We were delighted to be able to catch some time with Rob Galbraith whilst he was over in London recently. Rob is well known for his commentary on insurtech, insurance and all things related. Join us to find out why Rob, author of the recent insurance bestseller "The end of insurance as we know it", has been called "the most interesting man in insurance" and "the WD40 of insurance". Matthew and Rob compare notes about the latest issues in insurance and technology, mutual friends, finding information and other hot topics from around the world.
This is a special mid-week release. Too much to talk about and not enough time!
And not forgetting the free Insurance Insider issue to all our listeners. Download it from http://campaigns.insuranceinsider.com/instechlondon/
Transcript for this podcast
00:30 MG: Hello, Matthew Grant here, partner at Instech London, and we're bringing you an extra special midweek episode of the Instech London podcast and this is my chat with Rob Galbraith, who was over in London recently. Rob, who's daytime job, is Head of Innovation at Workers Comp Insurance Company AF Group is well-known to followers of InsureTech. He was once described as the most interesting man in insurance and earlier this year, he released what has become a rather successful book 'The End of Insurance As We Know It'. We found a lot to talk about, we have a lot of friends in common and so this episode is a little bit longer than our usual 30 minutes, but we covered a lot of ground in our discussion. And of course, we are being supported this autumn by Insurance Insider, one of my favourite sources of information on the specialty insurance, reinsurance and wholesale markets from around the world.
01:29 MG: Rob, welcome to the Instech London podcast.
01:32 RG: Thank you Matthew. It's great to be here.
01:33 MG: Now with most people, I start off and ask them if they've done podcasts before and a surprising number of people say no, but you've done so many. I think you've actually been a guest almost as many times as I have actually given podcasts. So I'm looking forward to learning some lessons from you about great interview technique.
01:50 RG: Okay, it sounds great. I'll correct you along the way if you don't do a good job.
01:55 MG: You can correct my spellings. So this is great to have you here face-to-face, you're over in the UK. So first of all, what is it that has brought you over?
02:04 RG: So I've been asked now, for a while, from friends that I've met over social media and kind of shared passion for InsureTech, "When are you coming to London? When are you coming to London?" And the Insurance Post recently held a technology summit down in Horsham, and asked me to come over and be their after-dinner speaker, and they bought books for all the attendees. And so I figured, since I was going to come over here for that, I might as well make a week of it. So I arrived in London on Monday. I'm going back tomorrow, which is Saturday, back to the States. And so yes, instead of doing all the touristy bits, I've just been catching up with folks face-to-face in my time here in the UK.
02:44 MG: Good, well I'm going to come back and talk to you a little bit about the differences you've seen between the UK and the US. But I guess as we kick this off, in addition to being the most interesting man in insurance, the prophet and the last one is particularly intriguing... 'the WD-40 of insurance', you have also written a book called 'The End of Insurance'.
03:03 RG: All those names are things that other people came up with, not me. A few of them I've been bemused by, and particularly the WD-40 of insurance. And I asked my friend Patrick Callaghan, "How did you come up with that?" He said, "Because you fix all manner of problems in the industry." But yeah, so I've spent over 20 years in the industry, all in the carrier side, primarily as an underwriter.
03:25 RG: And the book was a bit of a personal project. And I didn't start out, I guess, to write a book, I was just taking a lot of meetings and seeing a lot of interesting technologies. And it wasn't one particular technology, or one particular company, but I would leave these meetings, and I would say, "I just saw a glimpse of the future. That's what insurance is going to look like 10 years from now." And it was a very neat feeling. And so I was on holiday in 2017, going into 2018, with the wife and kids, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. And what do people tell you, "If you can't stop thinking about something... " They'll say, write it down." But after about two, three months, I had 25 pages, single spaced of just these random thoughts. So, lo and behold, a year later, it's a 300-page book that's been out on Amazon since February.
04:10 MG: Well, congratulations. And I heard somebody describe it as not quite a book you can consume in one airplane flight. And I don't think they explained whether that was a cross-Atlantic or a local one, but maybe there and back you might be able to read it.
04:23 RG: That was my original stated goal and I think I mentioned it early in the book that, "Oh, you should be able to read this on a plane ride." And so one of the very first reviewers, who sent a wonderful review, but she called me out on... She said, "There's no way that you could do this." I said, "Maybe, between here and Singapore you could get it done."
04:41 MG: And last year, you released the book?
