Episode 18: The Evolution of Insurance, Not the Disruption of It with Bryan Falchuk from Insurance Evolution Partners
The InsureTechGeek 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 into specific technologies we see changing the industry. We are taking you on a journey through insurance tech. So, enjoy the ride and geek out!
JAMES: Alright, alight, alight, alright! Spring is starting to fade. Summer is coming out and particular in the South. Man, it was a hot week this week, getting into the nineties, in the 90% humidity and Texas is getting suffocating. So, yours truly, came up to the summer studio in Michigan for a few days to escape the heat. It is a whopping 61 here in Michigan. I am thoroughly enjoying that. Bryan. We have Bryan with us from Boston. He is wicked smart. And he is at the studio / office / house / promotion area / lounge. Bryan, how you doing?
BRYAN: Doing well.
JAMES: Good to see you. Good to have you on the show today. You got a nice set up there. You got a good mic. I can hear you deep. They say a good microphone, doing podcasting makes you appreciate a good microphone.
BRYAN: That is very true.
JAMES: I am telling you what, and also with us, of course, the most interesting man and we, and we have, we have discovered today the number one most interesting man in insurance. Rob Galbreith, Rob, how you doing?
ROB: I am doing great. James. Bryan, great to be with you today. And yeah, you are right. I think it might have even got to 101 here in San Antonio last week.
JAMES: In May?
ROB: In May. It is crazy.
JAMES: It is a crazy hot May. Oh man. You love Texas in the winter, man. You just got to appreciate this.
This was an easy winter to get through in Texas. I mean, it was fantastic. We had a great spring, two months of actual spring this year, and then summer is like, hey, you remember me? Yeah, I am back, and I am bringing friends and it is on, and Texas is kind of reopening now. Rob. Pretty much everyone does not give a crap about any of the restrictions, so they are doing whatever they want at this point. At least that is the way it is in College Station, man.
ROB: Yeah. I would say it is pretty similar here, so of course that means we are extra hunkered down.
ROB: When people venture out, so “-“
JAMES: You guys, go be the Guinea pigs there. We are going to stay here at the house and chill out. Bryan Boston locked down early, clamped down on construction too, I think. They had all kinds of things they, they claimed and, how is it going up there?
BRYAN: We only just started the lift on the 18th, and it is still, I just went to the supermarket yesterday for my weekly trip, where my wife hoses me down when I get back. Or she will not because she does not want to get near me afterward. But it still feels pretty much the same. Like there was always groups of people who were ignoring things. Like you would see teenagers, kind of walking together in town that has been happening the whole time. So, it does not feel different yet. And we got hit pretty hard. So, I think as a community, we are generally more apt to follow the rules on the whole. And of course, there’s always people who will not do that.
JAMES: Yeah. Texans are like, bring it on, and you better bring some guns! You got a bunch of militant gun potent and libertarians in Texas. There’s a reason policy’s a little different. It is a different world down here. But I would say, well, not a Michigan, Michigan. Whew. But enough of that.
We are going to talk about an InsureTech today. Before I do, we are going to have just a little brief reminder out there that if you want more information on the show, you want to check out the podcast. You want to check out the show notes, you want to check, you can sign up for our email newsletter we send you out to every week, and it is at JBknowledge.com/InsureTechgeek. You can click the subscribe now button and we will email you every week with the show notes and any articles we talk about, and the guests, the link to listen to it. You can also subscribe on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts. Anywhere you get a podcast, you can sign up and get the InsureTech Geek Podcast. So just go there, JBknowledge.com/InsureTechGeek and you can check that out. Back to our esteem guest, who we believe is the second most interesting man in insurance.
BRYAN: When Rob said is 101 in San Antonio, I thought he was about to say, I am the a hundred and first most interesting man in insurance.
JAMES: Do we have to get obscure and specific? We were talking before the show. I think you need to pick some random number, like 87th because “-“
BRYAN: I will take it.
JAMES: Who is going to contest that? It is kind of like one of my favorites- favorite books I just finished reading three months ago. “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss. If you have never read it. Holy crap. It is a knowledge bomb on your brain about how to negotiate. One of the things he says is you have to get very specific with a number. Do not offer $500. Offer for $492. They will believe you put a lot more thought into $492 then $500 so “-“
BRYAN: No one’s sniping me at 84 “-“
JAMES: Rob, has a laser pointed right at his head.
ROB: It is target on my back.
ROB: I used to have a mouse pad actually that said world’s best boss 1373rd runner up.
JAMES: No one’s going to contest that. They are not going to argue.
ROB: I was within the top 1400 of bosses of all times.
BRYAN: There you go!
JAMES: Hey, I got a random delivery question Bryan, In Boston, will they deliver alcohol to your house?
BRYAN: I do not know.
JAMES: You do not know?
BRYAN: So, I am going to lose half your audience or more. I am vegan and I do not drink.
JAMES: Oh, Bryan.
BRYAN: So, boom!
BRYAN: If it makes you feel better, I kind of have a liver condition. So, it is like “-“
JAMES: Okay, well, I will give you a pass on the drinking thing, but a vegan “-“
BRYAN: I do not think you can get liquor delivered, but I do not know. The liquor stores are open. We have got plenty of those.
JAMES: Oh, it is Boston. Oh, I know. I mean, I, so I lived in Boston. I turned 21 in Boston.
BRYAN: Oh, so you know it well!
JAMES: I was a consultant. You as well, did your time in the ranks. You were at McKinsey. I was at PricewaterhouseCoopers and they sent me there, for the summer of 2000 and I turned 21. The average temperature, I think was 55 degrees that summer. It was a nice, cool summer in Boston.
BRYAN: That is rare. That is very rare here.
JAMES: We had a great time. They took us to Clambakes on the beach in Maine. I lived in the Hyatt Regency there in Cambridge that is right on the river, and it was fantastic.
BRYAN: Stairstep looking hotel.
JAMES: Yeah, the Stairstep looking hotel. I was way up that thing and used to run around MIT and Harvard. I would go to Harvard yard and run around. And so, it turns out my 11th great grandfather, also JB, I am James Benham, James Benham, John Benham, came over in 1631 and the Mary & John landed in Massachusetts. And so, I am like an OG Mass-hole, right?
JAMES: I ’m like the original gangsta because my family lived there from 1631 till about 1680 or so.
BRYAN: The eighties.
JAMES: Yeah, the eighties the 1680s. It was great music. My 10th grade random trivia, my 10th grade grandmother was the last witch trial in Connecticut. They moved down to Connecticut and she was tried acquitted. Can you believe that? I found the trail. It was a legal proceeding. I found the trial notes. I am not kidding.
JAMES: So, I have deep roots in your neck of the woods. I am not a Patriots fan and I could give a fig that Tom Brady stuck a long, deep knife into your back, along with his boy Gronk and went down to Tampa Bay. Although I do find it a bit amusing. I am a New Orleans Saints fan since I grew up in South Louisiana.
BRYAN: It is fair.
JAMES: But let us talk about, you. You are from Boston. This generation, like I call it, I call back. How far back you go? Like 18 hundreds?
BRYAN: No, I ’m not famous so, my dad’s not from the US, he is South American and my mom’s family, she was born in New York.
JAMES: Oh, you are like first-generation Bostonian. You are young. You are young blood.
BRYAN: And my siblings, my oldest sister was born in Virginia and my brother was, well, he was born here, but yeah, like my next sister up for me are the only, like real born and raised here.
JAMES: Nice. Well, my, my grandmother, so different side than the long-standing Boston family, Nicaraguan. So, where is your dad from?
BRYAN: He is from Venezuela.
JAMES: Oh, and the Solano. And, I lived in Mexico when I was 15 and 16, so 95, 96. And, we have been operating in Argentina, JBKnowledge since 2002. We opened our office there. So, we have got almost 200 people down there in Argentina. Venezuela is an area that we avoid pretty actively.
BRYAN: Yeah. It is the right call, which is, it is really sad.
JAMES: Yeah. It is super, super duper sad. As crazy as the Colombians used to go to Venezuela to escape the FARC and all the other crap “-“
BRYAN: Now it is completely the opposite.
