Category Archives: Careers and Employment

Spotlight on Jessica Leong, President of the Casualty Actuarial Society

By Chi Wai Lima, Creative Director, Triple-I

As part of celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we have interviewed Jessica Leong, FCAS, lead data scientist at Zurich North America and president of the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS).

Jessica Leong

Currently residing in Chicago, Leong shares her insights on how technology and big data are changing the actuarial career path and insurance landscape. She speaks about her team’s work at Zurich and how data science and analysis have helped to improve claims models. In addition, Leong shares the CAS’s initiatives to actively support diversity, equity and inclusion in the insurance industry.

Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan currently serves on the CAS board of directors.

You’ve been able to live around the world: Australia, the UK and now the US. What moves in your career did you make for that to happen? What piqued your interest in actuarial studies and the path that led you to data science lead at Zurich?

I decided to become an actuary very early on in my career. I grew up in Australia, and when I was in high school, I knew I was good at math and I was looking at what professions that would lead to. Actuarial naturally sprung up as it does for a lot of people who are good at math, but it looked like a really rewarding career and a rewarding profession.

A lot of Australians like to take a year off university and do backpacking around the world. I took a year off, went to London and got my first actuarial job, working six months at St. Paul. With that money I backpacked around Europe for a year. Then I went back to Australia, finished my degree, and my first job out of school was in London. I just had the itch to go back, and the actuarial profession is a good one if you enjoy traveling.

Then my boyfriend-now-husband got a job in New York, so that’s why I moved to the States. I never actually thought I would live in America, and it’s been more than a decade.

Would you be able to share a project that you’re currently working on at Zurich?

I have a team of data scientists at Zurich, and we build models for three different groups: For underwriting, to help us with risk selection and pricing; for claims, to work on better claims triage and finding claims fraud; and then lastly for our customers to help them better manage and understand their risks.

We have done a lot of work in claims. For example, we have built a claims model that alerts us if a workers’ comp claim is going to become complex, and if it would benefit from having a nurse to review that case and manage it much more proactively. That has really benefited Zurich in terms of outcomes. It has also benefitted our customers and their employees in terms of getting back to work and regaining their health. It’s been a win-win all around.

What are some challenges you’ve experienced in using data in relation to privacy, regulations or bias?

This is a very big topic for not just the insurance industry, but also more broadly, as big data gets bigger and artificial intelligence continues to advance. Something that we do for all of our models is talk to legal, compliance and privacy. They do a thorough review of the models before we actually put them into production, to make sure that from the data and the algorithm viewpoints, we stay true to our principles within Zurich. A few years ago, Zurich released a data commitment to the general public and to our customers about the kind of data we will and will not use so we take that seriously.

Are there any implications that you’re seeing that the pandemic has had on data analysis?

Yes, definitely. A lot of the analysis that’s done in insurance relies on the history being somewhat predictive of the future, and frankly, all data analysis relies on that because data is by definition, historical. So anytime you try to make a prediction from data it is relying on historical fact, and obviously the pandemic really upended that. How do I look at this data and use it to make predictions of the future? It is less clear, and we’ve had to rely much more on judgment, and we’ve had to really think outside the box about the different types of data we should use now to try to make predictions of the future.

Congratulations on your presidency of the CAS. Why did you join CAS and what led you to being elected as president?

When I initially joined the CAS in 2005/2006, I volunteered for the organization. About a third of our members volunteer in some capacity, which is tremendous for any society – that’s a very high rate. I find that the actuarial community is just a great community.

One of the benefits of volunteering for the CAS is having the chance to grow your leadership skills. Before long, I was chair of one of the seminar-organizing committees. That was a really good experience in terms of leadership for me, early in my career.

I was given the suggestion by my boss, about seven/eight years ago now, that I should be on the board of the CAS. It had never crossed my mind, honestly, that I would be even eligible for a job like that. The CAS has a nominating committee, who called me and asked me to run. Then I got a call, maybe two/three years later, asking if I would consider running for president. I’m so honored to have this role.

There’s a three-year plan to create unicorns. Are you seeing any impact so far? Is this resonating a lot within CAS and the industry?

Last November at our annual meeting, we released a new Envisioned Future and a three-year plan. Our new Envisioned Future says “CAS members are sought after globally for their insights and ability to apply analytics to solve insurance and risk management problems.”

Now that might not sound like much, but if you think about what it used to say, something like “the CAS advances the practice and application of actuarial science,” we made the change to be more evergreen and more actionable. We will do whatever analytics needs to be done, and we will do it to solve business problems in insurance, and this will evolve over time.

What this means is that the actuary of the future needs to have three key skill sets. First, they need to be great at analytics, the kind of analytics you need to solve the important insurance problems of today. Second, they need to be great at problem-solving. Actuaries are good at solving the core problems in insurance, pricing, reserving, capital modeling. But more and more with big data, there are new problems you can solve. The example I gave before – is this claim going to become complex, would it benefit from having a nurse? Those are new problems you can now solve with data and analytics that you probably couldn’t have done before. The third area is the domain knowledge in terms of P&C insurance.

That is the unicorn. That is the actuary of the future, having all three key skill sets.

How are you attracting a more diverse body of students to pursue actuarial or related studies? How are you trying to attract different types of people and different ways of thinking to the CAS and to the insurance industry in general?

