IVANS CEO Reid Holzworth doesn’t like golf, a traditional and relatively sedate sport that many other executives embrace. Instead, he rebuilds and races vintage cars and rides dirt bikes fast and furiously.
“I don’t play golf because it’s too boring for me,” explains Holzworth, 41, who shaves his head, wears a long beard and favors outdoor workwear-style clothes. “I’ll smoke cigars, drink beer and crack jokes, but … as soon as I start doing donuts on the golf cart, they kick me out and it’s just not a good day.”
Holzworth is a CEO who jokes often and crackles with energy. He brings both qualities to the job as the CEO of Applied Systems-owned IVANS, a position he took on in November 2020 with a mandate to bring the 38-year-old organization, its culture and technology fully into the world of 21st century insurance innovation.
Before taking on IVANS, Holzworth, who lives outside of Milwaukee, Wis., was founder and CEO of TechCanary, an InsurTech he launched in 2012 that IVANS parent Applied Systems acquired in 2019.
Michael Lebor, CEO of InsuranceGiG, an insurance technology API App store and marketplace, said Holzworth has been an “amazing” choice to lead IVANS.
“He bridges the world of legacy insurance practices and the new modern age of digital insurance, said Lebor, who first met Holzworth when he was CMO at AmTrust Financial Services and the company was looking to use TechCanary as a CRM tool. “He has a very tough job trying to take an entrenched platform that is tied to so many legacy systems. I love his approach on IVANS Distribution Platform, and if anyone can do it, it is Reid.”
IVANS has long connected more than 33,000 independent insurance agencies, 450-plus MGA and insurer partners, and the insured with the latest technology to improve the experience for everyone. In recent years, its focus has been on IVANS’ cloud-based software that automates the distribution and servicing of insurance products. It acquired TechCanary in large part because it had developed a roster of products on the Salesforce platform designed to create choice and flexibility for agencies that prefer to use Salesforce.com. Those innovations are now in Applied’s platform under the name Applied Epic for Salesforce.
Holzworth hasn’t wasted any time in pushing IVANS to modernize further in broad ways. In August, for example, IVANS acquired Ask Kodiak, a Massachusetts-based InsurTech that provides commercial lines market appetite and search capabilities for the independent agency channel.
IVANS CEO Reid Holzworth
Even before that, however, Holzworth focused on reorganizing IVANS itself and its departments, modernizing its infrastructure and more.
Holzworth said he hopes to start an innovation lab at IVANS in 2022, among many other ideas in the mix. Among other early projects: maximizing IVANS’ use of the Ask Kodiak innovations.
“Right now we’re very focused on rounding out all of our carrier connectivity on the IVANS Distribution Platform and then integrating Ask Kodiak and all of their technology into our stack, and then we’re also doing a bunch of work around data visualization and driving data products back to our customer base,” Holzworth said.
He added that IVANS and its 170-plus employees are getting a revamp from top to bottom.
“Since I’ve been on the board at IVANS we’ve modernized all of our infrastructure and we stood everything up in the cloud,” Holzworth noted. “We modernized everything. We have a new executive team. We modernized the tools, the software, everything. And now we’re building on top of that modern stack.”
Ken Winer, the former chief operating officer of TechCanary and an InsurTech veteran, first met Holzworth through a mutual business friend in 2007 and was ultimately TechCanary’s first full-time hire after both men realized mutual industry interests. He describes Holzsworth as “curious,” “wicked smart” and full of energy.
“He is quick to laugh, always focused on the big picture end goal and impatient to get there,” Winer told Carrier Management. “He gets a couple of new ideas every day, which can be disruptive, but he has learned to hold most of them back, waiting for the right time to pursue them.”
Winer said Holzworth is both intuitive and extremely insightful as a leader.
“He understands people very well and how to get the best from them, and does not suffer fools or dishonesty,” Winer said. “He cares about how he reaches his goals, and integrity in all things is his primary value.”
Lebor said he sees Holzworth as “an incredibly kind and nice” person who is also a pleasure to work with. ‘Wicked smart’ were words he also used to describe the IVANS executive.
“It is clear that he is wicked smart and has a unique knowledge base of the subject matter where insurance and digital technology intersect,” Lebor added.
