My Path to Insurtech – Tyler Chalk
It’s crazy how time flies.
On my first day at Embroker, I was the only “insurance guy” in our small office on Bush Street.
There were five of us in the office; a UX designer, a software engineer, the product lead, and CEO Matt Miller. The CRM system was literally full of nothing; no templates, proposals, NKLLs, BOR letters, ACORDs (pardon the insurance terms).
Everything had to be built from scratch. We sold, serviced, and managed it all on our own. It was exciting and awful at the same time.
Everyone was (and still is) intensely focused. It’s contagious. Everyone knows that if growth and progress are not happening, the ambitious goal of improving the commercial insurance world won’t either.
The Inefficiency of Insurance
When I first started working in the industry in 2002 for my father’s State Farm agency, one of my first tasks was to process homeowner and HOA certificate requests.
This entailed manually typing out “its successors and/or assigns as their interest may appear” via a typewriter onto a computer printed certificate. I’d then fax the certificate (don’t forget the cover page!) to the title company, who all too often needed an edit (break out the whiteout!).
Then I’d file the certificate, the request, and cover sheet in the file cabinet. It was so painstakingly inefficient. I kept thinking there’s got to be a better way.
So, when I left State Farm to work at Marsh in San Francisco in 2008, I was so excited to see how one of the world’s greatest and largest brokers did it. Surely, a company with 54,000 employees, worldwide operations, and $12 billion in revenue would have access to more efficient CRM systems, right?
Instead, I was greeted with a system that was actually less advanced than State Farm’s at the time. The old school interface featured a blinking white box where you would type in abbreviated codes to track your activities in your email and on the phone. The only thing missing was a floppy disk drive.
It was clear, the whole industry had zero technology integration, which leads to the story of Embroker.
Instead of stoically pushing through inefficiencies and hoping changes would come, I wanted to be part of the solution. So, I reached out to one of my best friends, who’s well connected in the tech industry.
We took a walk on Market, between Front and Sutter, and I explained that merely putting a business’s insurance policy online, simple as that sounds, would be groundbreaking.
It turned out that he was working in the same building as the newly founded Embroker, which was just starting up. That’s how I ended up meeting Matt Miller for a cup of coffee, pure luck.
I enthusiastically pitched my insurance technology idea to him. He loved it and proceeded to add several additional great ideas, like online certificate processing, benchmarking, and claims data viewing. Almost immediately, I was all in.
Interestingly, Matt’s background was from the private equity side. He envisioned the same conclusions as I did, just through different lenses. He saw the issue looking down from a mile above while I was working on the ground floor. I don’t think either of us ever doubted that fully digital insurance brokerages would happen, it was always a matter of who would implement it best.
Change is On the Way
If you’re in the insurance world, hopefully, you can relate to my story a little. We don’t work in a glamorous industry, especially the heroes who perform the service work.
To those heroes, who push through painfully inefficient admin tasks daily, please know that change is on the way to make those necessary burdens easier. To producers tasked with generating all their leads, marketing, follow-ups, outbound calls, and emails, there’s help on the way here too.
This October marks five years at Embroker and I have to say the progress has been tremendous. The CRM integrates with the online platform, redundant tasks are being automated, and prospects are purchasing complex management liability policies online, often without consultation.
What used to take ten days can now be done in 10 minutes. Perhaps most importantly, the company continues to attract innovative, intelligent, and hardworking individuals.
We’re in the middle of a transformation that will change the business insurance industry for decades to come. As technology continues to become a part of our workflows, so will efficiency, opportunity, and innovation.