One of the pillars in our strategy that we released with our Envisioned Future is to diversify our pipeline. We have various initiatives to look to do that. One thing is we are pushing forward in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion, and we recently put out some metrics on our website. Right now, for example, 23% of our members are Asian, under 2% are Black and under 2% are Hispanic. The diversity from the Black and Hispanic point of view is not where we want it to be, and we have a goal of increasing that to about 5% to 8% of our new members in the next five to 10 years. We put a stake in the sand in terms of how we want our racial diversity to improve.

A few years ago, we engaged a consulting firm to figure out what is holding us back in terms of having more diversity. One of the things they identified is just finding out about the profession early in your life is going to be key, because a lot of people in various racial and ethnic groups are not really finding out about the actuarial profession when they need to. So we’ve been doing actuarial high school days, visiting diverse high schools to talk to them about the actuarial profession.

We also have a scholarship program for these underrepresented groups, where we will pay for exams given a few qualifying criteria, because we know that the cost of the exams can also be a hindrance, especially when you’re still in school and you’re not earning any money. To get an internship, you need to have three exams under your belt, but they cost money. It can be tough, so we’re seeing what we can do to help.

What challenges have you had to overcome, as a woman and a person of color in the insurance industry?

I’m very big on self-improvement, and I have tried to develop myself in a way to be successful in this environment.

If I think about my upbringing, it was different as an Asian person growing up in Australia. When I was in high school, I was on the track team and I had wanted to be in the relay. There were only four people in the relay, and I wasn’t picked as one of the four, even though I was probably the third fastest person in the school. I thought that this was just unfair and favoritism. I told my mom, “This is really unfair; you’ve got to do something about this,” and she told me, “Don’t complain; just do what you’re told. Don’t stick out.”

That really jarred with me then and still now, thinking back on it. That highlighted the difference in culture. As I’ve been navigating my way through predominantly Western work culture, I have worked pretty deliberately to think differently and to acquire skills that would help me in this kind of work environment.

Insurance Careers Corner: Q&A With Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly

By Marielle Rodriguez, Social Media and Brand Design Coordinator

Janthana Kaenprakhamroy

Triple-I’s “Insurance Careers Corner” series was created to highlight trailblazers in insurance and to spread awareness of the career opportunities within the industry.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and this month we interviewed Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO of London-based insurtech, Tapoly. Although Janthana lives in the UK, we believe that Asian heritage should be celebrated no matter where you live. 

Founded in 2016, and backed by Lloyd’s of London, Tapoly is Europe’s first and fastest growing insurtech, providing on-demand flexible commercial insurance products for SMEs, freelancers, the self-employed and the gig economy. Recognized as Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards in 2018, Tapoly’s mission is to make insurance simple, accessible, and flexible.

We spoke with Kaenprakhamroy to discuss the role of AI and technology in her business, the boom of the sharing economy, and what the traditional insurance industry can learn from insurtech.

Tell us about your background and your interest in building a business. What led you to your current position and what inspired you to found your company, Tapoly?

I was born in and come from a small part of Thailand, grew up in Sweden, and have lived in London for the last 20 years. I have roots in different parts of the world, which has shaped my international way of thinking. I feel like I don’t fit a specific stereotype and can blend into different cultures.

I’m an accountant by trade and have worked in investment banking for almost my entire career. In late 2016, I decided to quit my job and build Tapoly. We provide technology solutions and insurance products locally in the UK as well as in Asia. 

I was never sure what I wanted to do until I came across a problem in 2016 when I was trying to buy insurance for my short letting over the summer, which you can only do for about 90 days a year. In 2016, no insurance companies were serving the types of products for the short letting space. Ever since then, we’ve been developing technology solutions and products to cover this massively underserved market within the micro, SME, and freelancing space. 

What is your organization’s mission? What role does tech and AI play in your platform? 

Our mission is very simple – we want to able to provide an insurance solution online that is quick and easy for people, in the most convenient way, which is one thing in the commercial lines space that’s not very well-developed. Most companies are buying insurance through their brokers, rather than online directly. We wanted to make commercial lines products easier and less time-consuming for customers to access, without making them answer several questions that they may or may not know how to answer. 

If you offer insurance online directly, then the underwriting decision must be prompt and that can only be achieved when you have data on your customers. There is data that traditional insurance companies aren’t using, for example, social media data, which can be cross-referenced with [the customer’s] profile. It’s all about augmenting data to amplify or make customers profiles more prominent for underwriting decisions – it’s something insurtech is doing well. Insurtech would allow data to flow from the point of the customer buying insurance to the point of the underwriter making the decision – this makes the process more seamless and transparent.

A lot of what we do at Tapoly is data analytics. It’s not only for risk selection and underwriting alone it’s also for customer acquisition and marketing. Customer segmentation is very important, and you can only do it with a certain level of good-quality data on your customers.

What do you see as the biggest pain points for customers within traditional insurance that insurtech can better solve?

Customers in the market segment that we serve, which is microbusinesses and freelancers, have three main pain points. One is the price, especially for customers who do ad-hoc jobs which are not part of their core competency or core activity. Second is the convenience – the ability to fill in a simple questionnaire and get insurance quickly. Third is the availability – some products are not available for some freelancers.  For example, a group of freelancers doing construction work in a certain environment are less likely to get certain insurance products due to their high risk profile.

