Michael: Keith Savino, how are you today?
Keith: Michael, I’m awesome.
Michael: Well, first of all, thanks so much for joining us, secondly, full disclosure Keith, you and I go back, I don’t know if it’s 20 years, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it is. Could be a little bit like a couple of- [crosstalk].
Keith: That makes us older.
Michael: [laughs] I’m so much wiser. Number one, I want to congratulate you on achieving another pinnacle in the industry, The Chair of PIA National, congratulations on that. I say another chair because in some ways Keith, you’ve served as a transformative leader in the industry for as far I know most of your career, and at certainly this is not your first rodeo. First thing I’m going to ask you, is if you will tell us a little bit of Keith Savino, and how you got to be who you are today?
Keith: That’s always a tough question. I wish that I had the 25 cent version on it, but I did not start in the insurance industry, this is my 30th year actually in the business, so two-thirds of my time now. For 30 years I’ve been engaged in trying to help to drive the industry forward in a variety of ways, and I think a lot of that comes from the fact that I came from a technology background before I was in insurance, but interestingly enough a lot of people don’t know, I came from a real heavy duty sales background. I actually worked at MCI Telekom, I worked in the telephone industry for a couple years, and I was in New York City, I was one of their direct sales rep on the streets of New York City.
Michael: That was back in the day when things were really rock and roll in the telecom? [chuckles]
Keith: You want to talk about revolution, it absolutely was, this was effectively back around the break up in the phone company, before it. Now, this wouldn’t make sense to most people because when I say break up the phone company, it’s like, “What phone company? The cellphone company?” No. [laughs] This were in the days when you had a wired line, and you had a cord coming off the end of the phone, and businesses spent insane amounts of money on long distance calls and local calls, respectfully we solved those problems. I would work with commercial accounts and move them forward with solutions, and frequently working with the other services. There were some major accounts that I had that were not only In the US but also internationally, so you would leverage those relationships. I was actually a head hunter for high tech electronics companies.
Michael: That’s right.
Keith: That’s really a medical instruments companies, digital testing, what they called digital back there… and Department of Defense work, things like that. That was really awesome because you got to interact with some of the smartest folks there, and you’re always talking about the newest greatest thing if they were working on or selling or building. Then I also spend a little time on advertising before ending up insurance industry, and that little time, by the way, was valuable to me for the all 30 years was because I learned a lot about three types of advertising, how you get your message across, and again I was in the sales role.
The very first thing that happened when I entered the insurance industry was, my brother and I had originally planned to get in the business, it took me a little while longer, he had started on a life insurance side, and when I walked in the door, he said, “You know, I bought these computers like six months, they’re called Redshaw, I don’t know what to do with them, would you mind cracking those boxes open and maybe that’s something that could be helpful.” I had already used computers heavily with MCI Telekom.
Michael: That agency had invested in technology, they just didn’t get it out of the box?
Keith: Absolutely. Those were the days when a lot of carriers would actually buy use the systems they had invested in because they wanted you to use them.
This was not a check that was written by a carrier, this was a check that was written by the agency, somebody who was big enough to get somebody to buy up these systems. All the investments that we made for the next couple of years, was completely and totally our own. The thing that was cool about it, if I didn’t know what you didn’t know, we were doing things on large commercial accounts, large constructions accounts. Then most folks, later on, we find out were telling us we were insane to try to do. What it did is, it enabled us to grow and be very efficient at the time when everyone was living at paper filed we were not. That evolves, I was with a couple of different firms in my history, the firm I’m currently a managing partner of which is known as Broadfield Insurance,
Warwick Resource Groups, also and then most people would now the same company, dates back to 1864 but it was about 18 years ago that I got involved with helping to take this firm from where it was which effectively was a start-up for my brother and I, we ran parallel, by 2015 had pretty much grown about 10 ex. The period of time that was in the ’90s and the 2000s that ran parallel to that that you’re referring to is also my industry engagement. In that period of time, I had become involved with the PIA in New York City, The Young Insurance Professional in Manhattan, and then ultimately moved to Jersey. I got involved with an organization called the CPIA, Certified Professional Insurance Agency now known as the AIM Society, ultimately was very involved in their sales wise success harmonize, helping to write and present those.
