If you’re frustrated with the “Why” of insurtech and/or the current carrier-agent highway, this episode is for you.
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Who is Syd Roe?
My entrepreneurial roots date back to the summer of 6th grade. My neighborhood water balloon sales venture turned lucrative when requests from multiple local youth groups caused me to employee my 8th grade friends. After realizing there wasn’t a long-term future in the water balloon industry, the insurance industry’s prioritization of relationships captivated my attention.
Life as a commercial lines producer gave me insight into the nuts & bolts of an independent agency; while my time in the association world has given me a 30,000 foot view of the industry. Continuing to connect with insurance innovators who have a drive to push the industry forward into the digital realm is my passion. Let’s talk if that’s you!
Networking Ninja. Relentless Brainstormer. Self-sufficient Collaborator. Entrepreneurial Geek.
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Syd Roe 0:00
So technically, I actually already recorded this podcast, but ah, I am sitting at my desk staring at a tweet that blew up yesterday on the interwebs, No, oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. It blew up on January 6, it’s now January 10. I’m very behind in my Twitter, Twitter Enos so ah, this tweet. I read it this morning at like 4:15 am as I was scrolling through social media right before the gym, and I don’t even know how to express this. It hit so deep. you know, often I’m I work from home and I’m talking to Seth and Clint virtually and I just I don’t get to see a lot of people that I work with and work for. And sometimes that Where’s Anya and seeing this tweet just lit me up like it. I read it and I was like, dude, I am. I was I was I was pissed. I was, I was sad. I was frustrated. All of these things that they came out about 10 minutes later on the mat with some weights. And I want to share this tweet with you guys today and I want to I just I can’t believe I didn’t see the sooner I want to start. there’s a very there’s intentionality behind why I want to start with this tweet and we’ll get to that but let me read it first. Mike Crowley, one of my favorite agents in the insurance space tweets. I’m getting really annoyed with insurance carriers To say they can’t share information or data because it is proprietary information. I’m sorry, whose client is this? Isn’t this supposed to be a partnership at Seth Zaremba at parody? So present? Okay. I want to spend a few minutes dissecting why this tweet was so emotional for me. Two of the words three of the words really stood out to me I can’t proprietary and the very last word, partnership.
Syd Roe 2:49
I have so many words right now. It can’t be in our vocabulary. Can’t not be in our vote. I don’tknow why that is in our vocabulary.
Syd Roe 3:06
That is a word that’s used to shut people down, shut down conversations, shut down innovation shut down ideas can’t not be in our vocabulary. And here’s the reason that I say this is because I, I’ve talked to people who are in the positions across the country, to be able to access carriers and talk with them about things that are going on in the ancient world. And more often than not, when I’ve talked to these people, they say, Well, you know, when I talk to carriers about this, this issue about technology and data and where we’re at in the digital age and moving forward. What they say to me is, oh, well, we’ve never heard that from your agents. We’ve never heard that from your agents. Okay.
Syd Roe 4:07
So I think that I think that we can safely say that there are that, that that there are agents talking about these things, many agents talking about these things, and I don’t know that the problem is that they’re not hearing I think the problem is there’s not a lot of listening going on. And, and, and the word can’t it just it irritates me. It irks me because instead of taking that concern, which we’re going to get into what the concern is in just a sec, taking that concern, and saying, wow, I Mike, I get it and this is the guy you should want to have the conversation with. Let me give you guys a little background on Mike Crowley. If you haven’t met him which you should meet him if you have not had a chance to talk with him. He lives in New York. The family-owned agency took it over from his dad recently very focused on pushing the agency forward into the digital age. He was one of the very first people who jumped on the digital marketing bandwagon, consumed a lot of the information that we had put out from for from agency nation, and completely redid his website, beefed up his technology, got his staff on board. This guy works tirelessly. He’s working on weekends, he’s working late at night. You know, I follow him on social so I see that
Syd Roe 5:39
He’s involved. he’s a leader in his in the community of agents in New York. So he’s the one talking to all the US. There’s a lot of us different associations. He’s up there, he’s talking to the people who can make moves. This is the guy that you would want if This is if this guy is coming to you and saying, Hey, can we think about this? They can’t not be in your vocabulary. This is the dude that you should want to have the conversation with. Okay, so let me give you a little background because that that that one tweet that he sent, he did get a little pushback and see what’s interesting is that no, there’s one guy from a carrier. I think he’s from at night to do a little social media stalking. I’m not, I’m not too proud for a little good social media stalking. And he did play the devil’s advocate.