JAMES: And now it is the opposite. Now they are going to Columbia.
BRYAN: Columbia is fantastic.
JAMES: Yeah. Now they are super capitalist and they kicked, they settled, they did not kick the FARC out. They settled the feud.
ROB: The same thing with the drug trade and everything.
BRYAN: Yeah. It is wild.
JAMES: Nobody won. Everybody just agreed to go back to the way it was, like, you go back to living in the jungle. We will still hear the same. You do your thing; we will do our thing and let us stop killing “-“
BRYAN: Yeah like co-existence.
JAMES: Co-existence. Latin and South America fascinates me. I spent a lot of time; I have been under Argentina like 25 times. I have been there a lot. And I am mad like 89% fluent Spanish and have a great time going down there. But it is like the countries in Latin America are just perpetually trying to get over their baggage and just cannot. Like when I was in Mexico, they were just rolling off a single party. The pre, the pan were coming into power and they just cannot quite figure out how to govern themselves. They have such a hard time and they will have periods of greatness. And then they slip back into whatever it is that they slip into, usually populism and that is challenging. So that is neat.
So, you grew up in the Northeast, and tell me like, what did you envision going into and then how would you end up in insurance? Because like, I do not know many 18-year old’s when I go and talk to them are like, you should have a career in insurance, and they are like yeah, that sounds great.
BRYAN: Well, that is my gamma sigma iota. Interest is probably the wrong word, but kind of amazes me as much as it does is like, these are kids. And they are kids and they make a decision, who are like you know what, this is the path I want to go down. And that is where Rob and I met, was at their Insurance Nerds Day, the first one in Chicago back in 2018. And, those kids are serious about it and they are excited. And that is great to see. Like having been in the industry for a while, I appreciate and love that. But I could not have done that.
I remember, so, I started at Liberty Mutual by accident as like what 90% of us in the industry are sort got into insurance by accident. So that is me. I wanted to do management consulting. I graduated in 2000, which was when the Dot-Com Bubble Burst, killed most job offers. I had an offer from Liberty Mutual, so I was a junior that year. I got an offer to join Liberty’s internal strategy consulting team as part of their internship. So, I took that and then the Bubble Burst. All these job offers fell apart and I found out I was graduating a year early, so it is you are going to be out. And I was oh, well I have got this insurance thing, and they offered me full time. So, it kind of, it was the work I wanted to be doing. I just did not see it as being in the insurance industry, but once I got in there, I was like, this is fantastic. It is interesting and for me, I am a problem solver. I like finding opportunities or things that are broken and grabbing the better path. And so, there is a lot of that in insurance and Liberty, to be fair, was not the Liberty that the industry knows today.
I joined at 12.8 billion, not like 38 billion or roughly that today. Wildly different company. All due respect to everything we were back then. We were like fairly a mediocre player. Liberty is a superstar today. Like they are a force to be reckoned with. And the seeds of the modern day, Liberty Mutual were very much being sewed then. So, it was a different, it was a different setting and there was a lot of opportunity to jump in, fix things, make things better. Find ways to improve and see it. So, for me, it was really exciting, and I like whoever expects that, with all the jokes about working in insurance. People make fun of it. Like my joke when I was in my early twenties working in insurance company is like, you know I go up to a girl at a bar, I am hey, I am Bryan. I work at insurance company. Like okay, thanks for the free drink. Bye-bye. Cause it is like that is not cool. But I loved it. And, I loved the consulting work, but I love the industry too. And I got hooked and I have no idea what you asked me about now actually.
JAMES: No, I asked, and you answered it. I asked what did you intend to go into? And what would you get into? And the reality is, I think when I was in business school, so I got a degree in accounting, got a master’s in science and business, and did a six months of internships with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Enough to know that I did an undergrad internship then during grad school, then another one, and I thought that was going to be my route. And I was I cannot do this. Everybody I worked with traveled a hundred percent of the time. They left home on Sunday night. They got home Thursday night or Friday morning, and they were talking about their kids, not knowing them. And I was like dude, I cannot do that. I was 21. I have not even met my wife yet. I did not have kids. I did not have kids till my late twenties. Like that was not even on my radar, but I knew that was not a lifestyle I could do. And insurance was not on my radar. I knew I needed to buy insurance, but I got introduced to insurance by, a really neat group and Bryan College Station that was owned by our local multi-billionaire.
Has a G650 at the College Station airport and he bought a company. He bought a bunch of companies in the mid two thousands, but he bought an insurance company and then they asked me to do work and that is how I fell into insurance was I started writing software for this wholly owned subsidiary of a guy I knew. And this was like captivated by the data challenges, the technology challenges, and the fact that without insurance so much, there’s two things that I love, there is a lot of, a lot about Fintech in general. Like when you look at banking and insurance, cause you kind of have to look at them together in a lot of ways.
Without banks you do not have liquidity. And I have seen that in Argentina, right? They do not have liquidity in Argentina. They do not have liquidity. A mortgage in Argentina is 22% to 30%, right? They do not have liquidity, and so if you do not have an effective banking industry, you do not have liquidity, which means businesses that cannot get capital to grow and people do not get capital to get their projects done. And without really good insurance companies, people carry too much risk and bad things wipe them out before they can get going. And without an insurance company backing you, you tend to not take as much risk too. If I did not have a cyber liability, it would be a completely different world for me. You know what I mean Bryan? And I think you have to be a little older and you have to go and work in business a little bit to you until you understand that is hard to sell that to a 19-year-old.
BRYAN: Yeah, yeah. That is very true. That is very true. And your point on travel. Good for you for knowing that that was not of interest. Being on the recruiting side for college kid, when you think about travel, it is like it is vacation, you know? And so, it is oh, that sounds cool. Let me tell you something like having lived out of the Sharonville, Ohio Sheridan for eight months, where like, you do not have to bring your bags home. They were just like, oh, you can leave your sneakers and whatever else here, and then you can just like walk on, walk off the plane. I actually, I liked that area and everything, but it is not vacation.
JAMES: Most of the travels we did was to Delaware. I mean it was not like it was “-“
BRYAN: It is not to Puerto Vallarta.
BRYAN: Like we are not going to go into Disney.
JAMES: No. I am not going to Bangkok to like go and explore new Thai food or something like that.
Like we were going to, I mean like months on end near the Dallas Fort Worth airport in like this obscure corporate business park in Arlington, Texas.
JAMES: It is not glamorous travel.
BRYAN: Yeah right. And you are having Turkey sandwiches in whatever your client’s cafeteria is, and “-“
JAMES: Yeah, I had to eat “-“
BRYAN: And mustard packets “-“
JAMES: They had a cafeteria and I got to see who the client was. They had a corporate cafeteria run by Aramark, and it was oh, it was worse than my school cafeteria food. This is terrible. Like this is every day for 20 years. My kids do not know me. And I was nah, nah, nah, no, no, no, no, no, no. I cannot do this. So, you had an interesting progression through insurance companies.
JAMES: Just walk me through like your three major stops that I saw.
BRYAN: I did, yeah.
JAMES: What were the stops and what would you learn?
BRYAN: Yeah. so, the Liberty experience, like while I was consulting, it was not a heavy travel one cause most of the people were in Boston or surrounding areas. So yeah, I traveled, but not a ton, so that was not too bad. I did four years there and I went to Dartmouth to get my masters at Tuck, and I interned in one full time with McKinsey. So, then I was doing the road war and it like had one local client now and then. But generally, yeah, it was on the road and I was a newlywed. So, I lived that life serving carriers that were like Liberty. Because McKinsey is not cheap, and it is kind of only mega carriers who at that time were able to afford McKinsey or would afford McKenzie, so, I was still seeing the same world and I ’m like, it is fine, but it was the same old PNC world that I had known.
