Tag Archives: #insurnacecareerscorner

Insurance Careers Corner: Q&A with Demetrius Gray, WeatherCheck

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 Kris Maccini, director, social media, Triple-I, interviewed Demetrius Gray, Founder & CEO of WeatherCheck.

WeatherCheck, an insurtech that analyzes weather data to help insurers predict severe weather impact to properties, was a finalist in 2019’s Resiliency Innovation Challenge.

Demetrius shared insights for building and growing his innovative business, and how he’s advising on severe weather prep amid the pandemic.

Demetrius Gray

Name: Demetrius Gray

Current Role: Founder & CEO

Years at WeatherCheck: 3.5

Tell us about WeatherCheck? What led you to found this company and build your career in insurance?

I was a storm contractor. I chased hailstorms across the continental United States. Most of my work was around understanding insurance losses, and it gave me an intimate knowledge, which I used to create WeatherCheck. While there are numerous weather-related sources, there wasn’t a great place to assess whether something was damaged or not. For example, would an event at a particular property rise to the level that the insured should file a claim?

The insurance industry today is already thinking about creating efficiencies in the claims process. We allow property owners to sign up on WeatherCheck, type in any address in the country, and it exposes severe weather loss associated with that property. We work from the premise that informed people make informed decisions. At our core, WeatherCheck works to give people quality information so that they can make the right decision at the right time.

We’re in the middle of a significant global catastrophe. How has this impacted your business and conversations around severe weather?

When the shutdown started happening [throughout the stay at home orders], we had conversations with emergency managers around the country on what does emergency management look like for people at home. Normally, they would be at their office and those structures are built and fortified better than the average single-family home in the country. What we have seen is an increase in overall hazard-related deaths this year. The 2020 tornado season has killed more people than it has in the past few years because people are sheltering in place at home and risk is greater. We are preparing for these insights now, and we expect to see even greater risks heading into summer heat waves.

There is also an infinite question about the current infrastructure. Normally, people are placed into shelters post event, but that infrastructure has been displaced largely because the volunteers have been displaced. The inverse of that conversation is that the risk has been shifted to commercial enterprises and hotels. If the hotels are closed, then it’s where do we shelter people who have been displaced? We’re encouraging community partners to have conversations with stakeholders around planning, including reopening hotels for evacuations quickly.

Over the next year, what is top of mind as you grow your business?

Partnerships are important. We have been working with partners across all sectors to continue to grow the product itself. How do we help individuals who don’t necessarily understand their risks or the policies that they’ve purchased to get what they need? The way we’ll do that well over the next 12-24 months is by partnering with stakeholders who also have interest in that same asset. Whether that’s mortgage companies, cities, or banks–that’s where we’ll be focused while continuing to represent the interests of the insurers.

What setbacks have you faced in building your business and how did you move past them?

We’re the only black-owned meteorology company in the entire country. You get a whole lot more ‘no’s’ than ‘yes’s’ and those answers are based on unconscious biases. We had to be very honest with ourselves about what are bias characteristics–whether it’s race, gender, location–and we had to decide in the business plan how we were going to overcome those biases. For us, it meant that maybe venture capital (VC) wasn’t going to be a strong path for us because the data doesn’t prove out that they would invest in a woman or minority-run company. We built a profitable business with strategy based on data and that also influenced what the product looked like.

Through this process, we decided to go direct to policyholders. The data showed us that policyholders are largely unbiased and that they want what they want when they want it. If you have what they want, they will forgo internal biases to make their buying decisions. By focusing on the data and taking out the emotion, it allowed us to see viable prospects up front.

What are your goals for the future in terms of where you want to take your career and your business?

In the future, I could see WeatherCheck offering other products and services to get the insured at a place of homeostasis that is far better than what it is today. If we look at the number of individuals who are underinsured for flood or underinsured for fire–the system really sits at the nexus of being able to drive some of that. We’ll probably see some unique boutique offerings come out of selling new insurance products geared at solving those challenges. We’ll be driving better data to continue to inform decisions. We’d like to empower agents and brokers throughout the country to do an even better job of keeping the insured better informed. Agents and brokers will play an impactful role in continuing to drive value. It is very personal when people have a loss from an event and that personal pipeline is a far better approach than a chatbot or AI.