04:43 RG: It was February this year, 2019. So remarkable success. It's sold over 2000 copies in just over six months, which is beyond my wildest expectations. I was kinda hoping for 300,000, that was kind of a stretch goal. And I didn't know this at the time, but after the book originally released, a friend told me that the average book... He's written a couple of books himself. He said the average book only sells 229 copies, right? So we've got JK Rowling, who sold millions of Harry Potters, and then of course decided to impersonate me, steal my name, Robert Galbraith to author her non-Harry Potter books under. So clearly she's at the top of the food chain, but for many folks it doesn't go beyond friends and family. So I'm glad that a book about insurance and innovation in InsureTech who is clearly a niche audience has been so well-received around the world.
05:32 MG: Yeah. Maybe a few of the people who bought your book thought they're actually buying a book written by JK Rowling. But...
05:37 RG: Probably, probably. So I tell people, if you search Rob Galbraith on Google, you'll find myself along with two other gentlemen. One is a pioneer in digital photography, another one is kind of a country singer from the '70s. But if you search Robert Galbraith, nothing but JK Rowling all over the page.
05:56 MG: Well, hey, look, who's complaining. And I think it's sold quite well, both in the US and the UK, despite bizarrely having a higher price tag in the UK... In fact, even higher numbers. When I last looked on Amazon it was 35 pounds in the UK, versus $30 in the US. So I was just wondering if maybe Amazon's got an algorithm for currency exchange, back to front but despite that, do you still have readers in the UK?
06:20 RG: I do. And so the UK is actually the second highest selling market behind the US, followed by Germany, and then it's actually sold in 12 countries. And I think there's some countries, I know people have a copy of the book that aren't even showing up in the Amazon stats. So by hook or by crook, they're getting it. So there's probably folks in almost 20 countries that are floating around with a copy. So yeah, apologies on the sales price. I don't actually set that. That goes through the publisher and Amazon. I don't know if that's a post-Brexit exchange rate that they've factored in already or not, but yeah, apologies for the steep cost.
06:55 MG: Well, the other interesting geographical difference I noticed was that you had 21 reviews, all of them excellent, by the way, in the US and only one in the UK, which also I think probably reflects the slightly reserved nature of the UK audience. But actually, I guess also is it slightly more biased towards what you're seeing in the US, because insurance... And we'll talk a bit about what on earth Insurtech actually means in a minute. But there are some things that are very different in the way the world operates in the US versus the rest of the world, aren't there?
07:24 RG: It is. Yeah. The book is written from a US personal lines perspective for a couple of reasons. A, that's mostly my background. So even though I'm on the commercial side now in my current role as a director of innovation at AF Group, most of my years were spent at USAA, which is a large personal lines insurer that insures military members and their families. So that A, that was born out of my personal experience and B, I felt that even folks that were on the commercial line side of the US, everyone's a consumer of personal lines and so it's accessible to a wider range of audiences. At the time, I had thought about trying to broaden it in and address an international audience but I felt that I was going a little bit beyond my expertise.
08:10 RG: And so I felt that there's probably a lot of principles that certainly folks in other countries could apply and relate to their home market in a way that I certainly wouldn't pretend to be an expert. But I am blown away actually by the success that it's had internationally. I guess I never thought that it would have such a broad audience and a broad market. I've got folks as far away as Nigeria. I'm going to Brazil next month to give a talk and others, that it would resonate. So I think people haven't had as much trouble understanding, even though the US market is different than their home market, a lot of the concepts and principles are translatable for sure.
08:52 MG: Well, you're very modest but you are also very well-known in this space and delighted you've given up part of your Friday evening to come in and talk to me. And one of the other things you're involved with is Insurance Nerds and I thought that's probably... Certainly for me, I wouldn't want to put this on you, but maybe we're insurance nerds because we're sitting here in a Friday afternoon...
09:12 RG: We are. You can put me in that category too, Matthew.
09:15 MG: Talking about insurance. But I just want to tell you a little bit... I gave you a bit of the story. You don't know the full story about how I found out you were in London. So I was talking to Pedro at 90 who are one of our big supporters and sponsors and he goes, "we had Rob Galbraith in here this morning for a coffee." And then the next day, I was at the DevOps event, the workshop and I was prattling away about things and this very softly spoken, modest American person opposite started saying something very intelligent. I looked over and, it's like Rob Galbraith! So that's how we got together. So we should talk a bit about that, because that was a really interesting event, wasn't it? Talking about tech debt, which I vaguely knew about but it was really interesting what we heard that morning.
09:57 RG: Yeah. That was great. So, thank you, Matthew and Instech London for your tweet letting me know. So it actually fit perfectly in my schedule. That was the one plan... Part that I hadn't really planned out for the week so it was a perfect... I did have a bit of struggle finding the Victorian bathhouse which is the location. And it's a very modest structure on the top and it's... And so I finally got to the place and I couldn't figure if it was quite right and I ducked my head in and there was a gentleman right in the inside. He said, "You've come to the right place".
