One unintended consequence of the financial crisis and economic downturn is an increased willingness of potential entrepreneurs to take risks and offer new products, especially technology products across a wide spectrum of industries.
Entrepreneurs have also been encouraged by the rapid development of smartphones and how quickly users have adopted new apps for everything from games to monitoring their homes.
The insurance industry, too, has attracted its share of entrepreneurs and innovators, and they’ve found an opportunity to showcase their ideas at the Entrepreneurial Insurance Symposium, presented by the Entrepreneurial Insurance Alliance, now in its 10th year.
As described by the symposium’s organizer, Richard Kerr, founder, chairman and CEO of MarketScout, the event includes speeches, panels, debates and presentations from “the insurance industry’s greatest visionaries, entrepreneurs and innovators.”
Kerr said the best thing about the symposium is the willingness of insurance industry leaders to share what they’ve done right, what they’ve done wrong and what they would do differently.
The symposium also included vendors and networking opportunities in the exhibit space. Most of the attendees were independent agents, looking for ways to continue to provide the services and coverages their clients need.
Here are some highlights from the first day of the conference:
Richard Kerr welcomes attendees to the Entrepreneurial Insurance Symposium. (Photo: Eileen Blumenthal)
In honor of the 10th anniversary of the symposium, Richard Kerr provided a look back at the past 10 years, highlighting such events as the release of the first iPhone in 2007 and the first iPad in 2010. He also noted that drones were used for the first time for insurance purposes in 2013, and he said he believes that they were one of the biggest differentiators in the industry.
Peter Eastwood of Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance and the Entrepreneurial Insurance Alliance's Richard Kerr. (Photo: Eileen Blumenthal)
Peter Eastwood, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, described “The Journey to Forever: Building Berkshire Hathaway Specialty.” Eastwood explained that the name of his presentation was derived from Warren Buffett’s belief that “Long term is forever.”
Ralph Blust of Insurance Noodle and John Pergande of Insure Zone. (Photo: Eileen Blumenthal)
Steve England, president and CEO of Global Special Risks, moderated the “Battle Scars: 15 Years of Lessons Learned” panel. Ralph Blust, president of Insurance Noodle, and John Pergande, CEO of Insure Zone, discussed their successes, failures and missteps in trying to create an online presence for insurance agents and to provide opportunities to streamline documentation processes.
John Howard of BB&T Holdings. (Photo: Eileen Blumenthal)
John Howard, chairman and CEO of BB&T Insurance Holdings, an economist by training, reviewed the global and U.S. economic picture to help his audience understand the complicated environment for the insurance industry. In his “Corporate Creativity” presentation, Howard explained that “Corporate creativity is really professionalism.” He urged companies to focus more on nonlinear thinking and use what he called a “dreaming process” to encourage employees to become more creative at solving problems or developing products.
Jeremy Johnson of American International Group. (Photo: Eileen Blumenthal)
Jeremy Johnson, president of American International Group’s commercial division, showed how to put words into action in his presentation, “Building a Sustainable Culture of Innovation.” Johnson explained that it’s important to create time and space for employees to ideate. He also recommended formal and informal partnerships outside IT and the insurance industry to help spark innovation.
James Keating of TKG Wholesale Brokerage, Jeff Chesky of Insuritas and Matt Miller of Embroker. (Photo: Eileen Blumenthal)
The “Disruptors” panel, moderated by Michael Ian Coles, managing director, Coles Advisory Partners, was among the most lively of the two days. Jeff Chesky, founder, chairman and CEO of Insuritas, James Keating, founder, CEO and chairman of TKG Wholesale Brokerage, and Matt Miller, founder and CEO of Embroker, discussed two types of disruption — displacement and innovation — and how the industry is responding to each one.
Susan Fiorito of Florida State University. (Photo: Eileen Blumenthal)
Wrapping up the first day was Susan Fiorito, professor of entrepreneurship at Florida State University. Fiorito is instrumental in starting the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship at Florida State, which will be a separate entity and not a division within the university's business school.