It was a perfect train, what a great way to work with yourself and back then there was a management system called, and I become president in that organization, there was a management system, Delphi Information Systems which become Ebix, and I become president of that Ebix Group, probably around the 2000s. Also, I was very involved with the ACORD, all of those things led to how do you do business better and more efficiently. As an agent when you’re using systems sometimes you make the mistake of raising your hand and saying, have you ever thought or do you think we can do this better? Unfortunately, that usually leads to getting ‘volun-told’ or railroaded at groups you supported. I did end up earlier besides the ACORD groups, on the ACORD Board of Directors between 2004 and ’16, I was actually a Vice-Chair of Standards, and Vice-Chair of the Board.
The reason why, well, getting through reasons why I evolved that point of time travel groups, but during that period of time I was also the Chairman of NETVU, the Network of Vertafore Users. We had migrated our systems, I was been involved with almost all the systems over a period of time, it didn’t matter to me whether it was acquired or Vertafore or Hawksoft. It didn’t matter to me, those were all great solutions an independent agency needed to embrace, for their own purposes, depending upon their size, their expertise, their demographics. Doing nothing was just not an option in my opinion, so I thought the ACORD was a great way to work with all those members over a period of time. We did create a group called the AUGIE, which was that time we were called User Group of Information Exchange, today it stands for The Association and User Group Information Exchange, and I was one of the founders of that.
You and I have known each other during these periods of time, and you always knew that I was involved with the PIA at the state level. Eventual my state had elected me as a National Director, and then on the National Board I was elected to the Executive Committee, and that what leads to me 2018 year as the this year’s President of the PIA National.
Michael: President, question for you, Keith, as you know I ran an affiliate of the PIA on the West Coast, we had most of the Western states, that was a long time ago. I’d been a non-profit executive prior to that in the early part of my career, and then become a certified association executive and then I guess you can say, left that part of my career behind. Nonetheless, I’ve always said that a lot of us, sort a lot of respect for associations,
what happens when like-minded people can come together and support the industry and push for appropriate change. It does seem that clearly so much of the world had been changed, it seems like association management has changed as well, people have some other online opportunities to satisfy some of the things that associations have done in the past. On one hand, it does seem like it is a world that the association management matter, association volunteering has changed, you in a position as, we’re in a word could be called, the head volunteer. Now, that you’re in that position, I want to ask, what are your hopes and dreams for the National Association during your administration?
Keith: That’s a great question, I like to think that it’s a combination of a lot of years of being an insurance agent and broker. I’m dedicated to the independent agency distribution channel. My focus is generally on doing everything possible to make sure that distribution channel benefits by our community. To me, associations or our communities are the agency brokers and frankly of all sizes. Sometimes certain associations get pigeonholed into, well, this is good for these guys, honestly, Michael a little bit of past few years and maybe we’ll talk about this, that has changed from the end of slate. I would encourage folks to look at the current exec comm of PINS [crosstalk]
Michael: Well, I’m curious about this because I have obviously in touch with a lot of agents and some observations about how some things are changing, I’ll share one and I want your feedback on this one. A number of my clients and some of the people that I’ve interviewed as guests of this podcast have been while the size of their agency or the age of their agency. The size maybe not huge, age not very old, but the annual growth rate, something that a lot of other more well-established agencies would froth at the mouth for, so I’m curious about that. It seems like there are a lot of– they’re not necessarily startups, but younger agencies that are being run by younger people who have not just a thirst for marketing, but some sort of fundamental understanding of it and how to use current technologies. They’re making it in an imprint on this industry. Are you seeing that at the association level?
Keith: Without a doubt.
Keith: I think that so you’re talking about is the range of all folks participating in the insurance community, right?
Michael: Yes, right.
Keith: Michael, I’ve been involved with different groups over the years, so I often find myself saying I only take off the logo for a moment. We can only a fan of saying we’re all part of an insurance community together and then the community creates those things which are important to itself. The community’s created the associations because “Hey, together we’re stronger.” Communities created work groups to work on problems and drive priorities in our industry because together we’re stronger, there’s just a long laundry list of ways in which that has benefited agencies who don’t even know that they have been the recipients of this great work because of political reasons, because of things that great volunteers have done to make sure that the regulatory environment continues to remain good for the consumer, good for the agency.
We can continue to look out for our local constituents in our towns or because you’re volunteering for something. I’ll use examples of technology where things that folks have today, like personal lines or commercial lines download or real-time or claims download or E-doc sent through messages, Commission statement downloads, all of that came out of agents wants and needs as a community now because somebody else said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea guys, why don’t you do it this way? It frequently came out of the wants and needs and the folks who volunteer for those groups are often some of the youngest and brightest in our business who are willing to raise their hand and get engaged.
It’s not just about somebody getting engaged that says, “Hey, I think one day I want to be president of my state association.” That world has changed a lot since I got involved in some of these groups it hasn’t changed and some of that, by the way, Michael has to do with how many years of a commitment that is and so forth but what hasn’t changed is that the community, the folks who were saying that they want to work together and collaborate is as strong as ever. The communication channels may change, so now people might post notes on Facebook to each other about this great idea where 10 years ago they were on a conference call and 10 years before that they were sitting in a meeting room, right?
Keith: You still required the community, but the media, the vehicles have changed. That same community getting together right now and speaking about how important it is for us to, I don’t know from use this E-docs send you messages piece to it so important at the moment, the way that doing a real-time transaction which is really important 2000 to 2005. I am involved in helping to drive this piece. Now, is that just a PIA issue? Is a nephew issue? It’s all of the above because it’s the entire insurance community that can participate and the entire insurance community that, of course, will be driving adoption.
Some of the folks who were the youngest in our business often didn’t get the voice many years ago. I knew that was an issue with me, I was one of the youngest agency principals that I knew years ago and today is still one of the youngest agency principals that I know. Everything that I can do to bring youth and diversity into the industry to get them engaged in these types of activities are super important.
Michael: What would you to the insurance agent who are younger, older, maybe doesn’t matter, but like every entrepreneur, they’ve got plenty to do, like, “Okay, I’m showing up at work, I got 12 hours of work to do today and then I can or maybe I’ll knock off half of my to-do list.” What would you say to somebody like that who wants to find like, “Yes, I want to participate in the community, but I need some balance here.”
Keith: One of the greatest benefits of participating in these communities is not just the server to the industry, but it’s actually the rewards that you read back. Without a doubt, when I got into this industry, I did not come into the industry and said, “Hey, let me participate with others.” In fact, when I first came into the industry, remember I came out of some industries where that were not as collaborative. In fact, they were very competitive, dog eat dog, go talk to your competitor. It was a little unusual to say, “Jeez, wait two strokes are collaborating.” Well, that’s why for the first few years of being in the business when he started working with others, I’m like, “Wow” and the nice part about it is what you don’t know will hurt you. When you can find others that have insurance knowledge and expertise, then you can absorb that, being part of a community allows you to do that.
For that person who’s wondering whether or not that should be involved, and I may not say this right, but there’s no question that you get back for more than you do and anyone who believes for a moment that if you’re involved in an association or a group that means somehow you’re not doing your job every day is so missing the point because, in fact, I would argue if you’re not involved in some community at some level in the insurance industry, then you are missing out function a very important subject matter [crosstalk]
Michael: Good point.
Keith: – and knowledge transfer, then you are going to make a lot of mistakes because you think you’re smarter than the average bear. That’s why this mastermind groups, that’s why heads of state get together around the world, that’s why seats will meet and be involved with boards. This is not an uncommon approach to common problems in the industry, it’s not an insurance industry-specific thing. Builders and remodelers get together and talk about issues with regarding building homes.
Lawyers get together and talk about issues regarding solving the needs of their clients. Accountants get together, doctors get together. Doctors read each other’s white papers so they can learn from each other. That’s all I’m speaking about here. If you get up every day and you go to work in your agency and you don’t get involved at all, then you are missing out on an important part of education in this business. Call it grad school, grad school.
Michael: I’m taking notes, all right. Let’s talk about now, this industry that we are in. Yes, of course, there’s a lot the same as it was 25 years ago, but there’s a lot to it’s different. I don’t think, we probably need to talk, we don’t need to spend a lot of time on how is it different? Well, there are new technologies, consumer behavior has changed and now we have emerging technologies that are attempting to do various somethings to the industry. In this environment right now, I’m going to ask you a few questions and you can give me short answers, long answers. First question, given the state of the industry and given the state of change about the independent insurance agency channel, optimistic or pessimistic?
Keith: I’m very optimistic.
Michael: That’s because?
Keith: I passionately believe that the Independent Agency Distribution Channel has been growing for the past few years, not shrinking. Good examples, many of the carriers that were exclusively direct to consumer are now doing everything they can to find important local agents that they can appoint that already have an influence on a community that they want to serve. I believe that there’s only one carrier that may be left of– if we went back 20 years ago and said who were the top 20 carriers writing direct to consumer that that had agents, or not, I think there’s only one now that doesn’t have any independent agents because they’re shared.
I also believe that the direct to consumer space from those who are a one carrier one line of business solution is incredibly competitive and incredibly jam-packed. Getting entry into that space is an insane investment.
