Niji Sabharwal, CEO and co-founder of insurance compliance software provider AgentSync, has a message for insurers who worry InsurTech is causing too much disruption in the industry.
“People often think change is expensive,” he said. “But what about the cost of staying the same? In this industry, we sometimes forget that there could be another way.”
Sabharwal, who got his start in sales strategy and operations at Zenefits before launching AgentSync alongside Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Jenn Knight, said those insurers that adapt and embrace tech-forward, automated compliance will be better poised to capture market share, even in a hard market cycle.
Knight believes being adaptable and tech-focused is a reasonable goal for most insurers, because while the industry has often been cited as being slow to change — especially when it comes to adopting new technology – she said that’s a bit of a misconception.
“The truth is this: insurance companies have always dealt with mass amounts of data,” she said. “Harnessing that data and turning it into useful insights is a challenge only recently becoming easier with modern technology. As tech matures, so does our understanding of how we can use it to make the industry more efficient.”
AgentSync operates as a partner, building modern insurance infrastructure that connects carriers, agencies, MGAs, and producers. Sabharwal said he first realized how the industry could be made more efficient while working at Zenefits, where he led the producer licensing and broker compliance response team to overcome regulatory compliance issues the company faced.
“I discovered that maintaining broker compliance with a growing and evolving business using only a spreadsheet was almost impossible,” he said. “The more we caught up with requirements, the more we realized we were missing. But we weren’t the only ones struggling to maintain compliance.”
Indeed, he said he was surprised to see how many other insurance businesses wanted an automatic compliance tool.
“For me, that was a proof-of-concept that showed if compliance is too hard, many organizations simply won’t do it,” he said. “That sparked my mission of making compliance easier, automatic, and integrated into every other process. That led to what is now AgentSync.”
Knight, who previously worked in the Salesforce environment solving back-office problems for LinkedIn, Stripe, and Dropbox, said watching Sabharwal work through the tangles of insurance compliance at Zenefits taught her that this was a big problem in need of a solution.
“The spirit of building the product now known as AgentSync Manage was spot-on for my interest – helping business partners get an understanding of workflow, getting it unstuck, removing clunky manual processes,” she said. “When compliance is built-in, it removes the risk. In a world that keeps getting riskier, carriers, agencies, MGAs/MGUs, and other insurance entities will increasingly understand the value of having ‘set it and forget it’ compliance solutions in place.”
Although both Knight and Sabharwal believe the insurance industry needs to continuously embrace change in an ever-changing risk environment, they said the InsurTech space has been undergoing its own transformation.
“2022 brought a much-needed shift in the way InsurTechs view themselves and their relationship with the industry,” Knight said. “The industry doesn’t need to be turned on its head by technological innovation. Instead, technology can enable insurance professionals to do what they’re best at while lightening the load on everything else.”
She said the most valuable InsurTechs are those working with the insurance industry to reduce the amount of time spent on repetitive manual tasks.
“With technology doing the heavy lifting, talented people get back the bandwidth to focus on what matters most,” she said. “It allows them to focus on the parts of the job only humans can do, whether it’s revenue generating, client relationship building, or creatively innovating.”
Sabharwal said automated compliance can reduce risk, saving money on back-end, operational costs and enabling businesses to do more without increasing headcount. However, he agreed that a balance needs to be struck between automation and human intervention.
“A tech-enabled producer experience is a big piece of the future, but the approach needs to be the best of both worlds,” he said. “An insurance customer needs a real, human partner to navigate the plethora of options in insurance markets. The role of powerful, easy-to-use tools is critical. So is the role of a trusted advisor. And, above a price-sensitivity threshold, policyholders want to talk to a trusted advisor.”
Knight added that beyond technology and automation, the insurance industry’s people are critical to its success.
“Our customers really are our partners,” she said. “Complying with state, federal, and local licensing requirements and regulations can be a real administrative challenge. It’s invaluable to have people who are willing to work with you to solve their problems and who share your enthusiasm.”
She said that in the future, AgentSync aims to continuing expanding its product roadmap and working to cement even stronger relationships with legacy insurance carriers. Sabharwal said that overall, he believes the future of InsurTech is not always reinventing the wheel with new technologies, but discovering new use cases for existing technologies,
“[It will involve] experimenting and realizing that what can work with 10,000 policyholders can also work with 10 million policyholders,” he said. “Developing scalable tech and joining tools together by chaining APIs will make all of these solutions more effective and efficient.”