Within the gig economy, there are job titles that are outside the norm and that don’t fall inside traditional insurance categories. We need to revamp the list of professions. In insurtech, we see gaps in coverage [in certain industries]. For example, marketplaces where the underlying risks may be different depending on what level of services and products the platform is providing. Another example may be the evolution of some professions, e.g. “virtual assistants”, where they may in some cases provide basic accounting services, which would previously be performed by certified professionals, because accounting is also moving online. There’s a lot of mismatch between the way insurers categorize their customers and the profession that customers recognize themselves as, and the ability to buy insurance automatically in the most convenient way.

Do you see innovation and transformation happening in the traditional insurance space?

I think the insurance industry is well-aware of the need for innovation and many companies are at the beginning of innovating, but innovation takes time. While we recognize the need, it will take time to implement. As a startup, we don’t have a hierarchical structure or have as many constraints. We can build anything we want without waiting for the approval of senior management. What insurtech can bring is the speed to market, the ability to adapt, and to implement changes and help insurers prove the concept in the most cost-effective way. 

In what ways has COVID-19 impacted the sharing economy and your business? What are your predictions for the growth and trajectory of the sharing economy?

A 2015 PWC report showed that revenue from the sharing economy was $15 billion in 2013 and would reach $335 billion in 2025. That’s a phenomenal increase in the market within 12 years. I think the COVID-19 pandemic really accelerated the sharing economy. There are so many businesses that did fantastically well during the pandemic, including businesses in logistics and delivery, and the insurtechs that are operating in that space. From the product delivery, customer-facing side, we didn’t have a problem because we were already set up to operate online. However, it did impact our customers and some of them didn’t renew their insurance or either postponed or changed their policy.

In terms of opportunities, there are many insurance companies or intermediaries that have started to think about innovation. COVID-19 has really accelerated that thinking because tech has become a big hurdle. There are a lot of operational challenges among larger insurance companies that are not set up to sell insurance digitally. That is something insurtech can take advantage of because we are already set up to do this.

Let’s talk about diversity in VC funding and entrepreneurship. A 2019 Diversity VC report showed that ethnic minorities are under-represented in venture capital and women are under-represented in senior roles. Another 2020 Extend Ventures report shows that female entrepreneurs receive just a fraction of available funding that male founders do. Were there any initial challenges in founding your company and attaining funding, and how did you overcome these obstacles? Are there any present challenges of being an Asian- and woman-owned business and founder?

In the beginning, not raising enough funding can cause a slowdown in your growth. Even with the best ideas, it’s hard to scale your business without capital. I certainly think that the confidence in a woman in running a business could be improved in the VC space. There are a lot of stereotypes and unconscious biases that people apply to their decisions. The VC space needs to work on being self-aware and educate themselves around these issues especially when judging a first-time entrepreneur. There is also uncertainty and a lack of data on startups that make it difficult for VCs to validate and invest in, on top of gender stereotypes.

My biggest daily challenge is finding enough capital to be able to grow my business. The difficulty for early-stage founders is balancing your own interests with the investor’s interests and figuring out how much you want to raise versus how much you can raise. To overcome this problem, we usually find strategic investors that can add a lot of value.


What are your goals for 2021 and beyond? Where do you see the traditional industry heading in the next few years given the pandemic?

We’re preparing for hockey stick growth in 2021 and want to exponentially grow our company in 2022. My aim is to raise enough money to be a larger team and to have the capacity to manage that level of volume and growth.

I think the traditional insurance industry will evolve slowly in the next couple of years. A lot of insurers have been badly hit due to COVID-19 because of claim costs and loss of investments. It would take a couple of years before we recover fully, and hopefully insurtech will still be relevant within this space. At least if anything, insurance companies will be spending more on innovation to reduce their claims and operating costs.

Insurance Careers Corner: Q&A with Annette Martinez, Senior Vice President, State Farm

By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I

Triple-I’s “Insurance Careers Corner” series was created to highlight trailblazers in insurance and to spread awareness of the career opportunities within the industry. This month, we interviewed, Annette Martinez, senior vice president, State Farm, who discusses her 33-year career in insurance, growing diversity and inclusion at her company, and the significance of Jake from State Farm.

Annette Martinez

Tell us about your role at State Farm and the work that you do. What attracted you to work in the insurance industry?

I’m currently a senior vice president at State Farm and that includes oversight of what I call the “people areas” – human resources, learning and development, public affairs, and the executive succession and development team. I’ve been with State Farm for over 33 years.

My degree is in Biology and Chemistry, and I was working for an R&D facility early in my career. My husband started with State Farm as an auto underwriter, and he encouraged me to come over because of the opportunities.

I began my insurance career in health underwriting. Every two to three years, I was able to recreate myself into new roles. I spent five years in life/health operations before moving to human resources. Within human resources, I was able to work in early succession efforts and then move into leadership in human resources. In 2002, I started the diversity and inclusion initiative and the trajectory of being able to move the organization forward. Like many in the insurance industry, I came in thinking I’d get great experience for a couple of years and now here we are 33 years later, and it’s been an amazing journey.

You launched the first office of diversity and inclusion at State Farm, initiated its diversity council, and started its affinity group program. You’ve also been recognized and awarded on numerous occasions for your work in diversity and inclusion. What inspired you to become a champion of diversity and inclusion?

