Electronic Chat with Michael Jones
Laura Mazzuca Toops | June 15, 2020
Michael Jones has worked and consulted in the financial services industry for nearly 20 years at the business level and technology side, encompassing many verticals within the industry. He started his career in the retail agency space as a producer, marketing and selling property and casualty insurance products. That experience transformed into a more specific focus in the risk management arena with the placement of more complex risks through a variety of non-traditional risk financing vehicles.
He is currently co-founder and CEO of Combined Ratio Solutions, a Hartford-based insurtech services provider specializing in maximizing the value property and casualty (P&C) insurance companies have invested in existing IT infrastructure.
How did your involvement with Combined Ratio come about?
Having spent 20 years in the industry on both the busines and tech sides, I had a unique opportunity to start Combined Ratio with my two business partners at a time when many of the big policy admin vendors were consolidating. We saw an opportunity to come to market with services and product offerings that focused on the types of products that are on the fringes of policy admin. Having spent the better parts of our careers with large policy admin vendors, we knew too much money was being spent with low success rates on projects that rarely ended in value being added to the carriers. We set out from day 1 at Combined Ratio to deliver products and services that add value to our customers with almost instant results.
What is the major benefit for insurers utilizing Combined Ratio’s services?
We have a team of industry experts that understand our customers’ challenges and can provide solutions to fix them. We have built a culture that supports all of our employees’ personal and professional objectives, so they’re motivated by knowing they are making positive impacts to our customers and their personal work has made a difference. Our employees strive for positive change by respectfully challenging the process and methodology to deliver. This is where their heritage in the insurance industry is of such value. They have seen a lot in their collective careers and don’t have an issue with challenging the status quo if there’s an alternative approach that could work better.
Can you reference a real-life example of how you improved a carrier’s operations?
We worked with a carrier that was considering a major investment in a replacement for their core policy admin system. We assessed what they had, what they needed, and where they wanted to go. Then we offered solutions to avoid a major spend and re-platformed what they had into a modern cloud architecture. This allowed them to leverage modern technology while we built the tools they needed on the surface of their policy admin system to get the desired business functionality. This saved them the major expense of a “rip and replace” that was delivered in a fraction of the time.
You began your career on the agency side. How has the agent’s role changed since the start of insurtech, and where do you see it going?
Personal lines carriers have brought a lot of value-added offerings to insureds as a result of insurtech innovation, which has allowed PL agencies to focus on being professional advisors to their customers. I have seen far less innovation on the commercial side, where too much of the transaction is still very paper and process intensive. Too many insurtechs on the commercial side are founded by people outside of the industry who lack a deep understanding of the business. I don’t see the relationship between commercial lines carriers and agents going away any time soon. There is too much complexity in the transaction for the direct-to-consumer movement to succeed. I see more great innovation from insurtechs to improve the process for PL business in the future, but on the CL side, carriers need to invest more heavily in the independent agent channel to maximize those relationships.
What are the biggest tech changes you’ve seen in insurance over your 20-year career?
The insurance industry by nature is risk adverse and often slow to innovate, except for the last three or four years. The explosion of insurtech has opened the eyes of the insurance community that being overly risk adverse to technology can prove a fatal mistake. Companies that have formed incubation labs and accelerators are doing our industry a great service as they are promoting the advantages of bringing a technology mindset to our often slow-to-innovate industry.
How do you see insurtech evolving over the next several years?
Given the current COVID climate, I think there will be something of a reckoning in the insurtech space. Historically the investment community knows that a select number of start-ups will succeed, and spreading the risk of investment has proven to be a viable approach. Going forward, the amount of available investment will likely start drying up. Outside capital will be more particular about where and with who the investment will fall. Organizations that are industry outsiders will struggle to see the same levels of capital available. On the positive side, I see insurtech being driven by those that are closest to the challenges of the industry and best understand the impact of their innovative ideas.
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