Season 2, Episode 11 - 12

June 22, 2022

Season 2, Episode 12 | Launching Beneva: EVP, Business Performance Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil Tells All


Speaker 1 (00:01):

It's time for InsurTalk with insurance industry tech geek and Guidewire chief evangelist, Laura Drabik. In this podcast series, we don't just talk about innovative ideas and P&C insurance. We talk with industry trailblazers about the big ideas they made happen and how they did it. If you're looking for insights on the trends and technologies reshaping the industry, an all-new InsurTalk starts now.

Laura Drabik (00:27):

Welcome to InsurTalk. My name is Laura Drabik and I'm the chief evangelist at Guidewire. In this episode, I have the privilege of interviewing Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil, executive vice president of business performance and information technology at Beneva. Catherine is a seasoned executive and has spent her career in IT governance and organizational transformation.

Laura Drabik (00:50):

Catherine joined Beneva in 2020 after a successful career in the public sector, holding in number of senior positions, including one that I am most impressed with, digital transformation secretary. The focus of today's conversation will be on how Beneva navigated a merger of two well-known insurance carriers into one brand all while implementing a modern insurance platform. No easy feat by any measure. Hello Catherine, thank you for joining my podcast.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (01:19):

Hello Laura, thank you so much for having me.

Laura Drabik (01:22):

Tell our listeners about your role at Beneva and what gets you fired up every day to work in insurance?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (01:28):

Sure. I am CIO at Beneva in charge of IT and leader of business performance, which means that I am in charge of important levers to achieve strategic objectives and maximize the organization's business performance such as agility, innovation, process optimization, enterprise architecture and business analysis centers of excellence.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (01:50):

The challenge of being part of a great transformation, part of a new adventure from the beginning to contribute to creating Beneva's DNA is certainly something that is firing me up every day. And also to find a way to orchestrate this extremely complex and close integration to solve problems every single day and find ways to move forward is something else that I live for, to see the pride and satisfaction in team members after achieving each small win is also something that I'm really excited about.

Laura Drabik (02:23):

Sounds very impressive to me, Catherine. Beneva is the result of the merger of La Capitale and SSQ Insurance. And these are two Quebec based mutuals. Congratulations, Catherine, on creating the largest mutual insurance company in Canada with over 3.5 million members and clients.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (02:41):

Thank you, Laura. We're really, really excited about that.

Laura Drabik (02:44):

So what was your motivation for merging these two leading insurers and what are the benefits you hope to achieve?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (02:51):

Yes, Beneva is the unification of two companies with complimentary products and services. La Capitale was a major player in P&C insurance, whereas SSQ stood out in group insurance. The coming together of La Capitale and SSQ Insurance also solidifies Beneva's position in individual insurance and financial services. As you know, the insurance landscape is always changing and both companies wanted to give themselves the means to continue their growth and remain competitive.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (03:21):

And in order to do so, both companies had to modernize their IT ecosystem which requires major investments and a lot of talent to accomplish. Together as one company, Beneva in a better position to achieve its goals of taking advantage of a modernized, sophisticated and efficient IT ecosystem. Together, we will provide a standout customer experience and become one of the best employers in Canada. That is certainly our ambition.

Laura Drabik (03:48):

That's a great ambition to have, and I'm sure you'll achieve it. So what is the meaning behind the name Beneva?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (03:54):

From the very beginning, it was clear that a new brand identity was necessary to better represent our new company as well as our vision. Beneva is a made up name that reads well in both French and English. It's derived from bene, which means good and va, which means to go. So really Beneva is a positive name that speaks to the strengths and stability of a major insurance company while suggesting a more caring nature resulting in a whole new experience.

Laura Drabik (04:22):

I like that bena, good, va, go. Makes sense. Well done. So why evaluate and then implement new technology at the same time as merging to carriers?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (04:35):

Well, prior to the merger, La Capitale had been looking to replace its legacy platform Opus with Guidewire. Since SSQ had already implemented Guidewire, when we combined operations, the decision was clear. Guidewire was to become Beneva's new P&C platform. So no, it's not a new technology because it was already tried and tested at SSQ.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (04:56):

But what it boils down to is that we either improved or upgraded each company's system based on the products and methods used to come up with a more comprehensive solution. In our case, the best solution was already at SSQ. So we simply decided to deploy it throughout Beneva while making some adjustments to automate even more some of the processes designed in the system at SSQ and make sure that we leverage out of the buck functionalities in order to be cloud ready.

Laura Drabik (05:24):

Implementing new technologies during a merger can help set best practices, realize synergies and address obstacles immediately upon close. Catherine, how will implementing a new platform support your merger effort and new brand?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (05:38):

Yeah, so the basis of our integration is consolidating our systems and processes while choosing carefully what has the most sustainability, flexibility and modern options in order to get the ecosystem we need. In most cases, in our different programs, we simply decided to leverage the best technologies and tools that were already used in our two organizations.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (05:59):

That's what made the most sense, diminished our risk factor, and allowed us to integrate in the shortest amount of time. Only when it was not possible because the system in place could not provide the desire outcome for us did we decide to implement a brand new technology. We want to be the most technologically advanced and modern insurance company in Canada. We want to provide an enhanced customer experience that is focused on the client. We truly believe Guidewire is helping us position ourselves accordingly.

Laura Drabik (06:27):

Awesome, great information. When we come back after the short break, we'll continue our conversation with Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil.

