Exploring Challenges and Opportunities in the Insurance Industry: Communication, Collaboration, and the Role of AI with Chris Cline and Ilya Filipov

EXIN 9 | Insurance Industry Unique challenges and technological transformations are reshaping the insurance industry as we know it. How should agencies position themselves to benefit from these changes? Join host Joe Welu as he engages in a dynamic discussion with industry experts Chris Cline and Ilya Filipov. The conversation focuses on the lack of proactive communication from agents and the delicate balance between over-communicating and avoiding notice of rising costs. It emphasizes the importance of education, engagement, and offering advice to customers, along with leveraging technology to provide valuable insights and better serve clients. They also address the potential of artificial intelligence in the insurance industry, debunking misconceptions and cautioning against relying solely on general-purpose AI models. They highlight the significance of industry-specific AI applications tailored to the insurance vertical, which can enhance the roles of agents and carriers. Join the conversation to gain insights into collaboration within the insurance industry and the evolving role of talent in leveraging AI technology for efficiency and customer satisfaction.

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Exploring Challenges And Opportunities In The Insurance Industry: Communication, Collaboration, And The Role Of AI With Chris Cline And Ilya Filipov

I’m super excited about our conversation on this episode. Joining me are Chris Cline, Executive Director of the Agents for Technology Council, part of the Big I, and Ilya Filipov, a Total Expert General Manager and Industry Expert for insurance. Great to have both of you gentlemen with us. How are you doing? I’m doing great. I’m thrilled to be here. Those that know Ilya and me know that we spent a stint together in a prior life and have become friends along the way. This is the first time we’re talking shop officially. It’s going to be fun. Chris has an incredible career in the industry. Talk and describe to us a little bit about the Big I, and what the Big I does in this space, and give us some context. I appreciate the opportunity to do that. I’ve been with the organization just about a year and a half, but in my prior life on the carrier side, I was one of the folks that had accountability to working with the state and the national Big I across a number of their programs and made the career move after 28 years. I was drawn to the cause of what the Big I does as a trade association on behalf of independent agencies and the channel at large. It’s a fairly complex organization. Each state has its own Big I chapter. They’re their own unique companies but they’re federated with the national Big I. There’s a relationship there, and I am part of the national Big I, where there are a large number of programs that we run that are earmarked and focused on helping deploy thought leadership and tools and resources to independent agencies, even carriers that support us if they’re inclined across a broader way of topics. EXIN 9 | Insurance Industry I lead the Agents Council for Technology. We’ve got a diversity council. We’ve got a program called Invest, which reaches into school colleges and high schools to try to talk about our industry. A massive virtual university, an agency incubator, all the way over to providing UNO and market access. There are dozens of individuals. The organization delivers incredible amounts of value. That’s the goal. Most of the things that we build at the national are included in member agencies if they’re a member of their state association. It’s one of those things. If you’re tuning in as an agent and haven’t caught up for a while, connect with your state. If you’re not a member, you could reach out to me directly and we’ll get everybody connected. It’s cool to try to serve an industry and something you believe in. You’ve gathered from the conversation now that we believe in what independent agencies can do and have an advocate. That’s what we’re here for. It’s an advocate. Chris, your reputation is exceptional in the space. You’ve had a point of view and a perspective. Being in the space for 25 years, you’ve seen things change. I would love to start out by getting your perspective on the independent agencies now. What are some of the biggest challenges for them to survive, thrive, and grow in this ever-evolving environment that we’re in? It’s a pure multitude of things that are happening all at once and how fast all of the change is occurring. The great thing about our industry is it’s maybe somewhat cliched and channels to talk about how resilient it is and how stable it’s been around. Most agencies survive and, quite candidly, if they slow down and take a deep breath and look at the overall grand scheme of things, the industry base and the channel at large are relatively healthy. Values are up and margins are stable, but we’re in this time unprecedented in the number of things that are going on. Agencies have to become professional marketers. They have to become professional data and analytics gurus. They have to be cybersecurity and information privacy experts. EXIN 9 | Insurance Industry As we probably will talk about a little bit, they now have to figure out how in the world they’re going to become AI gurus. It wasn’t that many years ago when most agencies spent the vast majority of their time becoming risk managers, becoming disciplined at coverage, risk analysis, and matching the right company with the right coverage and products with the right customer at the right price. We still do that. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the fundamentals are still there. All this other stuff should be thought about as a way to enable it. We have to figure out these kinds of conversations to help agencies sift through all the noise. I agree. That’s a great perspective. Ilya, I know you’ve got some feedback on those comments for sure. EXIN 9 | Insurance Industry I would agree with Chris. A few other things that I would also mention that are very important for this basis is that insurance is a very core product to pretty much anything that’s happening in the economy in the US. The insurance agents deliver a significant value to our communities and our economy as far as giving that peace of mind. The one thing I would mention is the world is changing. It’s changing with technology. It’s changing demographically. It’s also changing with the risks and exposures to insurers against the stuff that Chris alluded to. Insurance agencies that do have a core role in our society need to evolve while keeping their magic and the things that have kept them relevant for generations intact. Establishing that balance is important with insurance agencies. People would mention consolidation and other additional factors, but getting the agent’s role up to date is very important in addition to the items that Chris mentioned about risk placement. EXIN 9 | Insurance Industry That’s good feedback. Chris, I want to understand your point of view as it relates to the broad themes we see across financial services. I believe it pertains to insurance, as well as any of the other spaces where there’s a high-value or important product or service that has the ability to impact somebody’s life financially. We’re somewhat caught between the two rules of thought where financial service is going from an innovation standpoint. You have one perspective that says, “We’re going to replace all the people. We’re going to use AI,” which we’re going to talk about as well. There are some exciting opportunities there, but there are rules and some schools of thought that say, “We’re going to replace all the humans with AI. Everything is going to be touchless. People are going to be able to go on and automatically do everything that they need to do to buy their financial products and services from said providers.” There’s another rule of thought that says, “In important financial decisions and important financial products and services, consumers still value high-quality advice.” They still value a local expert. They still value that knowledge and the ability to talk to a human when they need to. What’s your take on it? How do you believe the industry feels about those two buckets? It probably depends on who you ask, but I’m decidedly pro the health of the independent agency channel and the sustainability of it. These things blend together. We’ll talk about that a little bit and how technology can enable that. There are a couple of things I would share. For those that have heard me, maybe this will sound a little bit like a repeat. Our industry has forever, and even now, still uses something along those lines of one of the values of working with an independent agency is that you get trusted advice and consultation. You get the opportunity to get somebody who will understand what you need, your business or your household, then create a choice and bring together customized optionality. It’s building risk management solutions tailored to you at a fair and affordable price with somebody that provides great service. That sounds a whole heck of a lot like other professional services. I love challenging people to say, “How many of you have an attorney? How many of you have a doctor? How many of you have an accountant?” Invariably, everybody raises their hands, but we’re not buying any of those things off of the Big I word every day. Let’s think about our industry for the value it provides back to the community, the households, and the businesses it serves, as Ilya said. The industry and the consumer base have spoken. The most Big I market share report confirmed that market share in both personal lines and commercial lines went up. That is in a period of time through this global pandemic. A lot of external capital that was pointed at our industry, disrupts as a buzzword these days, but to do what you said. That’s to drive technology through and displace the human element. To be clear, there have been billions of dollars deployed with the sole vision of saying, “You don’t need experts. You don’t need a human in the middle of the process.” My answer to that is always, “Until you do,” and then you want one, right? We do. There was a great commercial a number of years ago. It was a beautiful home on a residential street but the voiceover was, “This family just bought their auto insurance at $800, blah, blah, blah.” They bought their home on dot.com, then a tree falls on the garage and takes out the cars. Now, who do you call? It was pro-calling a local agent and dealing with somebody who would be there. Having the ability and thinking about how technology can take the truly tactical type of things where the additional value of human interaction is less. Let people do some self-service for that. You need to buy and sell a car. You need your ID cards, a certificate, and those kinds of things so that human beings can even be more freed up to do the stuff that humans do well, care for, walk people through, be their Sherpa through a tough time, then provide insight and advice. Marrying those two now, discrete swim lanes together with a process that allows that insight and expertise that we can offer to be available in different ways when, where, and how a consumer. On different channels. For example, many things we see broadly across modern financial service firms are saying, “We’ve got these customers.” Depending on which segment and demographic they’re in, their preferred method of communication may differ. You have certain segments of your customer that want that information and knowledge, but they would prefer to text you and have a one-to-one relationship via text. Enabling those types of things so that you can be more efficient and whatnot. I assume those are things you see as continuing to be important in enabling those types of channels of communication. I would