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