CEO of Insuretech Connect: ‘Service and support is never a commodity!’
Why did 6000 insurance professionals swarm Las Vegas a few weeks ago? Because Insuretech Connect had their third conference. (Yes, you read that right. 3 years. 6000 people.) In the middle of it all is this week’s podcast guest, the Co-Founder and CEO of the conference, Jay Weintraub.
Anyone who plans to be in this industry (for more than a few months!) must keep their finger on the pulse of this game-changing mash-up of technology and insurance. Hear what this industry giant shares about:
- The ‘safest harbors’ for the retail agent in the future of the industry.
- How to exploit insuretechs for your own growth.
- The challenges and disruptions insuretech is most likely to cause for retail agents in the near future.
Please don’t miss this conversation with one of the insurance industry’s most respected ‘match-makers’ and transformers. This is an important conversation!
What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster? Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where Michael Jans discusses the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent and broker with the industries leading figures.
Michael Jans: Jay Weintraub, how are you?
Jay Weintraub: I’m doing great. Thanks so much for having me.
Michael: Terrific. Thanks for joining us. Jay, you are in the middle of the transformation of the entire insurance industry. This is maybe a unique conversation, but I think it’s a really important conversation. My first question is, before we dive into that, it seems that your position in the industry right now came about really fairly rapidly. My first question is, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get to be the guy you are now?
Jay: Boy. Who doesn’t like answering that particular question? To your point, it’s really interesting, yes. Our show has been around for three years. We were fortunate enough in this past show, we had Inga Beale CEO of Lloyd’s there. It’s really amazing because you think about a company that’s 300 years old, and yes, by insurance industry age, three years is relatively young. Our journey probably began for ITC about four years ago. I have been bringing people together and creating definitive industry events for the last 10 years.
Prior to ITC, I spent a lot of time in what I would argue is the tip of the spear for the insurance transformation. That was digital, and really the internet, and the internet’s impact on how companies acquire customers. My years of customer acquisition on the internet really got me fascinated with insurance and insurance agents and agencies in particular, and that led to sort of the ITC moment.
Michael: Okay. I think you and I have talked a little bit about this before that we share a little bit of a common history and that a lot of my career has been devoted to the transformation of the industry as it’s caused by the internet, and the transformation of the way in which people attract customers as caused by the internet related technologies. What were you doing back in that day before ITC?
Jay: Before ITC, I was in the world of online lead generation.
Michael: Right, okay.
Michael: This is an important conversation. What were you doing in online lead gen?
Jay: I was in the early days of effective– If you think about one of my favorite examples is, historically, what was marketing? You think about going to like a subway, and there’s that bowl and it says, “Drop your card in this bowl to win.” The idea of somebody giving up information in hopes of getting something is really an enduring consistent practice and what the internet really transformed. I suspect this will only lead to us talking about Glengary Glen Ross, but if you think about lead-
Michael: [laughs] Okay.
Jay: What is lead generation? It was prior to the internet reaching scale. It was, “Here is data that might match your customer.” It was either, “Here’s a lot of data that might match your customer, or it’s what we talked about which is– it’s these very one off elements of trying to get people to fill out something. “Enter in to win a card,” or it was you have your retail store, people pass by it. That is kind of lead generation, if you will. The true transformation as you know was, how do you get people in real time to share their interest with you, versus calling on a group of people who may meet the criteria net?
Unlocking that component was where I spent most of my time, which was, how do you get people to raise their hand, tell you about a need that they have, and then how do you find professionals who are good fits for that.
Michael: Okay. Before we dive into the core of the conversation which is going to be InsureTech Connect, I’m curious if you would share your observations or insights on the lead gen business as it stands today.
Jay: I’ve been a big believer in what lead gen is able to do and can’t do. So I believe that it can and should play a necessary role in a lot of these ecosystems where consumers are likely to want to search online but transact offline. This does ties nicely into why I’m such a big fan of the insurance agents, in general. Obviously, I think it would be naive of me to say that, “Oh, it’s a perfect industry. It doesn’t have its issues.” If you’re an insurance professional, you need to be really, really good at insurance.
