Jeff Shi, Chief Visionary Officer at Quantum Assurance International, which has built a successful franchise of independent agents. The following are excerpts from a conversation between Jeff and Andrew Wynn, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Ascend, the first modern insurance payments platform that provides automated all-in-one financing, collections, and payables. Jeff opens up about his eclectic, successful background as a salesman and entrepreneur. Based on over a decade of experience in insurance, Jeff also shares thoughts on the challenges our industry faces as well as the best path ahead.
Tell me about your business. What’s special about Quantum Assurance and your approach?
Innovation in insurtechs has largely overlooked infrastructure for brokers and agents. We’re playing in a world with thousands of insurtech companies. And of all those thousands only two percent are targeting brokers and agencies — and the other 98 percent are targeting carriers and direct to consumer companies. There’s a real gap and plenty to be done on the infrastructure side, which is why we’re excited to see companies like Ascend enter the field.
In that context, our approach is to target agents and brokers — and to empower them in a way that scales as we add agents to the system. We are playing in the right space because we’re moving brokers into the next chapter of insurance and positioning them for success.
Can you talk about customer experience in insurance? What are your thoughts on how to improve customer touch points?
The customer experience has always been changing in insurance. Throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, most people had a very neighborhood feel. People would walk down the street and meet someone from State Farm or Allstate. They could sit toe to toe with agents and build a relationship with them. Then the model altered over time. Call centers got popular. Companies like GEICO and Progressive came in and did this well. It was like an arms race of consumer call centers in the 90s.
The next chapter in terms of customer experience was triggered by the rise of smartphones. We are living in the world of digital aggregators, where people want multiple options. That’s where Quantum Assurance comes in. We want to democratize insurance and create transparency around multiple options so that consumers can make the right choice through our distribution force, which are agencies.
We’re also living in an era when people increasingly are influenced by targeted marketing on their cell phones — not on a billboard they drive by. Other industries understand that consumers have changed and we need to catch up. Think about what Robinhood did in fintech. They saw a niche. Everyone else is focused on VCs, hedge funds and banks. But there are millennials that, over the next 25 years, will control trillions of dollars — and that’s what Robinhood focuses on. Millennials have changed consumer habits. And that applies to insurance as well. Instead of going to a broker down the street, they are going to their cell phones. We need to learn from the example of what Robinhood did and adjust our approach to societal shifts in consumer behavior.
What have you noticed still needs attention and improvement in our sector?
As an industry, we need to learn to think differently. It’s really hard to think outside the box in insurance because so many people are stuck in their ways. It’s painful for me to witness.
But I’ve always had the approach of thinking creatively and differently. I sold cars for 5 years. I sold Cadillacs for 2 years. And I could see that General Motors was burning money for 26 years. Think about that. They were losing money for 26 years, all the while having the same corporate leaders come in year after year trying to find a solution in vain. Then you have Toyota, on the other hand, that had one single year of missing their target revenue. And they fired their entire C-suite. It’s an entirely different approach to accountability.
And in insurance, we need to move towards accountability and solutions, even if that means disrupting the status quo. And if we have urgency to change and upgrade, we will see a lot better results.
What are some of the top insurtech trends you’ve noticed this year?
There’s a rise in talent being attracted to insurance. That’s connected, of course, to the amount of capital that’s gone into insurtech recently — $7.1 billion in capital in 2020 according to a recent Willis report. We’re moving so quickly. Capital deployed during the first half of 2021 already surpasses all of 2020.
But then there are other stats too. In the last quarter alone, hundreds of insurtechs failed. This is worldwide, but still that was an alarming number to me. A lot of insurtech companies have missed their targets and growth goals.
At the same time, if that’s the case then think about the amount of talent that’s out there for other insurtechs to grab. Talent is flowing into our market along with investment capital, but it’s also surfacing when startups fail and then talented people are up for grabs. And it’s a particular breed of people who will thrive in insurtechs. Ultimately if you can work well with agents and brokers, then you’ll hold the keys to customer relationships, loyalty, and data. Which is huge.
Bio: Andrew Wynn is the Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Ascend, the first modern insurance payments platform that provides automated all-in-one financing, collections, and payables. Prior to Ascend, Andrew built a home maintenance startup called Sheltr, which provides homeowners with routine preventative maintenance service and diagnostics to offer data-driven proactive care to catch issues before they become costly repairs. The company became the first acquisition made by insurtech unicorn Hippo because of its intuitive and technological approach to building an insurance product that went beyond the customer interaction. Prior to Sheltr, Andrew was at Instacart, leading the company’s product and data integration team.