Syd Roe 6:44
And other than that, there were no carriers that commented so far. I mean, these tweets been up for days it went, you know, like almost 50 people have liked it. It’s been retweeted, people are talking about it. No carriers have commented, which I find very interesting. Only agents. So agents aren’t talking? Well, I think maybe you should start listening if you haven’t heard that agents are talking about it. And Mike follows up this original tweet with. Okay, let me read the second tweet. He says I was talking in information on a specific risk. Because this is the guy who’s playing the devil’s advocate. Right. So he’s saying, Well, let me give you a little more information on what I was talking about. I was talking about information on specific risk, inspection information. They’re not willing to share but once you raise the premium, I’m sorry, but no, I’ll just move the client agents have the power but are too scared to say it or realize it? How do I put this? I don’t want to argue about whether inspection information is information that can be shared or can’t be shared. The bigger conversation here is what Mike is saying is look. I’m a guy who’s trying to provide who’s trying to serve Him. client’s in the best way possible. I’m getting feedback from my very negative feedback about my client about this thing that you did. I need more information about this thing that you’re doing so that I can better serve my client. I’m stuck in the middle helped me out here. And instead of having the conversation, we use the word can’t. And that is just it’s, it’s so when people ask me what I do, it’s so interesting. So I’m like, oh, man, and this is these are people who are outside the insurance industry. So when people come to me, they’re like, said, What are you doing? Now? I see all these videos you’re putting up and I don’t really understand what you’re talking about, but you’re doing insurance and I’ve used a couple of different responses to see like, what sticks and what works. But ultimately, what I always come back to if I’m talking to someone who’s outside the insurance industry, is I’m really trying to make the insurance experience World Class. Right? I did you and that. And they’re like, Oh, that’s kind of cool. Okay. And they’ll look at and say, Did you know that your insurance rates are quoted off of technology that was built like 40 years ago? And that’s when their drop drops. They’re like, Oh, okay, no, I didn’t know that right. and so we get into this conversation about what’s going on in the insurance industry. And you know, how does it work? Because I really have no idea. Most people have literally no clue how their product works. They have no clue how the industry works. And so I say I make it very simple for them. say, Okay, let’s take Nike, for example. Okay, let’s say that Nike, which is one company right now, and it has multiple departments and all those departments talk to each other because they’re within one company. Let’s just say someone decided to split Nike into two companies. So you have manufacturing and you have sales and service. They used to be departments within one organization. But now we’re just going to cut them right down the middle. Manufacturing is going to be over to the right. Sales and Service is going to be over the left two completely different companies. They don’t talk to each other. They don’t communicate with each other in real-time. They don’t really try to inform each other. What do you think is going to happen to the Nike shoe marketplace? You’re sure gonna have manufacturing creating all these shoes, and then they’re gonna send them to sales and service and sales service is gonna be like, Oh, these are the shoes we got for manufacturing. Here. They are 2019 shoes. Here are a 2 million shoes we got half a million and purple we got another half a million and the size small. And those are the rainbow ones. And you know, we got these ones over here. And so they start selling them. Right. And as they’re selling them and they’re selling servicing these clients are coming back. They’re returning them. They’re fielding calls about things that are going wrong. They’re gathering all this information about what people think about the product and how they’re experiencing the product. And none of that information is being sent back to manufacturing. So, so now you have sales and service doing all this. Selling, selling, selling, servicing, servicing, right? And, and some of the shoes they can’t sell because well, you made them purple. And you gave us half a million shoes and purple that are all small. But none of the people who have small feet want purple shoes, all the people who have large feet want purple shoes. So now we’re stuck with all these shoes and manufacturers like well, all we do is the manufacturer. That’s what we do. We manufacture shoes. So we’re just going