Electronic Chat with Allan L. Egbert, Jr.
Laura Mazzuca Toops | July 09, 2020
Electronic Chat with Allan L. Egbert Jr., Co-Founder, Ask Kodiak
Allan Egbert is a technology entrepreneur, senior architect, and consultant to the financial services and insurance industries. He has a successful track record in all phases of software development (technical sales, project and risk planning, design, implementation, and quality assurance).
In April 2015 he helped launch Ask Kodiak, a commercial insurance appetite and eligibility engine. Ask Kodiak’s cloud-based, software platform for property and casualty insurers markets commercial and specialty products to independent agents and brokers complete with real-time appetite, eligibility, and product highlights critical to rating, quoting and underwriting decisions.
Your background combines entrepreneurism and tech skills, including startup Superkick Ventures, and CTO at Agencyport Software. How did that path lead to Ask Kodiak?
Agencyport was a terrific company, but ultimately, I'm a software developer. I needed a reboot that came in the form of Ask Kodiak.
The timing was right, too. Four or five years ago, launching a technology company became much more accessible with a small team. Cloud services were widely available (with great economics), and more importantly, SaaS was becoming more mainstream in the eyes of the insurance industry.
Your education and background are in general computer science. How did you get into the insurance end of things?
Like most people in technology, by accident. I put off a vacation, and I started consulting for Agencyport. Around the same time, the CIO at Argonaut at the time told me at a Red Sox game that if you stay in insurance for three years, you are in for life.
I still never took that vacation, now that I think about it.
The evolution of insurtech has been a game changer for the formerly staid insurance industry. How do you see it evolving over the next several years?
Is it, though? I agree that startup founders and marketing hyperbole paint that picture.
I think we will see more true technology product companies emerge. I define these as companies offering subscription-based services or once-and-done product sales that do not rely on professional services or consulting armies to get the technology to work. The game changes when the friction to use (and walk away from) these services decreases.
For the insurer, this equates to a new class of lower-risk technology investments, potentially replacing the reliance on investments in pilots, accelerators, carrier innovation groups, and procurement processes that significantly add to cost.
A similar trend happened in banking and finance, which, as an industry, has been a decent leading indicator for insurance. (Maybe that's more of a wish than a prediction.)
What do you predict the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be on the insurance industry?
I recall wondering in March after Massachusetts issued stay-at-home requests if COVID-19 was going to trigger BI claims. And by trigger, I mean business claims of biblical proportions. That would have had unprecedented industry repercussions.
Shorter-term, I see a contraction of startup and growth companies. Startups that may have had runway into 2021 or 2022 now may see their finish lines in 2020.
I think one longer-term and more positive outcome for the industry will be “how we work.”' More companies will start to see offices, and potentially even extensive travel, as perks or luxuries. My customers, who are primarily composed of insurers, appear to have successfully navigated to a distributed work model; and they did it nearly overnight.
In spite of the current roller-coaster nature of the stock market, insurtech is still seeing lots of M&A and investment activity. Do you predict this will continue in the near term?
Insurance has billions in margin, which makes it incredibly attractive to investment. For that reason alone, there will always be M&A and capital investment. I still see a high frequency of institutional investors underestimate the complexity of insurance and have unrealistic expectations on returns.
That said, insurance remains a fertile area for new companies to emerge, and recessionary economic periods have historically produced incredible companies and brands, launched with less waste and more efficiency.
I also think our industry is overly charmed by the romantic press releases of capital raises. Personally, I believe bootstrapped companies, acquiring customers earlier rather than later, are more attractive.
What aspect of your job are you most passionate about?
I like building stuff -- technology, your product brand, or contributing to your company's cultural fabric.
I left a pretty good gig five years ago to create the type of company I want to work at from the ground up.
That's why I do this.
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The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
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