Michael: Because of the, of what you just said that the direct to consumer channel is jam packed and presumably they’re good at it. There’s a channel–
Keith: We’re direct to consumer as independent agents. I guess what I’m saying is there is one carrier, one line of business solution. We’re a multi-carrier multiple line of business solution. There’s a place for everyone, is my point.
Michael: There is a place for everyone, and I think there’s probably a pretty strong argument. If you look at the general landscape of Industrial Economics and psycho graphics, there’s a match between different channels and different consumer groups. Not every consumer is the same. Given the fact that, let’s say the direct channel plays over here, and maybe some insure tech channels play over here, and so on and so forth, where do you think the independent agency channel is going to shine the most in the future?
Keith: First, I want to take the term insure tech and just throw it on the side because that’s no different than saying dot-com boom to me or something. There’s no difference.
Michael: We’ll circle back to that.
Keith: Yes. We’ll circle back to that because I think that’s required [crosstalk]
Michael: We will. [laughs] Yes, all right.
Keith: I’m sure that we will. The different strokes for different folks. Michael, if I’m going to roll out a product tomorrow and I want to invent a new insurance product, I could say I’m going to put this into your marketing, I’m going to sell it online and stuff, and that’s great. There are many people who start with them. By the way, I’m a fan of that. As you know, I’ve been a proponent of digital distribution and insurance for decades. I also believe that’s, as part of an overall strategy, to solve the needs of the consumer, which does include the ability of having a local representation.
As many agents will say, “Hey, we have really, really good service.” Then the joke usually follows, “Oh, so does everybody else.” I believe that it’s agents that embrace digital technology as a way of rounding out the products and services that they offer to their constituents or prospective consumers, are the ones that are providing the best of both worlds. If the big delivery of that brand new carrier who’s going to do it digitally is, “Hey, on your mobile phone, you can get a quote, and then you combine it. Then if you have a claim or pre-served claims, will do this we’ll do that.” I welcome that. I think that’s awesome.
There’s a few reasons why. It will wake some sleeping giants. There’s no question about that. A little disruption does that. It also drives innovation, and it also sometimes helps some agents who have been raising their hand saying, “We should be doing this. Look, I’ve been saying this for years we should be doing this. This other person’s doing it too.”
Michael: Let’s roll that forward. Pick a number, we can say five years or whatever. What do you think the agency of the future looks like, the successful agency of the future looks like that’s different than most agencies today?
Keith: For one, let’s use the term relationship. I’m going to say that insurance has been a relationship business, and it will be a relationship business, because people like to do business with people that they believe they have a relationship with. That said, let’s define what a relationship is.
If you look at generational gaps, a relationship between two folks texting each other, maybe perceived as a less of a relationship from those who are used to not doing it that way. However, that is still a relationship, and it is just as important to that person to have that relationship with someone else than to not. No one’s an island. I believe that an agency will effectively do a few things. One, he’s going to self select into an out of certain demographics and markets based upon what they do and do not offer. If I’m an agent and I do not offer a client portal, I do not offer the ability to text my clients, I do not offer after-hours services, I do not offer all the lines of business that I should be offering little with new and emerging lines as they come out. I would use examples of making sure service is offered to your commercial clients, or even personalized now. Offering those good coverages.
If you’re not offering those things, then you will self select out of all the clients that ultimately need those as part of selecting who they’re going to do business with. That sound fair enough, right?
Keith: If you can’t do something for me, then I will not choose you to do business. Insurance, to me, is like food and transportation. You can eat, you have to eat. We should have insurance, and you have to have insurance, in some cases.
What you choose to eat and where you choose to eat is often driven by what you like to eat, do you know the health rate of the restaurant, or is this a quick drive by, I’ve got five minutes to eat. Let me have fast food. To believe for one moment, when McDonald’s was becoming popular back when, that readily built the most efficient way to deliver a hamburger to the window when you walked up. You could probably make the argument, “Wow, they just solved the entire food problem. We don’t need any other restaurant or any other way of doing food?” That’s sometimes, I think, the knowledge gap that I think misses, is that if it was just about building a sufficient distribution model, then I would say McDonald’s solve it for food, why are there any other restaurants?
Michael: Yes, right. Why didn’t Morton’s go out of business when McDonald’s took off. In fact, that’s when it exploded in growth.
Keith: Yes, you got it.
Michael: Yes. Okay.
Keith: That’s what I mean by waking up the other giants.
Michael: I’m going to try to summarize what you just said. Number one, it’s a relationship business, which means you need to be in communication, and ideally, you have the capability, the capacity using appropriate technologies to communicate the way the marketplace wants you to, and individual people want you to. Right? That’s the future.
Michael: Okay. That stress, that emphasis on the term relationship, do you think that’s more important in our channel than some other channels?
Keith: Frankly, I think that if you do everything you can to build relationships out, you’ll find that out quickly. Again, you’ll self select. I’m going to give you an example. Your accounting firm will self select into or out of based upon products and services plus relationship. Your law firm, based upon your level of expertise, relationship talent. The same is going to exist with your physicians and your doctors. You’re going to get to choose who you want to do.
Those are professional services. Changing from one of those professionals to another, it’s not a pleasant experience.
Michael: Never. [laughs]
Keith: I used those just as an example.
Michael: I’m still using the relationships, the professional relationships I had in Oregon, because they’re just hard to change.
Keith: That’s the point. That’s what we define as retention. The same arguments can be made around those things which you do at some frequency. Purchase a vehicle. It’s amazing how folks will buy the same brand over and over again. They do have a bit of a relationship with that brand. Maybe it’s because they like the service manager and so on. What I’m saying is that, if it was just about buying cheapest, fastest, done, we would all be driving Yugos. It works so well.
By the way, we would also– I remember when I was working for MCI Telecom in New York City, there was a major coffee place around Herald Square that had a 99 cent bottomless cup of coffee and you got a piece of raisin toast with that with cream cheese perhaps, right?
Keith: Across the street that was a new coffee place that was opening, it was charging three bucks for a cup of coffee. That place stayed-
Keith: – in business. The other one went out.
Michael: How about that? All right, we could spend a lot of time on that one but I want to move on but I hope people-
Keith: That’s fun marketing–
Michael: – take note of that one. All right so let’s circle back to something we set aside InsureTech. As you know I was at the InsureTech conference. It was at the MGM Grand. I was there with you a year ago at the applied net conference and there were maybe 3,500 people at that one a year ago.
Then what was it, 4,000 or 5,000 a week later at the InsureTech conference. Then this year, roughly 6,000 people attending the InsureTech conference. It’s a big word. It’s a big term, it’s a very big tent.
The conference is probably a pretty good cross section of VC and PE and startups and insiders and outsiders and pretty much everybody who wanted to rally around that InsureTech maple, what do you think it’s going to do? What do you think it means to our channel?
Keith: Well, for one, I can tell you that for the past 15 years, technology conferences that I’ve attended have always been greater attended most of the other industry [conferences]
Michael: No, that’s interesting. I’ve talked about this before, go back to the early days when you and I were newer in the industry and the big conferences were PI national or the big I national. Then, the big conferences became the technology conferences. [Crosstalk] Often ones that were sponsored by one vendor but in this case not. This was the big tent.
Keith: To that end, I’m happy to say national probably 20 years ago made a decision. Wait a second, we shouldn’t be a national conference. This is a business meeting among our volunteers that are going to do things whether it be lobbying or whatever else. It wasn’t a vendor showcase so to say.
We used to get three to 4,000 attendees or more at the ACORD conference-
Michael: I know.
Keith: – industry standard setting volume. People use that as a gateway to get in front of carriers, vendors, agents and brokers or distribution channel wanted to do because it was life as well as health annuities and property and casualty and bonds insurance and it was international.
We had folks from all over the globe that would come to those meetings and you’re right, if you know that the conferences like the applied that conference and neck have grown to thousands and thousands of attendees.
It’s wild because the same agency principles walking around those meetings but they’re coming armed with their CTO or CIO and they’re armed with their commercial lines manager or…
Michael: Yes, right.
Keith: -and they were used to just be an accounting thing. That’s where the IT guys went and that’s where the accounting people went. Now it’s about customer experience and CRM and all the rest of that and that’s what it’s about.
When the InsureTech conferences now start to work and now you guys I know that when you referring to which is awesome. I love the concept at some frequency, our industry goes to a bit of disruption or evolution that allow the Sleeping Giants to wake up but it also drives innovation.
That means that there are people with ideas who are more readily listened to during these times in our industry evolution. We’re conservative industry, we’re a little risk-averse by nature. In between these times, in between the dot-com boom and now, now we don’t need to mess with the system but these times provide a platform for new ideas.
It also provides an opportunity for outsiders to get connected to an industry so frequently, which will have to drive a bunch of outsiders say, “Hey because I’m not part of the insurance industry, I’ve got these great ideas. Listen to me, give me some money and I’ll build my stuff.”
There’s hundreds of thousands of ideas out there that most of them have good merit. The ability for us to talk about it openly in an industry where you have outsiders is so important. I love the idea of those but here’s the evolution of that, if you went back to the dot-com boom, we went through this as well.
Outsiders came into our industry and said “Hey, we know how to do it better. We’re going to disintermediate the insurance agent and broker.” I know I sat at meetings and watched folks on stage speak about that within about two years, many of those folks now had somebody from within the industry working for them. Working with them.
Keith: The person within the industry would say, “Hey, now we’ve got so and so on our side, couldn’t wait to put press release out about it and by the way, we’re also going to be delivering the solution to independent agencies.”
It started with your channel. They’re like, “Wait a second.” Why? Because there’s a lot of seats, people buy products. Then ultimately, what happened is the outsiders realized that in order for them to succeed in the insurance industry, they needed advocates in the insurance industry. They needed insiders in the industry.
Most of those that started on the outside end up becoming an important and viable part of the inside of the industry. There are some vendors that started on the outside in the .com boom compliment for those that are still around but unfortunately, that was an ugly time for technology. For many that came to a screeching halt march of 2000.
For years later, the evolution and the impact on the systems that we use, you could still see the fingerprints all over it. Some of those vendors were bought a required by many of the vendors that we use today. Some of them grew to be some of the vendors that we use today.
I remember staying in accord conference in a sales rep we used to work for one of the companies because I’ve got this idea, we’re going to aggregate this data and we’re going to do this and do that.
I will tell you, they’re probably one of the largest guys in the country right now and it all started with, hey, I’ve got an idea. Fast forward to the intro text today, a couple of years ago was thrown around the word disruptor like crazy because in InsureTech, it’s an attack on the insurance industry. It’s not. To me, it’s another step in the evolution. I love InsureTech.
Michael: There was a big trade show there and there were plenty of vendors who are agent friendly. Then there-
Keith: And you’ll see more.
Michael: – are plenty of those who were not agent friendly.
Keith: You’ll see more of those. With any luck, you will see more of all of them. Again, many of those that seems to be not agent friendly on the surface, eventually, they have to go from a pre revenue model to a post revenue model, it’s not just about raising capital its about having product–
Keith: – be successful and many have realized one day, wait a second, if I take software to call myself at InsureTech but now, I’m selling insurance and wait a second, I need to have a license. If I’m selling insurance I need to have appointments. If I’m selling insurance, I need to be able to do service I need to have people do things. Wait a second, I just became an independent agent.
Michael: How about that? [chuckles].
Keith: Most of those that say they’re not, they’re actually going to become the very thing that they say that they’re not. Effectively, as an independent agent it’s the same philosophy. Wait a second, I already have the carrier relationships, I already have the support staff.
What we need to do is change our thinking to provide a rounded customer experience for our clients. You already have 80% of the challenge. What you need to do is, either build, buy or rent, the technology that allows you to take your agency to the next level. That’s the difference.
We’re living in a world with just a couple of months ago, the apply conference and “outsider” to the insurance industry just became an insider in the insurance industry.
Michael: Right on.
Keith: My goal in the future is to put the insurance back into InsureTech.
Michael: [chuckles]. Okay, well, that’s a perfect segue to my last question for you, Keith. A little elbow in the ribs for you here, I’m going to ask you keep the answer short because this question works better when the answer is short. All right.
Let’s call this the insurance highway question. The industry’s speeding down the highway at 75 miles an hour and Keith gets a billboard so 8 or 10 words, after that they won’t be able to read it. If you had an opportunity to deliver a message that mattered and woke people up to something now, what’s the message that you want to deliver to the independent insurance agent of today?
Keith: Relationship, customer experience, be digital, embrace the Buy Button.
Michael: [chuckles]. Okay.
Michael: Hang on because I am taking notes. Relationship, customer service, did you say digital?
Keith: Customer experience.
Michael: Customer experience.
Keith: Be digital.
Michael: Be digital.
Keith: Embrace the Buy Button.
Michael: What, the Buy Button?
Keith: Embrace the by button.
Michael: Embrace. Okay, so last questions often lead to the next last question.
Keith Savino: Know that the first one is relationship.
Michael: I got it that. You ended with embrace the Buy Button and I’m going to ask you to speak on that for a moment.
Keith: Everyone always remembers what you start with and what you end with but meet in the middle no one remembers.