And then I got a call from a headhunter. For this little British company. I had never heard of The Specialist who was just building out their US business and needed someone to kind of like turbocharge it and figure out like straighten out the operations and their small business team and build out distribution and all these things. I was oh, that’s cool sounding. I have never heard of you guys not interested. I was but I should probably do the interview any way cause you never know. And like, maybe it’s good training for one like, some other thing comes along that I am interested in cause I wasn’t ready to leave McKinsey, but going through the interview, like my whole fix it bug got turned up cause I was listening to all this opportunity. And this company is Beasley. They are brand new in the US and after, like I remember I flew down to plus was in DC to interview with like the COO and a couple other folks. And I was kind of blazed about it going in. And I remember I came out of the interview. Go to the airport and I call my wife. I am so screwed.
She is like, what do you mean? I was like, I have to go work for these people, but I was not that interested, until the interview. And so, like they probably know that, and I am never going to get no, like I had an offer by the time I landed in Boston, cause I do not think I would have slept that night otherwise. So, I spent six and a half years there.
JAMES: Yeah. Long story, short. I spent over half a decade at this company. I did not know who they were.
BRYAN: It was, I mean this is before cyber existed and if anybody knows Beasley today, they probably know them for a Beasley breach response and there, their cyber offering that defined like cyber back then was just an indemnity layer and now it’s this whole breach thing. It is all the services. And Beasley was the first to do that when they created it. It was brilliant and nobody bought it for a year and a half. It is like a total dog. Because cyber was still super new. And now it is, everyone has the same offering, more or less, same slate of vendors, but it is a different space than what we started with. And the minimum premiums, the early cyber policies is like $12500. You can get cyber coverage for like 50 bucks today, like $12,500 for a small business.
BRYAN: And it had none of the breach stuff in it.
JAMES: I remember, I mean, Bryan, I have been around this business 19 years and the first half I did not have a cyber, I could not afford it. Like it was “-“
JAMES: It was crazy. There were not a lot of markets. It was hard to get, I mean, it was a, by the way, it was not a requirement by my clients back then, like it was, we had general liability and we are calling it with all the other stuff, right? But now it is the most important coverage that we have “-“
BRYAN: For sure.
JAMES: And for a tech company, it is bundled in with our errors and omissions coverage, right? So, they bring it together. But Beasley, they are a great company.
BRYAN: And I had a cool experience there. Built out distribution in the US. I spent two years in the small business underwriting team, and then, they asked me to take over US operations and kind of, sort things out. Like our core system was Excel and outlook. Like yes, we had a system, but we were working on replacing it. But, a lot of duct tape, a lot of hamsters and hamster wheels and a lot of really hardworking people just trying to make everything look good on the outside, while we were, you know it was a fast-growing startup in the US and that is hard to handle.
So, I spent about four years running US underwriting and claims operations, and I left in 2014. I joined Beasley under Andrew Beasley. I was the. Number 538th employee globally. I left under Andrew Horton, who I have a ton of respect for, but very different company when I left then when I joined. And he had a CFO running it versus the founders names on the door, like an underwriter through and through, grew up at Lloyd’s. Amazing company, they have done fantastically well. It was a shareholder for a long time after I left. A lot of respect for them. It is just different, and it is not what I was excited about when I joined. So, I wanted to go and, briefly spend some time in the Med Mal space, which is a whole other conversation. And not one worth getting into, but that’s a, that is a tough, really tough space.
I left to help a friend who is starting this safety technology company called Guard Hat and a really strong worker’s comp play in that, and to train for a marathon and had some fun. Cause I kind of been like burning myself hard for 13 years straight and it was just great to take a few months and breathe.
And in that period Hiscox needed a new head of us claims. And I am kind of unique. I have worked across a lot of functions, seen a lot of carriers and there is not a ton of us in specialty lines. And certainly not a ton of us in specialty lines with a consulting kind of background. And that is what they wanted. They did not want amazing claims attorney. They had those, they wanted someone who is more thinking about the strategy of it and the operations and that sort of thing. So how can we get somebody who is going to understand? I got to rebuilt a major claims organization when I was at McKenzie and implemented it.
So, I, live through massive claims change and designing it all the way through, putting it in place. So, to get all that together was pretty rare. So, it was a really good candidate. The problem is, the job was in Atlanta, and I lived in Boston. And my wife has a chronic illness and whole support network here, so we could not just like pick up and move. So, I had made her a promise that I was not going to continue to consult long term. Like that was a two-year thing, right when we got married and that was it. And then here I go, taking like arguably the job of a lifetime. I am the one, my whole career was like next to being CEO, which was not interested in it at the time. This is what I wanted to do. So, guess what? I am getting on a plane every single Monday morning and I am not coming back Thursday night and come back Friday night.
So, it was worse than what does that McKinsey in some respects, but one of the hardest things about consulting is like Sunday night, you do not always know what plane you are getting on Monday morning.
I always knew like it is that same Southwest or Delta flight every Monday morning. Like I had my apartment in Atlanta, which when I ended up leaving Hiscox, I told my son, like when we told him the news, he is where are we going to stay when we go to six flags in Atlanta? I am well, we can stay in a hotel like normal people. I have to work in another state and have in there for you to go to six flags. They have places to stay. But so, look, I, I did that for three years and I was not always in Atlanta and that’s part of why we did not move too. Cause I was like there six weeks straight that it would not set foot in the Atlanta office cause I was at other offices or different things across the country.
So obviously it is a. It was a big job. Amazing job. A lot of travel in it as well, but I completely missed 30% of my son’s life. He was 10 when I left and he was 7 when I started, so it was it hit me. It is like the last year talking about his best friend, and I am like. It was the same name as a friend of his in preschool. I am wait; you are friends with him again? It is no, this is someone different. I am I do not even know my kid’s best friend’s name.
JAMES: Yeah. That is the same stories I heard when I was with my, my consultant buddies. So, you had some great experiences through insurance that led you to this point, Rob. I know, that, you have got some good history with Bryan. I would love for you to keep this going.
ROB: Thanks for walking us through your amazing career. And I do think it is an amazing, career Bryan. You have got just so much credibility on the insurance side from everything you have done, but more recently you have been working with InsureTechs. You mentioned Guard hat. I know Hi Marley, and others. That is where, I mean, maybe seeing a little bit more and more where, like a lot of people that kind of started in the InsureTech space, came in the early 2010’s. They came from outside the industry. Saw those problems that you mentioned when you started at Liberty Mutual, but more recently I am seeing more what I would call insiders that are kind of leaping from the traditional insurance world to InsureTech. So what has been that experience of that transition as you work with some of these startups and just, yeah, how has it changed?
BRYAN: Yeah, I think that is a astute point, Rob, and I think you are right. And that to me is one of the key divides between some of the different InsureTech players maybe offering the same kind of solution, but one company versus another. And that is, that’s hubris. People who come from the outside to solve a problem, they may have a great solution. Some of them go a little bit further and sort of like, laughing at the insurance industry or being oh, you people cannot figure this out. We have to come in and we are going to blow everything up and make it better. That is great. Just maybe, and this is one of the things I loved about your book, is like very honest, look at what is going on in the industry and have some respect for that, because those are real problems. It is not just a bunch of stupid people who cannot get out of their way. There are a lot of complexities and that, so I was one of the first customers of Hi Marley.
I think technically I went live before Westbound Insurance, but my PR team could not turn the press release around fast enough. So Westbound gets to claim that they were the first. And actually, I think Merchants ends up claiming second. But, so, and it is not that I am bitter about that, but clearly, I am bitter about that. But I, I got on board with this early, and I will say at first, I was like it is a texting solution. I was like yeah, that’s kind of pointless. I do not like to text. I do not see the point. And my team looked at me like the biggest idiot they have ever met, so we tried it. I am okay, I do not know everything. Let us try it. And in, in doing so, that is when I woke up that like I knew I did not know everything, but what I will never know is what our customers think and feel until we try to connect with them.
And in doing that, we saw a ton and we saw it within hours of the pilot going live. And I was blown away by it and just got close to the team at Hi Marley started advising them. And as I was getting more and more uncomfortable with the amount of time I was away from home, the team at Hi Marley was raising their Series A and they were like hey, we would love you to join on. So at that time they were in Boston. So, the timing worked out nicely. So, I left Hiscox. Honestly, like you would not think someone leaving an insurance company would be emotional. Like we were in tears. I started crying, choking up crying when I was telling my team and a bunch of them did too. And then I had to pick which ones to have dinner with that night. Cause they keep coming like, can we have dinner tonight? Because I am flying to Chicago the next day for meetings is like actually wary. I ended up meeting Rob. I felt like I was losing my family. I love that team so much. They are incredible people and I am so thankful to get to work with them. Yeah, I love my family too. And so, it is I hate to stay close at home.
