The Idudes sit with the Insurance and tech leader, Stacey Brown for a conversation filled with insights into the insurance industry landscape! Stacey talks about “InsurTech Hartford” one of the industry’s most successful InsurTech ecosystems, through InsurTech Hartford, Stacey has created a global network of industry leaders within carriers, brokers, startups, and investors. The conversation flows from InsurTech towards the crucial and pivotal role of fostering a mindset that supports innovation. Stacey and the hosts, then, shed light on the rapid impact of the emerging technologies, such as the AI tools we’ve been seeing, with the potential to reshape the industry.
Stacey also passionately advocates for collaboration and expanding the entrepreneurial "pie," leaving listeners with optimism about the industry's future.
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Craig Pretzinger & Jason Feltman
The Insurance Dudes
Man, the wildest thing that I've ever seen happen in insurance. When you've been around a number of mergers and acquisitions, you get to see all the different interesting ways in which cultures come together. And I think one of the wildest things that that I seen was a bunch of Americans trying to adapt to French culture. Right. So, you know, when AXA bought Excel, I'm no longer with the company. So I guess I could speak more publicly about this stuff now. But when asked about Excel, you know, we had, we had one culture, right. And I came from the Excel side of the house. And I had gone through a merger with Excel and Catlin, and, you know, but it was really they call it a merger of equals, and it really was right, like, culturally, we were very similar. You know, we have our own, everybody had their own politics and things like that. But the culture was similar, where the accent merger was totally different, right. And I thought I knew what governance was, I had no clue what governance was until, you know, Mother Aqsa came to the house. And I don't mean that the size as a negative thing, there was some, some really positive stuff to that. But man, what a culture shock, it was,Jason Feltman:
what was one of the big shocks with that whole?Stacey Brown:
Well, first off, it's, it starts with little things, right? So a French accent when your ears not tuned to it takes a little bit getting used to right. Yeah, for from an American perspective. And, and so there's a little bit of that, but it really was the, it seemed like the amount of governance how there had to be like, every time I turned around, like I thought I knew how to do my job, but I didn't because I kept finding out there was another committee I was supposed to have talked to before I came to talk to these people, right. And, and it was just, it was it was very different. It's very different. What I was used to personally, it was, you know, I was highly empowered. I was an executive, I made decisions. I paid the price at times when those weren't good decisions. I see where this podcast goes. I probably just set myself up for another question. But yeah, that was that just having to get used to a, you know, a new structure and a new way of making decisions through more consensus driven decision making and stuff was was kind of a big, big shift for me.Jason Feltman:
Got in who are you? Oh,Stacey Brown:
by the way, yeah. I'm Stacy Brown. And I've worked with InsurTech. Hartford now. It's an organization I started back in 2017. Ish. And I work out of Hartford, Connecticut, and I'm an insurance dude. InsuranceCraig Pretzinger:
dudes are on a mission to escape be handcuffed by our agencies.Jason Feltman:
How? by uncovering the secrets to creating a predictable, consistent, and profitable agency Sales Machine.Craig Pretzinger:
I am Craig Pretzinger.Jason Feltman:
I am Jason Feldman. We are agents. We are insurances. Whoa, ah, love it. Welcome. Yeah, that's, that's hard.Craig Pretzinger:
Oh, sorry. Go ahead. Go. Yeah,Jason Feltman:
well, yeah, you go, ICraig Pretzinger:
was just gonna ask if you thought the culture, the culture class was a pain in the axon.Stacey Brown:
But I don't mean to make it sound like it's bad. It's just different, right. And what I think added to it, for me personally, was all the work that I had been doing on the Insure tech side of the house for the last several years. And I was spending a lot of time with startups, small organizations. I was running my own organization, essentially with InsurTech, Hartford. And if I saw something I pivoted, I moved, I did it, I went in that direction, right. So as the controls became tighter, on one end of the equation, like through my corporate job, like the autonomy was in increasing in my entrepreneurial side of the house, and so these were just like, you know, you talked about two legs and two canoes. Well, the canoes were like going in