10:31 RG: You don't even know who I am or why I'm here, but he clearly knew. I guess I had that look about me of the type of person that would be going at eight in the morning to an insurance and technology breakfast at the Victorian bathhouse. But yeah, a very fascinating conversation on technical debt. And the part that I thought was the most provoking, I'm curious to get your thoughts was should technical debt be reflected on the balance sheet of insurers? And if it were to be reflected onto the balance sheet of insurers, would any remain solvent?
11:05 MG: Now fortunately, I get to ask the questions. So can you just describe for the audience what technical debt is because not everyone is going to understand it.
11:13 RG: Yeah. So this is actually a concept I don't talk about in the book because it was something that I learned about probably about a month or two after I had written the book. And so it will definitely be in the next version. So the idea of technical debt is just as you might rack up debt on a credit card, at a certain point, you've gotta pay off maybe a monthly allowance or what not. But you could certainly get to a tipping point where the amount of debt that you've racked up on your credit card gets to the point where the minimum payments themselves become very onerous and then you're certainly not working it off. You're just paying the interest, but you're really not working down any of the principal of that debt and becomes kind of overwhelming.
11:55 RG: The same idea is true for legacy technologies from the 1970s and 1980s is that over time, this technology, while it may have been fully depreciated and the operating cost is actually relatively low, I think it was... The quote at the breakfast was it's just whatever it cost in electricity to keep the machines actually functioning and operating. But because there's no capital investment, it's been fully depreciated, it's actually understating the true cost of that technology. And so, over time, you're building technical debt much as you would on a credit card to the point where you've gotta dig out of that hole at some point. And to actually dig out of the technical debt hole, you actually need to be very focused, very mindful, just as it is if you have a very large credit card debt to actually pay the whole thing off, before you go insolvent, right. It actually takes a lot of discipline and a lot of work, a lot of belt tightening, etcetera. And it's very difficult for individuals to do that. Such is the same for companies. And there's a lot of talk...
12:57 RG: Debate at the breakfast of, is it even possible to pay off your technical debt to get to where you should be presently in 2019 in terms of your technology and being up-to-date? And then what does it take to actually invest into the future of where technology is going because as soon as you bring it up to present, of course, if you don't keep up with it and don't invest in the future, then the technical debt problem starts over again.
13:24 MG: Yeah, for me it was not a surprise. But just really helpful to hear it positioned in that way, which is, it's almost mostly people now talking about it as some smouldering platform rather than the burning platform. But the issue is, I describe it as it's never quite at the top 10 or it's number 11 in the top 10 risks that the board are concerned about. So it never quite gets the attention. You can always just push it another year longer. But what was very clear is actually the cost to the rest of the business. There are hidden costs and frictional costs and competitive costs.
13:54 MG: And we heard about that great example, well we probably shouldn't mention the insurance company, but it took them 48 days before they paid out on insurance for... Funeral insurance. And the point was, how long would you need to be able to prove that someone's died. That was because they had so many processes in place that had to be signed off.
14:11 MG: And that once they've figured out effectively how to get rid of their technical debt in that product, they could give a payout within hours rather than the almost two months. So that brings us on to... Brings it back into a little bit of what you're doing at AF. So can you just talk a little bit about what your day-to-day job involves when you're not writing books and around the world presenting, when you're head of innovation?
14:34 RG: Sure, absolutely. Yeah. So director of innovation at AF group. It's a relatively new position for me. I started in April. So I've been six months on the job. I actually report to a gentleman by the name of, Abel Travis, who has a podcast himself called the Insurance Innovators Unscripted Podcast. So what we do at AF group, we're primarily what's known as a worker's compensation insurer. That's 80% of our premium that's similar to employer's liability here in the UK. Monoline carrier, been around for over 110 years, a very unusual longevity in the States.
15:09 RG: It's probably a young company here in the UK, but we're getting a mandate, rightly so, by our board and our fantastic CEO, Lisa Corless, who is just an amazing individual, a tremendous leader and very intelligent business... Her father was in insurance and taught her at a young age. So she's literally been her whole life in insurance. And so a fantastic leader that is passionate about innovation and not necessarily shrinking the worker's compensation, but continuing to grow it, but then also diversifying. And so we wanna get into more specialty-type risks. We'd love to be a top 50 P&C carrier that is more in the specialty line space. And so Abel was brought over to actually, not only lead the innovation function, but to actually stand up our product management function.
16:01 RG: We didn't have any product managers because we only had one product for a long time. And so his goal is to have us release two to four new products each year. And the other thing that we wanna do in addition to top-line growth through new products is reduce losses and expenses operational efficiency. So we're doing some interesting things in the wearable space. We've done a bit of a pilot with blockchain and other things. And the third thing that we really do in the innovation team in addition to top-line and bottom line is foster a culture of innovation. That's one of our four core, cultural principles at AF Group.
