The Future of Insurance Podcast – David Gritz & Tony Lew

Co-Founders & Managing Directors, InsureTechNY

Season 1, Episode 22, September 21, 2021

Guest Bio

Tony Lew is the co-founder of InsurTech NY, a global leader in connecting insurtechs to carrier/broker partners, solution providers and investors. Prior to running InsurTech NY, Tony led global product teams at Gartner, and Alibaba, and also helped numerous global corporations with their corporate and product strategy as a consultant at BCG. 

Tony first began his career in Technology across several companies, including NBC Universal where he last held the role of Director of Private Cloud Program. Tony holds an MBA from NYU Stern and BS from Carnegie Mellon University.

David Gritz is an InsurTech community leader, public speaker, and InsurTech advisor. He has been featured in recognized Insurance media including Carrier Management, Digital Insurance, IIR, AM Best TV, and the Re/Image Podcast. David is the co-founder of InsurTech NY, the largest InsurTech community in the NY metro area. David also serves as a strategic advisor to high-growth InsurTechs to help them go from concept to scale. Previously David has served as the Director of Innovation for the Silicon Valley Insurance Accelerator (SVIA) and has led product at Zero, a behavioral safety focused InsurTech acquired by EverestRe. He holds a J.D. from the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and business and industrial engineering degrees from Lehigh University.

Highlights from the Show

    • David Gritz was part of an early InsurTech that was acquired by a reinsurer, and then helped the Silicon Valley Insurance Accelerator grow their community
    • He was left wondering why there wasn’t something similar in New York given how much activity there has been in the FinTech and Insurance spaces there
    • Tony Lew met David at an event for independent consultants, and had an idea for building a consulting solution that married their skills around product strategy and product management
    • Tony did not have much exposure to Insurance, but was interested in it as he learned about what was going on in the space
    • They focused on startups at that point, and thought about how to meet and support their clients, which lead to organizing an event in August 2019
    • They sold out all of their tickets in a single week, which showed them that the demand for something like this was even stronger than they thought
    • What grew became something to support startups and existing players navigate the change that was building in the industry
    • NYC has a very dense population of startups and insurers directly in the city or within a close radius of it, making the city uniquely positioned for a community like InsurTechNY to thrive
    • Adding in the investor community in NYC makes this even stronger
    • One reason this may not have started sooner is perhaps the preponderance of FinTech groups in the area, and how FinTech often took over the conversation historically
    • They studied InsurTech unicorns, and saw some patterns
      • Many founders were not first-time founders, and set out to be unicorns rather than to have an exist along the way
      • They are also going after large, often-commoditized markets with nearly limitless growth potential rather than small, open spaces like Drone coverage where the TAM has not yet been proven out
      • There had not been any unicorns in the Life space when they did their research
      • Many of the life startups assumed they could go direct to consumer and it would work as well as it has in P&C, but the Life market has not proven to be like P&C like this, so many of the current startups in Life are looking at distribution through agents or other channels, or to be distributors themselves
    • Themes looking forward include:
      • Embedded insurance, where it’s embedded into the purchase process for the asset or experience itself, like being built into buying airline tickets
        • COVID has accelerating ecommerce by a decade in many industries, opening more room for embedding
      • Non-Insurance players will move into insurance more, like Amazon and others
      • Life & Annuities startup activity will increase from where it is now, both solution providers and insurers
        • Financial Wellness and Literacy is a space gaining focus within the provider space
      • Regulators are becoming more open to trying things out and allowing change to percolate up, with some states being further along than others, but many are changing
        • If an algorithm is doing the underwriting, do we need an underwriter in the business? It’s similar to autonomous cars where there are safety drivers today, but long-term, there won’t be
      • There will be continuing shift to commercial lines startups from the personal lines focus that we’ve seen
      • AgentTech is another area of increasing focus, with lots of solution providers trying to help agents
        • The agent space is ripe for change, with a lack of innovation over the past few years, and a new generation of agents starting
        • There’s also consolidation and aggregation of agents, which could make it easier to market new solutions to them given how dispersed the demand is in the agency market today
    • InsurTechNY will be running another accelerator program as this episode airs, and launching new events, including a big Spring conference at Columbia University in March 2022
    • We talked about the Insurance Collaboration Index, which InsurTech NY is spearheading
      • It will take feedback from InsurTech startups and vendors to the industry on how different insurers are to work with
      • It is a survey-based research project that will run in the fall of 2021, and will result in an index ranking carriers on a number of dimensions of collaboration
      • This will help startups know where to focus their limited resources to increase their chances of success in the market
      • It will also give carriers positive feedback on what they’re doing well, helping them be a magnet for partners and talent, or help identify areas for improvement to be better collaborators for startups and other vendors helping to drive change in the industry

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