A Brief Interview with Rob Galbraith, Author & Director of Innovation at AF Group

This is the third in a series of brief interviews with speakers, presenters, moderators or panelists at the Society of Insurance Research Annual Conference and Exhibits, which is being held October 20-22 in Charlotte, NC. You can register for the event here: https://www.sirnet.org/SIRMember/Events/2019_Annual_Conference/Event_Collector.aspx

SIR photo

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Rob Galbraith and I am the Director of Innovation at AF Group and the author of the Amazon bestseller The End Of Insurance As We Know It.  In my role, I lead a team that is responsible for driving innovation throughout the enterprise to drive increased revenue, reduce losses and expenses through process efficiencies and promote a culture of innovation.  AF Group is traditionally known as a monoline workers’ compensation carrier but we are actively growing both our workers comp book as well as moving into new specialty markets through the offering of new products and services that go beyond our core business model.  In doing so, my team is responsible for performing market research and competitive intelligence to help our business partners identify the best opportunities to move into.


What is your role at the 2019 SIR Annual Conference?

If you’re presenting, what can attendees expect to learn from your presentation?

I am presenting the closing keynote address on why I believe we are experiencing The End Of Insurance As We Know It.  Insurance has historically been characterized as a conservative, slow moving industry that is highly regulated and where stability is prized over innovation and speed to market.  However, following the growth in FinTech in the early 2010s in banking and other segments – partly in response to the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, partly due to shifting customer expectations in the Internet Age – its cousin InsurTech starting gaining traction over the past several years.  Once confined to corners of the insurance marketplace touched by a small group of outsider disruptors, innovation has become mainstream to the point where AM Best is now considering a carrier’s innovative efforts as part of its overall ratings assessment. New pilots, products and partnerships are announced daily.  While none of these have truly been fundamentally disruptive to date, the amount of money, passion and energy being invested in bringing insurance fully into the 21st century cannot be ignored. 

 Participants will learn about the “7 fatal flaws” of insurance and how emerging technologies such as sensors, AI and machine learning, blockchain and more enabled by miniaturization and cloud computing are leading to the promise of a new tomorrow in the industry.  Those who recognize the game-changing potential of this new world and act quickly to seize upon the opportunities they enable will gain a lasting competitive advantage over the coming decade.


How did you get involved with the SIR? 

I have friends from my previous employer, USAA, who are active in SIR as volunteer leaders and invited me to apply to become a speaker.  In addition, I have had several colleagues over the years talk about the value they receive from active participation in SIR events such as the annual conference, webinars, news and research as well as networking opportunities.


What do you see as the biggest challenges/opportunities for the Insurance Ecosystem in the next 5 years?

At the risk of giving away too much of my talk, I would say that the biggest challenges are: 

  • operating in a time of great uncertainty where companies are forced to take risks
  • making decisions in a world of accelerating change
  • change management in an environment comfortable with the status quo
  • an uncertain regulatory reaction to emerging technologies and their use in insurance

 By contrast, I see the biggest opportunities as:

  • The ability of small and mid-size carriers to be more nimble than large carriers
  • Overcoming legacy systems and technical debt through effective partnerships with InsurTech startups
  • The ability to design more tailored products and services that better align to customer needs and expectations than traditional policy forms such as ISO
  • The chance for agent-based carriers to more effectively compete against direct writers by digitally enabling a new generation of agents
  • The ability to overcome massive ad spending through targeted marketing leveraging social media platforms
  • Integration with non-traditional partners and channels to offer insurance


What is the best piece of advice you’ve received about building an insurance career?

Be a lifelong learner, stay humble and strive to maintain your domain expertise which will always be relevant no matter what changes occur in the industry


Besides your own session, what are you most excited about at SIR 2019?

I have always been awed by the content and insights that Dr. Robert Hartwig drops every time he presents – definitely, walk away a LOT more knowledgeable about the current state of the industry after listening to him speak!


About Taryn Haas

I'm a philosophy nerd turned Associate Underwriter at Vermont Mutual. While I won't find Wittgenstein in CG forms, the language and logical constructs make both studies interesting to decipher. Occasionally, you'll find me playing my keyboard and singing passionately with my fiance at local cafes, or tucked into a corner writing sci-fi/fantasy stories.

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