Brokerage Ops BrokerTech Ventures Partner Content

Growing Talent in the Lab

Q&A with Taruja Deshmukh, Vice President, Account Executive, Conner Strong & Buckelew
Sponsored by BrokerTech Ventures Posted on July 6, 2022

She’s now Conner Strong’s first insurtech solutions manager, pivoting from her role as an account executive managing a book of business to lead the firm’s insurtech efforts. In her role, Deshmukh specifically heads up labs. by Conner Strong, an innovation hub born from the firm’s partnership with BrokerTech Ventures. We recently caught up with Deshmukh to learn more about her BTV experience and to get her thoughts on how insurtech and innovation can help tackle the talent gap in the industry.

Q

labs. by BrokerTech Ventures (BTV) is a network of employees within each of BTV’s partner agencies who work behind the scenes to help bring to light new technologies in the insurtech space. 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.

Tell us about your labs. by BTV experience—how you were selected to lead the team at CSB, what you've learned so far, and in what ways has labs. by BTV contributed to your firm’s goals of increased efficiency and enhanced customer experience.

A

I had volunteered a few years ago to lead our internal insurtech practice group based on my growing interest in that area, which ended up being a natural ramp up to my involvement with BrokerTech Ventures, as we launched BTV not too long after we formed our internal practice group. Our practice group had grown from just a handful of members to about 30 people—this was when I proposed to rethink our approach to handling insurtech initiatives. I used the “labs. by” concept that BTV created to bring that back to CSB as our centralized innovation hub where any and all employees would be able to get involved with different insurtech initiatives (both associated with BTV and outside of BTV) on a project basis, rather than as a fixed practice group.

labs. by BTV and the overall collaboration with the BTV brokers has helped CSB in many ways—we’re mutually benefiting from shared experience, wins/challenges, etc. Whether it’s on a pilot we’re conducting, or a vendor we’re working with, or general best practices. I’m learning a lot from both a technical and strategic perspective.

Q
Can you give an example of how labs. by BTV has driven some of your innovation projects forward?
A
The communication with and access to various project leads and subject matter experts within our BTV partners has been a tremendous support to our innovation efforts. When implementing a new digital application platform to our teams, we were able to collaborate with the team implementing the same platform within Holmes Murphy to mutually benefit from strategies on training and change management, which ultimately assisted our team with a successful roll out.
It’s become clear that the insurance industry, through a focus on innovation and insurtech, can play a major role when it comes to social responsibility, sustainability, inclusion and other values that society, especially the next generation, is increasingly prioritizing.
Q
How has insurtech changed the game, so to speak, when it comes to attracting new and emerging talent to the commercial brokerage industry?
A
Embracing technology and innovation is critical when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. Recruiting for the insurance industry is already a challenge—not many individuals considering their career choices even know about all of the opportunities in this industry. We can’t undermine our own efforts once we bring people in by not giving them the proper tools and technology they need to truly excel in their roles. Insurance has not historically had the same level of appeal as other industries to those entering into the workforce; by prioritizing innovation in the industry, we’re opening up so many doors to new and interesting aspects of the industry—cutting-edge technology, emerging products and creative solutions that are going to be game-changers in attracting top talent. It’s become clear that the insurance industry, through a focus on innovation and insurtech, can play a major role when it comes to social responsibility, sustainability, inclusion and other values that society, especially the next generation, is increasingly prioritizing.
Q
In your experience, what role can labs. by BTV play in adding intrigue and excitement for the next generation of talent in this space?
A
Insurance, especially in the large commercial space, is a relationship-driven business. labs. by BTV takes this a step further in connecting together individuals within the different brokerages to collaborate and accelerate innovation. It’s a forum that promotes innovation from the ground up, inclusivity of all perspectives and diversity of thought. Within an industry that is still male-dominated, especially in leadership roles, it’s been an incredible way to connect with and support other women in the industry participating in the insurtech space. Ultimately, labs. by BTV is a unique approach that prioritizes people, innovation and inclusion, and one that I think the next generation will be excited to be a part of and to grow.
Q
Give us three things you've taken away from your overall experience working in insurtech.
A
I think the first thing is getting comfortable with asking a lot of questions and not being afraid to challenge assumptions. Another thought that comes to mind is learning to take a step back when evaluating a new technology or solution and understanding whether you’re iterating on an already flawed process, versus completely changing the process to address a problem. And lastly, behind all of the demos, slide decks and Zoom presentations, the “insurance” within insurtech is still all about relationships—it’s important to get to know the people behind these new technologies and solutions—what’s their experience been? What’s driving them?—to be able to work together to achieve success.

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