From the time that I was young, fairness was always important to me, which may be in part because I was raised in an environment where I didn’t see people like me. However, for a long time I have and still believe that everyone should be treated with respect and dignity and have the same opportunities. Opportunity should be open to anyone who has the desire and the capability.

When I began the diversity initiative, I was already conducting diversity training in the organization. State Farm is a fantastic company and has been progressive in programming over the years. We started one of the first minority summer intern programs, but I knew there was more that we could do. My focus was on improving opportunity and bringing people into the organization who had a different pattern of thinking and could positively impact the company. That’s what diversity does. It’s not only a social imperative – we all get to benefit from that – it’s a business imperative about how we treat and gain new customers and how we move forward.

You mentioned that not a lot of people looked like you throughout your career. As a Latinx woman, what obstacles have you faced and overcome?

That’s correct, early on in my career, very few people looked like me. It was isolating. I had to understand that my voice mattered and that I had the opportunity to speak on behalf of many others. There was a lot of pressure with that.

I’ve had some amazing mentors over the years of all genders and races. There was a retired senior vice president, Dave Gonzales, who was the first Hispanic executive that took me under his wing. Dave told me it was going to be a difficult road, but he was and has always been a great support system for me.

We’ve always had mentorship programs at State Farm, but several years ago we started a more formal matching program for people who want to mentor or be mentored. It’s blossomed into a way of life and become part of the culture. I’m active as a mentor and a mentee. I’ve had senior leaders throughout my career who have coached me on to the next level. I’ve also had people [early in their careers] who have guided me into what’s happening at all levels. As a senior leader, it gives me insight into how our actions impact every employee.

How can we foster an honest and open culture at the workplace that welcomes and encourages employees to have conversations around race, discrimination, and equity?

In 2019, we decided to get bold in our conversations. State Farm started working with CEO Act!on For Diversity & Inclusion and implemented a program called “Conversations Worth Having.” In February 2020, we had our first session on racism. We knew that it was going to be a difficult and honest conversation. We had a panel that shared their stories about their lives, their children, and what they experienced.

We had no idea that COVID-19 would happen a month later. The social unrest throughout 2020 was foundational for what we needed to address last year and will continue to address this year. These open conversation forums have continued and are important in allowing people to express their frustration and allowing us to be part of the solution.

We learn every session. Setting ground rules is also important – trust that people’s intentions are honest, listen before you react – some basics in conversations that we talk about each session. If someone responds negatively to a session, we take the time to speak with them one on one to have conversations on a personal level as well.

How has State Farm addressed the current social and racial climate of this past year? Are there any actions or initiatives that State Farm has taken to support Black and Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities inside and outside the workplace?

State Farm named a Chief Diversity Officer in 2020, which was an important step for us. We also realized that we needed to be quicker with our communications and the acknowledgment that we stand against racism. In the past, we may have addressed it internally at a more moderate level, but we took the stand that State Farm is against racism and the hatred that leads to racism. This is who we are. We respect people – everyone should be treated with respect and dignity, and there is no place for racism in our organization.

There is more work to go into this. It’s an ever-evolving journey, and I think we’re learning as we communicate. We are the Good Neighbor organization. We care about all our neighbors, and we aren’t exclusive to anyone.

Our CEO, Chief Administrative Officer, and Chief Diversity Officer have also been involved in listening sessions to allow employees the opportunity to talk about an experience that they have had, even at State Farm, to better understand the work ahead of us. We want to be an organization that’s part of the healing process.

Jake from State Farm was recently recast as an African American man, actor Kevin Miles. How do you think this change has made an impact on diversity and representation in insurance and has it helped State Farm reach out to more people of color?

The first Jake from State Farm was an actual employee. We pivoted away to some other campaigns for a while, but then we did some research and realized that Jake from State Farm was still very relevant. We knew the needs in a marketing and advertising world today would require more than what we could ask of an employee, so State Farm began an external talent search. We are typically very intentional about diversity in our marketing and advertisements, but ultimately what we did was pick the right actor for the right role.

The actor [Kevin Miles] is from Chicago. One of my favorite stories involves an event early on in his role as Jake from State Farm. We invited him to do a meet and greet at headquarters. It was a big deal, and he brought his parents to the event. The atrium was packed with employees waiting to meet him. He was humbled, kind, and genuine, he spent hours talking to and taking pictures with employees. His success is not only impressive externally – it’s impressive internally as well. The traits you can see and feel from Jake from State Farm are also traits Kevin embodies. And because of that, we intentionally let a lot of Kevin come through in his role as Jake from State Farm.

Can you speak about any upcoming or future diversity and inclusion initiatives for State Farm that you’re excited about? What are your goals for 2021 and beyond?

We’re proud of the intentionality that we put behind diversity and inclusion. State Farm just kicked off a governance council in January, which is a group of senior leaders in the organization who will drive the future strategy of diversity and inclusion.

One focus area that we are looking at is more transparency. How do we tell our story internally so that our associates feel comfortable? How do we tell the story greater from an external perspective? We’re working on deliberate performance goals for all associates around diversity and inclusion, which will be part of their performance assessment and how they actively engage in that work. We are continuing to define our metrics and tangible ways to measure the progress that we are making as an organization. The “Conversations Worth Having” sessions are scheduled throughout the year as well as the listening sessions with our executive leadership. We’re excited about the continuation of programming and leaning into the opportunities ahead of us.

