Jim Dwane compared his experiences in insurance to learning how to play the piano.
When he first sat down at the figurative keys at Travelers and later at AIG, he watched his fingers as they learned to play the notes. As days turned into months, and years turned into more than two decades, his experience deepened, and his work became like second nature to him.
His eyes had long left the keys. He knew the ins and outs of his craft like a seasoned pianist. So, in 2020, when Dwane started his career at bolt, a property/casualty insurance exchange, he again set his sights on studying his work. He patiently let knowledge come to him. He absorbed the understanding of how bolt’s technology enables the insurance industry to succeed. He grasped how his company fit into the bigger scene of insurance distribution.
And again, Dwane began to play from his soul.
“Despite its unfair reputation for being boring, realistically, insurance is actually an incredibly interesting industry,” Dwane said. “Because you have to understand risk, you have to understand finance, you have to understand operations, you have to understand distribution.”
Dwane was named CEO of bolt in 2021. The property/casualty insurance exchange launched about a decade ago and aims to connect insurance companies to each other and transform how insurance is bought and sold. About 110 carriers and 35,000 agents use the bolt network to deliver $4.6 billion in premium and grow their customer relationships.
In a nutshell, the company facilitates the buying and selling of insurance across the U.S. Independent agents can subscribe to access markets. Software as a service technology is sold to enable companies and brokers to compare rates and offer choice. That tech also allows non-insurance folks – such as realtors – to partner with bolt to sell and embed insurance.
Dwane believes one of the coolest parts of working in InsurTech is tied to the landscape’s relative asymmetry. Dwane saw firsthand the competition that exists between carriers. He believes that in the technology space, solutions are dynamic and don’t directly contend with each other.
“It opens your mind to be able to think innovatively,” Dwane said. “You’re not constrained by policy forms and individual contracts and things like that. You really get to provide and design solutions.”
He holds that bolt’s future is aligned with the future of the InsurTech industry overall. Insurance was formerly sold through discrete and narrow channels, but Dwane said bolt is democratizing the process, allowing insurance to be purchased in a much broader set of circumstances. He explained this, by far, is the biggest trend occurring in the space.
From a technology and industry perspective, Dwane believes one of the holy grails is something called “the short, simple journey.” In other words, the fewer questions a potential insured must answer to get a policy quote, the more likely they are to buy. Dwane said bolt is “right in the middle of that.”
His advice to aspiring InsurTech leaders? Currently, inside the industry, spaghetti is being thrown against the wall, as application programming interfaces are haphazardly plugged in and answers look for problems, he said. The reality, though, is that thoughtfulness, timeliness and intent is valuable.
“So I think the industry right now has gotten a little bit over its skis on kind of not understanding where the optimized place and time to put an insurance offer is,” Dwane shared. “So I think that’ll be one of the exciting things I think we’ll see in the industry start to mature. The people mastering the moment of intent.”