Q&A with Emily Viner, Guardian Life Insurance

By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I

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

This month we interviewed Emily Viner at Guardian Life Insurance, who provided us with insights about her career trajectory, how she’s working to build a more inclusive workplace, and her advocacy work helping more women reach management roles at agencies.

Name: Emily Viner

Current Role: VP of Agency Growth & Development

Years at Guardian Life Insurance: 22


Tell us about your current role at Guardian Life. What does a typical day look like for you in this role?

As VP of Agency Growth & Development, I make sure that we hire enough of the right people to serve our communities and that our leadership bench is growing. We’re committed to growing future leaders from within the company.

In a typical day, I act as a bridge between what our field needs–our general agents who own and operate their businesses as partners of the Guardian networkand the home office. A typical day depends on what’s going on in the community. In the last three weeks that’s changed dramatically in what we need to provide to our partners.

As VP of Agency Growth & Development, what is top of mind for you?

Top of mind for me is making sure that we have the capacity to hire enough of the right people, and we’re equipped to hire people from diverse backgrounds–creating workplaces that are inclusive where people feel that they want to be part of that environment.

One of my colleagues years ago called it the greenhouse. Is the greenhouse set to make sure that someone can grow and thrive, and if not, then you’ve got to fix that first.

You began your career as a financial advisor before moving on to the corporate side of the business. What advice would you give to women looking to make a shift in their careers?

I remember that first year was so hard. As an advisor, I was in complete control and in a different environment I didn’t always have that. I would tell all women to say ‘yes’ when you don’t know how. That’s a scary thing, but once you do it, you realize ‘I made it and I’m fine.’

It’s also trusting that you’re competent and that you’ll figure it out.

I read an article years ago that stated women spend a lot of time being competent but not confident. That’s why saying yes when you don’t know how is so important. If you’re taking on a project where you only know 20%–if you fall, you’ll learn, and you’ll move on–that’s how you build confidence.

How did you get that confidence to follow through knowing that you had that skillset?

I spoke at an industry meeting years ago, and during that time, two companies had asked me to join them. At the time my children were young [three and four], and the companies weren’t being flexible. One of the companies offered the idea of me consulting three days a week to help with recruiting and building field leaders, so I just jumped in to do what was best for my family and my children.

I did that for two years before joining Guardian Life. In looking back–the two years I spent consulting–the knowledge that I gained helped me accelerate in the role once I arrived at Guardian. It’s having faith in your ability and what works for the current situation and what you’re looking to build. The perspective of having patience is important. It’s knowing that maybe this is the time that you need to learn something more or different for that next role.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, what are some ways that Guardian Life addresses topics such as equal pay, leadership opportunities, and inclusion efforts? 

We have an amazing executive leadership team that leads by example [CEO Deanna Mulligan and President, Andrew McMahon]. They live our values every day through their actions. We hold ourselves to very high standards, we seek to do the right thing and people count. That transcends to equal pay, equal opportunities, and all our inclusion efforts around hiring to ensure that there’s a diverse pool of candidates for open positions as well as opportunities for internal moves. I’ve seen inclusion programs really accelerate over the last ten years.

We’re living in an uncertain time. Your CEO Deanna Mulligan and President Andrew McMahon have made a public commitment to minimizing business interruptions during COVID-19 and maintain response during the crisis. How has this type of leadership impacted your role directly, and how is it impacting the company overall?

My team feels proud of the communication. There was a work-from-home strategy starting March 10th. The safety of our employees is a priority, as is client communication and services. We were built for this. We got through the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. We got through the great recession. We payed our obligations and still paid the dividends. We’re in the same position to be able to do that today–not just for our employees but for all our clients and consumers across the country.

Our clients are in good hands. We updated our website and communications to clients to let them know they can update their policies and get answers to questions through all our digital platforms. We’ve also provided our field partners with information they can share with their clients on market volatility and what they can do to help calm their fears. With the stock market volatility, the cash value in life insurance is not going to change, [it’s not subject to the same volatility] so there is also reassurance with those decisions.

What are your goals for the future in terms of where you want to take your career?

I’m thinking about how I’m positioning the firm for the future and building up our bench– ultimately grooming my successor. I’d also like to continue to help young women in male dominated industries. I’ve been working towards this for the past 30 years, but there is so much more to do whether it’s in my company or philanthropic/volunteer. It’s important to me to continue this work.