back?
ROBIN: Just asked him where they were March 16th and what did they contribute to the saving of the company. Then they will be a lot of quietness’s, and then the discussion is over. Well, of course, it’s not so easy but I would say that is something I think also companies can see, and managers can see, senior decisionmakers can see, when they look at their companies, who contributed in the crazy days of going remote and also now, to the value of the company who is keeping pushing and coming with solutions and who did not. I can tell you about a funny coincidence how we got a client at one of the largest companies at an Insurance Cia in center Europe. It was not the CISO, it was not some senior VP, it was not some decision–maker, it was somebody in a certain line of business in the sales department, that could not sell anymore. They have sales targets to hit, and they still have that stupid system we talked about and they could not visit the clients and they came to us and said how can we use this internet thing, and do this with the clients? And so, but this is a minority, but you need to identify these people I think and to push them. And I think as a decision–maker it is your job to look at your employees and your team members and say, who has been supporting, who has been part of the solution, who is now obviously part of the problem.
ROB: Robin so you and I now for the last couple of years, I have done the last couple of years, you have done it longer. Our jury members on the EFMA Accenture Innovation and Insurance Awards, and we get the privilege of getting to see companies from all over the globe and kind of rate and judge and give out trophies to those with some of the best inventions and we are supposed to meet in Milan later this year, but they now switched to virtual so bummer that we won’t be able to connect in early June and Milan in person.
ROBIN: Warm Milan.
ROB: Oh my gosh I know. Bummer. So hopefully there will be another opportunity to connect at some point physically in person but I just kind of want to get your thoughts on the awards in general and are there any innovations that you have seen either through this process or others that stuck out you know 2,3 trends that maybe you’re just thrilled about seeing that you think are hot and kind of spread around?
ROBIN: Well there are two things that I see. There are two things I see. The one thing is, of course, we do not see so many in InsureTech that say we are going to save all problems of the whole value chain. So, you see more and more selective people that do selective things and there was one very impressive one at the EFMA at Amsterdam and the platform App Store for insurance software that was connecting by different APIs and connecting different core systems. Something super complicated but in a no brainer I was very mad at myself that I did not have that million-dollar idea, so and they are from Holland and they are CSS called, so that impressed me and a lot of other great service providers. We have one in Skandaraj here in a small east German city that does crazy things with house scanning or flies reel in the US, which is also super interesting when it comes to that combined AI and in these cases in the insurance industry. I think you would need to go through all certain cases but what I also see, what I think is more exciting, that slowly you see midsize and small like insurers or departments from large insurers that started two or three years ago, interesting product now reaping the benefits. We see interesting digital products, we see suddenly growth rates at insurers that you haven’t heard of you know these insurers growing 10, 15, 20, 25% in certain segments and I think that is something that I’m happy about that those who did their homework now also reap the benefits.
JAMES: Yeah that is awesome. That is awesome. I agree. Some of these investments Robin takes time. Sometimes two or three years. This is a long play which in the politics of insurance, you know these are very political entities. Political games are short played games. There are very few people that play long and that results in some efforts that truly are going to transform a company, getting cut at the knees, before they get a chance to heal the results and that’s what’s interesting about what you just said, is that there are some significant results if you realize now from investments made in 2017, 2016, 2018, that took 2,3 or 4 years to play out. We‘ve developed some digital products for some brokers and carriers that have taken 2,3 and 4 years to see, not the completion of the project usually the IT part, the part where we build the software and we build the system, that would take six months nine months a year and a half, adoption takes 2 years. To get everybody excited and using the product it can take, and sometimes it takes an economic change. Right now, there are projects on the surety side of the insurance business that is being used much more than six months ago because now there is a significantly higher walk away or default risk and typical and paying to attention to that now and so they are piling in these digital products that were completed two or three years ago. It is a very interesting Robin.
ROBIN: Great timing is everything, is not it?
JAMES: Timing is everything. We built a product that managed pre-qualification of contractors and then bidding with him for the construction business so we worked with insurance brokers on this, we worked with the carriers come on we work with people that we’re involved in the surety site and no one was interested in buying it in 2006. In 2007 they were just so busy, and things were just so good, and everybody was doing so well that still, we were only moving a few units of the software. 2008 mid–2008, September 8th, 2008. Lehman Brothers collapses, the economy creators, and all of a sudden everyone got very interested in this technology and 12 years later when we sold SmartBid, it had ¼ million companies a week using it and it all resulted in the timing. Timing is everything. Timing is everything, Robin.
ROBIN: Yeah and I think you touched two interesting points, the political situation, and timing. What I always say, you have a lot of good, large scale companies with deep pockets that do interesting projects, but a lot get killed after 1½ years. My most favorite example is my former employee Allianz. I mean I still love them, don’t worry about that, but like for example a great project like Allianz Bank, even before PST2 and open banking that would, you know they shut it down after 1½ years or Allianz X which is also company builders, that was super interesting and approach, and again I am not in the shoes of the decision–maker so I don’t know all details but corporates tend to measure new units, new ventures independently at the color or if the insurer if is blue or not, very quickly with return on investment, and I think that’s important to have that perspective on it. Like you never have the return of the investment from the legal department or the HR Department or almost no department but only the new ones and that’s I think not fair, and I think a lot of incumbents are losing a lot of opportunities by doing that. Again, do not waste money that you know never bring you anything back. I think the return on your investment is something very important but to kill projects too early or corporations it is a sickness in the industry, I think.
ROBIN: And you said timing is everything, I think we have seen InsureTech here that now had their best month. Get Save is one here for millennials, big competitor of Lemonade actually, and they had their best months in March. Or Amila which is for business insurance commercial insurance, had their best month in March because a lot of brokers were looking for somebody willing to accept their applications and others had some problems so I think that our opportunities, and I wish there are a lot of players out there that did their homework and went the extra mile are now rewarded.