to keep what we got 2020 shoes and we’re already making and we’re going to send them to you. That’s what we do. We make the shoes we send them to you. Right and this is The This is the environment that the independent channel is experiencing right now. It’s insane. It’s insane to me when I started to put these pieces together, I was like, oh my gosh. How does this work? Right? I mean, if you separate Nike into two different companies manufacturing sales and service, at some point they’ve got to recognize the partnership that has to be created for the sake of the consumer. It insurance has to be a team sport. I did two things in college that I absolutely loved. They were the two things that kept me in school because I hate school. I hated college, eight tests. I hate monotonous learning. And I always used to think when I was in college that I hated work because the classes where the work and soccer and mock trial, those were looked at as fun activities Right, going to class and taking the tests and studying that was the work when I got to be on the soccer field and do a mock trial that was Oh, you get to go have fun today, right? And I realized after college as I started getting deeper into my professional career that I actually do love work I love I actually have a problem with being too obsessive about work. You can ask Jess, my partner, she’s like, Oh my gosh, please stop talking about insurance for like five seconds. I really love what I do every day. And when I look back on my time in college, I realized I it’s not that I didn’t love the work I just didn’t love the environment in which the work was taking place. I don’t like having to do things on you know solo and not with a group of people and the gym that I joined. It’s a small group fitness gym. I love that team environment right mock trial is essentially this. It’s a leak. sport I guess for lack of a better term where you pretend to be a lawyer you’ve got lawyers and witnesses and you’re running an actual trial for other lawyers and they’re judging you based upon your, your different skill sets with argumentation and not understanding the way that the trial should proceed and being able to argue your case and soccer is obviously a team sport. And here’s the thing like let’s think about soccer for a second compared to insurance because what’s happening right now is essentially saying Okay, so we just played this soccer game.
Syd Roe 14:35
And the striker didn’t make any goals whose fault is that the striker didn’t make any goals while the strikers the one closest to the net. So they’re the ones who are supposed to be making the goals. Right. Doesn’t matter that the midfield didn’t get the ball up the field doesn’t matter that The defense couldn’t get the ball out of our half or three-quarters of the game. No, it’s the striker’s fault because the striker is closest to the net. But in reality, it’s the entire team if the entire team isn’t working together, oh, go if you have a set, go watch the United States women’s national team documentary for this last World Cup. And the coach who’s Jill Ellis, who’s now retired talks about how she intentionally chose specific people not just because of their skill sets, but because of their personality and ability to work together as on a team and as a team. And that played into why they were so successful. As the United States women’s national team is because they were able to work together. It’s just, it always boils down to these basic human principles, right? partnership with Ford, if we live in a world where we’ve got the separation This drastic separation between two core functionalities of a business of a product that is essential for the consumer to be happy, we have to come together on them we have to and here’s the other part of this right? I’ll give you another analogy. I’m on an analogy roll today. So I that my partner Jess, she was married and was divorced. She has three kiddos from that marriage and so they live with us half the time they live with their dad half the time and the synergy between those households and specifically between our you know, us as parents and them as parents are so important. Now, I know you know this I know that you know, like, Oh, yeah, well of course, right. If you guys are unhappy with each other that’s going to get passed down to the kids. That’s sort of like An obvious like, yeah, duh. Here’s the part that most people don’t realize. And I didn’t realize when I came into the situation, because most people think well just don’t say anything negative, right? So it’s like don’t verbally say anything. You know that that might be seen as being negative to their dad, because, at the end of the day, they are their dad, right? Cory, Andrew, and Lucas are half of their mom and half of their dad. And if I say something negative about their dad, I’m saying something negative about them.