16:36 RG: And so we do a lot of... We have an Insurtech day. We bring in start-ups and meet with some of the employees. We bring in agents that are on innovation council once a year and pick their thoughts. We've got an idea pipeline. We have different challenges. We get a lot ideas from all throughout the organization. So it's a small team and very much an enabling function for the enterprise rather than this team innovates and then everybody else is just business as usual. It's really our mission to help to foster innovation throughout. But we're certainly enablers, not the only innovators with the company by any means.
17:12 MG: So when you're going into what sounds like a green field site of you moving into new product area. I guess a couple of questions on that. So are you targeting the same clients to cross-sell from the workers' comp into new products in the specialty area?
17:24 RG: Not necessarily. So it can be, but not necessarily. We have a... I'd say fairly open in terms of what some of the value props that I've seen come across my desk and what we're thinking about. A lot of it, I would characterize as opportunities that we think are being overlooked by the market for one reason or the other. We're number seven in terms of the workers' compensation today. But many of the people above us are quite large companies that are household names in the States and probably well-known over here. Travelers, The Hartford, Chubb, etcetera. And so they offer a full range of commercial products. So we don't wanna compete directly against them. We don't think that makes a lot of sense. But where we see pockets of opportunity if we can be more nimble and we can go after some of these markets that either they don't find an attractive opportunity, not big enough for them, or that they're not able to get to that market quickly and we think that can be our advantage.
18:21 MG: And can you reveal any of the products you're looking at or are they still under wraps?
18:25 RG: It's still under wraps right now, but hopefully you'll be able to see some announcements... One I can actually mention because it's in market is after 110 plus years, we actually entered letter insurance for the first time, last year. So we have a commercial trucking through a brand called Fundamental Underwriters that we're offering on a non-standard basis. And so that's been an interesting pivot to something that's been mostly obviously on the liability, the casualty side of things.
18:54 MG: Well, that whole fleet insurance area, people are starting to look at now as you start to see driverless cars and the transition from traditional motor to more mass fleet offerings. You mentioned blockchain in there as well, so I can't let you get off without telling me a little bit more about have you actually found a POC for blockchain? Can you talk about it? And is it being successful?
19:17 RG: Yeah. So I think blockchain is one of the most controversial technologies out there. Everyone has an opinion. I don't know how many of those opinions are actually informed opinions, including my own, by the way. So I did write a chapter on blockchain and it's something I've talked to many experts about, and I still don't just quite get it. So we had a young woman as an intern this summer on my team, her name was Alex. Just finished freshman year at university, a very, very bright young woman. In fact, we had two interns, we had another one working on optical character recognition program, so both were fantastic. His name was Angelo. And so when Alex came on board, she was part of the blockchain club at the University of Michigan. And so she had an interest in working on blockchain.
20:07 RG: So I said, "Alex, what I really need from you is, I'd like to have some type of proof of concept, how would this work, etcetera, do just a quick use case for us." Not necessarily really anything that's gonna drive business value but just to show us the fundamentals of how it would work or could work. But I said, "Alex, the key question I have is is this a $300,000 opportunity, a $3 million opportunity, a $30 million opportunity, or a $300 million opportunity? I just need an order of magnitude 'cause I really honestly don't know. And so if it's 300,000, this is probably not worth my time right now, and I can focus on other things, of which most of where we're focusing. But if it's a $300 million opportunity, I wanna know that because I needed to be devoting a whole lot more resources to it."
20:51 RG: And so she did a wonderful job mapping out really almost a strategy, a white paper for us as an organization to pursue in terms of a blockchain strategy. And so, again, what was remarkable is this young woman, who is 19, she spent two months in the industry, when I've spent 20 years in the industry. But because she... This is a key theme of the book, we live in a world of accelerating change. And so if you think about it, over the course of 20 years, I've seen really the flat part of that exponential curve, and so it's very easy for me to project forward and say, "Well, 20 years from now, it's gonna look the same as change has been over the last 20 years," and so I think about it in a much more linear term. Even though her experience in the industry is much shorter than mine, it's on the more relevant part of the curve, so the slope or the steepness of the curve.
21:45 RG: She is more quick to adopt some of this technology like blockchain than I am. So she's explaining the difference between Hyperledger and Ethereum, between DLT versus blockchain, and just had a wealth of insights in a way that really frankly nobody else in our organization, nobody in IT or anywhere else had that level of knowledge with this technology.
22:06 MG: And DLT is distributed ledger just so we know...