Insurance Careers Corner: Q&A with Susan Holliday, Senior Advisor, International Finance Corporation and Triple-I Non-Resident Scholar

By Marielle Rodriguez, Social Media and Brand Design Coordinator, Triple-I

Triple-I’s “Insurance Careers Corner” series was created to highlight trailblazers in insurance and to spread awareness of the career opportunities within the industry.

Susan Holliday

March is Women’s History Month, and this month we interviewed Susan Holliday, a Senior Advisor at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank where she focuses on insurtech and insurance for SMEs and women. She is also a non-resident scholar at the Triple-I. Holliday sat down with us to discuss developing trends in insurtech, how technology and innovation can help close the protection gap, and the importance of collaboration in tackling climate risk.

Tell us about your current role at the International Finance Corporation (IFC). How did you fall into a career as an advisor and an investor in insurance?

IFC is the private sector arm of the World Bank. We focus on making investments and advisory work in emerging markets in sectors ranging from infrastructure to banking and insurance and healthcare. I’ve had a 33-year career in the financial services industry, particularly focusing on insurance and more recently fintech. I joined IFC to work on insurance and fintech. I’m currently working within different departments at IFC and at the World Bank and building a board portfolio. I’m also a non-resident scholar for the Triple-I. 

A lot of your work is focused on insurance for women and SMEs. What do you hope to achieve in investing in insurance for women?

Before I joined the IFC in 2015, the company completed research in conjunction with Accenture and AXA about the insurance market for  women. The study found that the insurance market for women could be USD 1.3 trillion globally by 2030 and half of that would be in emerging markets. The research also indicated that women have a better understanding of risk, are very open to insurance, and can be loyal customers and excellent employees in the industry.

After the She for Shield report was published, IFC started advising insurance companies in emerging markets on how to successfully serve women. IFC already had a program called ‘Banking on Women,’ which provided financing for banks to lend to women and women-led SMEs. Whenever we make investments in emerging markets, we are interested in taking an angle that better supports women. 

Can you elaborate on the protection gap between women and men and between people with different financial backgrounds?

If you think about it, the insurance industry has a great history and is hundreds of years old. A lot of products were developed a long time ago when society and family structures were very different from what they’re like now. For example, today there are lots of single women and single parents, and most women work, which was not the case when the products were developed. We also have gig economy workers. The default option has always been to continue to offer products that have been offered for 50-100 years, but they do not necessarily meet the needs of today’s customers, whether they are women or men. 

This is the reason why I like technology and innovation. To close the protection gap, we need to protect the things that people care about and that need to be protected. There has been a mismatch between traditional products and the actual risks people are facing. 

There’s been a report by the Chartered Insurance Institute called “Insuring Women’s Futures” which looked at different times over a lifetime of one person, and it shows where a woman can be treated differently than a man. For example, having time off for maternity leave, having less pension, and living longer. It pointed out all these things that could accumulate and leave a woman being in a much worse position [than men]. Families are no longer a guy who’s working, a stay-at-home woman, and kids. Insurance needs to catch up to reality, and this not only applies to women but all underserved communities. This will not only be a challenge for the industry but also an opportunity to grow. 

As an advisor to insurtech start-ups, what impact do you see these companies making? Are there any recent trends or developments in insurtech and fintech that excite you?

I think insurtech, digital, and innovation are critical. There is no insurance without insurtech. We’re never going to close the protection gap unless we use and utilize new technologies to do it. 

One of the trends is bite-size insurance on demand. For example, instead of buying an insurance policy for a year, you would be able to turn it on and off, which is relevant to gig economy workers, and is popular in developing countries. Some people would rather access [insurance] when they need it.

Another trend is using alternative data to close the protection gap and get insurance to more people. If we just rely on the old sources of data, a lot of people get excluded from the market or get priced out. It may have built-in biases, which were not intended, but may disadvantage women or certain racial groups. The combination of alternative data sources and artificial intelligence is exciting. 

You’re part of the leadership team for Triple-I’s Resilience Accelerator. Tell us about your work with the initiative and why you chose to join the team.

An area where the protection gap is big in the U.S. is in natural disasters and climate-related risks. We’ve seen so many things happen in recent years, such as Hurricane Harvey, and most recently, the very cold snowstorms in Texas and the wildfires on the U.S. West Coast. I think this is an extremely important area. It’s something that impacts everybody, regardless of gender, income level, or political identity. 

I particularly like Accelerator, because I think insurance has a bigger role to play in prevention and mitigation, not just about compensation, and I like the approach of bringing different stakeholders together.  

2020 was a historic year for natural catastrophe losses. What is the insurance industry doing to mitigate future losses and to prepare for a world impacted by climate change? What are the industry’s biggest challenges in creating resilience?

First and foremost, making insurance more available and more affordable. For example, there is parametric, index-based insurance, which can be provided at a micro-level and is used in some developing countries.

We need to get involved in longer-term thinking about how we can be more resilient against these risks in the first place. We must think about building towns, cities, and farmland in a way that they will be more resilient against weather losses. It has to do with planning, infrastructure, and it may have to do with changing certain industries.

I would like to see the insurance industry at the table in these discussions with regulators, local and state governments, and with private sectors so that all sides are working together. The industry needs to have a voice and be taken seriously. We need to think about how different parts of society can share the risk of climate-related losses.