Syd Roe 17:36
Now, coming into the situation, I still had we just had different ways of parenting. And it was tough for me to respect and recognize the value in what they were doing in their household that took me a while to get under my belt. And so when the kids would come and say, oh, You know, Daddy did this or, you know, this happened or whatever. While I wouldn’t verbally say anything negative, my body language and my tone came across as kind of irritated. Like, oh, okay, that’s interesting that that’s going on over there. Right? And just that little tiny inflection got picked up by the kids. And they started because kids are very sly. They’re very crafty kiddos are.
Syd Roe 18:39
They figured out how to manipulate the situation. Right? Just from I wasn’t even being verbal. I thought I was faking it. I thought I could pretend you can’t. They smell it. They cannot. There is no sniff test that you can pass if you’re trying to fake it. You have to believe in the other parents. You have to because if you don’t, the kids will recognize that something is going on. Right. And that took me took me a while to realize and here’s why I tell you this story is because if you think about the insurance industry, right? You think about that, that that detachment between carriers and agents and the thing that we’re trying to create together, right? It’s like carriers are one family. It’s like we’re a divorced family, right? You got carriers over here and you got agents over here, one set of parents on the right, one set of parents on the left, you got the consumer is the kid. And what we’re, what the principle here is, is that you think you’re able to pretend you think you’re able to fake partnership, but you’re not. You can’t, the consumer knows, maybe they can’t put it in words. Maybe They don’t understand the insurance industry and then they can’t say well you know, carriers are doing this thing over here and agents are doing this and that’s why I’m frustrated and they’re not seeing Mike Crowley’s tweets right they’re not seeing says tweets but they can’t put it in the words but they know they feel it and it’s eroding their trust. This is the thing that irks me about what is going on in the independent channel right now but with these, when I hear stuff like this with from Mike and even, you know, it happens on the carrier side to carriers coming to agents and being frustrated because they want to partner on things as well. Insurance should be the most positive purchase that every anyone ever makes the most positive purchase. There’s no reason for insurance to not be a positive purchase. We make purchases all the time that is necessary. I have to buy food. I have to buy a house. I have to buy a car. I have to buy insurance. Right, you can’t I’ve, I’ve heard the line of consumers just don’t appreciate us because they have to buy insurance or, you know, those millennials and I’m guilty of saying those things too. But at the end of the day, it does not matter. Right. The confusion, they feel the difficulty, the delays, the friction, the complexity, whose fault actually is that? It’s not. It’s not because insurance is a necessary product. It should be a positive experience. Well, hey, you just bought a $30,000 car. Well, guess what? Pay me $100 a month, $150 a month. And if your car your $30,000 car ever gets, you know, you get into a car crash. If you hurt someone else, we’ll pay all of it. 150 bucks a month. That’s it. That’s all you got to pay. We’ll pay for everything else. Third, we’ll give you a brand new $30,000 car if it’s 35,000 because we went up great. We’ll pay for that. And if somebody has medical bills that are another $50,000. We’ll pay for that too. Hundred and 50 bucks a month, there is no reason that insurance should be should not be the most positive product purchase, like, Ah, I’m so fired up about this and at the end of the day, we have to realize that it’s our responsibility to serve better. And that starts with coming together as an as channel agents and carriers getting off of our high horses and figuring out getting in the weeds. How do we solve these problems together because together is the only way forward, I’m telling you together is we live in an age that is too connected, that is too transparent, and you can’t fake it anymore. So I just I hope I hope that someone hears this and doesn’t just walk away saying, Wow, Sid was very ranty this morning on the atomic airwaves. Because really, guys, this comes from the heart. I care, Want, I just I want I’m not trying to point fingers. I’m not trying to blame. I’m trying to say this is just it’s we can’t these we can’t move forward like this right? We can’t we have the power to make insurance the most incredible experience that we could possibly give anyone. There’s no reason insurer tech should be here and pushing agents out, right? There’s no reason for there’s no reason consumers should feel the way that they do. We have the power to make it better. So the reason I’m ranting about this is that I want to very quickly and there’s a video that’s coming out tomorrow on YouTube that I’ll go into a little more depth. But I want to talk a little bit about the issue in terms of helping agents and carriers be more connected. Right, I think so. Part of it is the mindset. And that’s the part we just talked about. Part of it is, you’ve got to want to be more connected. And then part of it is, you know, the why. And then the how, how do we become more connected? How do we give consumers a better experience using technology? And typically, the catchphrase that I hear is, well, agents just need to get better at Technology Agency to adopt their technology more or adopt more technology. I’m actually sitting on a panel this week in New Orleans when I might even be sitting on it when this thing drops. No, I won’t, cuz I dropped them at like 4 am. And I’m definitely not sitting on a panel at 4 am.