completely agree with that. We’re starting to see some wins in that regard. Some great CRM tools in our industry and marketing platforms. A lot of resources are out there that allow the agencies to better understand how all of their customers wish to interact with them, then custom-tailor that solution for them. The messaging around that can be built by the customer segment as well when there is a time and a place where we need to have human interaction, that can happen. There’s no reason to build and make every single interaction you have with your customer a project when you can create scaled solutions. There's no reason to make every single interaction you have with your customer a project when you can create scaled solutions. Click To Tweet It’s the technology. Ilya, I want your feedback on this as well. The way we think about it and a lot of the experts we talk to is having built-in technology, building in optionality for the consumer as it relates to that holistic customer journey, and giving them the ability when they want to interact, they can. I would love your point of view, Ilya, and give your perspective on this. I’d love Chris’s feedback. We feel pretty strongly that the independent agents that do adopt these types of things, and that do continue to modernize along the lines of meeting their consumers where they are and meeting their expectations are ultimately going to win market share from the ones that stay with doing things the way they’ve been done for 30 years and not evolve. They’re going to certainly see their business erode. I assume that’s your perspective as well. EXIN 9 | Insurance Industry It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. I would love you both to comment on the topic of the independent agents that do modernize and take an aggressive approach to bringing innovation into their businesses to better serve customers. They’re certainly going to be able to win market share from the ones that are not going to embrace technology as a means to improve how they serve customers. Do you guys have a perspective on that? I certainly think there are people that say, “I’ve had my agency for X number of years. My customers aren’t going anywhere.” What do you say to those folks? What do you think the risk is to the agency that says, “I’m not interested in innovation?” Do you want to go first, Ilya? Yes, I can start. Chris, feel free to jump in. Both Chris and I, when we were in the insurance industry, the one observation we made was it’s a generational business. A lot of times, especially the medium to small size agencies or family businesses, typically, we either get acquired or perpetuated and would grow into expanding into larger insurance businesses. The one shift that we observed among the customer base had a loyal client base, both on the personal lines and commercial lines side. Traditionally, they would keep the next generation customer coming in. They would have over 95% renewal rates and customers coming back. The next generation, the one observation we saw was as Millennials are moving to the customer force and their buying power goes up, their expectations were to get the same type of convenience in insurance that they would get from other areas, say Amazon or you name it. In any other buying experiences or service experiences, they would have the same expectations. Let me clarify that point quickly and make sure I drill down on what you’re saying a little bit because it’s important. As an example from what you’re saying, you have an independent agent that has served a household for the last twenty years. This household maybe has three kids. These three kids have grown up with an iPhone in their hands. They’re used to immediate gratification. They want food, they order Uber Eats. They want something and they have it instantaneously. Now it comes time for them to transition into having real buying power. They get through school. What you’re saying is it’s a big stretch to assume that it’s going to work as it did a couple of generations ago, where because I serve that household and mom and dad, I’m automatically going to get the three kids. You’re basically saying that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Correct. I wouldn’t expect to be talking on the phone like mom and dad talked on the phone with their agent or if I’m starting a business, to be talking on the phone to get it. At the same time, on the other flip of the coin, insurance is a very complex topic. It’s an emotional topic. I need to understand the risks that are there, the coverages, the exclusions, and everything else that’s relevant to that. I still need that agent or that person to provide me that help, but not necessarily on every single transaction, and not necessarily on every single renewal that I have on my auto policy. If my price doesn’t change, I don’t necessarily expect to get a phone call to add simple coverage. I would like to do that over a cell phone or read about it when it’s convenient for me. There are times when I need to hear from my agent. Also, there are times when I don’t care about hearing from that agent. I just want to read their emails, get a text message, and move on. Chris? I agree. There’s a pace to this thing, and it’s connected to what and how an agency decides they want to try to differentiate in the market, and what segment of the consumer base they’re trying to serve. The evolution of consumer demand is fascinating as we think through that. As Ilya said, we can start to see data that shows that this natural tendency of children to buy their insurance from wherever their parents had it is a suspect. That could be a good thing too if you’re thinking about how you want to differentiate your agency. You hit on something there, Ilya, that is important. I’m a huge proponent of building systematic and repeatable communications, staying in front, and offering value to your customers, but also blending that. Most people don’t need to interact with their insurance as frequently