different directions. And it was starting to, you know, be uncomfortable for me. So, but like I said, I don't mean to make it sound like what was happening there was bad or negative. There's a lot of really smart people. They're very methodical about what they're doing, why they're doing it and how they're doing it. And, you know, I came to realize a long time ago that when you're like a small, scrappy startup, you've got a lot more to gain and not a lot to lose on a relative basis. Right. But if you're a multibillion dollar or in the case of AXA trillion dollar, have a trillion dollar balance sheet, right, man, there's anything you gain is only my new In comparison to how much is at stake, right? So the amount of controls you'd have to have in place, the bigger you get it just to me, it just makes sense. Right?Jason Feltman:
So now it's at the matures, that the mature point of its lifecycle. And that's, that's, I guess why it ends up being declined at some point, right? Because you can't really at some point, it's like too expensive to try to grow. How do you grow?Stacey Brown:
Well, m&a? Exactly. Yeah. Right. Right. You spin off the underperforming assets and free up capital to buy new ones, right. It'sCraig Pretzinger:
a totally different way of operate. It's just interesting, you know, because we're down here at the very micro level.Jason Feltman:
Right. And they, they probably try to minimize the the amount of accidentsStacey Brown:
for a while, I wrote that one down last night, didn't you?Jason Feltman:
I was just holding on to that for like, 10 minutes here. And I'm like, When can I use this?Craig Pretzinger:
A few more. Oil areStacey Brown:
plenty more where that came from? Sure. Yeah. Don't thinkCraig Pretzinger:
that was the last one. If you're listening at home.Jason Feltman:
Yeah, count of how many whoever can count how many acts of jokes we will make? Report to the ideas, email, and you will receive a prize?Craig Pretzinger:
That's right. I like it. Alright, Stacy.Jason Feltman:
So break it down. Let's talk about the Hartford insurer Tech Tech. Harford, what the heck is it and why?Stacey Brown:
It's easy to do. It happens all the time. And it didn't help that for a while we had something in town called The Hartford insurer tech hub. And people are confusing our two organizations all the time. And but in InsurTech, Hartford is an organization I started. Really, I'd say that the earliest days go back to 2016, when I was, you know, seeing the trends that were going on in the industry around insurer tech, right wasn't even called insurer tech, yet. It was just like, hey, investors are putting money into startups that are tech driven, and they're gonna disrupt the whole industry. And everyone was like, Oh, my God, what is it? What's gonna happen to him? When I was looking at it as like, hey, you know what this reminds me of? It reminds me of the.com days. And I was like, I want to be a part of this somehow. But there was nothing like be a part of so I just started reaching out to people in my network that I knew and saying, Hey, we should get together and talk about this stuff. And that's kind of how it took off. And so it's kind of grown a lot, you know, what we we eventually gave it the name InsurTech, Hartford, and it was really about community building around the the Hartford area insurance community, which is super strong. There's like 50,000 jobs within a one hour radius, and all all working for the insurance industry. And so it's pretty rich, insurance, you know, resource rich environment. But there was no insurer tech anything, right? So. So I just started having meetings, and people started showing up and it just kept growing. And the funniest thing was the pandemic actually caused acceleration, because instead of like stopping and focusing on my day job, I said, you know, I'm gonna go online, and I'm going to start, we're going to virtual events. And then we started having large audiences that were way larger than anything we were doing in person. So it became more of a global brand. So that's where we are today. Right? We're, we're still a community, but it's more of a global branded community. And I did leave, you know, AXA, in 2023. And I've just been focusing on this community building stuff. And so this year, I've been working with partnerships and in helping launch communities in was InsurTech Atlanta. And sure, it's like Chicago. So we're taking the lessons that I've learned that the playbooks and the resources and things of that sort, and just helping build other communities.Jason Feltman:
Super cool. So like, talk about building the communities like what did the communities rally around? Like, besides just the insurer tech, like, what's the what's the goal? What's the pursuit?Stacey Brown:
Well, that's really it. Right? It's about how, for me, I feel that it's about driving innovation in the industry. Right? So I spent a lot of years doing that on the carrier side as a as we, we kind of drain the pond on that one, I think, but, but now I'm doing it from the outside, right. And there's, there are so many different angles to the insurance industry. And in there, all right for innovation, and the thing is that you can't do it on your own right. And in the olden days, we used to sit in our cubes and, you know, if we were being innovative if we research something on the internet and brought it into a conference certainly talk with our peers about it, right. But nowadays, the ability to mash up and bring people together with different backgrounds and skills and stuff like that is amazing. Not to mention the way it helps to bring talent into the industry as well. Right? So, entrepreneurship and innovation is has brought a lot of new talent into the industry over the last few years. And I don't know that people are really thinking of it that way, right. But we know that the insurance industry has a bit of a talent crunch, whether you're on the distribution side, or the carrier side, or anywhere in between, you know, the future isn't looking as bright when you look at bodies coming into relative bodies going out of the industry. So certainly some of that slack is going to be picked up on, on the technologies and innovations coming out. So all the more reason why we've got to push the needle forward on innovation, but the communities themselves are really just about bringing those people together and making those connections happen. We do other things, too, you know, like we, we do hackathons, we have an annual pitch event. And we do a lot of partnership and collaboration events with other organizations to cool.Craig Pretzinger:
So it's, again, it's to get the information out about all the different InsurTech solutions that are out there.Stacey Brown:
That's that it's definitely a part of it. You know, it's really about putting opportunities together, putting people together to create opportunities, right. You know, whether it's startups looking for VC, an experienced person in the industry looking for their next role. And students, we do a lot of work with getting students engaged involved in the stuff that we're doing. You know, I was, I've been, you know, helping out with, with teaching at university Connecticut at times, you know, got involved this summer and an actuary a boot camp for for high school students, organized by a local organization called CTFs. So it's more than just the work that happens at our events, it's really ties back to community. But it's all meant to help drive the industry forward.Jason Feltman:
Yeah, that is interesting. What what kind of trends are you? Seeing, like, I'm sure that when you started this, that it's kind of built up a unique angle, right? Like, it's, I'm sure, it's not exactly how you started it. Right. So what what kinds of things have you seen come about, from putting all these cool people together?Stacey Brown:
Well, I'd say one of the wildest things here also is that I didn't set out to do anything. In fact, earlier today, I was asked, so like, what's the ultimate goal and objective of, you know, Intertek, Hartford, Chicago, Atlanta, etc? Like, what's, what's the ultimate thing? I'm like, you know, I wish I wish I can actually tell you that. Because from the very beginning, I didn't, I didn't set out to do any of the stuff that I'm doing today. Right, I go back to my story. They were I just wanted to get together as an insurance IT guy, I wanted to get together and talk with other insurance it guys about what is this? How is tech going to disrupt our industry? Right? And it's just, I've kept an open mind to the things that come at me. And so I think the opportunities that that's created are things that, like, you know, rewind the clock to, you know, 2015 if you would have told me like, Oh, you're gonna be, you know, skiing with, with, with with a group of investors and startup CEOs that you pulled together with a, you know, where the people in the room had a total market cap of$6 billion. I'd been like, ah, yeah, right. Like, I don't even ski. Right. And that's, that's, that's the honest truth. Right. So our first ski trip event that I collaborated with David grits, who does the InsurTech, New York community with Tony, Tony Lu. David and I partnered on the ski trip event first in in 2022. When I agreed to do with them, I said to him, I said, No, right now, the only thing I have to do is learn how to ski because I had never skied in my life, right. And it's just things like that the opportunities that have have come out of just moving forward with an open mind and asking myself Hi, how can I instead of thinking of why it's hard, or why I can't write, and also I'd say, mindset