So, I joined Hi Marley. The founders had insurance stories, so none of them worked at a carrier, but they all serve carriers in the consulting side, and they had another startup that Aon had purchased. Stay today on serving carriers. So, they were insurance ecosystem people, but no one from a carrier. And that is something I think is incredibly important for any InsureTech is, you need to get what your, forget InsureTech, any tech provider to an industry that construction is another great one. If you don’t understand what it’s like to live in that space, the chance that you’re going to fully resonate with your customers, that your solution is going to solve the problems you intend to solve without creating other ones, and have the empathy for what their life looks like. I think as basically nil, unless it is just by chance.
You know I was talking to one of the risk engineers at XXL and she is like, that is what she did. She was a risk engineer in construction before going into the insurance side. She is like, I know exactly like I know what the people I am talking to, what their life is like. Cause I was them. So when I went to Hi Marley, I’m calling on other CCOs. I was like hey, we were together last month. The chief claims officer summit. Let me tell you about this thing. And this is what it did for my team. So, my ability to connect with what they were facing, is very different than someone who’s only insurance experiences selling to insurance companies or trying to disrupt it. So, I think that that is a difference and I think, more and more of some of the InsureTech providers, if they are not founded by insurance folks, they have recognized that and they are, they are getting more of that firsthand experience in house, because that just changes your ability to build the right solution, but also to know how to talk about it with your customer base. And you cannot succeed if you are not doing that.
ROB: You have walked the walk and talk the talk. It is so important.
ROB: You are spot on.
BRYAN: The problem with the role there though was I was running sales, which means I was on the road all the time. So, and it was back to the uncertainty, instead of like every Monday, it is the same as TSA agents and all that, like everything is different. So, I spent a year all over the country, had cool conversations with a lot of leaders at many different carriers, which is awesome. And a lot of them, there is a ton of insurance companies out there, by the way. That like sub billion-dollar range, there’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them. And I got to see these companies I would never have known otherwise, and a lot of them are amazing companies and I kept hearing the same thing.
The sense of feeling stuck, a little bit of hopelessness, a sense of being behind and not being able to do anything about it. And so, my job was not really to sell Hi Marley. My job was to have them see that there is a way forward for you. Even if you feel you’ve got regulation standing in your way, or can’t get the budget, or you’ve got IT debt or culture or your people don’t want to be changed or trained or any of that, like all of those things are very real and you can still take on new solutions. And a new solution in the tech side does not have to be an eight-year endeavor for hundreds of millions of dollars and an SI coming like it is, they are thinking about the last core system replacement project they did, which is terrible.
They are all terrible. None of them delivers the scope that you wanted. They are necessary, but there is not a single story out there of a core system replacement. People are like oh, it is great, under budget ahead of time and got all the scope we wanted it more. They are all painful. And so that is what they think of when they think like tech. And we have to get past that. So after a year of having those conversations, I wanted to travel a little bit less, but also start to talk to the industry about our ability to get past these sort of headwinds or handcuffs or constraints or walls that we face and be able to move forward. And that is really what I have been working on since the first of the year.
ROB: Yeah. That is awesome, Bryan.
JAMES: That is great. Yeah. Let us talk about the book.
BRYAN: Yes. And that is what the story is. That is what that message is all about.
JAMES: Yeah. Let us talk about the book, because, you are saying it and we mentioned it at the beginning of the show during the introduction. This is really about The Evolution of Insurance, not the Disruption of It, right? So, walk me through what that means to you and let us talk. Tell me why book, why another book, right. There is lots of books about insurance. There’s even other fantastic books about “The End of Insurance as We Know it”. There’s great books out there. Why another book and what do you mean by evolution, not disruption?
BRYAN: Yeah, so this book that is coming out in June is “The Future of Insurance from Disruption to Evolution”. And it is about that conversation I kept having over and over again. And I mean, Rob, your book title, it is very ominous, but you are not predicting the end of insurance. You are talking about dramatic changes to it. And actually, I think the two go hand in hand nicely is like you are setting up the building blocks for this shift, and that is what my book is about, is the conversation I kept having is, we are all constrained, we cannot do anything. We are too far behind. And it was a very depressing, hopeless conversation. And then it was layered on with, and then you got these startups who do not have any of that, and they are doing all these cool things we cannot do that. And that is the disruption piece.
So, when I first joined the industry, there was a big moment of disruption coming through this thing called the internet. I think it is plural. The internet was becoming a big deal and the letter “e” was being depended to everything and it was all about exchanges. Maybe spelt with a letter X and like GRX was one of them. That is okay, brokers are going to be gone. You are going to do your large national accounts through like GRX. I can talk about them cause they do not exist anymore. Spoiler alert. It did not happen. But a lot of things did happen and that was a facilitation of a different interaction, but carriers were not being threatened. And while brokers and agents were being predicted to be gone, they were not. And they are, they should not be. And they are not going to be, but things have changed.
Today the disruption’s a little bit different. So yes, there is lots of enabling tech and that is awesome. Hi Marley, lots of others. Another company I worked with Pinpoint like, lots of really cool enablers to help carriers. But there is another thing that modern tech has facilitated, and some of the stuff we were talking about before is the startup of carriers. So, it was much easier today to start a carrier up than it was before. And part of that is different capital structures and prevalence of MGA models and all that, but a lot of it is the tech, because you do not have to have 80 years of actuarial analysis behind you. You can build a predictive analytics model that will learn every day as long as you can file rates that work with that, you can start up a carrier. And ostensibly be profitable, but that has not happened for the startup.
JAMES: Theoretically speaking.
BRYAN: Yeah, on paper. That was not the case in 2000. Yeah, there were startups, like e-surance was coming of age then, and there were startups, it was not that nothing happened, but today is different.
There is more of a direct threat and some of them, their marketing is directly made as a threat. Like one of them, a drink named one starts every ad with insurance companies suck. And that is not, that does not inspire hope for those insurance companies. So, you have got this sense of constraint and you have got this new kind of disruptive threat that is not just about the way we work. It is disruptive threats to you as a company. That is different from what we saw 20 years ago.
And that is the context that I wanted to speak to because yes, those things are real. We have constraints and we have these new startups that are more directive, direct disruptive threats to us, but that does not mean the game is over. That does not mean we leave. That does not mean we fail, and it does not mean we are all going to be replaced by them. Some of them will survive, some of them will not. Some of us will survive, some of them, some of us will not. And it is not necessarily because the other one like Lemonade is not going to put State Farm out of business.
And whether either one of them survives, probably has nothing to do with the other one in all honesty. There could be lots of other reasons for it. Maybe one acquires the other, but like it is not that one to one direct threat. And that is the conversation want to get to get into theoretically, but then I wanted to make it more tangible. And so my hope was, let me find some carriers who are willing to talk about things they’ve done that are innovative, despite all of those barriers and despite the sense that we can’t do anything or we’re too far behind, or all that kind of hopeless mentality. For a couple of reasons. One is well, let that be inspirational. So, I have written two other books, but they are self-help books. So, I like to inspire people with my writing. This is also a self-help book. The person is just an insurance carrier at this time. But like let me inspire you. But also, what are the tangible lessons we can take from this? And it is not about the specific tech.
So, like one of the carriers I got to work with was Ohio Mutual when I was at Hi Marley. So, Ohio Mutual is in there talking about their journey through texting that ended up at high Marley. It’s not to say, although I’d love this to be the answer, it’s not to say if you want to text with your customers, you have to use Hi Marley, but you probably should just saying, but it’s more it doesn’t even need to be about texting. It is well thought about the issues they were facing. Why did they need to solve somethings? Think about the constraints they face. Does any of that resonate with you? Now, here is how they structured their ability to find a solution and put it in place and learn and grow. Is there a message in that that resonates with you?