Women’s History Month
Karen Clark: A Model of Success

By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I

Like many people, Karen Clark’s career was influenced by circumstances and serendipity rather than advanced planning.  In graduate school she developed a love of building computer models, leading to her first job in the research department of Commercial Union Assurance. 

“One of my first assignments was to figure out if the insurer had too much coastal exposure because they had been growing along the coastline,” said Clark.  “I started to research hurricanes and how I could potentially build a model to estimate hurricane losses.” 

That research ultimately led Clark to write her seminal paper “A Formal Approach to Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Management,” published in the Casualty Actuarial Society Proceedings, in which she argued for probabilistic models rather than the subjective rules of thumb then used in underwriting. 

“Catastrophe modeling was a game-changer because it introduced a whole new way of understanding and managing risk,” Clark explained.  “We don’t just look at worse-case scenarios, but we develop a probability distribution of potential outcomes.  What are the chances of a $1 billion versus a $10 billion hurricane loss?  You need probabilities so you can evaluate how likely you are to have a solvency-impairing event and how much reinsurance you want to purchase and for pricing the product.  You also need to know what the costs and benefits are of different mitigation strategies.  That’s what was missing prior to the catastrophe models.” 

Being Taken Seriously as a Woman in the Insurance Industry

When Clark first started out, catastrophe reinsurance was primarily written out of Lloyd’s of London.  “Lloyd’s was 100% male,” she laughed.  “I gave my first presentation in the Lloyd’s Library to about 100 male underwriters.  Not only was I a woman, but I was an American woman, and I was seven months pregnant,” she said.  “Along with that, I was carting this portable computer. Many underwriters had never seen a portable computer, much less used one. 

“After my presentation, there was silence in the room, and little interest, but that didn’t dissuade me.  I was determined to find those innovators and forward thinkers and I did find a few in Lloyd’s and in the U.S., who helped me to develop AIR’s first product, CATMAP.”

Clark said it is important early on to find those forward thinkers who believe in what you’re doing and are willing to make a commitment.  She advised women not to take no for an answer and to be good communicators.  “You always have to ask for what you want.  The worse that can happen is you get a no.” 

Clark hasn’t looked back since.  As founder of the first catastrophe modeling company, Applied Insurance Research, later AIR Worldwide, she became an internationally recognized expert in the new field of catastrophe risk modeling, revolutionizing the way insurers, reinsurers and financial institutions manage their catastrophe risk. 

Clark declined many offers to sell her company over the years, but eventually decided to sell AIR to Insurance Services Office (ISO).  Several years later, she co-founded  Karen Clark & Company (KCC) with her business partner, Vivek Basrur, never intending to develop catastrophe models again.  “But as my partner likes to say, life is what happens when you have other plans.”

Reinventing an industry

“Through numerous consulting engagements with global (re)insurers we discovered the models were not meeting all the needs of the senior level decisions makers.  We started hearing several consistent themes and eventually developed what we called the CEO Wish List”, said Clark.

That CEO Wish List informed the KCC vision for a new generation of catastrophe models—models that are more accurate, fully transparent, and provide decision makers with additional risk metrics and insight into large loss potential.  “We didn’t change the fundamental structure of the models”, says Clark, “but rather how the models are  delivered to (re)insurers and how they can be leveraged in new ways.”

Clark said that KCC is doing a few things differently than other modelers and one of them is their scientific approach.  “Rather than extrapolating from historical data, we have implemented advanced physical modeling techniques for the more frequent events, such as severe convective storms, winter storms, and extratropical cyclones.  This enables our models to capture all weather-related claims and not just those defined as catastrophes.  Our internal systems automatically ingest over 30 gigabytes of data a day from all the satellites, radar stations and global models so our clients have high resolution hazard footprints every morning for monitoring and managing daily claims activity. 

“Interestingly, reinventing the catastrophe modeling industry was just as challenging as inventing it”, says Clark, “because most people thought it was impossible.”  “We again had to find those industry leaders and early adopters who believed in our vision and then worked with us to make it a reality.”

Clark said she’s very fortunate she discovered her passion at a young age when she first started her career.  I just love what I do, and until I can come up with something else that I could enjoy doing daily as much as I enjoy KCC, I’ll be right here.”

Cross-posted from the Triple-I Resilience Accelerator blog

Mentoring: Insurance for Success.
Spotlight on Cathy Weatherford

To commemorate Women’s History Month, Scott Holeman, Triple-I’s Media Relations Director, interviewed Cathy Weatherford, the first woman to serve as Insurance Commissioner of Oklahoma.

Like most insurance and financial service professionals, Cathy Weatherford didn’t pick her career. It picked her. Taking advice from her father who served as a state legislator in Oklahoma, Cathy applied for state government jobs where there were a variety of opportunities with health and retirement benefits. She landed at the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

For 16 years, she climbed the department’s ladder while honing her skills in public policy and insurance regulation. She also learned the art of politics while serving as a top aide on a gubernatorial campaign. Soon after, Weatherford landed the job of Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner, the first woman to serve in that role. “That was a ceiling-smashing moment for me,” said Weatherford. “I suddenly became acutely aware of the torch I was carrying for my daughters and for younger women in my state.”

Many of her direct reports at the department were young women. The terms “mentor” and “sponsor” were not common in state government or even the private sector, but Weatherford says she used her role to help younger women and men enhance their professional growth by sharing her unique perspectives, honest feedback and earnest advice.