as some might sell. Commercial lines business needs certificates on a regular basis and those kinds of things make a ton of sense. They’re buying and selling vehicles. They got a lot of fleet activities, hiring and firing drivers. You think about the typical personal lines. I’m just a middle-market personal lines client. I don’t buy a car every year. I do a lot of things but I also wouldn’t want to never hear from the agent. What are you guys seeing? What’s out there? Have you taken a look at my policy in a while? I don’t even know I do because I’m in the industry. As you said, Ilya, this is a very complex industry, and a lot of people don’t know about it. In a time like we’re in now, where the market is incredibly hard on all lines of business, people are getting renewals with 10%, 15% to 30% increases. If you haven’t been in investing in relationships and in education and touches along the way, your book is incredibly susceptible. That’s a point in time where now people are going to go and probably think about convenience as much as anything. It’s a complex model. We need to be thinking about it. It’s not horribly broken, but there’s a divide in agencies who are creating a broader set of availability, and a more dynamic experience for new customer attraction than those who are not. As things start to trigger life events and market conditions, retention could be a challenge. Ilya, you saw this as much as I do. Even with poor retention at the agency level, it’s still 80%, 82%, or 85% in a traditional market. In what industry can you be lower than average and keep 80% of your business year over year? It takes a while for adverse actions to truly impact an agency. It takes a while. However, if you compound even 10% or 12% customer churn over a couple of years, it’s a lot. If you’re at 10% churn, just to break even, you’ve got to grow 10% that year. If you want to grow, then you need to find ways to grow on top of that. There’s a metric that the industry uses called sales velocity and it speaks to that. It’s a new business. There’s a percentage of prior year revenue. You touched on something that I want to drill into a little bit. As a consumer, I’ve watched the price increases. I have an investment property in my personal home and whatnot, cabin and insured, 20% or 30% price increases. I didn’t hear a word from the agent that has my business. I won’t mention names, but had I had a note and had something come to me and said, “By the way, to give you a heads up, you’re going to see some increase in cost. If you’d like to walk through it and discuss it, I’m available.” That simple component isn’t even in place with my agent. Is that the standard that happens out there where price increases are passed on with zero empathy coming from the agent of the organization? I would hate to say that it’s the standard, considering how many consumers. That’s maybe a little bold. That’s clearly the case. Here we are talking about it and you experienced it. In the last 60 days, I experienced that. That’s crazy. It’s a perfect example of a lot of things coming together. Ilya, maybe you have a recollection of this. My take on some of the market research was consumers are more price resilient than the agent. It’s a fascinating thing. Oftentimes, agents are a little bit fearful of triggering a shopping decision that might not have already been thought of. Calling somebody and saying, “You’re going to get a price increase,” creates work and it creates risk.
EXIN 9 | Insurance Industry
Insurance Industry: Consumers are more price resilient than the agent. Agents are a little bit fearful of triggering a shopping decision.
They hope they don’t notice. I would think in that case. You can make an argument for that as an agency or somebody that’s running an agency. I got two choices. Do I want to over-communicate and say, “You’re going to get a price increase,” or do I want to hope that maybe they don’t notice, or if they do notice, they don’t take any action on it? That’s the decision, right? It is. It either comes down as an intentional decision or unintentional, but it’s a design or default thing based on not managing your business well. The better-run firms, even if you don’t know exactly what the increase is going to be at the policy level by an individual customer, you can leverage the technology and your insights. You can start to educate like, “We’re seeing some things,” supply chain issues, cost of materials, cost of fuel, stock market conditions, global catastrophes, whatever it is. You can start to educate people on the fact that we know these things are hitting you when you go to the grocery store or the gas pump. It’s very likely that when we see your next renewal come around, we’re going to have to talk about making sure we got the right coverages for you and understand how these may be impacting your prices. That’s the thing. You could write that email or that blog or whatever that is once or write a few of them, and hit your customers based on 90 days out to renewal without a great deal of work. That’s a dynamic if it’s out of fear or if you don’t know how or create a lot of work, leverage the tools that are at your disposal. We talk about a framework all the time around educate, engage, then offer advice when it’s the right time. What you’re describing to me is as a best practice, if you want to be in a position of strength or as strong as possible in those situations, you’re giving some knowledge and sharing the macro trends and themes with consumers. You’re positioning yourself as a true expert and an authority in the space. If they have a question, you make it easy to communicate with them. If they do have a question, you’re in a position where you can give them advice on the pros and cons of different coverages and those types of things. Did I hear that right? Is that essentially what you’re describing?
EXIN 9 | Insurance Industry
Insurance Industry: Leverage the tools, educate, engage, and then give advice when it’s the right time.