Even if we are talking about predictive analytics or something different from texting. Like CNA is in there, in their work with shift technology on the fraud side, if you are trying to implement AI and predictive fraud tool with machine learning in it, yeah you could do exactly what CNA did and that is not a bad idea. I think we are highly of shift and I love the way that it worked out for CNA, but that is not why the case is there. If you do that, cool. What can you learn instead from how CNA did it, how they moved quickly, what they learned in it, where they missed up and they’re listen, this didn’t go the way we thought it would, or we didn’t see this ahead of time. CSAA is another one and they were pretty honest. They were like, it took us a long time to go live. We did not set this stuff up and it was hard for us, like we kind of bumbled through it to figure it out. But here is why that was beneficial in the long run because we learned this stuff. We knew what we needed to fix rather than presuming it upfront and we learn and grow. So, seven different carriers in there. Mentioned a few. You have also got employers, XXL with their construction business. I always end up forgetting some state compensation insurance fund of California. And, there is a little carrier in Texas called USAA. So, they are, I do not know if you guys are familiar with them.
JAMES: Never heard of them. Never heard of them.
ROB: Never, never heard of them Ryan.
JAMES: I do not know anybody that used to work there either, so no. So, I think they are a bank.
BRYAN: So, USAA is in there too. And they were all really honest and open. So, this is not I just scoured press releases and kind of summed them up. It is not a study of studies. These are firsthand interviews. Like I talked to the people. That did this work I talked to, in some cases it was internal and others, it was external. Like I talked, I went to shifts Boston offices and met with their whole team. I’ve obviously, like I did not have to talk to anyone at Hi Marley, although I do, but I did not have to. It has been like a weather analytics who is now called Athenian. That is part of the XXL story. So, I have connected with their team and I knew them from, like we presented at NAMIC together last year. So, I would already like, was completely blown away by their stuff and their presentation. The guy presenting was a weatherman on TV, so like he was very good on stage, but I got into it with all the players involved and built firsthand. Yes, they are case studies, but they are stories. They are like real human stories of what this team and this carrier went through and what they had to overcome so that you can take away some core lessons in the end and maybe inspire a bit of change on your end.
JAMES: Let us talk about hubris for a second. Because Silicon Valley seems to be plagued with it many times. I think it is helpful to have “-“ Gosh, are we already, are we turning into the salty dogs? I feel like I am turning into that. I am going to be 41 this year. I went through Dot-Com Boom & Bust. My favorite Sci-Phi series of all time is star Trek. My second favorite is Battlestar Galactica, and at the end of BSG, the last episode, this has all happened before. It will all happen again.
BRYAN: So, say we all.
JAMES: Yeah, so say we all “-“
BRYAN: I not such a techie, but if I was “-“
JAMES: Such a good show “-“
BRYAN: They had to do it.
ROB: They bring in the Geek to InsureTech Geek, I guess.
JAMES: Hey, I put it in the name of the podcast for a reason, Roberto!
ROB: Just fracking settled down
JAMES: Yeah, just fracking settle down! I mean, what a great show, and it is a good reminder that this has all happened before. It will all happen again and to, to think otherwise as hubris.
BRYAN: But you know what, James, I do not know if you go to ITC. I know Rob was there. That is right around when his book was coming out. I sat down in this break area, so it was all my feet nonstop on the, I do not even know what they call where all the companies are. I cannot think of the name, but like the show floor where everyone is set up with their booths. It is exhausting. I got a break. I covered every shift. My staff was, was on and off. But I was like guys, I need like 15 minutes. I went and sat on these couches outside, it’s like 5,000 degrees and this guy sits down next to me and he is just shaking his head and like laughing to himself or something and I ’m like okay, I will take the bait. And I am like, what is up?
And he just starts, I am not going to swear, but he starts going off. He is these, blank idiots. All these carriers, they just do not get it. They are all going to be gone soon enough. And I am just in my head, I am InsureTech carrier startup CEO. And it is well, what do you do? He is I started a carrier and he said, they do not get it. Like we are going to eat their lunch. And I was oh, very good, tell me more. And all I can think is if I am here next year, I bet you will not be. Cause you are missing the point.
JAMES: Yeah. Well think about Lloyds. Pioneered modern insurance. 1700’s. How many waves of disruption has Lloyds survived in 300 years?
BRYAN: And it almost did not survive like some of them.
AMES: But it did. It did. But my point is that they have continued to evolve and adapt. And there is something to be said for understanding how insurance works, for enduring catastrophic loss, for enduring massive downturns when your investment income goes to zero for enduring horrific circumstances like the entire world’s economy putting a button on the pause button for two months. That is insane.
JAMES: And what the problem I have, there is so many good things that come from readily available capital. There is so many good things. So, I want to I want to preface this by saying that readily available capital enables great ideas to take flight. It does. It enables hardworking, good, honest people to go and get things done and build companies that never would have been built because a bank would have never gone the money. Their parents were not rich and could not get him, get him alone, and they had a ton of college debt because they had worked their way through college. Let us be honest. Readily available capital is one of the chief things that makes America economically great because when you go to other countries, and I have spent the last three decades of my life cause my parents took me all over the world and then I went all over the world just on my own with business.
I’ve seen, I’ve been to China, I’ve been to Western China, I’ve been to South America, I’ve been all over the world man, and it is one of the big things that separates us is that if you’re an entrepreneur and you want to get started, you can get the capital to get going. However. It creates that exact attitude when it is so readily available. And they never have to prove themselves on how they can generate a profit. They never have to get their loss ratios in check. They never have to deal with their expenses. Rob, you went into it in your book and you started digging into, you know, here is the stack, but we remember, I think you were talking about auto losses and they do not, it was only half of it, only 53% went to auto claims. You cannot just keep shrinking the pie.
But the reality is, there is a lot that goes into this and there is a lot of effort and work that goes into this and the most difficult thing to do in business, in my opinion, is to generate a profit. That is the most difficult thing to do. And to do it without debt. And so I think that is something that is certainly the chickens are coming home to roost right now on, and you are watching, and this is what concerns me, right? You are watching Softbank implode right now in front of our eyes. They have been heavily involved in Fintech and a significant material percentage of Silicon Valley operates on the assumption that some other poor sucker is going to have to buy the bag on the merry go round before it stops. Their goal is to build, build, build, build, build, flip before we have to make profitable. Now they are going, oh crap. There is no one to flip to. The public markets are crap. The public markets do not want massive money losing companies like Uber or Lyft or Peloton or anybody else. They want you to generate a profit. And now there is no one else that is willing to buy it. And so, you are seeing like mass layoffs in venture funded tech companies right now, right. And so, this is what worries me, Bryan. Is the attitude that you saw at InsureTech connect from that one guy you sat next to and hubris preventing us from actualizing some of the great ideas that really could radicalize radically change insurance.
BRYAN: So, I agree with you about what capital creates. Especially in this country and the dangers of it. This has happened before, and it will happen again. So, my story back about getting to Liberty Mutual, the Dot-Com Bubble Burst. It is the same damn thing.
JAMES: Same thing. Been here before bud!
BRYAN: I mentioned this in my book, just like how many of the major internet service services you use today existed in 99. And how many of them that you use then exist today? Do what I searched for in the web cause Google had not been invented yet. I used Alta Vista and that was that was also awesome.
JAMES: That was a great service. I used the Yahoo web directory brother. Do you remember Mozilla?
BRYAN: Of course I do. Because I surfed everything, I used Netscape. Which was powered by Mozilla. Mozilla did not exist technically yet, but like the bones did, but it was not a company. There is no mozilla.org yet.
JAMES: Yeah, yeah.
BRYAN: Netscape. When navigator came out and then you kept emailing it and you can message your friends on Aim “-“
BRYAN: You search, oh Eudora, the do, do, do, do, do the little sound when the email came in, that was my college experience. The Aim sound and the Eudora sound. And then Napster was a little like I was getting out of school when Napster was becoming fame but none of these words exist anymore. Now, other weird words are misspelled today, but that’s kind of the point. So, you look at, I caught up with Ben Walters, the CEO of Hiscox retail. He was my CEO when I worked at Hiscox. He was running the US business at the time. And we were talking about valuations and the InsureTech scene, and I am not going to say which company, but one of the InsureTech carriers had just done another raise or they were talking about it and they were talking about valuation. It was higher than Hiscox’s.