You shouldn’t have to be really, really good at marketing. The idea that there are companies that are really good at marketing and really good at figuring out who the hand-raisers are is a value-added service and it’s the job of, now the– Anyway, that’s what am trying sort of-
Michael: I’m going to ask you to go back to a comment here. You’d said that if you’re an insurance agent, you really need to be good on insurance, but you don’t necessarily need to be good at marketing. Talk about that for a second.
Jay: I think the– anyone that has tried this before, even creating a website can be easy, but what are the best websites? They’re living, they’re breathing. It is technically easy to create an account with Google and sign up for ad words, but to actually get it to work, to tweak it, to then figure out, “Okay, I’ve driven that traffic to my page. I’m tracking that traffic. How do I track that traffic? Oh, Where should I put a form on my page? Do I put a phone number? What tracking phone numbers do I have?” All these things-
Michael: Right, okay. There’s an infinite amount to learn, okay? Right.
Jay: Then you can learn these things, which is actually not that hard completely, it’s then being good at them. Because being able to do it over and over and improve it, that’s where I think people tend to fall down. It’s, “I can make a website, but how often do I go back and update it? I can set up an ad campaign, but how often do I tweak it?” Those are things you can do, but getting really good at them is a whole new skill set.
Michael: How about, it seems to me, I’ll share my position on this, all right? Being ignorant about marketing is a disaster. Can we agree on that?
Michael: Whether or not the agency principal masters the capabilities and skills, it’s, first of all, it’s unlikely because they do have a lot on their plate, but it would seem that they have to have some fundamental understanding of what they’re trying to do as a business. In other words, as a business person, they do have a responsibility to attract high-quality clients into their funnel and then monetize and optimize those relationships so that they’re as long in deepest possible. That is the essence of marketing, and they don’t need to be the tactician, but they really at some point need to be the strategist. Agree on that?
Jay: Well said, actually. Prior to that, and where I ended was I didn’t want to trash lead gen. I had spent a lot of years, it’s a great industry and I love the people that I’ve worked with. Yet, I can guarantee you that every single person who has bought a lead is going to tell you about a bad experience. Not a shadow of a doubt. It was the things where–
To your point, it is really hard to do it well and profitably, but really, I like your point of the people who do it the best, they understand the game and they understand that it is a competitive game. It is oftentimes a game of speed, and most importantly, it is a game of numbers and it is a game of understanding what you’re really good at. If you don’t know your strength, if you don’t know where you can be really good, what geographies, what products, you’re right. You will be set up for failure when it comes to buying leads.
Michael: Let me throw another question at you here. This is maybe a softball question, okay? Perhaps it represents my philosophy, so I’m being completely exposed on this one. Wouldn’t you say, the lead gen industry, totally valuable if you know how to be a good purchaser and be a good executor on them, but wouldn’t you say that there is a radical difference, a night and day difference between a lead who wants insurance and a lead who wants you? Right.
Jay: Might and day difference, yes.
Michael: All right. The agent who gets the second class, people that raise their hand and says, “I want to do business with you,” they have to be the captain of their own marketing system. They’re not just going helter skelter chasing stuff, buying leads, hoping this works, the usual, they’ve elevated their game.
Jay: Yes. I think even if people buy leads in general, they still have to be the captains of their own destiny. It’s just a question of scale. There’s far more people who are raising their hand saying, “I want insurance,” than there are people saying, “I want you.” It is absolutely the game of getting them to want you. You have to be, if you’re going to build a big, scalable business, it’s a game of, they know they want the product and then further down the road, they want you.
That’s the same thing we’re seeing in insurance in general. Even think about ITC, we’ve got a lot these challenger– I’ll call them challenger brands. They’re the Amazon to the incumbent, the digital native, and they have the same thing, which is, “Oh, we’ve got fancy technology. We’ve got really good user interface, great value proposition, but people don’t yet know that they want that brand. They want insurance. It is, even for some of the brand new brands, it’s going to be a game of time for people to realize that they want you versus just the product.
Michael: Right. Got It. Alright. I think we’ve come to an agreement that the more that the entrepreneur. Again, my perspective on the insurance agent of today is that they can’t be the insurance agent of yesterday, and that they have really have to function like what I call insurepreneurs. That means that they have to have some sense of personal responsibility for customer attraction and customer optimization.
That means that they at least have to have some, a little bit of profound understanding of the fundamentals of marketing, and they have to at least be a decent strategist. That being said, I’m going to tell you a brief story. I think this was a little over a year ago, of 14, 15 months ago, I was in Las Vegas at the Applied Net Conference, the user group for Applied Systems.
Great conference, and I think Reid has done a terrific job in the growth of that company. There were 3,500 people there. At that point in time, I’d never been to a conference in the insurance industry with 3,500 people. I’ve been in this space for 25 years. Back in the day, Jay, if you wanted to see 2,000 or 3,000 insurance agents and related people, vendors, exhibitors, et cetera, you would go to one of the national associations, the Big I or the PIA.
Then at some point, they just weren’t getting the crowd that they wanted and we really saw those either go away completely, or pretty much just morph into a different kind of a conference much smaller. Then if you wanted to see 2,000 or 3,000, or a little bit more people, you would go to one of the user group conferences for the big technology firms. Really interesting. I was at this conference a year ago and there were 3,500 people and somebody said, “In this room, a week from now,” as I recall, “There are going to be 4,000 or 4,500 people here for a different conference, InsureTech Connect.”
I thought, “Wow.” That was like the second year, maybe, the third year of it. I thought, “Wow. That’s a really interesting historical overview of the industry. Back in the day, 20 years ago, you’d go to the associations for big events then. Now you go to technology vendors or their user groups for big events, but boom. All of a sudden, the biggest one that I’m aware of and the biggest one I ever went to was yours, where you had almost 6,000 people. This was just a few weeks ago. I saw presumably a group from 4,500 to about 6,000.
Fairly phenomenal and a really interesting narrative about the change in the industry, the forces and the trends that are changing the industry. What do you think it says?
Jay: I think it says, first and foremost, that insurance itself is fantastic. We talk a lot and think a lot about this. The InsureTech, first and foremost, I would say that InsureTech is mainstream and that it is no longer a question of, will InsureTech and can InsureTech alter the face of the industry? But, how is it going to do that? We are at a point now where there’s a critical mass, in terms of the dollars that are invested, and the people who, I think what is most exciting is the talk about the population of people who may one day not work in insurance.
The big concern is the talent gap. I think when you come around to our events, one of the things that we are most proud of is really that it is a chance to be inspired by the field of insurance.
Michael: Let’s break this down a little bit. You’ve mentioned dollars, and I think we have to pay a little bit of attention there. What’s your understanding of how much money is flowing in or where it’s coming from?
Jay: This is, I would say, a tech-enabled kind of movement, if we think about InsureTech. In many ways, it parallels other industries where technology combined with a broad change in user behavior and user expectations has forced the industry to adapt, and while simultaneously opening up big opportunities for new players. I think one that we all understand is retail. As it became easier and information became available, it just intuitively made sense. You wanted to shop on your computer. You didn’t have to want to leave.
The information spread meant you could shop better, quicker, more transparently. You wanted things sent to you, you wanted to be able to return them for free. That is really a– There’s technology, there’s behind the scenes, and a lot of it is investor dollars into startups that are monitoring big consumer trends and consumer needs and saying, “There’s an opportunity here to create companies and new companies that are going to meet the needs of the consumer by creating the products that the consumers want or being able to fulfill it in the way that they want.” Now, if you will like, now it’s insurance’s turn.
Michael: Largely, the audience of this conversation, Jay, is comprised of retailers. You mentioned the word retail. If we look at the impact of the internet on retail or on traditional retail providers, in some cases, it’s pretty devastating. I’ve got friends who are professionals in the travel agent industry. Friends and colleagues who have been in various retail distribution systems. We’ve seen companies like Amazon, the biggest store in the world, really pull the rag out from under a lot of them. Of course, the travel industry, travel agent industry, it really did, by definition, got decimated.
I think it went from about 40,000, 45,000 independent travel agencies to about 14,000, and that did take long. It was really a matter of years before we saw that collapse. I have a couple of questions for you.
Jay: Ray of sunshine.
Michael: What’s that?
Jay: I’m going to give a ray of sunshine.
Michael: Okay. I can too, but I want to hear, what’s your ray of sunshine about that?
Jay: Ray of sunshine is the number of independent agencies as historically defined by travel agencies is lower. The number of people working in travel in an agent capacity is now ultimately higher. What we have seen is, you’re right, the distribution of how people buy and what they buy changes. People still need to travel and people are still going to need assistance. What this points out to is the rise of specialization and whether that specialization is in understanding where consumers search. No longer is it the shingles store but to the internet.
More so, it’s the understanding that you have to evolve as the product landscape evolves. If you think about the product landscape evolving for travel, it became specialty travel. It became an understanding of, what can you not buy with a click of a button that a human is going to help with? Those things, dollars spent on those, is only increased as people realize that it is an underserved but growing market. Throughout this transition, I think yes, broad generalists will face the challenge and those who continue to specialize will continue to grow their business.
Discomfort, yes, will continue to open up massive opportunities though, for those who continue to focus on the customer.
Michael: Here’s another– This is a little bit of a ray of sunshine, but also a word of caution. In my research on the travel agent industry collapse or consolidation, this is what I discovered, it was that the number of travel agencies, independent travel agencies, shrunk considerably at a very rapid pace, but the ones who survived were on average three times larger. They sold three times as many miles as the average agency prior to the collapse.
If that parallel is, if it’s a good analogy for our industry, and I– there are arguments for why it is, there are arguments for why it isn’t, but if it’s to the extent that it’s a good analogy, what that might indicate is that we will see increased consolidation of the industry, but we will see stronger, better agencies in the future than we have now. Do you think that’s a realistic scenario?
Jay: It’s a realistic scenario. As you’re talking, I came up with a little heuristic in my head, which is, is the reason that people buy through you because it’s the best way to buy it or it’s the only way to buy it? If it’s because it was the only way to buy it, then you’re in trouble. If it’s because it’s the best way to buy it, then you’re in good shape.
Now, what I mean by that is, if we think about travel, historically, you had to go and purchase it from an agent because that was the only outlet. As people got accustomed to buying things online, it was only a matter of time. It was inevitable that you were going to want to buy this online, too. I think that is really the, as we think about it, it’s the, are you doing it the way that it’s going to happen or you’re just holding it up because that’s the way it used to be?
Michael: Got it. All right. So that we saw. What do you think the future– I know that this is not a tough one, and I have to ask everybody and it’s a tough one. At least, if I said, “Oh, you know, three years from now,” but I’m going to ask you to do your best.
Jay: I will say that, again, when you think about insurance, there is going to be a simple policies, like Lemonade is a good example. Rentals policy is a low-margin, it’s very simple, and it’s very templatized. It is only going to make sense that for things that are lower-margin products, that are very simple, you’re going to end up buying them online and in distribution channels that is not as expensive and it is quicker to fulfill.
I think that’s where, when I think like with insurance, if you are a mom-and-pop, if you do small commercial insurance and you just do mainstream USA as an agent, at some point, the next generation of consumers is going to take over those stores, and when it comes time to just buy general liability policy, they’re going to want to just go online and buy it.
That’s when I think about like– To me, those are the parallels of what we saw in travel or people just buying flights, the single ticket flights, it’s that same thing. The one-off purchases that you are simple commoditized and you have to have, those are the ones that we’ll continue to have to monitor in terms of flights today.
Michael: Right, okay. You’re an old-school direct marketer, so let me ask you this question. Marketers know that market selection is like a critical question that you need to get clear on at the very beginning. In other words, who am I targeting? Who am I attempting to develop a relationship? You had said something a minute ago that would indicate that there are some markets that are just not that good. Let’s say the low margin, the renter, in the future, that’s going to be an easy to purchase commodity product that a lot of people are going to be very comfortable doing online. That being said, then there has to be a flip side to that.
Now, as the independent agent looks at the business landscape and they attempt to identify the perfect client base, the perfect niche or the perfect specialty, what do you think are the characteristics of those who make the optimal customer for the agency channel?
Jay: I’m going to flip it a little bit for you and say, well, a little bit of complexity, so multi products. I’m going to flip it a little bit and say back to the agent or agency, it’s really about specialization. Because at the end of the day, maybe you are an expert on sushi restaurants. Sushi restaurants are unique. People get sushi at a higher rate because fish could be bad. You think about there are examples of businesses that if you truly understand their business better, you cannot only help them with the best policy, but you can ultimately help them with the best pricing.
There’s going to be an infinite number of these specializations. I think about workers comp. We think about workers comp and tree trimmers. There are agencies or insurance companies that specialize in just handling tree trimmers, because unless you truly understand them, you won’t be able to get them to the right carrier, and the pricing will be terrible. Yet if you actually will know in advance the things like, “Yes, they have this type of ladder. They use this type of safety harnesses,” you’ll actually be able to advocate for the business to keep their policies lower.
I look at it more as back to this. One thing that online can do is it can take apples to apples and really give you apples to apples, but it can’t make you as a business smarter about risk mitigation and it can’t help you be a trusted– smarter about your business. You go into that sushi restaurant and you say, “Oh, I noticed what kind of refrigeration system you have. After you get this type of refrigeration system, you with have fewer of these incidences.” Or, “Okay. I’ve actually noticed where you keep your knives to where you actually prepare this. You’ll have lower incidences of this happening.”
It isn’t about selling the policy so much as it is– I bring it back to insurance in terms of insurance is about enabling people to do what they do. That’s the beauty of what we do, is we give the world freedom to take risks and to grow. What you’re really doing for them is to say, “I’m going to give you the freedom to do your job better by making sure that you are covered in these other situations. Not only are you covered, I’m going to help you do your job better by both being an expert in your job of seeing others and by making sure that you’re free and covered from an insurance angle.”
Michael: Got it. I don’t know if you and I chatted about tree trimmers before. It’s a metaphor that I use a lot because I have a really terrific client who dominates the arborist market in his territory. I will share another observation. It’s not only going into the shop and seeing the knives of the sushi shop and all that jazz. The advantage of what you’re talking about, it seems, is that you can produce all of this valuable rich content long before anybody ever meets you. In other words, you can demonstrate your expertise.
You can show your wisdom, you can show your insights, and you can deliver meaningful content and distribute it virtually for free through multiple platforms as a way to draw people into your funnel. Once they’re in your funnel they go, “Oh, yes, this guy knows me.” There are advantages in the early stages of marketing as well as in the actual sales process, it would seem, when you really are an expert in something.
Jay: I’ll go back to– Because you love your marketing examples and I’ll use one now.
Jay: Paid marketing and SEO. You think about paid marketing, the lure of paid marketing is I’m going to spend X and get Y, hopefully, in real time. SEO is an investment in the future that is a day-to-day activity of creating good content, of trying to get links to your site, is a longer build before you may or may not see it. We have to just know that these activities will add up, so becoming a domain expert is really just a way to say that is really the SEO activity.
It won’t be immediately obvious, the time invested, that you’re going to get Y out of it, but by becoming that domain expert, you are going to end up building a moat around yourself for anyone else who is to be there.
Michael: Right. The ones who are really good at it can create virtual monopolies.
Jay: And they get to be there. When you have to sell a certain number of policies to put food on the table, it’s going to be hard not to think about, “I got to sell another policy.” To the extent that there’s every incremental bit of moment that says, “How am I potentially becoming an expert? How am I potentially figuring out where I am really, really good? Am I good with arborist? Am I good with sushi restaurants? Am I good with mechanics? Am I good with internet companies because they actually aren’t thinking about cyber and cyber is a big deal?”
Whether it’s geographic specificity that you’re really good at, but I would almost have to guess that every single person, either there’s something geographically specific that they could be really good at, or they could be really good at following a trend and helping people deal with that trend. When you think about ITC, cyber is a big issue. Cyber insurance is literally kind of a product. It came from nowhere. Billions of dollars in premium, it’s only going to increase. Yet, who is helping the average company understand? Do they even have an exposure today? Think of all the data breaches.
The world is going to continuously change. Technology is going to change the world. I think this always opens up an opportunity for people to say, “The world is changing. I’m going to be on the forefront of helping people deal with X change.” Today, for instance, that X change just tends to be a lot around cyber and data security. As some option is someone saying, “I don’t know where to specialize. I’m not an arborist.”
Michael: Got it, all right. Let me see if I can suss out or synthesize what you’re saying. One, I think you’re saying that the future belongs to the expert, yes? To the specialist.
Jay: Yes. To the specialist.
Michael: Okay, got it. And that the trends in the industry will, to some extent, suck the juice out of the job of the generalist.
Jay: The subscale generalist. We could argue that GEICO is a generalist in the sense that they sell to everybody or [crosstalk]-
Michael: Well, kind of. [laughs]
Jay: There’s monoline. I actually was going to say you’re right. They are specialists at generalized marketing. I think if someone is subscale, doesn’t have a brand, then, yes, the subscale generalist is where I would say he’s the one most at risk unless they are a specialist at, say, marketing or something else.
Michael: Okay, got it. All right. I’ll just throw my coat on that. If they’re a specialists at marketing, then they’re going to be very suspicious of the business that they have as “generalist business.”
Jay: They’re all specialists. They’re all actually specialists. It’s just they may not be insurance specialists but they are, as a business, specialists. Having something special, and it doesn’t have to be an insurance product itself.
Michael: Right. All right. I’m going to ask you another question about InsureTech Connect and your place in that. Obviously, it grew really quickly. Obviously, it represents something really important about what’s happening in our industry today. Without delivering an entire essay on it, maybe quick word association, what are the really big trends in InsureTech?
Jay: It’s like any part of the value chain and it literally is being fundamentally altered. Let’s take it to the highest level. I would say challenger brand, disruptor versus enabler. That’s one way we can frame the landscape. Amazon versus traditional brick-and-mortar store. There is that pattern of, is this going to be a digital first? Digital and native company is one of the high-level trends that we will see. Another major level trend that we are seeing, which is really the enabler, and it’s saying– take some companies around fraud.
Since we’ve talked about arborist, and somebody’s on disability, they had a tree accident, but a look on Instagram, they’re jumping off a diving board in a pool. That is, today, social media captures all this data, but it’s unstructured.
There’s all this enablement that says, “How do I process all this data and make sense of it in any way, hence that I have just found this policyholder who is now diving in his backyard who said that he hurt himself on a tree,” if you will. That type of approach applies to underwriting, I think, about companies. It applies to things that are almost less sexy. How many codes? Commercial insurance is great. Every carrier does it differently. Everyone wants you to log in to their portal. Of course, you’re not going to go and map every single field in there.
You get a company like Bold Penguin, a testament to what they’ve been able to do is you have deals with progressive insurance company now that if you go call progressive and you say, “Hi, I’m interested in commercial insurance,” it uses their logic to figure out what product you actually map to and whether or not you get it through a progressive partner or another partner.
There’s huge amount I think. The sex appeal is in the disrupter. Oh, my God. Somebody is going to create a new brand and it’s going to eat top one, two, three companies’ lunch. The meat and potatoes is in the enablement side of it.
Michael: Okay. You mentioned my friends at Bold Penguin. I think there’s an anxiety in the retail industry that InsureTech is going to hurt us. Clearly, there were more than a handful of agent friendly InsureTech companies and startups at your conference. What do you think InsureTech means to the retail agent?
Jay: I will say it’s not InsureTech’s fault. It’s life’s fault. It’s Apple’s fault. It’s Amazon’s fault. It’s Netflix’s fault of creating a generation of consumers that want things easily and on-demand. That is really the trend that we’re battling against, is that our competitor is no longer somebody else. It’s literally how we’ve been trained as users to want stuff. That wanting stuff no longer applies to just a narrow domain. It applies to everything. InsureTech is a recognition of a movement in what is possible and what consumers expect.
To the agents side of things, yes, they were largely ignored, I would say, for InsureTech. The early InsureTech company saw them as being irrelevant. They saw them as effectively, “Hi, I’m Amazon. I aspire to be Amazon. I’m going to sell this stuff direct and digitally, and I don’t need an agent.” Insurance is too complicated. It’s too much. It’s too regulated where the agent isn’t– It’s going to be out of this picture. Back to our earlier conversation, absolutely, what it does show is that the agents who are turning into specialists are the ones that are there.
Probably one of the most exciting trends in InsureTech is, yes, this recognition that instead of agents being irrelevant or just ignored, that agents are actually part of a long-term solution for the consumer and part of the long-term solution for the industry. I expect to see far more innovation geared towards making agencies lives’ better, and agent-specific solutions in the next three to five years from InsureTech.
Michael: When my co-founder and I started Agency Revolution, and I think it’s about 10 years ago, of course, the term InsureTech didn’t even exist. I think years later, we realized that, “Oh, we’re an InsureTech firm that’s agent friendly.” There were several of them at the conference. I think, to some extent, agents should take heart in the fact that there are startups and there are investors and there are people willing to take a risk to make their life better.
Jay: It’s nothing short of phenomenal when I take a step back and say, “People care about insurance.” Insurance is in many ways sexy. That is the biggest win. It’s not a conversation around, are agents relevant or not? It’s, insurance is becoming more relevant. Insurance is becoming better appreciated. Insurance is a solution. The more that dialogue happens, that’s the rising tide that’s going to lift our boats, is insurance is this great product. Insurance is a great thing. If you happen to be in insurance, you’re going to win because people care. That is the flame that we are trying to fuel.
Michael: Okay. Next year in Las Vegas, you’re going to be in Las Vegas again, right, same place?
Jay: Yes, Las Vegas again, September 23rd, through 25th, at the MGM Hotel.
Michael: By the way, I think I got an email from you yesterday with you’re like, “This is the super early bird discount time.” We’re only about 11 months away.
Jay: Absolutely, 44 weeks away. Tickets are on sale now to January 18th. Absolutely. Buy your ticket before January 18th.
Michael: Buy before January 18th. Okay.
Jay: Before price has increased, yes. I’ll email you at least three more times. [crosstalk]
Michael: I know you will. I read every one. By the way, any idea how big the crowd is going to be next year or how many seats you had to reserve?
Jay: Everything. Every single square foot of the MGM will be ours.
Michael: Right on.
Michael: Okay. Congratulations to you on that. I have one last question for you, my friend, and I’ll ask you to deliver your answer directly to the retail agent. The question is, based on your observation of all that’s happening in the industry, how should they prepare?
Jay: They should come to ITC.
Jay: Come on. [crosstalk]
Michael: Okay. That was the softball. Now, here’s the hardball. Here’s the hardball pitch. Here’s the fast pitch. It’s other than attend ITC next year-
Jay: Don’t get distracted.
Michael: – how should agents prepare? What should they strive to make their agency look like and do? How should it behave differently than it is right now?
Jay: I would say, pretty simply, two things. One, don’t get distracted. There’s a lot of noise out here, and that noise will make you keep your eye off the ball. Number two is customer-centric. The beauty of customer centricity is that it isn’t about technology. Technology can deliver messages faster, but just think about it in our life. If you call somebody up and they say, “Hold on a moment, I’m going to look up that answer for you. Just give me a moment, can I call you back?” They don’t care that you don’t have that moment, that five seconds. They care that you listen to them and you’re going to serve their needs.
I would say, don’t get distracted by the noise. Don’t ever take your eye off of being as absolutely customer-centric as possible, because as much as insurance products can be remotely commoditized, the service delivery of them is always going to set somebody apart. It is that ability, the empathy, and being the trusted advisor– Empathy, trusted adviser, customer centricity, those are the things that are always going to be timeless, no matter what.
Michael: Okay. Can I quote you on this one? I’m paraphrasing it. Because you said it more than once in different ways, that service and expertise is never a commodity.
Michael: The product can be. You, the agent, is never a commodity, unless all they’re trying to do is sell on price. That’s maybe a longer conversation. Jay, if the audience– I’m going to throw this question. This is a softball question for you. When I was at the conference, I saw a lot of startup peers, people who were maybe a few years in their process, later than Agency Revolution, but a lot of a lot of startups, I saw a lot of investors. I saw a lot of startups pitching investors or tracking them down.
I saw a friend of mine who runs an investment bank, at the end of the second day he was exhausted because of the number of spontaneous appointments that were scheduled. I saw some agents, but I thought, “Wow, a lot of agents would get value out of this.” To an agent who’s thinking, “Oh, InsureTech Connect, why would I go there?” I’ll give you a chance to answer that question.
Jay: Insurance agents and agencies, if you are a mom-and-pop agency, our show isn’t going to be right for you. If you’re retiring in five years, our show is not going to be right for you. You have to be interested in, “What are the customers of the future looking like? What are the products of the future going to look like? What are the tools that can help me deliver the right products to the right customers? What are the methods that I can use in order to increase the efficiency of what I do?”
Those are the things that ITC is going to be helpful for them. It is an amazing experience. It is tiring and it’s overwhelming. It’s all of those things. You have to come prepared. I would say you come prepared to be wide-eyed, blown away by the amount of innovation broadly speaking in insurance. It is an amazing opportunity to soak up– like CES. To see what is happening in this world that I operate in. You come in to understand the landscape as a whole. Back to my point before which is, you shouldn’t get distracted. You should always focus on your customer centricity.
Bringing in a point that you made, really know what it is that you want to improve upon. If you come in without some thoughts about where we could stand to improve, absolutely, you’ll get lost in all that is possible. Taking all that is possible because it is inspiring to know what’s going on. Come in with your customers in mind and looking through distinct ideas for you.
Michael: If our listeners want to find out more about Insuretech Connect, and I believe they do, how should they do that?
Jay: I’ll say, two different ways. Please go to our website, insuretechconnect.com.
Michael: Can you spell InsureTech? [laughs] I’m teasing you. I’m teasing you a little bit about that.
Jay: It’s okay. No matter how they spell the word InsureTech.
Michael: Or how they misspell it.
Jay: Or how they misspell it. Just go to Google and put InsureTech Connect, InsureTech Vegas.
Michael: Got it.
Jay: They can put it all, they’ll find us. The other is, reach out to us if they have questions. We’ll absolutely do our best to respond. Let’s say, we’ll put it as firstname.lastname@example.org. That way, anyone that writes in, I know it’s from you.
Michael: [laughs] Okay. Fair enough. All right.
Jay: We are active listeners. We absolutely care. We are not an unlimited team, so we cannot be a real-time recommendation engine, but to the extent that people say, “This is what I’m interested in. This is the kind of stuff that I’m curious about. This is the technologies or tools. This is what keeps me up at night.” We will incorporate all of those things to make sure that the agent experience is as great as possible at our next year’s event, September 23rd to 25th.
Michael: I know, Jay, from our previous conversations that you do have an intent to deliver an extraordinary experience to the agent community in the coming event.
Michael: Very good. All right.
Jay: It’s a distinct priority of ours.
Michael: Jay, number one, congratulations on your success. Job well done. It was a great conference. Number two, thank you so much for sharing your insights, your time, and your wisdom with us today.
Jay: Thank you. It’s absolutely my pleasure. Thank you to everyone who’s listening, for the opportunity.
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