Higginbotham- Staying Ahead of the Race

By BJ Meyer, CIO, Higginbotham

Could you shed light on the kind of trends that you have been currently witnessing in the insuretech space?

Accepting the role with Higginbotham a little over a year and a half ago as CIO, it's been exciting over the last 18 months to learn more about the industry and specifically insuretech solutions, within the industry. Some of the challenges I see as we review various solutions is that often the solutions are fractured, only addressing a small piece of the puzzle. I think that an agency's ability to execute may be a barrier to implementing those solutions. Sometimes there is a belief that insurance is such a different industry that, it needs our solutions. The reality is that there are some very innovative products that apply to many lines of business that I think would find great homes—in the insurance vertical as well.

Would you like to talk a little bit about the pain points that you have seen emerging with respect to insurance space?

By addressing some of the challenges that I've seen, the solutions aren't always the complete solutions. They're solving a specific problem or a particular workf low within, the process from an operational perspective or from a customer interaction perspective, but, they're often not complete. So what if I look at these solutions and there are a lot of great solutions in the space, then I can come up with a fractured presentation as well, or a non-consistent presentation to my customer base. You have to send them to some website to do one portion and another, and I can loosely gather the loosely coupled the solutions together.

Looking at it from a bigger agency solution, it doesn't feel coherent when I do that. And I think that's a problem. Or if you look into some of the offerings in the mobile space, specifically for agencies to provide interactions with customers, a customer of ours could end up with multiple Higginbotham applications installed on their mobile device, which isn't very realistic to expect from a customer to do. They don't want to necessarily have four different applications on their smartphone, to interact with their insurance provider.

"Our technology projects are currently focused on increasing the connectivity between our locations, standardizing with current and relevant technologies and, trying to build a platform that will allow us to move faster with new technology initiatives as we move forward"

Could you talk about, the approach you follow in finding the right partnerships providers?

We're an insurance company, not a technology company, so when, we dig into providing a new technology solution, we rely heavily on partners because it doesn't make sense for us to cover all the gamuts of technology in house. So when I'm selecting these partners, I would say that the two key things that I look at are:

1. The culture of that partner.

Does it align well with our own culture? Because in everything we want to do, we want to make sure that, we're providing a Higginbotham experience, especially for things that touch our customer. And it makes it, that goal to have partners who, who have a culture that's aligned with ours.

2. Innovation, both short term and long term.

The current solutions that they are offering or technologies that they're leveraging, are they relevant now? But more importantly, where do they see their product or technology going in the future? Hopefully, we're establishing a, a true partnership. We're not just using them as a vendor for a one-time transaction or a one-time project so that we're building a relationship and trying to make that partner an extension of our team. So they have to be looking towards a future that we align with, but that idea of acting as an extension of our technology team also goes to my first point that they need to be culturally aligned with us as well for that, that partnership to work out as a partnership.

What is the future roadmap for Higginbotham?

Well, we're currently in the process of slowing down to be able to go faster. So, we've taken a step back, and we're focusing on looking inwards and focusing on the core infrastructure and operations. Our technology projects currently are focused on increasing connectivity between our locations, standardizing with current and relevant technologies and, trying to build a platform that will allow us to move faster with new technology initiatives as we move forward.

How do you visualize the future of the insuretech space?

So with regards to all kinds of transformations that is happening daily that's a really, interesting question. I don't believe a single technology is going to disrupt the industry. A perfect example is if you look at a company like, Uber, who was known for being a disruptor. They're often considered a technology company, but, in most cases they, they didn't introduce a new product or technology. It was taxing sheet in a way that brought innovations. So the idea of personal transportation was the disrupter. Similarly, that's what we're going to see the disrupters in insurance doing, and not coming out of the gate with a singular technology that puts them ahead of everyone else, but assembling pieces in a new and novel way. There are lots of components which I feel like are fractured. The companies that will be successful and potentially disrupt will be the ones that can take those components and maybe add some of their ideas into it and repackage it in a way that, dramatically changes the way we can interact with our customers. Or, even, provide our basic service, which of course is selling insurance. And it's around, packaging where a majority of the transformation and potential disruptions will come from.

What piece of advice for your colleagues out there in the industry who would like to embark on a similar line of your service?

I would guess my biggest piece of advice is to, look to other, industries and verticals for, interesting solutions. Insurance, specific technology solutions provide some fantastic ways to add lots of value quickly. But in thinking from a bigger picture strategic, how am I going to be the one to disrupt, help my company disrupt the industry, look outside of just what's being done and insurance look to, to other industries and say, how can I leverage what they're doing here within insurance space? Not being afraid to colour outside the lines will help to fuel innovation in their development as a technology leader for their organization.

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