Now, Hiscox hit a rough patch with some of the business interruption bad press they got and obviously what is going on globally. And some DNO claims are playing out, but this was before any of that. There is no basis for that extreme money losing startup whose only profit is just cause they keep getting poured in more of this free-flowing capital. Their insurance business is fundamentally broken and all running on hubris. Why is that worth more? I get Tesla’s worth more than everyone, but Toyota. I do not agree with that, but I kind of get it.
JAMES: Until you look at AUDI’s new line of e-tron and you see AUDI has “-“
BRYAN: Yeah, but the range, they are gorgeous cars, but the range are not there yet. They have got it. They still have a ways to go and, you look at like Sandy Monroe who tears cars down, who is brilliant, he does, he is pretty negative on Tesla upfront. And then he tears him down and he is so in awe of what they have done with the computing power and the wiring. That is where he is no one can touch them. And it is not the design, it is not Elon Musk as a marketer. There are reasons why you can sort of understand it. He has world domination issues and that is why I do not know that the values, right or not. But I can understand it. You cannot explain a lot of the valuation and InsureTech today, just like in 99, and I forget the exact term for it, but there was like the tulip bubble or something that we studied.
ROB: It was called Mania.
BRYAN: Yeah Mania. Like this keeps happening. So, we do have, over-investment overexcitement and then a crash and done things right. And then like, the core internet space is pretty rational from an investment standpoint. It is the innovative side where things get irrational and particular pockets.
But like we had the crash and then rationality sets in. I think InsureTech is going through that too. And maybe that is what this is forcing. It is not to say there will not be the wrong valuations here and there, but right now, or maybe pre COVIT, 19 like, there was hubris in the investment side as much as in the behavioral side for some of those companies. So, I think it will settle out. And that is not such a bad thing. Well, depending if you are one of the people who loses out in that period, I’m sorry about that.
JAMES: Rob, before we moved into to news, your thoughts are a final question for Bryan.
ROB: Yeah. So, I agree. Great conversation. And I have, just as an aside, I have had this conversation with regulators and others. The role of venture capital and insurance to me is, unprecedented, certainly in modern times. And we are so used to carriers like state farm, USA, whatever, being around for a hundred years or more. So, we see somebody like Lemonade coming in, totally different profile growing quickly. What happens after the IPO is kind of the question that I ask, right? Are they earning money on their own to your point like, what’s the loss ratio look like, if they are fully backstopped by re-insurers, I mean, it is just a fundamentally different model. And so, to me, the jury is still out. We do not know. And I think we are treating them like they are built to last for decades. And I do not know that they are, it is just a fundamentally different model than a lot of the traditional carriers. But Bryan, the last question I had for you is, and you touched on this earlier, so for my book, and as you mentioned right at “The End of Insurance”, the other half of the title is “As we Know it” right?
ROB: So, I was never saying insurance is going away in any way. It is just how we know it is different than I think you pick up on that theme. And one thing I am excited about is the number one criticism that I get on my book, and I think it is a valid criticism, is Rob, you went on quite a bit about what is wrong with insurance. But you did not spend very much time about, how to fix it. And I certainly point to some of these emerging technologies and, and I kind of hint at, right, what is the art of the possible?
But I think you are almost picking up where my book left off, intentionally or unintentionally. And I know we have the same publisher insurance nerds, so we are going to have to shout out to the folks that insurance nerds. But yeah, I need, you kind of mentioned COVID 19 you mentioned valuation my book came up, pre-pandemic and everything, but maybe just kind of, where do you see this going over the next decade? And do you think the pandemic is just accelerating trends that were already going to happen, or do you think there is a fundamental kind of fork in the road that we are now going to go on? Just kind of ask you to get your crystal ball out.
BRYAN: Yeah, and I will say, I do not agree with that feedback on your book. There’s tons of other stuff that is just terrible. But no, I liked your book, but I do not think you can say this is what is going to happen or not. I think you are very right in pointing out these is the building blocks. These are the places where like you call out the things that are brewing right now that will lead down the road and you do not talk about everything. You talk about the ones that I think have legs, different periods, so I disagree with that feedback. Having read your book for me, I think, there’s a couple of questions in that. I think there are some really interesting things going on right now. So, this coming week as we are recording this, I am sharing the, it is a long title insurance, AI, and innovative tech summit, from insurance nexus. They put out a, an infographic from the survey they do have 300 insurance professionals.
Interesting that AI and predictive analytics are on the investment plan for the present day or within the next two years. Historically, AI has fit into the two to five bucket. That is for 68% of respondents. That shocked the percentage and the timeframe shocked me. ML is 50% or right now. That also shocked me. That is very different to the past, and that is where I think we start to see things. For the Seminoles, I was talking to Jane Pacelle, who is the new CIO at CNA. And she is sort of saying the same thing as we have now seen the business cases for these things, or, or gen one of the business cases, she is very interested in the near term, like the two-year Mark. Where do we take that stuff?
I think as you look beyond that, and it is questions like blockchain, which has been talked about as a buzz word. Forever and never fully materialized. But lately there has been more activity like USA and state farm, famously have this pilot they are doing on subro for just settling the accounts.
I mean, it seems like such a simple thing like, oh, you are not revolutionizing anything. If you track how many transactions there are, that could cancel out and you just did one settlement per day, it is actually like across the industry, it is hundreds of millions of dollars wasted. Yeah. So, these are maybe not sexy industry, shifting kind of ideas to outsiders. But internally, these are the real things that get in the way of us delivering what the customer wishes they had and the simplicity of it. And of course, you take step one that leads to step two. So, I think that is something to watch is. I do think it is probably two years out from one blockchain starts to be a daily thing for in some way, for lots of carriers, but I think two years is not irrational. Whereas it may have been talked about five years ago as being on the two-year horizon. But frankly, that’s nonsense. One of the things we have talked about COVID 19 that I think is pulling forward, but for a different reason, many carriers have been looking at the autonomous vehicle movement and shared autonomous vehicles, and CSA is in my book.
This is one of the reasons why they have been experimenting with mobility solutions is because eventually they are not sure that personal car ownership will be at least enough of a scale thing that, I mean, they are an auto carrier, like this is the core of their business. And so are lots of others. You know like what State farms auto book, like $40 billion, it is huge amounts of money. So, if that goes away, then we, and then it is really a product liability and ENO coverage is not personal auto. So, they have been thinking about that. Now I know like Forrester and Gartner and those kinds of places talk about these things coming relatively short. I do not think these are short term things. COVID is changing that though. And the reason is all of a sudden people who are multi-car families, working from home, like my wife and I both have a car. Neither of them goes anywhere most of the time. A lot of people are not returning to their office. Facebook nationwide, company after company is looking at remote working on a go forward basis, not just optional or short term.
That is not going to be everyone, but it is going to be enough that I do think families that have been spending on two cars may say you know what, how often are we going in two different directions? Some people will not want to be in an Uber or Lyft because of cleanliness and safety and all that so maybe there will be some offset, but the average American household has 0.83 cars. So that’s, sorry, not household per person. There is 0.83 cars per person in the US. So what if that drops to 0.8? That is not that much of a drop. What if it drops to 0.75 or 0.7 you’re talking about wiping up billions of dollars a year in auto premium and that could be in the short term, lots of people lease on three year basis, so you could have a severe reduction, even though it may not sound like a lot. 0.75 versus 0.3 does not sound like a lot in terms of insured cars on the road, that is billions of dollars of reduced premium. So, I think something that was talked about from an AV standpoint, autonomous shared vehicles, that that’ll still happen down the road, but in the present, you’re going to end up with at least some degree of the same outcome because of COVID, rather than because of the AV move. So, I think some things are being accelerated and last is just digitization, because every carrier had to do it like that.
JAMES: Yeah. Well, if you talk to Peter Diamandis, he will tell you that, by 2025, car ownership is going to be dead.
