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InsurTech Ohio Spotlight with Andy Sand

Andrew (Andy) Sand is the Vice President of Operations, Strategic Partners at Bold Penguin, a leading integrated digital solution platform dedicated to simplifying small commercial insurance. Andy was interviewed by Chris Luiz, Director of Solutions Architecture and Customer Success at Monitaur.

Andy, you've been in the insurance industry for quite some time; could you give an overview of your career arc? What brought you here, and where you are today?

“I’ve spent the majority of my 33-year career in product management, both personal and commercial, working with admitted products. I began my insurance career at Progressive in 1990 when it was a $1 billion company. When I left 17 years later, it was a $14 billion company. In many ways, it was like working for an insurtech as they were always innovating with an emphasis on technology.

After leaving Progressive, I spent 12 years at Mercury Insurance where I managed its Commercial Auto and Business Owner Policy (BOP) and participated in several agile transformation projects. I spent a year at Farmers Insurance as Head of Commercial Auto before moving to Buckle, an insurtech startup that specialized in providing auto insurance for gig drivers.

As of Monday, I started a new position as VP of Strategic Operations at Bold Penguin, a technology solution provider whose product suite makes obtaining small commercial insurance quick, effortless and profitable. Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to partner with many insurtechs, and I’ve worked with many amazing and smart people. After all of these years, I’ve found the P&C space is actually an incredibly small and close community.”

What would you say it takes to be successful in insurtech?

“Foremost, our industry is complex. While there are a lot of insurtechs coming up with great ideas to change the industry, at the end of the day, you need to run an insurance company. What it takes to run an insurance company really hasn't changed since the 1700s. You have to be efficient, settle claims accurately and price accurately. It's the nuts and bolts, and these great ideas should complement that.

There's so much great talent in the industry. It's important that you grab that talent early on in the game and utilize their experience. For example, if you're in the admitted space, and you're going to write business in California, that's a unique state with a lot of nuances. I would advise you to get somebody on board quickly who has hands-on experience in managing and filing products in that state. The same is true for Pennsylvania, Texas, and Florida because if you get too far along and run into geographic nuances, you're going to have a lot of rework. It's okay to get a lot of smart people or even an AI bot to go out there and figure out a roadmap. But, again, there are so many unwritten rules and complexities in our business that you need to have people who've managed in that space to help you, you're going to miss a lot of things ahead of time. Getting talent on board quickly and using that experience is essential.

In addition to what I’ve already said, if you're not a carrier, but you're on the software side or third party side, understand that the complexities are there for a reason and not simply because we enjoy making things complex. A lot of the complexity is driven by the regulatory environment, but it's also driven by the nuances in terms of what it takes to run a business. We operate on very small margins compared to most industries. For example, why do you need 10+ bill plans? It's not because we love billing but it's because it's an important tool that we can use to manage the business given where it may be in a particular life cycle. Outside folks who don't understand the industry will see that as an added complexity, but somebody who has managed a product understands they don't want to hit the street with this product unless those tools are available. Again, that's where it comes back to bringing on people with the experience managing and running products that can help you succeed.”

What do you think holds newer tech-enabled companies back from being successful?

“Many great ideas don’t succeed because there’s a lack of understanding of what it takes to execute the ideas. In many ways, this goes back to the complexity of the business I just spoke about. You need to understand and plan for the complexities ahead of time. We’re in an industry where most consumers view our product as a commodity, and therefore, price is king. You need to be efficient and control your operating expenses, loss adjustment expenses and accuracy of settlements, etc.

For example, in many states, gaining approval for your product is not difficult, so there’s a temptation to move quickly. But, every time you enter a state, you need resources for back-end processes: compliance reporting, financial reporting, data calls, assigned risk management, etc. Small states can generate just as much work as large states. You also have many internal reporting needs: actuaries, claims managers and product managers all need information. Proper data management is essential to manage these complexities. If you don’t plan to manage this data, you’ll never be able to compete with efficient legacy carriers.”

What advice would you give to a new or nascent company that’s looking to join the field?

“In short, be humble. People who start insurtechs have great ideas that they believe in. They're very enthusiastic about their ideas. They want to, for lack of a better word, change the world. But, this is an industry that's been around for a long time. There are a lot of problems that we need to solve and improve upon. It's an industry that’s full of smart people that have been doing a great job. I don't think it's an industry that needs to be entirely thrown out. It can be improved upon, but you can’t do that by forgetting about where the industry is at and where it came from. New ideas should complement the existing industry as opposed to starting anew.”

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