‘Just Fell Into It’
Holzworth didn’t necessarily plan to become a part of the property/casualty insurance industry. As he describes, he “just fell into it.”
It was 2008, and Holzworth owned a construction company in Northeast Florida when the economy crashed. Insurance offered an enticing alternative.
“I had some friends in the industry and, you know, when everything kind of fell apart in ’08, they were still doing very well, and they had a big insurance agency,” Holzworth recalled. “I was like, ‘Hey, I’d love to learn more about this insurance thing.'”
Holzsworth liked the career switch, dealing with people and providing products to help customers in their time of need.
“Getting into it in the beginning was a little bit scary, because as a new agent, I remember having anxiety on ‘what if I don’t give them the right amount of coverage for what they need and something bad happens and they’re not properly covered,'” Holzworth said.
As Holzworth became more seasoned, his anxiety went away, and over time, he got into the technology side of the business. Of particular interest during his time at an agency franchise: solving operational efficiency problems that can come from technology or vice versa.
“I found that the technology within the agency is really the life blood. It’s the system, if you will, that drives the organization,” Holzworth said.
After about five years, he left the agency with some colleagues and they started their own franchise agency and built an agency management system on the Salesforce platform.
“We looked at the technology for our company [and we] realized what we wanted didn’t really exist, so we figured we’d just go ahead and build it,” Holzworth recalled.
That product took off. Holzworth left his agency behind and the product became the basis for TechCanary. After Applied bought it, Holzworth helped the new owners with their Salesforce strategy before taking on the IVANS CEO job, a position he pushed heavily to get.
“IVANS holds the keys to helping the industry innovate [and is] able to actually solve a lot of problems in the industry through connectivity,” he explained. “People don’t realize connectivity breeds innovation.”
Holzworth argued that IVANS hadn’t properly leveraged that idea in the past “by really ramping up that connectivity” and saw himself as being able to help make that happen.
“If you have connectivity in an open environment that software companies can build technology on top of, it streamlines the overall flow of insurance, which is broken, in my opinion,” he said.
Holzworth has big ideas for IVANS but plans to serve as CEO for no more than six or seven years total.
“A CEO that sits around for longer than that, it’s stale,” Holzworth said “Especially in a tech company, you should be transitioning CEOs every five to six years because you’ve got to bring in new blood, new ideas, new things. On to the next thing.”
One interesting detail: He’s a CEO who is all but dead set against wearing a tie.
“I do really have some nice suits, but I will not wear a frickin’ tie,” Holzworth said. “Nobody’s making me wear a tie, [except] I’ll wear a bow tie every once in a while.”
Work Hard, Play Hard
Outside of work, Holzworth owns 10 vintage automobiles, plus motorcycles and “a bunch of dirt bikes.” He works hard and plays hard in equal measure.
“I am a driver,” explains Holzworth, 41, during a Zoom chat from his garage at home. “I like to tear it up…I like things that go fast, you know?” he says, chuckling.
This being the COVID age, Holzworth sat for his Carrier Management interview via Zoom, sitting in his garage. The garage holds vehicles including a ’64 Chevelle, a 2018 Shelby, and directly behind him during the interview, a ’53 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe, something he describes as a pure race car.
“This is the fastest car I have ever driven in my life, and I have driven a lot of cars,” he said.
Holzworth said he has had a long-standing hobby of working on cars to relax and have fun and work his brain, and he’s rebuilt engines many times.
“It’s cool to take stuff apart, fix it and put it back, and then go drive it,” he said.
The same thing applies to riding dirt bikes, a newer passion he picked up a little more than 18 months ago.
“I’ve done a lot of racing, and it is extremely challenging on so many levels—mentally, physically [and] everything—and perfecting that is pretty good.”
For Holzworth, perfecting a dirt bike ride is not unlike the feeling that some players get from the perfect golf shot: pure exhilaration.
Here’s how he describes it: “When you get that perfect shot [or with a dirt bike] that perfect lap, that perfect turn, that perfect jump where you’re coming into it with the right amount of break, the right amount of throttle, the right amount of clutch, and then you’re ripping out of it and you’re drifting the bike out of the corner perfectly, and then you hit that jump and you’re flying in air … To hit the break, to hit the front down and you hit it just right, it’s like hitting a hole in one in golf.”