Syd Roe 24:44
But the panel, they asked me to come up with three tech tools that I could share with an agency and not that I’m opposed. I think that’s great. There’s a lot of technology out there. That’s really good. The problem is I don’t think that’s the answer. That’s At the solution and often what tends to happen is we use that catchphrase in a way that blames the agent and the agent alone for the experience that a customer receives in the independent channel right again going back to that hey the strikers on the front lines the strikers the one closest to the goal it’s the striker’s fault that we didn’t get a goal. Hmm No, that’s completely true because there’s a whole team of people behind that striker. That’s supposed to assist. They might not have the last touch but without them, the striker doesn’t even get close to getting a goal. So how do we connect? If it’s not agents, you know, just adopting more technology. It’s not agents getting better. How do we do this? I recently and you’re probably like said, I’ve heard about this annual carrier meeting like 50 times when are you going to stop talking? about it. I’m gonna keep talking about it because I loved this carrier meeting, I just want to like replay it in my sleep, like one of those, you know, and they tell you to like, make sure that babies listen to classical music so that they become smarter. It’s like, I’m just gonna listen to Seth’s annual carrier meeting while I’m sleeping. So I become, you know, smarter. So, during this carrier meeting, I was very, I was caught off guard by something that Seth said in the very beginning of the meeting, and actually, I’m not going to tell you what he said, I’m just going to let him tell you what he said.
Guest Speaker 26:36
JOHN, retention figures, team performance, but overall, as it stands today, we’re looking at little over 15 million on a total book of business. From a production standpoint, that’s active policies to date, updated as of the first of this month. So as we look at that, you get the top six in there. There’s obviously more than fit in that piece of it.
Seth Zaremba 27:00
Last time they saw that it was 16. What happened?
Guest Speaker 27:03
Um, yeah. So that’s I, you know, it’s a data anomaly for me. I’ve been really trying to figure that out because I think what we’ve got in there is we’ve got some policies listed as zero premiums. Right, we’ve got some business that’s within Diem, some brokered business where our folks, you know, it’s a manual data entry point. And as those policies renewed, I’m trying to kind of pinpoint where those are. But it’s just it’s, you’ve got a little gap between 15 and 16, that I can identify
Seth Zaremba 27:34
that some of it. Are there any problems with downloads? Certainly, we would just be able to download everything and we would get a clear view, correct? Yeah. Yeah. No. downloads, freaking overwrite our book of business. Agents. Does anyone else deal with that? Every day. We can’t get through download what our actual book of businesses from you guys If you can even imagine running a business in July, I told you I was 16 million I was 15 million. When I go to the carriers and you push it to me, it screws up all the data on our side. And you might say, Well, that’s because you’re a neon, but in the legacy world that doesn’t happen.
Seth Zaremba 28:21
We every time you guys send us something, it wipes out our data set and confuses it makes us worse. If you can even imagine when a policy renews it is the worst thing in the world for us. And so I’m embarrassed and excited to say that working with you guys, as close partners, we screw each other up all the time. What is even a goal if we can’t even move that information back and forth.
Syd Roe 28:48
So here’s what I got from Seth’s statement. carriers have the most accurate pricing data, the most accurate premium data that’s where Pricing is controlled, that’s where it starts and ends. Anything else any other system that might hold that type of data is just a reflection of whatever is in the carrier systems. But getting an accurate reflection into an agent system with the technology that exists today is apparently super, super difficult. It’s so difficult that a tech-forward agency and I would even go so far as to say one of the most tech-forward agencies still has issues getting an exact read on premium written.
Syd Roe 29:44
what this is, this is a number that knowing how much business you wrote, knowing what your premium bar is, knowing what your revenue is, should not be this difficult of a number, it shouldn’t be this it, we should be able to get to that number. Any business owner, not even just an insurance agency, any business owner should be able to get to that number. But even more so this is the real point, the technology that we have that we’re paying money for, shouldn’t be making it more difficult. But it’s hard enough, I get it. I’m not saying it’s easy to get to that number. I understand that there are difficulties in getting there, but the technology should be making it easier, and it’s making it harder. And that’s a reality that’s an issue. And this is why this was such a wakeup call for me because up till this point, I had always thought about that highway between agents and carriers, the fact that it wasn’t passing through all the data 100 right, if there’s 100% of data that a highway between two different companies could pass Between each other, you know, we’re passing 10% 5%. So that’s one problem. The other problem is we’re, we’re driving a, you know, the 1970s for down the road, instead of a Lamborghini when Lamborghinis are accessible, so, right, we’re creating this situation, this environment for a consumer where we’re not able to get them all the information that they need when they need it. Right. That’s the agents. The biggest issue to be one of the biggest issues is they can’t get the information to the consumer at the time that the consumer needs it. And it all really pivots on the depth and speed of that highway. Or I should say, the width and speed of that highway. So you know that that’s, that has always been, in my mind the biggest problem, but now, what I’m beginning to realize is that’s not even The only issue here, this there’s this whole other world that was opened up to me during this carrier meeting where I realized, oh my gosh, we are, we are making it difficult for agents to run their business not even to just communicate with their consumer, but to even understand where their business is at on any given day. I just, I’m, we shouldn’t be doing that. Right. We shouldn’t be. We should be not only focused on trying to give a better experience to our customers. But first, this is the first issue. Before we even think about the technology that gives somebody a better consumer experience. Why aren’t we thinking about technology that gives a better agent experience, right? How do we think about this as a channel? Not as one carrier developing this thing and one carrier developing that thing and thinking about the business model of the channel? How do we come together and figure out a solution that brings the carrier and the agent closer together? Because if we can fix that, then we can fix the agent consumer relationship. But if we can’t even get the agent carrier relationship to be more seamless, how are we going to help the consumer? If we can’t help ourselves? How are we going to help the consumer? So that is, oh, Mike, just shout out to Mike for putting that out on social media. You got my brain going a million miles a minute, at like, you know, too early in the morning. And I feel for you, dude, I really, really do and just know that there are people out there working on it and keep working on it. Keep asking the questions. And if you’re like, Mike, if you’re one of those agents out there who’s questioning and who’s asking and who’s pushing? Keep doing it don’t stop, because there are people out there who are working tirelessly to help with that too. So having said that, I do want to tell you guys, I meant for this podcast to actually be
Syd Roe 34:18
focused on an interview with a very incredible guy from an agency in Martinsville, Virginia Burton, and company. His name’s rusty Roark and I ended up rambling because I was so heated, but I’m going to put his full interview on YouTube tomorrow on Thursday, so keep an eye out for that. It’s a great interview, and we go into a little bit more depth on Ivan’s download the highway where we’re at now what’s going on some things that even rusty is developed to help assist In tracking what’s being shared on that highway and where we can go as we move forward so keep an eye out for that. And I really hope you guys Tune in next week for another episode. Have an awesome one peace.