“Mentoring is about sharing your experiences, suggestions and knowledge,” says Weatherford. “Hold back on trying to push your personal opinions because mentees need to make their own decisions in order to gain confidence and strength. Be a mentor—not a mother. Stay out of relationship and marital advice. Support them in difficult professional moments and celebrate their professional accomplishments.”

After leaving the Oklahoma Insurance Department, Weatherford worked in private industry before being named CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, where she led efforts to modernize insurance regulation. “We moved regulation into a highly efficient and productive process through technology and innovative software solutions,” said Weatherford. “We developed educational credentials for regulators to further professionalize regulatory careers, and we engaged in and play a major role in the international regulatory arena. Most importantly, we proved that state insurance regulation works and does not need federal intervention.”

Her next stop was to rebrand and rejuvenate the National Association for Variable Annuities/NAVA after the financial crisis. As president and CEO of Insured Retirement Solutions (IRI), she moved the association from Reston, VA to Washington, D.C., expanded the role of the association and made it more consumer-facing. She retired from that job in 2019 after 10 years.

In the last 13 years, Weatherford has mentored six young women. One of them is Molly Meek, a Kansas City, MO-based account executive for an insurance brokerage firm. Meek almost left the industry after her first job wasn’t providing the experience she’d hoped. Weatherford encouraged her to try again before switching career paths. “It’s so amazing having Cathy as a mentor,” says Meek. “Having someone I can call who can help explain large organizations and their politics, as well as helping me focus my efforts, is invaluable. That’s not something college prepares you for.”

Weatherford is the author of “Women and Wealth: Inspiring Stories from Real Women on the Path to Financial Success.”

Change Through Action: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Insurance

By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I

Dr. Leroy Nunery II

While the insurance industry acknowledges the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), has it become part of the core values and culture? The short answer: there has been progress, but more action is needed. Triple-I met with Dr. Leroy Nunery II, author of The Journey of African-American Insurance Professionals and Triple-I non-resident scholar, to discuss how the industry has advanced in DEI since his 2018 study.

Nunery describes Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as interoperable, noting that each is often defined separately but can’t stand alone. “Diversity is the practice of considering differences from whatever the norm is at a company. Equity is about access to opportunities that people might not have. Inclusion is bringing people together at the same table and the concern that they have for each other,” he explains.

According to S&P Global research, the number of Black professionals in the insurance industry increased to 12.4 percent of the workforce from 9 percent in the last 10 years, with the number of Asians and people in the Other category increasing to 6.2 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. While the numbers are rising, the pace of change is lagging.

One of the primary challenges to DEI within insurance is the barrier to entry. Nunery explains, “Insurance is largely nepotistic and driven by family connection. It’s challenging to succeed without that group connection or network.” He believes that people of color can shift these numbers and take advantage of that momentum. “We can be exclusive at times. We say, ‘We’re all in,’ but we do everything we can so only a small group can get in. We need to do a better job of transferring knowledge,” he says.

Companies are realizing that commitment to DEI is more than hiring more people of color. There are markets to develop, business alliances to form, and investments in training and advocacy. Nunery is working with a client on a six-month job shadowing program that partners people of color with senior executives – granting C-suite exposure and access to meetings that were previously out of reach. “It’s important to coach up talent to perform at a greater level,” Nunery says of these programs. “It’s a tightrope to walk, but I tell people not to worry about failure. Worry about how successful you’re going to be.”

Camaraderie and mentorship can only go so far. A September 2020 survey by Business Insurance showed that 63 percent of respondents believe that the CEO bears the greatest responsibility in making DEI work. Nunery agrees and adds that the CEO not only needs to say that DEI is important but also puts it into action.

“When you ask companies to prove DEI, they come up short,” Nunery says. “Managers are not evaluated for it. There are no key performance indicators. Boards ask about it but don’t make it mandatory. To make DEI successful, let’s be more honest with our exchanges.”

Spotlight on Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais

By Scott Holeman, Media Relations Director, Triple-I

For Black History Month, Triple-I is putting the spotlight on Black entrepreneurs and innovative leaders in insurance.  Connecticut’s first Black Insurance Commissioner, Andrew Mais, is an undisputed insurance leader and mentor as the video above makes clear.

“Connecticut is the insurance capital of the known universe,” says Mais. The state ranks number one for insurance employment and payroll and has the highest concentration of actuaries in the U.S.

Mais wants young people to understand the tremendous opportunities that the insurance industry offers and to consider it as a place to start a career.

From Sharecropper to Chairman of the Board: Spotlight on Roosevelt Giles, Chairman, Atlanta Life Financial Group

By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I

For Black History Month, Triple-I is putting the spotlight on Black entrepreneurs and innovative leaders in insurance. Innovation and leadership are two words that come to mind when you meet Roosevelt Giles, chairman, Atlanta Life Financial Group, as much as his humble beginnings speaks to his resilience and fortitude.

Roosevelt Giles

Giles is the son of Bo and Lake Giles, two sharecroppers who lived in servitude to a plantation owner in South Carolina until the 1960s. He describes life during these times as “legalized slavery” and says that he picked cotton throughout much of his early childhood. “I only went to school when it rained,” he says. “If it was sunny, I was in the fields.”