Michael: Relationship, customer experience, be digital, so these are good but the last one is it might be a mystery to some people. This is your chance, talk about the Buy Button.
Keith: By the way, the last one really should be serve your industry so we’ll make that the fourth one and embrace the Buy Button the fifth one but that’s probably part of the relationship piece. The Buy Button is the ability to begin and end a transaction in your system of choice. And what that means is that I want to be able to start a conversation with my client and be able to deliver solutions for them. That is the Holy Grail in our business.
Michael: What’s the problem that that solves?
Keith: Well, it’s good for the relationship, it allows you to be digital and it allows you to deliver a really great customer experience.
Michael: Let’s say the bad experience is I call Keith I say, “Hey we got to do this, I need this or whatever,” and what happens to me in the bad experience?
Keith: In the bad experience, the hours that we spent together I spent almost completely on dealing with the friction that the insurance industry brings upon us. As opposed to the hours that we spend together are really quality time around identifying, exposure, solving problems and building rapport. Mechanics of our industry are just scattered. If I think for a moment even just completing an application could take two, three or four different systems because one prints a quarter, one prints company and another one– Just doing that know by the way who’s digital who’s not. My biggest concern for the independent agencies, think of the threat is, that ability to deliver the beginning and the end of that conversation. If I call a direct writer right now and they get on the phone with me, they’re going to go, “Keith, it’s been nice chatting with you today, we spent the past whatever period of time.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s 10 minutes or 45 and I’m happy to offer you the following solutions based upon our conversation. And they would tell me, would you prefer the $10 week plan or the $15 week plan and weighing price or something.” That is insurance sales one on one. In an independent agency world, the challenge is that now if I’m speaking to you Mike and you’re my agent, you’re going to go, “Keith it’s been nice chatting with you today, I really enjoyed this conversation. I think I have everything that I need, if I have any other questions I’ll give you a call back and I’ll get back to you in a few days with two quotes.” Would you imagine going in shopping for expensive vehicle, driving it, coming back into the loft and Sales Representative Michael, “It’s been great thanks for stopping by today. I’ll give you a call in a few days.”
Michael: Said I want that car.
Keith: How successful do you think that dealership would be? Pobably not that much. What was acceptable because clients were trained and this was the process, was acceptable in the ‘90s but not acceptable in the 2000s and will not be acceptable after 2020. We’re leading towards that and I really do believe that by the 2020, we need to have that beginning and ending in play and that doesn’t mean you can’t offer solutions for 7, 8, 9, 10 lines of business, you should be able to. That should do a better job if you have that ability.
Michael: Keith, I know that you’ve been actively advocating for the introduction of a Buy Button into the industry in effect to Buy Button into the industry. If I’m in a conversation with another industry leader and I mentioned Keith Savino as often as not, somebody will say yes, Buy Button.
Keith: Buy Button person.
Michael: Clearly you are looking at a transformative change that requires an industry to pay attention not just there’s not some person who’s going to say, yes I’m going to quote a Buy Button, you need pretty broad participation. Agents who concur with you that also share your passion for that, what do you want to ask them to do?
Keith: For one raise their hand, jump in the water’s find. The Buy Button is as much of a movement as is anything else, if we’re going to count on all of this exciting time around in short tech, vendors to say, “Hey, you know what, I want in, this sounds like something I can help to make happen and we want to help folks implement it.” Because it’s going to vary by state and by line of business and so forth, there’s plenty of room for lots [crosstalk]
Michael: To raise their hand what does it mean? Who do they get involved with, who do they reach out to?
Keith: They could feel free to reach out to me and I give my personal email out if you ask me to-
Michael: At the end of our conversation, I’m going to ask for–
Keith: I’m sure you’ll have contact information for that. They can also reach out to PIA National so if they go on www.pianet.org/buybutton, they will actually get a lot of information about Buy Button. Folks know also PIA has a role as the secretariat, all of the industry is and has been engaged for the past couple of years in the process.
Keith: I have two last questions for you, they’re both short. The first one is, before we’re done any final words that you want to say?
Keith: One, when you are serving to an industry or to your staff or to your team, your agency, family is impacted so obviously it’s awesome to have a great wife and boys who’ve been very patient. But I will tell you Michael and you know this, I’ve coached just about every baseball game and anything and that’s more of that and that was a baseball commissioner for my town. When you get involved, you get involved, that’s just that you like to do things. I mentioned at the start of this that one of the first things my brother did was to go open up those boxes. What most folks don’t know, Richard and I were together in some agencies and then we were actually separate for a while and then we came back together about 18 years ago.