Speaker 1 (06:35):

Digging InsurTalk with Laura Drabik, be sure to subscribe on Amazon, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcast. While you're at it, rate the show on Apple Podcasts and let us know how we're doing. Now, let's get back to the show.

Laura Drabik (06:49):

Welcome back to InsurTalk. This is Laura Drabik and I'm talking to Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil, EVP, CIO at Beneva. Catherine, the Guidewire footprint at Beneva is complex. You have a billing center project, a PolicyCenter project, a ClaimCenter project, and you're integrating legacy systems at the same time as embarking on your Guidewire cloud transition. How do you ensure that your projects and initiatives all stay connected?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (07:18):

I guess the short answer is by working really, really hard at communicating between us what is important and by making sure that all involved are engaged and mobilized in their task of the program. Beneva set up an integration executive vice presidency in order to ensure optimal execution of the integration. It is dedicated to governing, facilitating, orchestrating, and understanding in a global and sectoral view each milestone of the integration, as well as measuring its employment.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (07:48):

Each sector such as P&C has an appointed leader. The integration leader work with business and IT teams in an agile mode to execute the integration. Beneva has a rigorous governance in place to ensure fast decision making and problem solving and to identify the top priorities, as well as the orchestration challenge where each layer of management is involved.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (08:10):

We have a program structure in place, a comprehensive roadmap for each of them and a refined deployment plan. For our P&C, we also have a cloud migration plan. Our teams are multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral and responsible for the execution. We've expanded our team with experts from Guidewire and partners, and we have trained even certified our employees. I'm proud to share that two weeks ago, we have delivered the claims module with very few bugs and happy, happy users. We take pride in delivering high quality and manageable pieces and we believe that's what makes us stand out at Beneva.

Laura Drabik (08:45):

Well, congratulations on your ClaimCenter go live. We too strive to deliver high quality. Thank you for sharing that with us. So outside of your technology responsibilities, how are you managing the people and process responsibilities of the merger?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (09:01):

Within the integration EVP, we have dedicated change management expert teams for each sector and a communication team that contributes to the success of the integration and that accompany each EVPs in their transformation. What we are going through is a massive change for all of our employees one way or the other and we're spending a lot of time managing and understanding all of the different aspects of all the changes we're going through.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (09:28):

Also by consolidating this expertise, we ensure that we communicate the right messages at the right time at all levels of the company. In my particular EVP, we created centers of excellence to pull our strength and expertise and allow us to consolidate and standardize practices, processes and methods in order to facilitate onboarding of our employees and be more efficient at executing.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (09:52):

Throughout the enterprise, we use office vibe to pull employees and stay connected to their realities of the field. We seek expertise to ensure that we have all the different talents we need and to help our employees grow internally. We also modelize our managers and encourage them to do daily scrums with employees and serve as our integration ambassadors.

Laura Drabik (10:13):

Are there any surprise learnings that you can share with us?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (10:16):

The fact that we have been able to organize, orchestrate and carry out a major transformation with everyone working from home is mind blowing. No one could have expected such a high level of performance in virtual mode. Also it's not surprising, but nevertheless remarkable is the resilience of our teams. Despite all the hurdles, our indicators show high mobilization, strong commitment and utmost pride in everything we've accomplished. The strength and stability of our operational team is what keeps us going and frees up time to focus on transformation.

Laura Drabik (10:51):

You have an interesting perspective on partner ecosystems and how they add value to an insurer. Would you mind sharing that with our listeners?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (11:00):

Yes, absolutely. It starts with a vision. In my executive vice presidency, we include in our vision a strong element about becoming a key partner with each other first because we want our teams to work together. We want the different teams and the different vice presidencies to learn to work better together. We also want to be a great partner with our other colleagues in the other EVPs.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (11:26):

We want to be recognized as IT experts for the excellence that we bring for our simplicity and efficiency of our services. With suppliers and external partners, we also want to develop a very strong partnership to support each other and because we want to be mutually responsible and accountable for achieving our common goals. Basically it is clear with the industry rapidly transforming that we need all of the right expertise at the right place and we believe that we can achieve greatness and be stronger when we have the right partners.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (12:02):

There's just no way of being able to do it all anymore. Particularly in our context where everything's moving so quickly in our integration and making sure that all the right people and the right expertise is together ensure success in complicated projects. So having our partners that are very knowledgeable in their expertise in the Guidewire product for instance is extremely valuable and we want to keep working really well together to make sure that it's a win-win for everybody.

Laura Drabik (12:34):

I like that. Partnership rigor starts internally first. Well said. Catherine, you jumped into the insurance industry two years ago. Many of our InsurTalk listeners like myself have spent most of our careers working in insurance. I'm curious to understand how the insurance industry compares to other industries that you've worked in with regards to complexity of business problems to be solved and complexity of legacy landscapes you had to navigate. Can you share with us some intel there?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (13:05):

I guess I can say after spending 20 years in the public sector and talking with peers from different industries, what is clear to me now is that the issues are the same everywhere. The lack of consistent infrastructure investments, for instance, the lack of adequate success planning, the lack of efficient technical support or poor preparation against the threat of cyber-attack, market competitiveness, the speed of change, we're all experiencing these same elements.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (13:32):

However, the success factors are also the same everywhere, the ability to really drive and mobilize talented individuals, the ability to navigate through high turbulence, to stay positive despite a demanding workload, the ability to manage short-term needs while looking ahead to ensure the company's sustainability and long-term performance.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (13:53):

And the reason the results are not the same everywhere is due to the culture of each organizations and the capacity to execute. The culture has the highest impact on a company's ability to complete a transformation. If the culture is not in line with our business needs, then regardless of all the investments and resources, their result will never match the ambition. In the end, human beings are at the heart of these achievements.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (14:18):

And regarding the insurance industry, I think that global insurers have enabled Canada to follow and learn from them. While progress has been made in the recent years, the Canadian insurance industry remains nascent when it comes to implementing digital capabilities and emerging technologies. Even though Canadian insurers are investing in digital to stay on face with the domestic market, they are significantly behind.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (14:43):

We will need to do a lot of catching up to reap the benefits of our digital shift. Despite the fact that the Canadian industry has been slow to adopt digital, studies show that Canadian consumers are ready and often prefer to buy online. So insurance are open to new and innovative business models, offerings, and experiences enabled by digital capabilities and I would think that COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated these trends.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (15:09):

The Canadian insurance industry is lagging behind other markets because of its continuing reliance on legacy systems, particularly with respect to life and health insurance, because of the unique competitive nature of its landscape and its strict regulatory and data environment. But coming from the public sector, which is highly regulated, of course, I can say that regulation brings constraints, but still it is possible to move forward and it does have direct impacts on our ability to move quickly in our transformation, but it's still doable.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (15:38):

And right now at Beneva, we're investing massively to make sure that we have all of the right ecosystem to really achieve our ambitions and be closer to what our customers are expecting from us, particularly in our digital transformation.

Laura Drabik (15:53):

Hey Catherine, can you tell our listeners how Beneva fosters the next generation of insurance professionals through an insurance course targeted at university aged students?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (16:03):

Sure. Well, in Quebec CÉGEP is a postsecondary learning institution that our first one to three year programs. For the insurance sector, CÉGEP allows young people to obtain a license that makes them eligible for a job at Beneva immediately after graduation. It is there for possible for them start the cure off with good working conditions should they decide not to go to university.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (16:25):

However, we encourage our employees to continue their university studies and take additional training like certified insurance professional thanks to our tuition reimbursement program. The goal is to help them drive their career forward. So for instance, the CÉGEP offers a three year training program on financial insurance services. This program includes introductory courses on property and casualty insurance.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (16:51):

Two graduating classes have completed the program to date, but the school wants to access to cloud-based development environments with ClaimCenter to be able to do P&C mock claims. They asked Beneva because of its partnership with Guidewire to get access to environments that will allow them to do such training within their program. This is not a training program for Beneva or at Beneva's request. Many insurance will benefit from this, especially since future employees will have been trained on Guidewire.

Laura Drabik (17:18):

Great. Thanks Catherine. On the other side of this break, we'll continue the conversation, so don't go anywhere.

Speaker 1 (17:26):

Loving InsurTalk with Laura Drabik? For more expert insights and inspiration, subscribe to Laura's email newsletter at, your one stop resource for Laura's latest blog posts, videos, podcasts, articles, and more. That's Now let's get back to the show.

Laura Drabik (17:45):

Welcome back. This is InsurTalk with Laura Drabik where we're talking with Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil. Catherine, you have decades of experience working in technology. What drew you to tech?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (17:55):

According to a study by Technocapitones, most women only discover the field of IT after someone insists that they consider a job opportunity that did not seem attractive to them at all at first. So my decision was influenced by a very special woman, my mother. So I fit perfectly into the statistics.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (18:16):

I wish I could have a more inspiring story, but the fact in the matter is I did not know what I wanted to do. My mother was a very early adapter and she introduced me to IT and pushed me to go into that program. So because I was attracted to the logical and analytical side of things in school, I enjoyed the program and that's how I started my career in IT.

Laura Drabik (18:39):

Well, let's have a call out to Catherine's mom. Thank you, Catherine's mom for getting her involved in IT. So according to McKinsey, as you well know Catherine, women only hold 34% of entry level engineering roles. And I think a few ways that we can encourage more women to get into engineering and tech is by doing some simple things like removing gender bias from job descriptions.

Laura Drabik (19:03):

Stop saying, "We need a rock star." That's that's not what attracts women, also creating women specific mentorship programs. And also what I've personally taken on is expanding mind network and elevating the company profile through speaking engagements and media that will attract female candidates. Catherine, what other things can we do?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (19:24):

We need to make the cliches of the IT worker disappear because they are stopping the promotion of enrollment in IT programs. And I think that we need to do as much as possible so we have an opportunity to reach the women. Fewer than 15% reach management position and less than 5% reach executive position. It is simply not enough.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (19:46):

There are very few female role models who can promote IT careers to other women. And what we know without a doubt is that the more women you see in diverse roles in IT, the more comfortable women are to step into those roles and the more confident they are that those roles are suitable for them. Women often feel that these are the exceptions. We need to work in different areas.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (20:08):

And what we are doing here at Beneva is that we are very much involved in a non-profit organization named Monavnerti founded in 2012 and now bringing together 61 member companies, such as Beneva and its goal really is to promote the information technology sector and increase the number of information technology enrollments and graduations and it's certainly true for our women.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (20:32):

And through that, we help participate specific initiative for women, but also for young girls in high schools. And one of the things we need to keep working on is really to demystify what a job in IT really, really looks like. And we need to be able to talk about the aspect of the job that can relate better to girls. We know that we have a brand issue in the IT industry. We must promote IT work as early as primary school, secondary school. And the more we explain it and we talk about it, and the more and the better chances people in general, but particularly women will want to come on board and work in the industry.

Laura Drabik (21:10):

That sounds like a fantastic initiative. I just wish I was able to pronounce it. But well done.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (21:16):

Thank you.

Laura Drabik (21:16):

As a woman working in tech, Catherine, a lesson I had to learn the hard way is to have the confidence to take a seat at the management table. But you walk into the conference room, there's the table and there's a set number of chairs around it and then there's that outer ring of chairs against the wall. If you've earned a spot at the grownups table and you want to be heard, then you need as a woman to take a seat. As a female working in tech, are there any lessons or advice you would like to share with our audience?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (21:44):

Yes, absolutely. Although I want to be careful not to generalize and therefore participate in the making of stereotypes, there's still a few things I have witnessed over the years concerning women in the industry. Women too often have an unjust and somewhat distorted view of their abilities in the sense that they are often too severe when evaluating themselves.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (22:05):

If they are not perfectly in control of a skill, they believe that they don't have what it takes because they are generally very demanding towards themselves and their own expectations. Fortunately, for me, confidence is not something I lacked in my career and I can say for certain now that it has been one of my most significant strengths. So building confidence is extremely important in a career, particularly when you're a woman in IT.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (22:32):

And there's different ways of achieving that. In my case, knowledge in all aspects of my work helped build my confidence. In all my projects, I took time and effort to understand and research the different aspect of my work, develop my abilities to be more relevant to my team. Because one thing is for certain, if you do not believe in yourself, you cannot expect others to believe in you.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (22:54):

Another important element I would like to mention is that confidence and abilities bring opportunities. Confident and capable people get noticed. And confident does not mean extroverted, it is something else entirely. And when you get notice, you get offered new opportunities. And my advice when you get offered new opportunities is this one. First, you need to be open to listen to those new opportunities.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (23:20):

Second, you need to be wise enough to recognize which one are better suited for yourself. And third, you need a bit of courage to seize the opportunity that is good for you because that's when you learn the most and that you can truly develop. Doing things that are scary is often good for you. So be confident, be your own ambassador in knowing your own self worth and recognizing your abilities and go for it because you can do it I'm sure of it.

Laura Drabik (23:48):

Sage input, Catherine, you've got me all psyched up here. Confident, be your own brand ambassador, if you will, and just go for it. Sage input. So last question for you. What is a common myth about your profession that you want to debunk?

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (24:03):

Yeah, and I think that's something that we need to work together on for our next generation, is that working in IT means working alone in front of a computer all day long. Of course, putting aside the virtual reality of the COVID years behind us, IT work is not about working alone.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (24:23):

IT work is always, almost always working in a team and complimenting each other with different skills. And it's a people's business. Even though it's the IT industry, I very much believe that working in IT is all about the people because we are transforming and we're changing things. So I think that we need to make sure that people understand way better the value and the characteristics of working in IT.

Laura Drabik (24:50):

Catherine, thank you very much for your time today and for your incredible insight on our topic of mergers and implementations. You've showed us it's not just about ideas, it's about making ideas happen.

Catherine Desgagnés-Belzil (25:02):

Thank you so much, Laura. It was a pleasure for me.

Speaker 1 (25:06):

Tune in next time for an all new episode of InsurTalk with Laura Drabik brought to you by Guidewire, the platform P&C insurers trust to engage, innovate, and grow efficiently. For more information, visit





Season 2, Episode 11 | Ernst & Young Partner Bob Reveal: The Rise of Alternative Distribution  


Speaker 1 (00:01):

It's time for InsurTalk, with insurance industry tech geek and Guidewire chief evangelist, Laura Drabik. In this podcast series, we don't just talk about innovative ideas and P&C insurance, we talk with industry trailblazers about the big ideas they made happen and how they did it. If you're looking for insights on the trends and technologies reshaping the industry, an all-new InsurTalk starts now.

Laura Drabik (00:27):

Welcome to InsurTalk. My name is Laura Drabik and I'm the chief evangelist at Guidewire. In this episode, I have the privilege of interviewing Bob Reveal, partner at Ernst & Young. Bob has over 30 years of experience in the digital and tech transformation space. His focus over the past decade has been on platform modernization with the lens of addressing the digital experience. The focus of today's conversation will be on the rise of alternative distribution methods in the market and how the incredible growth of insurtech has enabled this evolving market. Hello Bob, thank you for joining my podcast.

Bob Reveal (01:06):

Hi, Laura. Thanks for having me on.

Laura Drabik (01:07):

Tell our listeners about EY and your role there.

Bob Reveal (01:10):

I'm a partner at EY, I've been here for almost 13 years now, based in Dallas, Texas. My role, as you mentioned, is to help our clients on their digital journeys, which includes technology modernizations and upfront customer experience. EY certainly has a large brand in the marketplace, but specifically for insurance and the insurance consulting space, we've been a leader there for quite some time. As a matter of fact, we were recently ranked number one by HFS Analyst as a global insurance consulting provider. And this was really driven by two things, our innovation and platform capabilities, helping our clients launch new digital insurance products into the market, improving customer partner, even associate or employee experiences, digitizing operations and helping to progressively modernize technology platforms. And those are common challenges that are present insurance, but also across many industries today.

Laura Drabik (02:02):

Hey Bob, the protection gap or the gap between the amount of insurance that is economically and socially beneficial for policy holders and the amount of coverage that is actually purchased is getting wider. Swiss Re reports that the gap has doubled over the last 20 years. What are some of the root causes widening this gap?

Bob Reveal (02:20):

Yeah, I think this is, at the highest level, caused by a handful of factors. Rapid changes inside a society itself, rapid changes to the economics. Other factors such as climate change and things like that. Certainly this has all been accelerated in some cases by the recent pandemic, but many of these trends have been present, taking place over the last decade, if not longer. I would say it's also compounded a bit by the risk averse nature that insurance companies tend to have towards new innovative products. And maybe another factor is the decelerating cost for overall distribution. This is dropping dramatically and it's driven a lot by technology. What can be done by the carriers going forward? Educating society and governments around this changing risk that's out there, climate being an easy example to point to. Proactively looking to match the coverages towards the individuals out there.

Bob Reveal (03:17):

And how do you do that? You do that with a better understanding of data and your customers that exist out there. And maybe lastly, and probably most critical for the insurance companies, is to find a way to instill a culture of innovation. Historically, this has not been the case then. Insurance is an industry that's worked really well over the past 100 years. A lot of things are going to change over the next 10 years and insurance companies will have to change accordingly. If you think about the successful insurers of the future, they're going to have to find a way to leverage a diverse set of ideas, which allow for fast and cost effective experimentation in the markets, in a launch and learn type of model. And for those that are able to do that, they profound themselves a competitive advantage. For those that aren't able to do that, they have a competitive threat ahead of them.

Laura Drabik (04:03):

Yeah, well said. End consumers oftentimes view insurance offerings as complicated, maybe expensive and maybe a little annoying to purchase. Whereas insurers are challenged by regulations, lack of real time data and also insight. There's also enormous distribution cost, something that you also addressed a little earlier. Are we seeing a fundamental weakness, Bob, in the business model of the insurance industry and inability to effectively match insurance supply with customer demand? And if so, what do you recommend insurers do to better align supply with demand?

Bob Reveal (04:37):

Insurance companies in the industry is not known historically for providing world class customer experience. And let's be honest, at the end of the day, individuals and companies, nobody really likes to spend their hard earned money on insurance to begin with. It's kind of a necessary evil, but that being said, there's an opportunity out there for insurers who can make insurance easier to consume and buy, make it available when needed, particularly the moments that matter to individuals or companies, considers the overall profile of a customer and understands their journey that they're on. Moving away from a transaction to a relationship, and this is true whether you're talking about property and casually, life across the financial wellness lenses verse across those, move from one realm to the other as the customer's journey changes over time. Ensures you're going to need to find a way to rethink their traditional approaches to distribution. They're definitely going to need to think outside the four walls, be willing to take targeted risk in the market to trial new products to try to get ahead of the curve versus be a lagger, and then ultimately be willing to partner an ecosystem in ways that probably seem counterintuitive to the way that they historically have done business.

Laura Drabik (05:46):

Makes sense. Thank you. A new way to distribute insurance, and one of my favorite new ways is via embedded insurance. Just to make sure everyone's on the same page that's listening, embedded insurance is coverage that's offered with the purchase of third party products or services. It's the travel insurance offered when you book a Norwegian cruise, the Apple warranty for your iPhone or auto coverage to go with that new EV or Tesla. According to McKinsey, up to 25% of all personalized premiums could be generated through embedded insurance ecosystems by 2030. Bob, what benefits does an embedded insurance model offer carriers?

Bob Reveal (06:26):

It's a channel for obviously growing premium over time, but maybe most importantly it's a channel to improve the customer and partner experience. For those not prepared, it's a growing insignificant threat to their existing book of business, especially if you take an example like personal auto lines with what Tesla is doing and what GM is doing and has announced that they will do. Certainly a competitive threat to the existing book of business. Maybe the question should be asked is what should insurers do to be ready? There's multiple ways to participate in this new model. And each insurer needs to decide where they're going to land. There will be an owner of a marketplace, if you will, that has significant ties to the customer journey and the customer ownership. And then there will be nodes on the marketplace that are participants from an insurance or product or services capability that get pulled in.

Bob Reveal (07:13):

There is also opportunities for some companies to provide horizontal services. And if you look at insurance, it might be something like risk rating that could be provided by a company that's very good at that across marketplaces. There's several options, certainly more than the ones I listed, but it will be important for insurers to think about when and how they want to play in those models. If you want to be a participant, you must possess a platform that allows for engagement, whether that be through partnership models, a superior technology platform, a superior digital platform, a streamline and digital operations environment, so that you can interact with customers in their desired fashion and the marketplaces owners desired fashion as well. And this last item I'll mention is participants will need to possess the ability to partner in a symbiotic way, which benefits not only both sides of the partnership, but most importantly the end customer as well. It's a two way street, not a one way street.

Laura Drabik (08:08):

It is a two way street, you're right. Let's look at the other side of that street then. How about the benefits that an embedded model offer end consumers?

Bob Reveal (08:16):

Yeah. There could and will be many, and I think the consumer will be the biggest winner when this model plays out. At the highest level, obviously much better customer experience. If you think about the Tesla experience as an example, or what Rivian is striving to provide, that's quite different than the experience you get. As an example, when you walk into most dealerships today, there will also be coverages that consider and meet your needs contextually, meaning designed specifically for you and not designed for the masses. And then as your needs change from either a risk protection or financial protection perspective, the coverages will change and the services provided will change. And how is that done? It's done because we're going to have more access to data, access to better data, access to real time data that allows us to make those decisions. And one other point to consider is when you think about this, we believe that an insurer is more likely to become a participant on another's marketplace than a marketplace owner itself. And that will be interesting, but you can begin to see that playing out a little bit in the auto space, right, where GM or Tesla kind of owns the ultimate customer relationship and they're pulling in services, whether they be some of their own capabilities or outside capabilities into that marketplace, if you will.

Laura Drabik (09:34):

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I also wanted to highlight a point that you made, access to more data, better data and real time data. That is really what is at the crux of this. Being able to deliver personalized coverage as a consumer's needs change throughout their lifetime. Well said. Awesome. Great information. When we come back after this short break, we'll continue our conversation with Bob Reveal.

Speaker 1 (10:00):

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Laura Drabik (10:14):

And welcome back to InsurTalk. This is Laura Drabik, and I'm talking to Bob Reveal, partner at Ernst & Young. Bob, by 2028, it's estimated that half of the American workforce are going to be freelancers or part of the gig economy. They're going to need a form of insurance that seamlessly embeds into their freelancing or gig opportunities. How are you seeing large companies like Uber, Lyft and Amazon working with insurers to deliver this new embedded experience?

Bob Reveal (10:45):

I'll put a caveat on my response. The governments have the ability to modify the views over time on what I'm about to say on what is or is not a gig worker. And so I will answer the question with the current regulations in mind, which does point to a significant part of the economy being a gig economy. I think if you take someone like Uber or Lyft, there are different personas that they are dealing with and are going to have to deal with. And on one end you have an established worker who's just doing this for extra cash on a side, right? Kind of a side hustle, so to speak. They probably have an existing form of insurance, but their coverages don't cover some of the things around rideshare and delivery coverages that they're going to need. On the other end of the spectrum, you have a worker who is new to the job market, could be a first or second job they're doing this nearly full time.

Bob Reveal (11:31):

They have no credit or driving history, their needs are very different. I think the way we see this playing out for a lot of the companies, and again, this goes back to data is they will offer some form of basic coverage to get started and then modify those coverages and premiums over time based on usage and consumption data, because they will know more about you and it can better reflect your personal risk to the premiums. No, I think when you look at that statement, some people will say, ah, they're going to penalize me for bad behaviors, which is potentially true, but they also have the ability to incent you on premium reductions for good behavior. And so you're aligning the risk profiles to the risk premiums in that case. I think the interesting question on this one as well will be, if you take someone like Uber, are they going to roll this out as an insurance captive or is it going to be a streamline and better model of integrating with a third party insurer, which is often the model they have today, but it's kind of broken and it doesn't work very well. Which of those models will win in the end of the day? Our belief is it'll be a bit of a bifurcated model depending on the industry we're talking about, the size of the players. And so it'll be a mixed model going forward.

Laura Drabik (12:41):

I was a little surprised, but not overly surprised to learn that fully embedded insurance and property and casually is actually very small today. And it only represents 2% of distribution worldwide. Over the next five years. What is your prediction on its growth and what will power that growth?

Bob Reveal (12:59):

Without having the magical crystal ball, our view is the expansion will be meaningful, and meaningful meaning that many insurers will have to pay attention to this or they will lose market share, they'll lose their GWP. I think the poster child, it would be someone like Tesla or GM. They've been very public about where they want to take this and you can envision some of the next steps they may want to take outside of what they've announced publicly, but we also believe outside of the auto OEM example that this is going to expand across other personal commercial lines, expand into adjacent industries, such as health, other manufacturing OEMs, and even in the spaces such as travel. And so I think right now the auto OEMs are getting a lot of the press, but in our conversations in these other adjacent industries, there's a lot of interest and some early stage efforts to do similar. We think it's going to be significant. Ultimately it's all about owning that customer experience, providing a better customer experience and ultimately taking a larger share of wallet.

Laura Drabik (13:58):

When I talk with insurers, they often throw around the term digital and I'm sure they do it to you. And I mean, it's everything and the kitchen sink and how they want to leverage digital to better serve their stakeholders like policyholders and agents. Bob, can you help us define the term digital in a way that is relevant for insurers and maybe perhaps the business side of the insurance carrier?

Bob Reveal (14:21):

The challenge is not just limited to insurance. We see this across most industries and maybe five years ago when the word digital was becoming very popular and used a lot, there were some challenges in defining it. There are still some challenges today in defining it. I think our view, and we've been pretty consistent on this since day one, is to be digital includes providing a robust and delightful customer experience through whatever channel it is you're talking about, whether that be an online channel, whether that be through something like a chat bot, whether that be through a call center, or whether that be through a personal interaction, that experience has to be delightful. Sitting behind that, you have automation, another advanced technology that streamlines the operational aspects that a customer doesn't care about or want to deal with. And then ultimately having access to data, the right data, the right real time data to produce insights that can go back to delighting the customer.

Bob Reveal (15:17):

I think that would be our definition. There are two examples I'll give you. One would be a fully digital experience where the end to end straight through processing and operations and automated decisioning takes place and to the end user, it's the easy button. I press it once, everything happens magically. There's a variant of that we think is real in the market and it's a viable option, which means doing that, but also having purposeful human touch points along the way. They're not touchpoints via human interaction because you haven't been able to automate the operations yet, but there are some examples where you might want to inject that into the customer journey along the way. In insurance space, it's probably going to gravitate towards that second model because of the agents in place. In some cases, there'll be a fully digital channel, other cases there'll be a hybrid digital agent channel. And I think that will be done with purpose in some cases.

Laura Drabik (16:09):

I Googled neo insure because I was bored and this was the definition I got. Neo insurers provide fully digitized insurance products to consumers or businesses exclusively through digital channels with end to end digital service delivery. Bob, examples of neo insurers that are really popular today are Root and Lemonade. How are neo insurers employing technology different than traditional insurers and what lessons can we learn from them?

Bob Reveal (16:38):

I think our view would be that neo insurers have built out platforms from day one with digital in mind, the customer experience in mind. And in a way they have an unfair advantage by not having the legacy platform, the legacy operations, the legacy policies, the legacy complexity to deal with so they build it out in a Greenfield manner. At the heart of their success though, and I go back to this test and learn, launch and learn, innovate and learn type concept where they can get things out into the market quickly at a limited scale, get feedback and adjust and move forward from there. Now all that being said, I think the valuations on the InsureTechs are still through the roof a bit, but not many of these companies have found a sustainable model yet and that is less based on their valuations currently, but more around their proven financial track record.

Bob Reveal (17:25):

I think if you point this back to the legacy insurers, maybe a key lesson there is how do you emulate some of the positive elements of these companies? And we think one of them that will be important is the ability to launch a Greenfield model and prove it out over time outside the four walls of the current enterprise. And over time decide how best to migrate the portfolio over. And you may not even migrate the portfolio over, you might leave this as a self-contained unit or brand or suite of products that's done differently than how their legacy portfolio is handled.

Laura Drabik (17:57):

Great. Thanks, Bob. On the other side of this break, we'll continue the conversation. Don't go anywhere.

Speaker 1 (18:04):

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Laura Drabik (18:24):

Welcome back. This is InsurTalk with Laura Drabik, where we're talking with Bob Reveal. The total amount invested in Insurtech in 2021 was 15.8 billion. And that's more than the amount invested in 2019 and 2020. InsureTech ecosystems offer a powerful way for insurers to rapidly deploy amazing new capabilities. I believe that harnessing the power of an ecosystem approach requires a modern cloud connected insurance platform like Guidewire, which is enabled by APIs. This obviously reduces the time and friction to getting these wonderful new value props deployed. Bob, what are your thoughts on how technology should empower ecosystems?

Bob Reveal (19:09):

Yeah, Laura, I would certainly agree with your views on this. I think if you look into the future, let's say maybe 20, 30, so seven, eight years out. Our view is that, and this goes across industries, but specifically for insurance, core systems and the ecosystem really evolved to a suite of APIs that are available in the cloud for consumption and available on a subscription based model. And I think the key to this is a loosely coupled architecture, which is orchestrated by a very intelligent set of software that allows carriers to subscribe to these capabilities in an easy and cost adaptable fashion. I think there will be challenges for some of the incumbent technology providers of these core systems or supporting systems because historically, they grew out of an idea and then a lot of functionality got built around them and that additional functionality, in a way, becomes the stickiness they have to their carriers.

Bob Reveal (20:01):

And so we think the early winners will be those with a vision like ours of 2030 and knowing the need to get there. And then having an easy way to transition from the current architectures over to this new futuristic architecture, but ultimately orchestrating and allowing for participation will be key technology enablers and allowing for the easy addition of new players into the ecosystem and new capabilities in a semi real time fashion that will enrich the experience of customers. And also importantly reduce the potential biases and things like the existing rating models. Once again, better aligning coverage and premiums to the needs of the insured.

Laura Drabik (20:38):

We launched our insurtech incubator, the Insurtech Vanguards late last year. And the goal, Bob, was to educate our customers on up and coming InsureTech value props as well as we wanted to incubate select members into full fledge partners with integrations to our solution. How does EY stay connected to up and coming InsureTech value propositions?

Bob Reveal (21:01):

First of all, I would commend you on your approach. We think that is a good approach and then bleep Guidewire is certainly a leader in this space when it comes to the ecosystem. At EY, we have a number of layers to stay connected as well. Firstly, I go back to our award-winning alliances and entrepreneurial programs. These allow us to get a look at many of these firms early on. Also some of our lion's partners as a Guidewire, right, will bring some of the partners in their ecosystem to the table as we're working for our clients. That's certainly a foundational component. Inside of our insurance practice, we vet many of these Insurtechs. We have over 2,000 that we vetted in our InsureTech database alone. We do the same in banking for FinTech and other industries as well, but what this does is it allows us to have a deeper double click with these companies and also see trends and concentrations of focus. And lastly, where we see companies that we think are meaningful and valuable to our clients, we do a deep technical review of these capabilities and also pull them into our labs and eventually if we continue to like them, pull them into some of the solutions and capabilities that we take to market ourselves.

Laura Drabik (22:11):

Yeah. It sounds like we're pretty much in alignment there. Where in the insurance life cycle do you think InsureTech can provide insurers with the most benefit?

Bob Reveal (22:18):

These are no particular order, but to say number one is in launching new digital products into the market. What players out there, what ecosystem models allow you to do that quickly? I think a big one is around improving customer employee partner experiences. Obviously there's a lot around digital operations. And also folks that are looking at modernizing technology are also very interested in these companies. Ultimately are providers of new sets of data. There's providers of concentration around analytics and insights. There are also things like vertical functions around actuarial space, underwriting claims, and finally the new product, new business model that allows you to launch product lines or new partnerships in this new ecosystem model. It's pretty varied, but there are certainly some areas that we see trending where you kind of see a cluster of focus.

Laura Drabik (23:04):

That makes perfect sense. Then how do you evaluate which InsureTech value props will be well received in the industry or have potential and lift, and which just simply won't cut it?

Bob Reveal (23:14):

We have a vetting process, we call it our idea framework that allows us to look at insurance capabilities, the digital enablement that a given InsureTech has created, we evaluate their market fit. And most importantly, we assess their operational and financial stability. Ultimately we produce a kind of a balanced scorecard that we use when thinking about who to bring into our ecosystem, but also when asked by our clients who they maybe should pay attention to. Important that you continuously refresh these views and we do that because the market and the players are changing so frequently. And again, when we do see someone who's very interesting to us, we bring them into the labs, we do a deep dive and again, where it makes sense, we then can offer that is part of our ecosystem of solutions into the market.

Laura Drabik (24:01):

I often get asked by organizations looking to build an ecosystem where should they start? And my answer's always the same. You start at the business, understanding what pain points need to be solved or what opportunities need to be addressed and in what priority. How would you recommend an organization get started when building an ecosystem?

Bob Reveal (24:20):

If historically, you think about how firms have approached this, it started out with what is a company's purpose and having a business strategy that aligns to that purpose. And then having a technology strategy that aligns to the business strategy and more recently with ecosystems and partnerships, having a strategy there that aligns to both the business and technology strategy. You may say, what is new? Well, what's new is the technology strategy and the ecosystem strategy really are your business strategy. And these are the elements that are going to allow you to provide true differentiation in the market, truly getting to understand your customer and providing that delightful journey. And most companies are a long way away from doing that. We have L weathers such as an Amazon or a Google or others that do it very well, but how do others get started? Any long journey starts with the first couple steps and partnering with someone who's done this before can help you think through a different lens is important.

Bob Reveal (25:16):

This could be through someone like ourselves, it could also be through the right hires into the firm. And ultimately it needs to be that for longer term sustainability, but also start small and grow over time. You can't build an ecosystem overnight. It will evolve as you innovate in the market. And maybe most importantly, they recognize upfront most firms are experienced on execute on projects that start and stop. And you're either successful or not successful based on implementations in certain time periods and certain quality metrics and things like that, but what we're talking about here is a journey that never ends. You innovate, you market test, you course correct, you repeat and you continue doing that. It's not a once and done and that's an important mindset shift for many firms.

Laura Drabik (25:56):

Sage input. A little birdie told me that you grew up racing with Lance Armstrong. That is amazing.

Bob Reveal (26:03):

Well, your research squad is top notch and they must have access to materials that predate the internet. Congratulations on that.

Laura Drabik (26:11):

Well, I guess I don't need to ask you then what your favorite podcast is because clearly it's The Forward hosted by Lance himself, is it not?

Bob Reveal (26:20):

I do find The Forward a very entertaining podcast and I follow it quite regularly because it aligns with one of my passions, which has been for a long time and still is cycling, but also allows me to kind of stay connected from an insider's point of view for someone who's kind of been there, done that and raced at the highest levels.

Laura Drabik (26:38):

What's a fundamental lesson that you learned from your experience racing that you have applied successfully to your career?

Bob Reveal (26:46):

Some of the things I've taken away from my early days of competing in cycling or other sporting events is there's no I in team. the team is always greater than the individual. You can always go farther and faster with the team. The trick is getting the team lined up and rallied to do that. From a cycling perspective specifically, they have three week races that most folks have heard about like Tour de France. And they also have one day races that I competed at a long time ago. Very seldom in a race, whether it be a long three week race or a one day event, do you see someone at the front from beginning to end. And so there are times when you're going to need food and beverages from the team car. There are times you're going to need a teammate to pull you back to the Peloton after you've got dropped.

Bob Reveal (27:31):

And there are times when you'll return that favor. Very much a teaming approach to it. And maybe lastly, I would say, as a racer, you lose way more than you win. That's hard to deal with. And as a company, you don't like to hear that, but it's true. Now in your career, it's a long journey and there're twist and turns along the way, good times and bad. Ultimately what I've discovered is I probably don't remember all the projects I've delivered along the way, but what I do remember from day one, I remember the people and the relationships along the way and the individuals that did favors to me. And I've obviously tried to return that to others along the way. If you're early in your career, I think that's a good takeaway because I think as you get down the road a bit, you realize how important those relationships are.

Laura Drabik (28:15):

Bob, thank you very much for your time today and for your incredible insight on alternative distribution and also on some career lessons and advice. You've shown us it's not just about ideas, it's about making ideas happen.

Bob Reveal (28:29):

That's awesome. Thanks again.

Speaker 1 (28:30):

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