Bryan Falchuk is Founder and Managing Partner at Insurance Evolution Partners and will be chairing Reuters Connected Claims USA in November. Bryan was interviewed by Michael Fiedel, a Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio and Co-Founder at PolicyFly, Inc.
Bryan, why is it so important to balance participation in thought-leadership driven conferences versus sales-oriented conferences?
“There's absolutely value in sales-focused engagement because this is a relationship business and building those relationships matters. That's how we find out about new opportunities, and tools. So, it's not to say that sales-focused events are without merit or value, but the flip side of it is we also have to engage our minds and not just have it be about the hustle. We have to push each other, and one of the ways that we do that is by engaging in what our peers are doing and the challenges they're facing, which may be the exact same ones we're facing. They may just be doing it a bit differently. Either their context is a little different, or the way that they're solving a problem is a little different. Sometimes that's all we need to broaden our approach to that same problem to find a better solution for our situation.
This is where thought leadership-focused events really shine, both in the content they deliver and the opportunities to engage more deeply with people about what you’re hearing when you network at these events. You hear someone talking on stage about something that's similar to what you're going through or was of interest to you because of what you're facing. You go find them afterwards, and you start talking about it and get that next level of detail. You can't get that in your day to day work because you don’t get these chances to hear from such a cross section of peers normally. And you can't necessarily get that in a more sales-focused environment where it’s largely about matchmaking and trying to make deals happen.
That’s not to say those things don't happen at thought leadership events as well, but it's more about the engagement and relationship than the transaction. When you get a group of people in a similar situation together, you realize you’re not the only one who's going through this. It starts to push you to think differently and share what you're doing. That means you're not just consuming, but sharing, too. You start to understand what you're facing and how to go about it better by talking about it with people who understand, yet have a different perspective. The thought leadership mentality is about how we're thinking as an industry, and if we don't engage, we don't move forward.”
With respect to coming prepared, how should people be ready to take advantage of these types of conferences in order to be successful?
“There's a mix of a few different things that you want to think about. One is, what are the things you have going on – different projects you're working on, people issues, big successes or struggles on the recruitment front, etc?
The other side of it is where do you wish you were? What are the things on the horizon, the places you want to get to? It could be that you're having a broader thought or maybe you had some interaction totally outside of our space that sparked an idea. Why aren't we doing something like that here? What does that idea even mean in insurance or your segment of the market? Coming with those kinds of questions, those points of curiosity, to engage people and share what you’re struggling with is critical to getting the most out of these events. Do others face that, or how have they faced that in the past? It helps you to think about which sessions you should go to or if there are particular speakers or attendees you might want to seek out.”
How would you encapsulate that additional advice in order to make sure that when you're at the conference you're able to get the most out of it?
“The conferences are oddly like high school dances. You want to dance with someone, but you want to get asked to dance because you’re perhaps too nervous or shy to put yourself out there. You sit on the sidelines, hoping that special someone comes to ask you to dance. They probably won't, right? You have to make the most of it. The same applies here. You have to seek people out and shouldn’t be afraid to engage them. Keep in mind, all of these people came to this event to engage, whether it was to share what they have going on or to learn what's going on elsewhere.
They didn't come to sit in a room and not talk to anyone. They wouldn't have gone to a conference for that. Webinars are a great way to take things in passively, but when you go to an event, it's for that interaction. Not everyone wants to be talked to of course, and that's fine, or perhaps not in every moment. Let them decide that, but you need to be willing to say something if you want those opportunities.
As an exaggerated example, when I talk to vendors or solution providers who exhibit at some of these events, I walk by their booth and I see them sitting on a chair, looking at their phone, tapping away with this really angry scowl on their face. I check in to see how the event is going for them.
I say, ‘How's it going?’
‘Oh, it's terrible. No one's coming up to the booth.’
I always ask in response, ‘Well, would you come up to your booth?’
If the person's sitting there signaling with all this body language to leave them alone, what do you expect? Well, the same is true for regular attendees who wants to learn, grow and interact with people.
Whether you’re asking someone to dance or getting asked, it may be super uncomfortable for you. I would remind everyone that this is why people are there. You're not just walking up to some random person on the street. You're walking up to people in your space who have volunteered to come to something, to learn, interact, grow and share. That’s a huge signal that we want to interact. Hopefully, with that knowledge, it feels a little bit safer for people who may be more hesitant to reach out, but you can't expect to just sit in a corner and get this enriching experience. You have to engage whether you're in the audience or on the stage.”
What makes the Reuters Connected Claims USA event so unique?
“This is a special one for me personally because that was the first conference I spoke at when I was a Chief Claims Officer. I had been to conferences before that, but it was the first one in that role, and it really blew me away because it's so focused on Claims. I know there are lots of great events, and I took a lot from going to these events as a Claims professional. But, there's something to be said when the vast majority of people in the room are focused on what you're focused on and care about. That is a rarity in Claims at such a broad and strategic level as we get at Connected Claims.
For many of us in the industry, it has felt like Claims has been overlooked. The money goes to where sales are being produced. We've seen core underwriting systems prioritized over replacing claim systems, or predictive and advanced analytics and automation tools focusing on distribution and underwriting for years. Now, the pandemic forced a change out of necessity because we needed new tools to handle many of the claims the industry deals with that had heavy in-person components, but, for many of us, it took that shock to the system to get investment in Claims. Now, many Claims teams have new tools, allowing for more remote and digital solutions. Will this investment continue, and where’s it best focused as the issues we face evolve? Connected Claims has always been that home for Claims leaders where what's going on in your world matters to everyone around you.
You get lots of conferences with a mix of people from all kinds of levels and different functional areas, which you can certainly see at Connected Claims, too. But, I've found that you're much more likely to see Chief Claims Officers, Vice Presidents of Claims, etc., at Connected Claims than at other events. You're hearing from the people who are at that decision making level and can change the industry right now. And you get the people who are the future leaders of the Claims world on site. That's really valuable. You're talking about really impactful conversations.
Connected Claims always felt different to me. As a Claims person, that really resonates. As a thought leader dedicated to this industry, I value a lot of the great thought leadership-focused events and conferences we get to attend. There’s something to be said as a Claims professional for going to something that focuses on not just Claims, but where it's heading and how we get there. Going back to my original point on interacting and engaging, there’s just no better place to be able to do that as a Claims professional than an environment like Connected Claims.”