“Show me one insurance company and I’ll show you ONE insurance company” – Former Boss
Technology has changed more in the past 25 years than it has in the past 250! And most of us wouldn’t be surprised if this acceleration, accelerates!
This rapid change has caused havoc in an industry such as insurance that has not had much evolutionary change in 100 years. Insurers were one of the fastest adopters of technology when computing went mainframe in the late 60’s. Yet today, many of the companies we work for are considered dinosaurs to technologists who come into this space. What happened?
Well, in an industry that is highly regulated, risk averse, with mediocre profit margins, insurance companies (and when I refer to insurance companies, I mean, companies in the insurance ecosystem) just could not keep up with the changes. The changes not only came too rapidly, but at the scale of insurance, transitioning with those changes was not economically feasible. Insurance companies just do not have the business margins to be able to handle investments in technological infrastructure because of the massive scale that that infrastructure needs to support. Insurance companies were able to handle the (what seemed like a) slow transition to desktop computing, which allowed those companies to hide their mainframes. But then servers came around, then the internet, then big data, then social media, then the cloud (and now AI) in succession and many of the companies we work with have been unable to evolve with those trends. Some have and many of those were economically “punished”.
Imagine a company whose CTO championed a massive digital investment from the mainframe systems to a server based solution. Implementation costs were in the tens or hundreds of millions. ROI? Probably descent and with enough time, likely to be very positive…EXCEPT
The next CTO is now championing another digital transformation from servers to cloud and insurance execs who are old enough are VERY WARY about this big investment. Why? Because in 5 years, what is the new technology that is going to disrupt cloud? Quantum computing? Who knows, but fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!
And THAT is the dilemma of the insurance industry. It’s not the lack of desire to modernize, it’s that the underlying economic fundamentals of our business cant justify the transformation costs. At the margins that insurance operates, technology investments need to be on very long life cycles to deliver the ROI to justify the initial investment.
And this is the nature of the conversation that Bruce Broussard, Managing Partner of Percipience and I had in this Episode of Profiles in Risk. Bruce is a long-time insurtech technologist. He’s seen all of the technology and he’s seen all of the challenges insurance companies have had over the decades with implementation. Bruce cuts to the chase around insurtech and discusses how his firm solves this problem. Percipience thinks in terms of flexibility. How can they bring solutions that are flexible for yesterday’s and today’s architecture but have characteristics that allow the solution to remain flexible 5-10 or even 20 years out??
There is also a life lesson to be learned from this episode. Many technical folks come into insurance and lose their edge as they get engrossed with the day to day of the companies they work with and not necessary able to stay sharp at the cutting edge of technology. As you will hear, Bruce keeps his skills sharp in a most unique way. Bruce has been working with and a part of a group of horse racing gamblers for years. Bruce was able to turn their methodology into a coded algorithm that can automatically generate racing predictions. Bruce keeps his skills sharp by reinventing that algorithm Bruce will rewrite the code and the tech stack using modern tools so he can stay on top of the trends in modern computing. It’s a way to keep his horse racing profitable while also doing the same for his company!