Giles says that his family left sharecropping when his older sister paid off their $11K debt [to the plantation owner] and bought the family a home. This freedom allowed Giles to pursue higher education and led him into business as a tech founder and investor. In fact, it was Giles’ technology background that brought him into insurance when he was asked to transform the over 100-year-old company into the digital era.

Atlanta Life has proven to be an attractive opportunity for Giles. The company was founded by Alonzo Franklin Herndon, a former slave with only three-months of formal education. Herndon was emancipated in the late 1800s and went from selling goods on the side of the road to real estate and eventually insurance. He made many investments in infrastructure – housing and education – over the years, believing that Atlanta Life was successful only when the community was successful. In 1950, Herndon and his son Norris created the Herndon Foundation and named the people within the community as shareholders. The company has been credited with funding the Civil Rights Movement and became the primary source of life insurance policies for Black people during that era, most notably insuring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Atlanta Life and the Herndons were recognized and honored with the Nobel Laureate Foundation in 2018.

Giles feels a kinship with Herndon and his desire to provide comfort and dignity to the Black community. “When I was growing up, we’d sell fish fries on Friday or Saturday nights to make enough money to bury someone. Alonzo went into insurance because he wanted to take care of the people most at risk,” Giles says.

According to Giles, Atlanta Life has been invested in “stakeholder capitalism” since the onset. He credits the company with being one of the first to support women on the Board and in the C-suite as far back as the 1920s.

Recently, Giles has made another move towards improving racial equity by creating the Herndon Directors Institute (HDI), a 6-month program that trains underrepresented individuals – women and people of color – to be “board-ready”. The program launched earlier this month with fellows receiving mentorship from an impressive list of global corporate leaders.

“Capitalism is making it happen. Capitalism started this problem, and capitalism needs to fix this problem,” Giles says.

He just may be right. Several top companies have implemented commitments to racial equity, including NASDAQ who requires board diversity on any listed company and Goldman Sachs, who won’t take a company public without it.

While programs like HDI will be a huge step in ending generational poverty, Giles recognizes that his industry still has a long way to go. “The insurance industry needs to be more inclusive. We need to build products that address the wealth deficits in communities of color. The way to end generational poverty and build wealth is through financial literacy.”

“As the only Black Insurance carrier in the U.S., Atlanta Life is positioned to do just that. The brand is trusted in Black and underserved communities, and there is no other company, owned by a foundation, that is positioned to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Black and people of color communities on an annual basis,” Giles says. “So, when companies partner with Atlanta Life, we can eliminate generational poverty.”

Spotlight on Kevin Henderson, Founder and CEO of Indenseo

By Marielle Rodriguez, Social Media and Brand Design Coordinator, Triple-I

Kevin Henderson

For Black History Month, Triple-I is putting the spotlight on Black entrepreneurs and innovative leaders in insurance. We sat down with Kevin Henderson, Founder and CEO of Indenseo, an analytics software company based in Palo Alto, CA to talk about his background in insurtech and how telematics is shaping the commercial auto insurance space.

Originally from West Medford, Massachusetts, Henderson moved to the Bay Area in California during the Web 1.0 internet boom in the late-1990’s, where he led the global data business for telematics company @Road [later acquired by Trimble] and partnered with commercial auto carriers on their telematics programs. Henderson’s extensive experience in insurance telematics led him to create Indenseo in 2013.

Data has an enormous potential for insurance, according to Henderson. We are now able to know in real-time what’s happening with the vehicle and how it’s being driven. Combining telematics data with contextual data like the road conditions, the limit is your imagination.

Yet, obtaining funding for Indenseo as a Black business owner provided initial hurdles for Henderson. Citing a Harvard Business article on diversity in innovation, he says there’s a positive correlation between the [racial] makeup of partners and those who get funded.” However, his difficulties with obtaining VC funding also led him to be more strategic in his fundraising approach. “It made [us] use the capital we did raise more efficiently,” he says.

While funding was an initial battle, Henderson shares the importance of having a vision and people around you that you trust.

“You need to have people around you that know the ecosystem, and people who will be honest with you. It’s a numbers game and you need to be creative. Learn how to target investors with an interest in the markets you’re trying to get into,” he says.

While telematics is synonymous with commercial fleets, use in personal lines insurance remains low. COVID-19 has revealed telematics’ potential in personal lines. “People are more open with sharing their data,” Henderson says. “The shift in driver behavior caused by the pandemic has revealed that people want to be priced based on how much they use their vehicles as opposed to a standard premium that doesn’t account for vehicle use.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought its own set of challenges for Indenseo, including a slowdown in developing international business, but Henderson believes those opportunities will help expand his business in other countries. “Not everything can be done on Zoom. I will be back on airplanes when international travel and in-person meetings are practical again.”

As on the future of telematics in insurance, Henderson believes that commercial auto will evolve very differently than personal lines.

“The risks are different, and the technology is different. The risk you care about for an 18-wheel truck or a service van will be much different than the risk for a four-wheel sedan,” he says.

With the rise of new specialty markets and new companies, distribution models will change, and new products will emerge. All this makes the future of telematics and commercial auto insurance quite unpredictable and exciting.

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Indenseo will be hosting a free webinar with Jeffrey Williams of Forrester on February 25th, 1PM ET as part of the “Connected Insurance” series on how IoT will transform insurance. During the webinar, they will talk about trends, technologies, and use cases.

You can learn more about the webinar and register here.

To learn more about Indenseo, visit Indenseo.com. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinGHenderson.