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My First Week at an Insurtech Company

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

Agency Experience

There has never been a better time to explore the new frontier of jobs within insurance — that is the myriad of insurtech companies opening up and looking to hire people who have been in the industry.

I spent a few years as a marketing and communications director before transitioning into a sales and consulting role at a large independent agency. After a year trying to hype myself up to stay put there, my first week at an insurtech company has been a breath of fresh air.

I was feeling unsatisfied and struggling to find ways to use my talents in an independent agency — I enjoyed marketing, but selling insurance policies that have always been available and essentially sold in the same way didn’t fulfill me.

The money was good enough to caution my thoughts of exploring different jobs. I didn’t want to make a classic impulsive decision. Covid lockdown helped me reflect on what I really wanted out of my vocation, but also delayed that decision for a year.

I realized that I wanted to spend my time changing something that matters, innovating and disrupting broken processes and help pave insurance’s road to modernity.

Industry Skillset

After consulting the agency I was with and spending over five years in the industry, I knew I could distribute the information I’ve absorbed to a larger number of agencies instead of running out of things to do for one single agency.

There is information I learned while at an agency I thought I’d never use again, like:

Carrier co-op allocations, the process of quoting to binding coverage for different verticals, the various policies and markets available, how an agency’s size changes their structure and capabilities, how agencies and carriers attain and distribute marketing materials, the different touchpoints an agency has in different verticals or niches, the state of data, the difficulties agencies experience in trying to mine and export their data, the ability for an agent in a niche market to consult underwriters to form a new program or product, etc.

The knowledge I gained is still relevant and very useful info — it’s actually a rare and essential asset that’s part of what makes my skillset unique.

Many tech startups entering insurance don’t have the complete back-end knowledge of the industry — having this intel immediately gave me a voice that is able to help the team in more ways than one.

Insurtech Innovation

Working at an insurtech, I get to help innovate the way things are done within the various sectors of the industry. Being on the cutting edge of modern solutions, that insurers are having to assimilate to, aligns with my passions.

Agencies and carriers are important to the industry. I believe tech companies who are niched in insurance are ensuring their relevance.

When I was making decisions for an agency, I would have to outsource the solution if it was outside the capabilities of my marketing team. As vendors would engage, buy-in from upper management was needed to pull the trigger. This would often result in acquisitions of stepping outside of my lane.

At an insuretech I am respected as an expert in my craft opposed to an employee who “also handles this important role in the company.” I receive professional courtesy that was previously blocked by internal politics and tenure.

Startup Culture

There are many benefits from any new company: less tradition to learn and more to create, less political context, less imposter syndrome, more blank space to do what you do best without offending someone of a longer tenure, etc.

Tech companies seem to absorb what they don’t know, faster — teams building out tech softwares and solutions operate within frameworks that require individuals to be versatile and quick on their feet to learn what they don’t already know.

When I started, my first conversation with HR was a great indication of what to expect — transparent communication. The company’s intentions were made clear, as to why I was brought in, by highlighting specific skills they valued most of my past experience.

They detailed how I could positively contribute and what I will need to learn to get up to speed — next steps were followed up promptly. Autonomy was given and responsibilities they have delegated to me seem purposeful. Their core values are visible in the team’s dialogue, as everyone knows they have a voice here and uniqueness is continually celebrated.

Communication is internally public, informal, and mission-critical. Taking care of your family is encouraged and weekly volunteering is incentivized. They gamify everything like handing out points for volunteering that can be redeemed for various items like backpacks or watches.

Executives are hands-on in collaborative threads daily and never hide behind their title. Open door policy doesn’t apply, as there seems to be no “door” to be separated by. It’s a lean and welcoming collective, with a productive culture of members who each have essential, yet different skill sets.

At the agency I was formerly working in, the effort and intentions of having a progressive village culture were always made known — many successful agencies prioritize this aspect well — but the looming thought of implementing the “unknown” trumped the efficacy of great initiatives. That is a non-factor here.

Industry Challenges

In a tech company, modern practices are a minimum standard and implementation seems given. There are no daunting deployments for new tools and softwares, as most of the team members are generally tech-savvy making buy-in real time.

This is a major difference between the two sectors of tech and traditional insurance shops. The lack of past follow-through has wounded the key individuals that are needed for any major changes. As these customer service reps and account managers have stayed steady and consistent in their lanes, they've grown weary of shiny objects their executives propose to them.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying reluctance is warranted when asked to pivot my day-to-day for any proposed “change” when it’s been poorly executed time after time. Speaking from experience, pivoting in that case jeopardizes the ability to continue doing what I’ve been retained to do, at the same level. Contrarily, when changes are executed, well, pivoting is exciting.

Understanding these hurdles first-hand is critical in an insurtech’s ability to deploy and implement their products effectively. There’s more to unpack on that — perhaps, in a separate blog.

Career Change

The choice to tweak the direction of my career has surpassed my expectations.

Although making a lot of money can be wonderful, I’ve realized that it was never about — and should never be about — the money. If the thought of money drives your decisions, it is easy to lose sight of your potential.

When you’re doing things that make you happy and that come natural to you, the money follows. What seems like a risk at the time can oftentimes surprise you. Calculated risks are worth taking — after all, we wouldn’t have an industry if they weren’t.

John-Michael Polley, CLCS

Insurance Marketing Consultant

GoGiles Consultants

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