wise. I didn't realize how many years I went, I'll say the only thing right, so I realized now that we could all just make more pie. Right. When in the corporate environment. It was kind of like there was an annual budget. This is what we were spending in it this year. And really the only way people felt like they were getting ahead In their IT careers when they got bigger slices of the pie. But because the pie was picked, fixed in order for someone to get a bigger piece that meant somebody else had to be getting a smaller piece, right? It was like really hard to have that growth mindset that I think that's a big part of what has driven me out in entrepreneurial and to is the fact that, hey, you know what you do the same thing I do. That's cool. How do we collaborate? How do we do together? Maybe we can make the pie bigger. Right? So just a very different, very different world.Craig Pretzinger:
Yeah, corporate world is protect the pie, and then keep layering with more managers. I don't understand that whole idea that it's tough. It's an indicationStacey Brown:
that you're doing well. Right. All right. Yeah. The Peter Principle, the Peter Principle, I guess I'd have to Google it to make sure I get it right. But it's something along the lines of in corporate people get promoted to their highest level of incompetence. Once you get to a level where you're not getting promotions anymore, it's because you're not competent enough for the next level. So right at the peak of where you're reaching your incompetence.Jason Feltman:
Yeah. And then I'm sure time has to play in that because at some point, the like, I've been with them so long, I should just be promoted. That comes in, where it's like, part ofStacey Brown:
the mentality of Yeah, world, right, where it's, I don't want to say entitlement because people work hard. And they, they want to, they want to feel like they're growing. They want to feel sometimes, sometimes it's hard to tell, is it? Is it change that you want? Or is it actual growth? And is it growth in, in what in corporate world they do a really good job of keeping us focused on this thing they call a title. Right? Yeah, you know, grip. So so that whole manager concept, right, it ties back to that as well. Right?Craig Pretzinger:
Money? Like they really mean? Oh, sorry, good.Stacey Brown:
Oh, just title means so much. Yeah. In entrepreneurial world. Call me.Craig Pretzinger:
Call me janitor. I don't care. It's, um, it is interesting, because my wife works in that world. And like, what she's, you know, what I give ideas? Because some, usually she doesn't want an idea. But of course, I offer the idea that goes over well, you know how that goes. It's just the way that she'll play it back is it's always Oh, no, you don't understand it doesn't work like that here. You can't do that. You know, it's like, well, you can't do that. Because kids, you're just, you're accepting that. You can do whatever.Jason Feltman:
How does that go over?Craig Pretzinger:
It doesn't get overwhelmed.Stacey Brown:
I mean, it is tricky. I understand. I lived it for 20 plus years. Right. And I understand is what I could say. And there's nothing wrong with it. It's good. It's, you know, there's a safety net around it all. It's highly structured. And it's, it's really, it's really good for for for allowing, having framework for people to come out and be solid contributors and society and do selves, right. Not everybody is willing to, you know, throw their hat on jump on the horse and just start reading. Wes. Right. Like, that's, that's scary crap. I can tell you firsthand. Yeah,Craig Pretzinger:
it is. It is. And it's a good point. It's probably, you know, the vast majority of people fit better into that role, where they need the structure. They need the they need the direction, right? Yeah, it helps. There's the crazies that are like, I don't care. I'd rather work 80 hours and not have to work 40 hours.Stacey Brown:
Right? Yeah, I remember an entrepreneur guy. I met in Asia, once he, he told me something along the lines of, you know, he was he he used to work in corporate and then he was an entrepreneur when I met him, and he said that he felt that $1 errand working for himself was better than $2 earned, you know, working in a corporate world, right. And that's just how some people feel. Yeah. Again, it doesn't make people in corporate bad or wrong. It's just it's different. Right in your comfort zone is typically on one side of that fence or the other. Yeah,Craig Pretzinger:
well, and the$2 is tied to exchanging. You do this, you get $2 versus I choose to do this, I'll get $1 and, you know, if you're, if you're entrepreneurial you you choose, you're not letting anybody else to tell you, and that's I think, whatJason Feltman:
and if you don't want to show up that day, you still get Yeah,