Insurtech for Insurance Brokers, by Insurance Brokers
Irys, a member of BrokerTech Ventures’ 2023 cohort, is a little different from the usual startup: its entire leadership team comes from the insurance industry.
From retail agents to brokers to wholesalers, they all came together around a common issue—“legacy tech.” According to Irys co-founder and CEO Margeaux Giles, those issues weren’t “just that it would be nice if we could do XYZ and the system won’t allow it, but to the point that it was preventing us from doing business.”
Originally working as consultants to assist firms with tech implementation and integration, Giles and her colleagues soon picked up on the fact that many were looking for similar things. “We’re being asked for an open API database, we’re being asked for user interfaces that employees want to use, we’re being asked for the consolidation of workflows—things that as consultants we were building each time for every client on a one-off basis. We decided as a company that we needed to buckle down and build a solution.”
The Core Problem
For Giles, the agency management system (AMS) solution she was looking for—and wanted to build—had to solve what she viewed as one of the main problems holding back agents and brokers today. “Our tech providers were not giving us access to our own data. We put all our business into the software, and we did not own a single thing after we typed it in. It was sold without our knowledge or compensation. Some of the legacy providers decided to open it up later, but that had a large price tag attached to it. And then even if you could get it back, it was not in a format that was usable.”
Building a solution for this core problem is difficult, and convincing investors it was even possible was even more so, especially now. “Insurtech in general has some fatigue around what we call vaporware, where a company thinks they have an idea and go out and sell, sell, sell, but they can’t ever deliver,” explains Giles. “Agencies and carriers are then left holding the bag.”
But for her the work has been worth it, since not just unlocking that data but having it in a form that can be used quickly and efficiently within the agency ecosystem could offer tangible value to an agency. “Imagine running a company and not being able to look at a balance sheet—not being able to see what you sold, what your business is doing and who your customers are,” Giles says. “Do you even know what your business is if you can’t pull data and report on it correctly? That first value prop is that we can validate our business. The second is accounting. The black box of legacy tech has led to a lot of discrepancies. Being able to access your data and have that in a place that can be moved to a general ledger or can be accessed by accountants has big upsides.”
Giles also suggests that building an open AMS could be very helpful as insurtech solutions continue to mature. “There has been a lot of insurtech developed over the last five years. Having a system that is open and available for integration could take advantage of a lot of these point solutions in the market. It could be text messaging, or maybe you want to adapt AI. You could integrate all these ancillary things into your business.”
This is especially crucial when it comes to AI, which Giles believes will become an essential tool for brokerages moving forward. The obvious advantages AI offers is the efficiency it could introduce into employee workflows and customer interactions, but Giles also sees an opportunity to use AI to target a key industry pain point: retaining the institutional knowledge of an aging and retiring workforce.
“Sixty percent of the insurance industry is at retirement age or older. We need a whole new generation of people to come into insurance, and there has to be a knowledge transfer between those two generations,” Giles explains. “Right now, there’s nothing to facilitate that knowledge transfer. AI could play a huge role. A lot of this information typically might take somebody coming into insurance a decade to learn, but they could have at their fingertips a chatbot they can interact with. It’s not as tangible as selling a million policies, but it’s an extreme competitive advantage.”