22:09 RG: Yes, so distributed ledger. So now I told you, I said, "I throw out these acronyms that I sound like I know what I'm talking about." So that actually was part of the conversations that I had in London this week. So I met with the team at Blocksure on Monday afternoon to learn a little bit about their Blocksure OS platform and what they're hoping to do with that. And then I met with Walid from Insureblocks on Wednesday who's doing a fantastic job really exploring the possibilities. So there are true believers, there are true detractors and still in quest, I guess, of where this is going. I've talked to a lot of people, I don't know that I have formed a solid opinion myself. I do think the potential is huge. So I do think it is worth absolutely kicking the tyres. And so how it all plays out, I'm not sure, but I think organizations that are dismissive, ignore blockchain at their peril.
23:07 MG: Yeah, and I think it's also what is blockchain and what is not blockchain. I think there's a bit of debate now with R3 and Corda and I'm not expert to go and talk about that, but is that blockchain, is it not? I'm talking to them next week at the Intelligent Insurer Conference, so we'll find out a bit more then. But I think the essence of what you're saying is it's too early to call it. There's definitely something behind the technology that's valuable, but it sounds like either you don't know yet or you know and you're not telling us whether it's a 300 million or 300 million-plus opportunity, or 300,000.
23:38 RG: Matthew, one of the things that I'll say though is the time that I wrote the book and it came out, there was of a lot of hypotheses, a lot of theories, a lot of white papers, right? What I've seen since the book came out is, I've seen the Aon's and the Guy Carpenters using blockchain to partner with re-insurers. I've seen USAA and State Farm, two of the largest personal lines carriers in the USA, they're gonna start exchanging claimant information because obviously their insureds run into each other all the time, and so they're gonna start exchanging claimant information back and forth with each other in 2020 via blockchain. So you're seeing more and more name companies, real world applications, real use cases out there. Now, how robust those use cases are, it's hard for me to go beyond the press release. But again, you're getting some big names now with real use cases in this space.
24:31 MG: Just generally on that technology, a lot is changing since you wrote that book, and not necessarily in ways people would have expected, meaning that curve isn't always hockey stick up if you look at it and you're at the flat point, it doesn't always go up, sometimes it goes down, goes away. But what do you make of some of the funding we're seeing now coming in, that seems to be more focused around MGAs. As we're talking, there's just the news come out recently that Tokio Marine Holdings acquired PURE for over $3 billion at a forward looking multiple of 33. That's really a big number for an MGA, which a few years ago, were thought of as the rather quiet, dull side of insurance. And at the same time, we're not seeing many large tech, certainly tech in insurance IPOs there's some strategic acquisitions going on. But what would you make of what's going on in that space? And to what extent do you feel that the funding that's coming in is justified by the products that are out there?
25:34 RG: Yeah, I find it fascinating. I actually was at an InsureTech event in San Francisco last year where I was on a panel with a couple of venture capitals and one of them, Chris Downer, who I respect greatly, was talking about the different valuations and mentioned that a tech company valuation was going to be very different from an MGA, which was even very different from a carrier. And part of the panel discussion was for startups to kind of say, which should you position yourself as, a tech play, as an MGA. And the route that we were seeing was that a lot of tech firms were actually going the MGA route when they didn't necessarily have to be an MGA. I think there was some perception out there, right, that they all needed to set up shop as an MGA and Chris's point actually was you shouldn't do that unless your value proposition requires that you do that, because as a tech firm, you're gonna have a much higher valuation than as an MGA. Well, that sounded like sound advice last year maybe not so much this year.
26:35 RG: The other interesting thing is... I actually did a panel interview with AM BestTV with our friend Adrian Jones, he was on there but there was the gentleman that had started Kin Insurance that was on there, talked about going from MGA to full stack carrier. And so, this was the nature of the panel was, is this a trend that we see. I had some conversations with folks, probably not intended for public, that are MGAs that have grown considerably and they were talking about the challenge of finding enough paper because of the growth and managing the different providers of paper at some point, I think they just wanted to kind of ditch all their carrier partners so that they could go full stack.
27:20 RG: So, it helps early on to achieve the growth as an MGA but then, as you scale, it actually becomes a bit of a spaghetti complicated mess. And so there's this desire to say at a certain point maybe it does make sense to go full stack. So, I don't know when I saw that of Tokyo Marine and PURE, you kinda wonder, "Well is the intent that they're not gonna be an MGA forever? Is there some tech stack... " we were just coming up from the conference of the insurance post Policy Expert, which is a startup here in the UK, but it's been around for eight years or so and they were talking about how they're soon actually to be in the top twenty household insurers.
27:57 RG: And so they've worked a lot with aggregators and others, but they were talking about their tech stack and so I asked the question, "Well, you're VC funded what if somebody were to just buy you out, just for your tech stack, didn't care about the customers or whatnot." And he said, "Well, you know, we're always looking for an exit." So, I don't know, I think we're really muddying the waters between tech and MGA and... It's almost about how you arrive at what you're doing and what is your secret sauce rather than I don't think anybody fits nicely into these buckets anymore. That's part of who they are, but not a robust enough definition to really make sense of some of the valuations to say whether that make sense or not.
28:34 MG: Have you got a commission by the way with Policy Expert or negotiated deal that if someone listens to this and they get some funding you get...
28:40 RG: I'll happily take half a point off that, yeah, absolutely.
28:45 MG: But then that MGA one is interesting. Well Chris actually, Chris Downer was on podcast, something like, number seven I think so, Chris, if you're listening, maybe you can check in and tell us what you think today, but I suspect part of it is yes, it's evaluations but I think there also is a legitimate reason beyond that, which is it's quite helpful to as a year in dog food to prove the concept if your building tech and you can actually go out and put in place some distribution and actually learn from that and there are a few companies we know Ivari is one who actually were also the workshop, where they've got technology for building MGA platforms, but they also have an MGA themselves and they learn from one and it feeds back into the other but it is, it is curious.
29:26 MG: I guess, as we speak, also Hippo are one of those people that might be looking for paper just now, given that Munich Re digital partners has just pulled their paper from them and actually a quick plug for Instech is we do actually also help people find carriers as well for MGAs. And Rob, I threw out that comment about Insurance Nerds earlier on, I wasn't just being rude about the two of us, but that's actually an organization that you're part of but I have come across a little bit, but can you just talk a little bit more about what that actually is.
29:56 RG: Yeah, great question. So the Insurance Nerds is a group of friends of mine actually that they all have, "real jobs" in the industry, but they've created a website INS nerds dot com. Originally started as articles for young professionals in the insurance industry. So in the past, there was a dearth of content for them. There would be textbooks, exam guides, interviews with a CEO etcetera but somebody that was zero to five years in the insurance industry that might be working in a call center somewhere or whatnot to try to encourage them to say, "Hey, there's actual career path for you here it may not be a defined one you may have to find your own way. But let's talk to you about various aspects of the industry, whether it be claims or underwriting or pricing or marketing, distribution, reinsurance... " The cap bonds is one of the early ones they had earlier article on blockchain.
30:47 RG: So they started with these articles by young professionals for young professionals, and it's really expanded to being a full content provider. So they have videos under a YouTube channel called The Insurance Nerdery. My book is the third book that they've published. So they self-published one called Insuring Tomorrow, about millennials in the insurance industry and then a real good friend and a wonderful speaker and blogger named Bill Wilson goes by Insurance Commentary or inscommentary dot com. So he had been industry 40 years semi-retired, and I say that with a wink because I think Bill's just as busy as he's ever been.
31:28 RG: But he wrote a book called When Words Collide about claims disputes that the Insurance Nerds published and then my book is the third that they've done so yeah, highly encouraged... They've got podcasts as well called Profiles in Risk that's out there and they have another one called The Attachment Point that's a little bit more... Profiles in Risk is interviews with personalities. The Attachment Point is a little more a weekly round up of news, but ton of content, insnerds.com, they're a wonderful organization and a great source, particularly if you're relatively new to the industry.
31:57 MG: But mostly US focused.
32:01 RG: It is, yes, but they do talk to a few folks internationally. They actually... Rahul Mather who is a twenty one year old. He's at Accenture now, and he's just tweeting up the storm and all that and I had the pleasure of having lunch with Rahul this week. He's been a feature on profiles, so they do occasionally reach out across the pond to talk to personalities over here in the UK.
32:21 MG: Insurtech - does it still have a relevance as a term or have we moved on from that and should we retire the word and just use something else or just talk about technology and insurance?
32:32 RG: There's a great question. I actually rather like the term, and maybe that's a bit counter to where most people are today. It is a bit hard to distinguish, but I think of it as a somewhat distinguished kind of... New tech and new value propositions from old tech and older value propositions. And I was at a conference earlier this year and the question was, "Is Guidewire insurtech or not?" And it's like, "I don't think of Guidewire... Even though they do enable many insurtechs and whatnot, but because it's kind of just ecosystem policy administration, billing, claims is kind of standard... Well, maybe it was a proprietary mainframe system that you had before, or something else, and now you moved to that. I don't think of Duck Creek as being insurtech, but maybe they are. Certainly the cloud aspect of where they're going, I think that they've embraced the Cloud sooner than some of the others have.
