5 Takeaways from the Society of Insurance Research 2019 Annual Conference

The Society of Insurance Research hosted their 2019 Annual Conference October 20-22 in Charlotte, NC. I had the opportunity to attend the conference.  It was the first time I’ve attended, and I hope to be invited back in 2020.  The conference sessions were informative and educational; this was a smaller conference compared to many I have attended recently, and I found it refreshing to attend a conference that allowed speakers to do a deep-dive on topics that were relevant specifically to those in the room. I wanted to share 5 of my top takeaways from the event.

1. The Society of Insurance Research is a very interesting organization.

I had not heard of the Society of Insurance Research prior to receiving the invitation to cover this event. But, they’ve been around since 1970. The organization was formed as a forum to facilitate a free exchange of ideas, and they’ve since expanded to include marketing and planning as topics of discussion.  They hold an Annual Conference and a Research Workshop each year. The members of this organization come from a variety of backgrounds.  I’m very glad to have learned about them and would recommend that you visit their website to learn more!


2. Millennials are still not understood in the ecosystem.

I attended a session called “The 80 Year-Old Millennial.”  This session shared insights that Prudential had found in doing research on Millennial consumers. I found it interesting to sit quietly in the back of the room and listen.  Unlike prior conferences I had attended, I was not the only millennial, and I probably wasn’t the youngest person in the room.  The tenor of the room seemed more positive than it often does in these generational sessions.  The most interesting thing that I heard from the presentation was that millennials generally don’t believe that their future is as rosy as generations before us had believed at our age. With our bleak outlook, I think it’s impressive that we keep showing up.  I think that keeping that outlook in mind when selling to millennials or coaching them in professional development would lead one to be as realistic as possible in your communication.  Millennials know they have many challenges to overcome, and they know that they are seen a certain way.  Help them believe that they can make a difference. . . In their own lives and on a broader social level.

3. The idea of tech debt is an important one that many insurance professionals don’t yet understand.


For the first time ever, I got to see our very own Rob Galbraith speak.  He presented on The End of Insurance As We Know It. (Sidenote: He shared The In$urtech Rap during his presentation.)  Rob wrote about the concept of tech debt in the book.  Basically, it means that technology has been improving and will continue to improve faster than enterprises can keep up.  This is why insurance companies use legacy systems.  And, then enterprises must prioritize what improvements they can make and plan out how they can be made.  But, improvements to tech are still ongoing.  It is a debt that any organization of any age and size will have and should account for.  The best thing that can be done is to begin planning how you will deal with improvements overtime and in the future.  Startups have an advantage because they are starting with a clean slate, but that advantage can quickly become lost if they do not plan to stay on top of the improvements. For a small to medium sized organization, this is something I would recommend thinking through and finding a way to prioritize this planning going forward would be a useful exercise for any business.  The pace of change is not likely to slow down.


4. Insurtech is a hot topic throughout the ecosystem.

Insurtech was mentioned in every session I attended. If it wasn’t in the core presentation, it came up in the Q&A.  This makes sense.  Insurtech startups are attempting to improve on every aspect of the insurance process.  Researchers are looking for the best partners and the next big thing.  A panel specifically discussed the question: Has Insurtech bettered Insurance Companies? Similar to much of what we’ve been hearing lately, insurance professionals and insurtech founders seem to agree that insurtech has greatly matured.  They are no longer solely interested in “disrupting” the industry.  They are creating ways to collaborate and this is improving the relationship between companies and startups.  That being said, depending on your role at a given insurance company, there are many in the ecosystem who are still not well-versed on the work insurtechs are doing.  It is on all of us in insurance to stay abreast of trends that may affect us. This is one that we should be reading about regularly.


5. Our historical lenses can make adapting to current realities more difficult.

The first session I attended was Robert Hartwig’s keynote. I have seen him speak before, and with his academic background, he is always has an interesting perspective.  A comment that Dr. Hartwig made really stuck with me.  He said that it is a recent phenomenon even in insurance to use data to understand trends. We have, like all of society, tended to use phrases like “Act of God” when talking about types of claims that are covered or not.  Our propensity to hold on to these kinds of traditions and think in this way can make it difficult to adapt to the fact that we have data and scientific research that can explain many of the reasons claims are caused.  I think this is relevant not just in weather claims.  For example, if we think about how much information we can obtain on worker safety, we are using a very small fraction of information to underwrite worker’s comp policies.  We rely on one-time surveys, loss runs, and experience mods. Once we figure out how to continuously monitor work environments, our perspective and rating will improve, and we can encourage improved practices by employers more effectively.  We could do this now, but we are uncomfortable with the monitoring of workers.  We must adapt to our new abilities in order to be more effective.

We recently ran a series of interviews of four individuals who were presenters at the conference.  You can read them here:


About Carly Burnham

Carly Burnham began her insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. She got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how she fell in love with the industry. She saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. When Carly moved to Des Moines in 2010, she decided to commit to the industry, and she completed her CPCU in one year finishing it in 2012 and attending commencement in New Orleans. She completed her MBA at Iowa State University in 2014. During this time, she and Tony founded a Gen Y Associate Resource Group at Nationwide in Des Moines. After they had both left Nationwide, Tony recruited Carly to co-author and manage InsNerds.com. She has the difficult task of keeping his constant flow of crazy ideas focused and helping to flesh them out into useful articles. Carly enjoys sharing knowledge and ideas about the future of the industry and finds the website a good outlet for this passion. Carly is involved in the the CPCU Society Underwriting Interest Group. She also writes "Next Wave" a monthly column in the "Perspectives" section of Best's Review.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.