BRYAN: Yeah, so I think that is not real.
JAMES: Yeah. Yeah.
BRYAN: And it is not just cause I am a car guy. I just do not think that is real.
JAMES: Yeah. Well, Texans will give up their cars over their dead cold bodies. So, it is a ,I think some people live in large, dense urban areas and they forget that there is a substantial portion, billions of people on the planet who do not. And so that is going to certainly impact things. But I understand what you are saying. Rob, you got any news for us this week.
ROB: I love what you were saying, Bryan, about autos that I completely agree, and I’ve even been talking to some auto insurers about, hey, what if you are wrong? They all have projections on when this is coming. What I have always said, what if you are wrong, what if that trend accelerates? So, you make a great point. And really, I find it a very interesting, what is going on with in person meetings. So, dig in was supposed to be a, I believe this coming week, in Austin and it is moved to early December now.
A lot of other conferences, some I was supposed to speak out, got moved to 2021 and others. So, yeah, just kind of curious. I participate in some virtual events as well. So, just kind of curious, Bryan or James, your thoughts on the future of the in-person conference.
JAMES: Well for now, the in-person conferences delayed, deferred, and denied. Those of us who enjoy going to conferences or twiddling our thumbs and getting way more productive in other areas of our lives. I think, the future of impersonal work, I think it is hubris to think that people are going to be like, well, now that we have proven it for two months, I am never going to go into an office again and I am never going to blah, blah, blah. You know? I mean, there is some just absurd things being said right now. I mean, just absurd things because they are, they are like denying human nature. I think anytime you try and pretend like human nature is fundamentally changed, you are being, you are, you are being shortsighted. Because, I mean, let us be honest.
When you are in person, you get more done in business. When I do a zoom meeting with my clients versus when I do a face to face with them and take them to dinner, I have a substantially better cause. I have tried both pre virus. I have tried both and face to face it gets a lot more results and understanding what is going on, reading their body language. There is no replacement for facetime. And that is from a guy who spent his whole life digitizing the construction and insurance industry. And, really, honestly, 30, 29 of my, of my 40 years building software. There is no replacement for being face to face.
So, I think this will be on pause. I think it will come roaring back. I think we believe so desperate for face to face interaction that as soon as these conferences open back up and you are already seeing that there is a bunch of, vaccinations being tested, there is a bunch of the test for the, to see if you have already had this, the bunch of treatments that are being successful and from and all this other stuff.
As soon as we have reasonable certainty that we are not going to kill a couple hundred million people, we are going to be, I mean, we are going to ever, it is going to be a massive conference heyday. So, I think it will come back. The interesting part for me, Rob, is the article that came out this week, and it was not a single article. It was a bunch of them talking about, I saw a bunch of this morning talking about the number of Silicon Valley companies that have said they’re, they’re going work from home with, no end in sight, and they’re realizing they can dramatically reduce their capital budgets that they stopped building large headquarters and they’re getting roughly the same productivity numbers out of their people for the last two months and a survey this morning that, and this is more, I think conferences, Rob will still be around the office work, in really expensive metros, I think is the one that is really at risk.
Because the survey today said four out of five technologists in Silicon Valley said that if they were allowed to work from home, they would leave San Francisco. They would leave the area. Of course, it is, it is extremely expensive. There is a huge socioeconomic issues in San Francisco. They refuse to deal with many of them. If you have been there lately, it is wild. I think if companies legitimately follow through on what they’re saying and they legitimately let people work from home, you’re going to see a mass Exodus of tech personnel from geographies that are extremely expensive to live in, and that are not really where they want to live long term. And I think it is going to be a very, it is interesting. The city of Austin, for example, real estate is down like 19% in the last two months. But Hays County, which is the Hill country with all the great tubing and all the rivers, they are up. And what does that tell you? People are like, screw this. I ’m going to work from home.
I am not going to live in the city and deal with all that garbage. I am going to be out here in the burbs, out on the Blanca river. So, I think that is the time. And yeah, no commute time. What commute time, right? Like I think that is the, I do not know. Bryan, what are your thoughts on the conferences?
You think you think it is going to be V-shaped or you think it is going to be U shaped for the rebound on conferences?
BRYAN: I think it is going to be U Shaped, kind of like university of Miami, like a pretty wide lock-in. So, I have gotten to know quite a few conferences. Yeah. Like that conference producers and they are expecting there will be some activity in the late summer and then there will be a second wave and things will be shut down again in the fall. I have no idea, but I know that is what the industry said for the people who make their money running the events, not the actual, like the companies that are putting them on, but at the producers behind the scenes. That is what they are concerned about. So, I do think it will be a while, cause that is congregating large groups of people in close quarters for questionable, like is that mission critical that they all got together then, no.
And there are virtual ways to do it. And actually, some of the virtual events are having much bigger impacts. So, like the AI summit that I am sharing. It is a pretty expensive summit in person. I think it is I do not know what the full price ticket is, but it is, their stuff’s usually like 1750 to 2,500 bucks is free as a virtual summit, but they might get a thousand people, maybe 1250 in person. They are already, as of this morning, they are already over 3000. So, a lot more people engaging. It is different engagement, no question. But they are, they are getting more people into their universe, so it is an interesting trade off.
JAMES: They are just not going to make nearly as much money, man.
BRYAN: Yeah, no, it is, it is different. The sponsors, can you charge the same? So, there is no question on any of that. What I just put out a piece though, I think there is some human behavior that will be shifting on the business travel side. And so, my is a little different from the conferences specifically, but the difference with in-person versus digital pre-COVID and now, is I fully agree with you in person’s better, like having done sales, like that face to face, I would fly across the country for one-hour meeting. Everyone I have talked to is yeah, but now, you did that because there was not a video-based alternative that might be the premium. Rob, we all had the meeting where like I demoed it for you guys, but. If you are not in person, you are probably not going to move ahead with that carrier right now, everyone had to do everything this way, and so people who are hesitant or uncomfortable with it, they did not have a choice and they have learned a few things in that process.
Yeah, it is still different. It is not as good, but we could have the meeting right away. We do not have to coordinate calendars over 6 to 12 weeks to try to find when people are around, and you can get your flights and all that. Like now I have got to block three days, including the travel. So there. There are suddenly reasons why people are more comfortable with the digital than they used to be. Still not the same as in person. And there is lots of benefits that come with it. And everyone has the tools now cause do not forget, before lots of carriers blocked things like zoom and others, like they all have to have something. And most of the vendors now, like if they only met with zoom before, they have like six options because they are trying to meet with everybody. So, I think there is going to be a shift in business travel that you would not have considered, not make metric. Now you are oh, we could just do a video conference.
ROB: Yeah, they need to take a hold today “-“
BRYAN: Yeah, let us just hop on a zoom and you are good with that, right?
ROB: Absolutely. And I would say an understated thing is that Microsoft Teams, right? So exactly to your point, Bryan, that we all use zoom runs, zoom talking now, but security issues, we have heard about that. But now with Microsoft being that trusted kind of enterprise sales, right, they have already got with office and they have got active directory and all that. I think that is a game changer. I am seeing more conferences on teams and teams has documents “-“
BRYAN: Teams is fantastic. I have never used it before any of this. Listen, none of them is perfect, but I was versus my expectations. I expected them to be crap.
BRYAN: So really like I have had really good experiences with teams as a solution.
JAMES: Well God bless cause I have gotten better. So, teams, so here is the thing. We have been on. We have been on office 365 for three years, maybe more than that, where we were on Google apps for enterprise. We left that, thank the Lord. I mean, SharePoint and office word, PowerPoint are so much better than Google, but I mean, I love to go, but I mean, I am sorry. Microsoft is killing it on office 365
JAMES: It is awesome. Share point is great. Teams, the ability to have a team be a SharePoint site, and then fully integrate that and you can integrate it with your workflow and there is, I mean, it is amazing for chat. It is great for file sharing. Decent one drive kind of sucks compared to Dropbox. I mean, it cannot be, Dropbox is the best one. OneDrive cannot handle large files, cannot handle them. It is sucks. It is slow. It screws up sync all the time for me, between my Mac and my pcs. I mean, Microsoft just needs to acquire Dropbox and get this over with because OneDrive sucks.