ROB: I mean, we had Sabine vander Linden on a few episodes ago and she was emphasizing resilience going forward and kind of what you were describing there. I think about being available right when you need it most. And James, kind of similar to your story right, on timing and product availability. And it is difficult to get right but I think that that robustness, that resilience is what a lot of people are looking for. Hey if you are signing is still, if your lights are still on, that means a lot in today’s environment. Just that availability to pivot and flex and take advantage of the market opportunities as they come.
JAMES: Yeah absolutely. Well, fascinating discussion. Rob and I want to do something new for our podcast and I told Rob we are going to do this. And we are going to use your site. I just want to talk about a couple of news articles that you posted on your site. And I thought they were interesting, so I just want to get your opinion on them since you posted them, and they came out and this is again, on Digitalscouting.de that is for “Deutschland, Deutschland!” Sorry, if you from the south in Germany you tend to yell you are German. So, my family is from the north by the way, so northeast. My grandmother was in North–East Germany. Interestingly they had bailed out of Germany during the last major pandemic in 1990.
ROBIN: Ah! Fascinating.
JAMES: Yeah. Little random news there so okay. So, let us go into news, gate workers, this is from you, you posted an article from we forum, gate workers are amongst the hardest hit by the Corona Virus pandemic, of course, the impacts of insurance as well. Why do you think gate workers are getting crushed when we are depending on them so much for deliveries and connection?
ROBIN: Well I think we can put it in two buckets. One bucket is those who are needing, and we need a lot and by the way, we are just guarding in a way the gate workers too because we are like a hitman for certain problems to be solved quickly. But we see also a lot of gate workers and consultants getting laid off in the air industry and transportation and the hospitality industry, so I think certainly that they are hit pretty bad there and that could be a substantial problem because these industries do not recover quickly to old levels, and then a lot of peoples will be out of business permanently.
JAMES: Yeah, it is an interesting economy. We kind of have this massive divergence of demand and supply on certain categories of jobs and particularly the transportation gate workers and delivery and then you have like the babysitting and the people that are face to face. All the free-lance on sites and massage therapists. They are completely out of work. Babysitters, completely out of work. And then you have delivery drivers who they cannot find enough of them, so they are having to retool the entire gate worker economy quickly. Rob, I am sure you have seen this same thing in your town if you try and schedule it delivery with Favor or HEB?
ROB: Yeah absolutely. If we see the search and demand for warehouse workers and our janitorial staff and meanwhile like you said it is a lot of layoffs and others. So, this huge heap of people in the economy that is going on dynamisms is unreal. I mean Robin you mentioned fast earlier, so there has been an accelerant I think and especially some of the digital trends that we mentioned as well.
JAMES: Yeah and Robin the second final article, I want to talk about that you posted. Lockdown, cybersecurity demands grow and a met shortage of professionals. Now, I mean this is even before COVID-19 there was a really high demand for cybersecurity professionals. And we had a supply–demand problem now it is getting worse Interestingly I got an email from my cyber carrier this morning notifying and warning us that cybersecurity attacks and attempts and fraudulent invoice swapping, they are skyrocketing. Like it is not a little increase, it is a massive increase. So, my carrier, and I am not going to name who they are, but they are very-very large major carrier in the cyber and E&O space, is notifying customers that there has been a drastic increase in the number, frequency, and severity of cyberattacks. All of this happening while you are reporting that there is a huge demand for cyber screening personal professional and is not enough of them. So, what are your thoughts about cyber Robin?
ROBIN: Well I think cyber was a big topic for the niche and experts. Yes, even they could not be satisfied by the markets. I have seen it several times and then there is also the ecosystem. I have seen some super interesting cybersecurity companies. I mean they all around the world, but it is just significant up there. And a lot of seasoned and entrepreneurs by the way. So what I think is that with the situation at home with way more Internet connections and VPN’s and whatever and all of that, that there might be an increase in the demands but I think it’s more in the increase in the consciousness that the systems that we use daily are vulnerable. And that is the idea a little bit behind this hypothesis but what is scary is that the market was not able to deliver in the amount of experts on the niche. People were not at all demanding it and now when the masses start, I think that is something interesting and also in something interesting for the insurance industry but because how do you name major cyber risk? It is not liked a mortality table that does not change in 100 years.
JAMES: Yeah, it is very fluid. Very fluid. And of course, you know we all know lawsuits are going to abound because of this. And certainly, there is a lot of business owners suing or threatening to sue or lining up to sue, their general liability carriers for the loss of use of their office, and there are going to be a plethora and particularly in the United States because we are very lawsuit–happy. There are legislators here at the state level that are talking about forcing carriers to payout general liability claims even though it’s not covered, a pandemic is not covered in their policy or it’s explicitly excluded, they are talking about overriding insurance contracts at the state legislative level? I mean like this stuff has not been passed yet but there is a wild-wild discussion. That being said we are going to cover some of your news articles in other episodes because you have got a good mind for news curation. I encourage everybody to go and check out digitalscouting.de and our illustrious guests, and I will only use his formal name one more time doctor Robin Kiera. Robin thank you I think your dad is right behind you, tapping on your shoulder and saying that is me. Now thank you so much for joining us today and Rob as always, thank you so much for the introduction and the great discussion,
ROBIN: Thank you for having me.
This has been the InsureTech Geek Podcast powered by JBKnowledge is all about technology that is transforming and disrupting the Insurance world. I have been your Host James Benham with Co-Host, Rob Galbraith, endofinsurance.com Thanks to Jim greenly our Podcast Producer, Kara Dalton-Arro, our ROR Creative Producer, and thank you for joining us today.