33:24 RG: So I don't know. I think that there's some out there that yes, they're technology and insurance. But I think of insurtech more as that start-up. So there's enabling technology out there, but then there's these new ways of thinking and doing things and value propositions that I find very intriguing. And so when I think about insurtech, I think about, you know, companies like Flock and others that this is... Okay, this is a new exposure or a new way of covering things. It's kind of new thinking. That's the way I associate the term. And I guess everyone has obviously got a bit of a different definition. So I still think it has value, 'cause when you say you're in insurtech, I think of new ways of thinking and I think... I'll evaluate each one on its merits, of course. And I think some terrible ideas out there that I've heard, but yeah, I think the term still has relevance.
34:19 MG: Although, by your definition, an insurtech is no longer news. So Ed and the team better watch out because Flock have been around for a few years. So you might not be insurtech anymore.
34:32 RG: Yeah. I will say... So I think there are insurtechs that are 10 years old. I think there's some... Probably the length of time is a bit arbitrary, but let's just call it the last decade.
34:43 MG: Well, we give companies less than two years old free membership of InsTech London. So we've got a slightly tighter timeline on the start-up side. But now I think it's an important thing to talk about because language is important. And if people are talking about insurtech, they mean something or they don't mean something. And when one of the major reinsurance brokers stands up at a major event and says, "We are insurtech," then should somebody be holding them accountable and saying, "Well, actually you're not." Or do they say, "Well, actually we are because we've just launched ten new bits of technology that actually are new and cutting edge and they could have been done independently. We just happened to do them internally but that should still be insurtech."
35:26 RG: So in my mind, I wouldn't know that I would have the gumption to stand up and challenge them right on the spot. But in my mind, I do dismiss a lot of that. I think everyone's trying to lump themselves in and in fact I work to put on an event every year. It's kind of a joint effort between the Casualty Actuarial Society and the Charter of Property Casualty Underwriters, and we call it the Underwriting Collaboration Seminar. And unfortunately, with the plethora of events that have really jumped up, we've seen declining attendees. And so we've been really struggling a bit with how do we repurpose the event because the content is good. Those that show up are really good. And so I have joked that we should call it the underwriting insurtech collaboration insurtech seminar insurtech.
36:10 MG: Does that spell something out? I'm just trying to work out if that's...
36:13 RG: I don't know, right. I don't know but just if we put it in there enough times and get a buzz then maybe people can... It's easy to justify the travel expense to the boss or something.
36:21 MG: And just actually on that last one, another thing that's always fascinating is how people acquire information. So we're doing a podcast yet some of the people who want to reach out to don't listen to podcasts. So we're now converting these into articles. How do you personally consume information? You've got a lot going on. You've got a day job. You're also writing a book. You're talking at conferences. Yeah. So what's the most efficient way for you to gather information?
36:46 RG: That's a great question. Actually, I was asked this question recently by an old work colleague of mine. And so I told her that social media is my number one go-to right now. I was a big Twitter guy for a long time. I still... I tell people Twitter is my first love. So I do check it. But more and more LinkedIn has become a very powerful mechanism. LinkedIn used to be just my electronic Rolodex, right. So I don't have to keep track of all these business cards and addresses, whatever. If we're connected on LinkedIn and if you change jobs or whatever, I can always message you. I can always find you on LinkedIn. And so I thought it was already a compelling value proposition.
37:23 RG: But the social features that they've really added, the robustness of some of the articles and the posts, that's now really become my go-to. And so there's voices that you trust out there. And so it's not necessarily an industry publication or whatnot, but there's certain individuals and I... We see this with the influencer list. And what's been fascinating as a quick aside is all week there's been kind of the influencers and many of the people I've met I certainly considered influencers, whether they're recognized on the list or not. But there's been a lot of, "These lists are rubbish." or whatnot, and "I don't care where my position is." I was talking to Johnson Swift. He goes, "I've been doing what I do at the insurance press for a long time and he goes, "I'm up 20 spaces, down 20 spaces, just writing articles and putting content out. I'm not changing anything."
38:09 RG: And I don't know how they derive these things, but I think the idea of the influencer list regardless of who should be on there or not... Everyone can have their own opinion. But the idea that there are recognized voices. I like the term thought leadership I was talking with Nigel Walsh earlier this week from Deloitte and he's not a big fan of that term. But I think of that term as I'm not looking for a particular title or a particular company or a particular publication. There are certain voices that I follow and over time you, in your own, I guess, mental algorithm, there's certain voices that rise to the top and certain ones a bit with a view of skepticism. But they maybe have some interesting takes and then there's other folks that you're just, "Aww, they're just full of themselves. I'm not gonna listen to that." So that's a big source. I certainly do subscribe to daily email lists and quickly scan the news for things like the news on Tokio Marine and PURE and others.
