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Employee Innovation: Behind the Scenes of BTV Labs Community

Celebrating the talent that makes innovation tick.
By Susan Hatten Posted on June 1, 2021

As we watched this hyper-active industry grow with even more intensity throughout 2020, we were determined to shed light on an area of insurtech that is often overlooked: our very own employees.

Our labs. by BrokerTech Ventures (BTV) is a network of employees within each of our BTV Partner agencies who work behind the scenes each day to help us bring to light new technologies in the BTV channel. Whether it’s targeting client experience, operational efficiency or AI technology, this community of talent is leading out pilots and navigating challenges to create ultimate ease of adoption for the collaborating BTV agencies and their insurance company partners.

Here we highlight our labs. by BTV community and thank them for driving the crux of insurance technology success.

As the labs. by BTV community has been (and is) being built, where have you found the greatest value in the cross pollination of ideas and sharing of information between agencies and insurance companies?

In the world of technology there are so many moving pieces and different uses for the same platform. So much of these platforms are based around use cases. It can be tough to get everyday employees on board to demo a product out and see how it works. To be able to have that collaboration really helps to streamline who the platform can be best used by and help avoid as much trial and error when it only is tested by one agency. – Kelly Cordova, Operations Manager, Small Business, Heffernan Insurance Brokers

You can’t just have great technology; it has to be leveraged and embedded into your DNA. Exchanging ideas between agencies on effective adoption and change management strategies has been immensely valuable for our agencies and ultimately our customers. – Kacie Conroy, Director of IT, M3 Insurance

It’s really helped our ability to drive innovation projects forward. We better understand the risks involved, as well as best practices in terms of implementation. – Taruja Deshmukh, Insurtech Solutions Manager, Conner Strong & Buckelew

The labs. concept has provided a new fuel to drive our Holmes Murphy labs team further, faster. Learning about new and emerging technologies and getting to hear first-hand from trusted partners about their evaluations, successes, and failures, has made all of us better. In my 19 years in the business I have never seen a group working so efficiently and effectively across the country and around the world to drive innovation into the industry. We have a long way to go but the signs of innovation are bringing a new energy to our team, the industry, and most importantly, our clients. – Cameron Burt, SVP, Holmes Murphy & Associates, LLC

What are you hearing from within your agency as the labs. by BTV community is being formalized, moved to activation, and celebrated?

Excitement! It is hard to not have staff excited by the idea of things that will help make their day to day job better and more efficient. – Kelly Cordova, Operations Manager, Small Business, Heffernan Insurance Brokers

It’s been extremely educational on how much opportunity is out there and how rapid the pace of change is. Seeing how quickly these insurtech startups adopt our feedback and build their product has been a very welcome change. – Kacie Conroy, Director of IT, M3 Insurance

We’re hearing a lot of positive feedback on the labs. concept and excitement about what this means for our agency as whole and the impact/opportunities at an individual level. – Taruja Deshmukh, Insurtech Solutions Manager, Conner Strong & Buckelew

Our Holmes Murphy labs team has benefited significantly from the formation of labs. Before labs., we had pockets of innovation across the company but we admittedly worked in silos, resulting in inefficient and ineffective efforts. By working together as a team we have established a foundation of understanding around key terms and topics of innovation, and are in the process of organizing tools to help us better asses technology and potential ROI for our agency and the clients we serve. Celebration of labs., and the results from our labs efforts have become a regular occurrence. We cheer when a client shares a testimonial like “wow, I hope we never go back to the model we used to use” or “I never associated this type of technology with my insurance program.” It is amazing to see and hear clients use the words innovation and insurance in the same sentence! Internally, our team members enjoy being on the cutting edge of technologies coming to the industry. – Cameron Burt, SVP, Holmes Murphy & Associates, LLC

How do you view the next generation of talent being similar or different in approach to the current regime of industry leadership?

Technology and automation are going to be a big part of the future for the insurance community. I believe the next generation will really embrace that and be on board with this change, however the part we need to hang onto for the current regime is customer service and how to communicate with clients. Automation is wonderful, but we can’t lose that customer touch or interaction. How to best combine these two ways of thought will be key for the future. – Kelly Cordova, Operations Manager, Small Business, Heffernan Insurance Brokers

Agility is emerging as a key focus for talent strategies. Our industry is changing at a rapid pace and having an agile workforce will be key to staying on the leading edge. – Kacie Conroy, Director of IT, M3 Insurance

I think the next generation of talent will be even more quick to adopt change and embrace an agile mindset. – Taruja Deshmukh, Insurtech Solutions Manager, Conner Strong & Buckelew

Considering the Blackberry was just coming into adoption when I first started in the industry in 2003, I think it is safe to say the next generation will view technology very differently from many of us who are industry veterans today, and this should be good news. Incoming generations will come already equipped to use technologies considered to be emerging today, and have the mindset of working on things as a collective to make them better overtime. The next generation should be challenged to be excellent at the technical fundamentals of their job (coverage, claims, contracts, loss control, etc.) and to leverage the technologies available to do more with less time and resources. If we can eliminate the inefficiencies common to our industry by leveraging technology all stakeholders in the eco system will be winners. – Cameron Burt, SVP, Holmes Murphy & Associates, LLC

Where is the greatest opportunity for our labs. by BTV community, and what is your recommendation as to how we propel the initiative forward?

I believe the greatest opportunity is to learn from each other. During each call I was on I learned about a new “need” that I didn’t even know I had before the call. Many of the start-up companies had such wonderful ideas and being able to fill in where we have struggles as the agency was very helpful to help take their product to another level and hopefully create a better solution. There are so many connecting pieces and building blocks and to be able to come up with strategies to better connect these and fill in the gaps will be huge. I have been excited to see the partnerships that have been created between the startups within BTV. I see this as a big opportunity moving forward. There were several of the startups that we spoke with that seemed to have grabbed onto each other to make an even better product at the end of the day. They took what they each did best and merged it together. – Kelly Cordova, Operations Manager, Small Business, Heffernan Insurance Brokers

Labs. by BTV is instrumental in supporting and building the next wave of technology that is propelling our industry forward. By creating this marriage between customers and startups, labs. by BTV is accelerating the pace at which innovative products are being built with high market demand. – Kacie Conroy, Director of IT, M3 Insurance

I think we have a truly unique opportunity to create innovative solutions to address gaps in the industry. We need to push forward with the current momentum around labs. by BTV and deeply engage members within all partners. – Taruja Deshmukh, Insurtech Solutions Manager, Conner Strong & Buckelew

When I was new in the industry a mentor told me “Smart people learn from their mistakes, but wise people learn from other people’s mistakes.” The greatest opportunity for the labs. movement is for agencies to learn from each other across the industry so we get further, faster. Even though we can be in direct competition with one another, we need to work together on advancing innovation in the industry so someone from outside the business doesn’t come in and do it without us. The easiest way to propel the initiative forward is to reach out to a friendly agency and start a conversation about what they are doing around the topic of innovation. – Cameron Burt, SVP, Holmes Murphy & Associates, LLC

Susan Hatten is chief operating officer of BrokerTech Ventures.

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