BRYAN: I hope they do not do that cause they are going to ruin it.
JAMES: Yeah. And then, teams on a meeting. I cannot see more than four people and I cannot designate my views. I mean “-“
BRYAN: So, I have never had more than four people.
JAMES: I did a 200 person zoom meeting with my staff, 200 people in one zoom meeting. All the video cameras were on and I, and it just created like these giant 32 up pages, all their faces and it worked over. It was, I mean, zoom just kills it and, and look the security concerns. Let us talk about the security concerns for a second. This was people who did not put meeting passwords on their meetings that got zoom bombed, right? This was, this was a bunch of stupid behavior. Now, there was some other stuff they should not have said they are point to point encrypted when they allow people to dial in and they have recorded, and I do not know why the hell they use Chinese servers. I mean, we got to the deal with that “-“
BRYAN: There is a cool article in all of this.
BRYAN: It just came out like yesterday. It is really interesting.
JAMES: Yeah. But like. Like good luck. It was not, it was not that much worse than go to meeting. I mean, I will be honest, and WebEx still sucks. I was on a WebEx there. WebEx is still terrible. They are still the worst.
BRYAN: WebEx is terrible. Go to meeting. I think it is terrible.
JAMES: Go to meeting is like better than WebEx, but not that and teams works, but why is it so difficult to just give me a 16 up so I can see everybody’s videos and then why can’t I control my viewpoints and then their voice, whatever voice protocol they’re using, it is just not as good as zooms because we will have packet loss issues on teams and not packet loss on, and I am getting super geeky here, but it is interesting. I hope people get with the program and allow for video conferencing. I would love it if I did not have to travel every week. I would love it if people would, I mean, some people have real big hang-ups about being on a video camera. I mean, what I am talking about?
Like they claim all the time that their webcams are not working, and they do not turn them on because they are like so self-conscious that they cannot get over it. But you will have a face to face meeting where I can see you, but you will not get on a webcam. Like what is the difference wear out, hanging up on it. Some people have anxiety around being on the phone, so they only text. Yeah, I mean, I am married to one of them. My wife, Lydia gets physically anxious when she has to be on the phone. So, she texts everybody and I mean, I told her, honey, my bandwidth speaking is about 500 times faster than my bandwidth texting. So, I would rather talk.
I mean, other news. I mean there is some really interesting ones. The VC’s definitively pulled back from Fintech and Q1. This was in tech crunch and it came out in a couple of InsureTech sites that we all fall, like digital scouting covered this one, but there was a pullback in Fintech, which you have to look at, like Fintech and InsureTech kind of under the same umbrella. There was a big pull back. What I am seeing and hearing that is from startups, that is probably a little more troubling for them, is that term sheets are getting, they are ripping them up and they are offering the same money at a lower valuation, and so they can get more stock? And we are seeing a lot of that behavior where a $2 million used to cost you 20% of your company and not cost you 30 or 40 Bryan, are you seeing this?
BRYAN: I’ve do not have a vantage point into that right now, but the, the few companies I have seen interestingly, were okay with their funding, but they had started the work ahead of time and were aggressive about it. So, I am not seeing enough breadth, but I am super interested in what you are saying. I want to check out the article.
JAMES: Yeah. And tech crunch is not reporting on a lot of the term sheets. This is companies that are contacting me and telling me what is going on with their rounds. If they already were mostly done with their rounds and the due diligence, they are going through, and they are completing them, and they are moving forward.
JAMES: Certainly, some companies that I know the CEOs well, a couple of them just closed their rounds, but they were like 95% of the way into it before “-“
BRYAN: Exactly. Yeah.
JAMES: So, they finished out the due diligence and then close the round. But the ones who are not in that boat, we are not hearing that they are not getting funding. We are just hearing you are having to give up more of their company to get it.
BRYAN: Whilst the coverages gets a lot of funding always? But I am surprised at the number that are like a million, the raised a million dollars from, I ’m like, that is not around that. How much, I mean, I know you are a small team, but like how much, how much bandwidth did you just get? But I do not know any of the facts behind it. So, it is hard to say, but I am surprised by the number of that are low dollar sign or like 1.5 million pounds. It is okay, well that is more dollars. But it is still a lot of runway. Lot of “-“
ROB: I think what I have heard too is that there is, it haven’t affected the seed or Series A as much as the later rounds, that those are the ones that are getting hit harder. The other thing I am interested though, James O’Brien, is whether it comes back quickly. At the end of the day, like interest rates are at 0% or near 0% that money is selling out there. I know from a carrier perspective, they still got capital that they want to earn the investment return on, so I could see it coming back relatively quickly, certainly quicker than other sectors of the economy. I do not know what your thoughts are.
JAMES: Potentially right? That is a tough one. Bryan, your thoughts on that?
BRYAN: I think it will come back. I do not know when, it is another U-shaped thing. And I think it may not equal out, like maybe this is part of that correction to a different normal.
BRYAN: I hate to say it, but I hope it does not because I do not know that it is serving anyone.
It is burning cash and it is, there is a lot of irrational competition amongst some of them. I had to deal with a competitor who was they were pretty established but overfunded, and they just treated that as a war chest to compete on BS. So, they just invested heavily in a sales story.
JAMES: At abnormal price points.
BRYAN: Yeah, I mean, actually the pricing was okay. Like the pricing was not too wild, but it was more like they started showing up places that they never would have gone to before and their marketing practices are not the most ethical. So, like a badge Turner to come up to your table and turn the badge around or the sit there and pretending to text them well, you are going to break your wrist if you keep texting with that angle. You are taking photos or video right now. And so, like I would just go at ITC. I just went up to their, I was hey, I am Bryan from my Hi Marley. And he’s oh, and we just started talking cause I know where you are from, I know what you are doing. We do not need to play those games. But it is because of the money. Because they could take a team of people to ITC that were not actually on the booth, that were just going around for surveillance. Like it is an open floor. You can do what you want, but that’s not ethics. And that is when you have too much cash. You can start to do stupid things like that. And by the way, they did not win any deals over us, so it is not like it was paying back. That is just wasting money.
JAMES: Yeah. But yeah, we have seen a lot, we have seen a lot of price subsidy by XX capital, just trying to buy market share. And the problem is you condition your customer base to a lower price point. You cannot walk it back up. And I have competed against companies like that. I have been doing this a long time, right? This is all happened before. It is all happening again. It is really hard to walk a price up. It is really easy to walk “-“
BRYAN: Any industry. The auto industry, the whole rebates that you are constantly trying to get rid of rebates and then they add another 4000 to the car. It is like you are, and then the brand’s trash.
JAMES: Yeah. Yeah. It is, it is tough. Well, guys, great conversation. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Bryan, thank you for joining Rob and myself today. I appreciate it.
ROB: Absolutely. Yeah, Bryan, so we would have missed if we did not ask you where, when does the book launch? Where can you get it? Give us all those details, man.
BRYAN: So, the book launches June 24th, but it is done. Books all finished and signed off. But June 24th, it is going to be on an Amazon Kindle print. I am also doing the audio book, finishing recording that right now. And it also be on an Apple books, as launching as part of connected claims. Virtual since that is not in person anymore, but you can get it, as soon as, and you can preorder it. Easiest way to do that is just head to futureofinsurance.com is not for sale there yet. Sorry. Future-of-insurance.com and you can sign up for updates and I will keep you posted.
JAMES: Sounds great. Well, thank you. And Rob, thanks as always for joining. Appreciate it. Wish you were here in Michigan. We could, we could go hang out and have a Bell’s beer six feet apart.
ROB: Absolutely. Hey man, enjoy your 61 degrees or whatever.
JAMES: Yeah, yeah, I will. I mean, I enjoy it and keep the sweater on for sure. And, want to thank everybody else out there for joining us this week. 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 my cohost Rob Galbraith. That’s endofinsurance.com. Big thanks to Jim Greenly podcast producer and then Kara Dalton, our creative producer, and thank you for joining us today. Look forward to speaking with all of you soon.