39:06 RG: Quite frankly, I find it very difficult to keep up with everything and I wish I had more time devoted to keeping up. So it's a challenge, but over time, I think you do get... Being in this space, you do get a decent filter of, you can quickly scan and ignore the 99% of it and pick out interesting nuggets. So one that quickly caught my attention was James River's Excess and Surplus lines carrier in the US, one of the very first ones to backstop Uber and I even talk about them in the book and I just saw this week that they are actually or...
39:41 MG: They've pulled out.
39:42 RG: Yeah, they're going to pull out. So the stock dropped 20% as they ditched their largest client. But I guess the losses were too big and I would have thought they could have got the price right at a certain point. They talked about taking the reserves up $60 million from 2016 to 2017. That part didn't surprise me. What surprised me is that it's 2019 and they still feel like they can't get the price quite right, and they're willing to completely pull out of the account. So those are the type of items that I'll... A few things will catch my eye. I'm sure it's the same for you, I would imagine.
40:12 MG: Yeah, no, so it's stories. What's interesting in that one is is that Progressive have jumped in and they're taking up the space and there's companies like Ensure out there who are offering analytics and insurance. So yeah, understanding why they've pulled out is that because they can't get the analytics right or the loss ratio is obviously not right, so that's... The fundamentals aren't working for them. But yeah, I think this whole... How you acquire information is interesting when LinkedIn... The risk of LinkedIn, I think is they're starting to throw adverts out there that are just annoying and I think they've got to watch out that they don't... Twitter is tricky because you just get a bunch of random tweets from people that it's got nothing to do with what you want to read or I want to read. And so you've got to filter through that. With LinkedIn, it seems to be the adverts that are getting in the way now.
40:57 MG: But I think what's interesting is seeing, not just on the social media influencer list but also the senior decision makers at insurance companies who are starting to either write posts on there or someone is doing it for them, but I know quite a few people who I never would have expected to go on LinkedIn and start to see them putting material on there and it does feel like their voice. So I think, yeah, the challenge is always how do you stand out? You've got almost 10,000 followers on LinkedIn, so... And you've got more than me, Rob. So you're doing something right.
41:29 RG: What I tell people is almost everybody is trying to sell you something, right? I'm just trying to sell you a book that's 35 pounds. So it may be a bit over priced, right, but it's just that. It's... 35 quid at the end of the day, really isn't that much to invest versus the thousands of dollars that many other people want you to spend. So I think people view me as a... I hate to use the term unbiased source 'cause I certainly have my own preconceptions and biases and whatnot, but I'm not trying to... I don't have any alternative motives, or nefarious things, I'm gonna just call it as I see it.
42:07 MG: No, that's great. And actually, here's a quick plug for you. One of the quotes on Amazon is one of the best insurance books I've ever read. I suspect that's not... He's done a great job writing the book but it's not that tough to be amongst the good insurance books but well done.
42:23 RG: No I agree, yeah.
42:24 MG: And then the other one which you didn't talk about. So the reason for people to go and buy the book is Seven Fatal Flaws of P/C Insurance and the Opportunities. So I now need to go buy this book. It is cheaper on Kindle actually it's 20 pounds on Kindle. Well, Rob is... Anything else we should talk about, anything that you've got coming out that you want to share with share with our audience?
42:45 RG: Yes, I appreciate the opportunity to be on Matthew, it's so great to connect in person. So just a couple of items. The book is actually now as of this month, eligible for a Kindle Unlimited. So for those that are members of the Kindle Unlimited which I don't know what the prices here, I know in the US, it's $9,99c per month, so I don't know if we still have the same one-to-one exchange rate on Amazon there or what the price is here, in the UK, but if you're eligible for the Amazon Unlimited you can read the book for free because it's now eligible for that program, which is great.
43:15 RG: We have an audio book version that is coming out hopefully next month. I have a young woman that is recording it. She's been voice-trained working with a professional recording studio, doing that, so I'm very excited because that's the number one question I get is, "Is this on audio book format? " And I think it will reach some of the executive audiences or whatnot, that may not have the time to sit down for the 300 pages or aren't able to finish it in their eight hour trans-Atlantic plane ride.
43:44 RG: And then folks can find more about the book at endofinsurance.com. So I'm usually posting podcasts, videos, other kind of supplemental content out there. We have other reviews that are not posted on Amazon that are out there as well. And then I always enjoy connecting with people on LinkedIn, I get lots of messages. I'm not always able to respond to every single one that I get, but I do try to get to as many as I can. And I enjoy hearing feedback, and interacting with folks in the space.
44:12 MG: Well, Rob, it's been great to carve out your time, you've had a very busy week. Thank you very much for dedicating the end of it to our discussion. I really enjoyed it.
44:22 RG: Absolutely, thanks Matthew.