In that period of time though, he also had his involvement in PIA and Golders and all sorts of friends. It becomes easier to build a successful firm together when everybody understands the importance of that so having a partner that was as committed to making a better insurance industry for us to live and raise was also helpful. That was the case and honestly Michael, with you I was involved with a mastermind group for a long time as you know and one of your previous things and I’ll implement some of your technology. I certainly think and appreciate the time we’ve gotten to spend together and any of the folks who have collaborated within that group.
Michael: Right on. Thank you for that. Listeners do want to reach out to you and connect with you on some of this conversation, how should they do that?
Keith: Well, we’re going to publish some of the contact information but sometimes it’s easier just to say first name, last name, Gmail. So firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s risky to give out a personal email. My business e-mail is email@example.com.
Michael: Got it, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keith: Like Keith Savino, email@example.com.
Michael: Got it already. Keith, it’s been a pleasure I can’t thank you enough for the dedication of the passion and the hours and the– I can’t even imagine how many miles you put on for this industry but I’ll be half of the entire industry to the extent that I have permission to speak for an industry. Thanks for everything that you’ve given over the decades to make it a better industry.
Keith: I appreciate it Michael and the same for you. There are producers out there today that are walking around in the field. With the potential of getting technology that they’ve been asking for, for decades because of these types of podcasts and because of the efforts of guys like yourself who recognize that. As you know I said for years and nothing happens until somebody sells something. I think that we’re now at the stage where producers are finally going to receive the technology and have been asking for decades. I’m very happy to help to be a part of that as well. You’ve been great with that.
Michael: Well, let’s take a very short moment. I want you to feel free to give a shout out, because I think you’re talking about a technology that you’re also involved with. Give a shout out to it.
Keith: Well, I think all the stuff that we’ve all worked on for years it was all designed for after the sale. After I write the policy, I did download, after I write the policy I could do commission statement download. If I get a claim after I write the policy I have to do first notice of loss online or it can be claimed download, it could be realtime inquiry on a policy right or I last run. I can do eDoc center messages on something I’ve written. The challenge has been, producers in the field.
For 20 years, I’ve talked about bi-directional forms, the ability to start with forms type, write on those forms, because that’s what a producer wants to say when they’re in the field. Then bring it into any systems we want or to start with our system of record or agency management system, which is so critically important to the day-to-day operation of us, that that is the sun. Then send it out to the tools that would then allow me to go and gather that. I’ve been involved in a variety of folks over the years that have touched on these types of solutions.
I mentioned some of the names earlier, vendors that have been involved. Many of our agency management system vendors have touched on. I had the opportunity to work with certain intro text over the past few years, and you can add links at the end but that allow me finally as a producer to go out and collect this information. Remember, my clients, remember relationship is important, right? It’s not like I’m just going to email them some link and say, “Here, you do all the work.” My client’s going to go, “That’s what I pay you for.”
At the same point in time, we collecting information in the field with a pen and a piece of paper, and we’re still doing it in 2018 or something seriously wrong with that we’ll be doing it in ’19 and ’20. What happens is, the first time we touched the data, we’re doing it very manually. The second time we touch the data, we’re entering it into a system to do a little more in most cases that to print forms. That’s not the first time we put it, that’s actually the second time we’re doing it.
What I’m trying to do is skip that first step and have folks work directly into a system that allows them to gather the information whether there’s be a chord forms, company unique forms, agency forms, whatever they may be, or questionnaires, interviews per se, and allow them to interview their client at the point of sale. The other important step to that is, if you want it to work with all the time, it has to be able to work in airplane mode. You got to be able to work without internet connection.
First time that doesn’t display on the screen, the producer is going to close it down and go right back to the pen and piece of paper. That’s the challenge we have, but thankfully those things are happening. There’s been different vendors that I worked over decades with this. Vodafone has been involved, applied and easy like to talk shop. They all know what we’re talking about with the challenge for the producers. Then one of the vendors Avyst, A-V-Y-S-T is one of the solution providers as well that has stepped up and has built something specific for the independent agency system.
I think the more for the commitments to the industry, if I left names out, I really apologize, there’s so many great folks who are trying to build things for folks who sell insurance every day. Now it’s time for us to do it for the producers.
Michael: Got it. All right. Keith, this time I’m going to say goodbye and mean it. Again, thank you so much for the time we spent today and thank you so much for an illustrious career.
Keith: Thanks buddy, I appreciate it. Thank you, Michael.
Michael: You bet.