I believe that’s the case only because, in some regards, it’s the right thing to do. This is a mammoth expense for a lot of folks. As we’ve alluded to, the product exists. We’re required to have it in almost every situation, but we have it to protect our largest assets. It’s either our business or our home, and protect our wealth against some unfortunate liability situation. People are probably more willing to hear what may be coming and why in a drip fashion so they’re not shocked. When the groceries get delivered to our home and my wife will say, “You love Coke Zero. Do you know it’s now a dollar a bottle?” The grocery store isn’t going to tell me via an email that, “You better be prepared. Your soft drinks are going up,” but it’s $1 versus $0.67, but my insurance and my mortgage rate. When it goes up $100,000 a year or something, that matters. I had the opposite experience. I’m friends with my agent but he shot me a text before my renewal. He was like, “I got to talk to you. I got your renewal and it went up significantly.” That’s a good example. You have a relationship there, but that’s an example of what you would expect of a more high-touch human-to-human relationship with your insurance company. He had even gone so far as to say, “Here’s the average increases we’re seeing across the other carriers that we represent. Here’s a little on the high side. You also have a youthful driver and a couple of those types of things. I’m glad to shop you. You are going to pay more this year than you did last year for your insurance. It may or may not be as much as your current renewal. What do you want us to do?” Who knows? Maybe he didn’t even open his computer and look at my file. I think he did but he wouldn’t have had to still have that general theme and say, “I got your back.” We started the conversation by saying, “I used to be in the risk management business and whatnot. Now, I’m in the data and analytics business. I’m in the marketing and customer engagement business. I have to understand the technologies that go into each one of these things.” I would maybe make the argument that bringing all those pieces together, having the data about what’s going on with the customer, and having the technology to be able to communicate with them is probably a fairly big mountain for some of these independent agents to get right. Is that what you see in the marketplace? What are some of the challenges for these agents to say, “I want to do this at the ultimate highest level, but I’m not an expert on all of these different disparate technologies and whatnot?” Is that the challenge usually that you run into? That’s a challenge. It’s figuring out which one of those unique things is a must-have versus which would be nice to have. You want to get information privacy and some of these kinds of things. Those aren’t nice to have anymore. Every carrier contract and all their third-party technology vendors have some obligation around privacy and breach notification. I keep coming back to it, but it’s simple and it sounds cheesy. What do you want your agency to be and how do you want to show up in the marketplace? You can still be those things but get involved with your local trade associations, peer groups, or whatever it is. There are people out there living the same thing. What I have found and what is cool about this industry is they might be arm-wrestling over an account today, but when they get together in the same room, they’re largely on the same team and want to help each other and share. There’s somebody that will help most agencies through some of these things. If there are 40,000 of them out there, even though they’re all very different and do it differently, somebody is going through a similar pain point and reality. Similar transition. Ilya, you have a lot of conversations with practitioners and providers in the space. I would agree with Chris’ comments that we generally see a fairly collaborative mindset in saying, “We’re all part of this industry. We all serve consumers. These are humans with families that we’re providing important financial products and services to. If we all get better together and we evolve together, everybody wins. The consumers win and the independent agents win.” Ilya, is that the perspective you generally have from the market when you’re out having conversations? Yes, and part of the reason why I love insurance and I’m excited about insurance is the collaborative spirit between different agencies and different brokerages. Everyone is a top-notch professional. Everyone wants to win, but at the same time, everyone collaborates to support each other with approaches, thought leadership topics, and so forth, with different markets because the pie is pretty big for everyone to get. That is something that’s exciting and I’m observing that part. The part of the thing that gets me excited about our platform is that collaborative approach. The best practices can be easily shared between different agents, producers, and principles. That’s an exciting part of the industry. Collaboration between different agencies and brokerages is something that's really exciting about the industry. Click To Tweet You nailed it. I was going to pile on and Pollyanna and roll the industry. There’s a reason why two independent agencies can successfully exist across the street from each other in most towns. Even though they might represent some of the same carriers, they’re involved in some of the same community activities but they bring it to life a little bit differently. They each service a slightly different slice of the community. They might battle over an account here or there. Odds are they’re probably buddies. That’s a good perspective. I want to wrap up with the last part I want to have a conversation today. We’re at this incredible inflection point as it relates to technology, specifically around AI. More specifically, Gen AI. We certainly see it disrupting and having the potential to change industries. Pretty much every industry can be impacted dramatically. Chris, I’ll start with you. As it relates to AI or Gen AI, how do you see the industry’s current mindset? Where in your mind are some of the biggest opportunities to ultimately make a difference for the independent agents and their consumers with AI or Gen AI? The industry is at an inflection point. AI has the potential to make a difference for independent agents and their consumers. Click To Tweet The conversation could look different, whether we got a group full of carriers or a group full of agents and brokers out there. A lot of folks’ exposure to AI is largely maybe having a free ChatGPT account or something along those lines. Playing around with it or maybe some blog generation, content generation, and those types of things. I have not talked to anybody who has found that to be ultimately a sustainable tool. It’s fun to play with. Also, a sustainable competitive advantage. It’s a neat magic trick but those types of things are commoditized. What we see a lot of the technology firms saying is, “We have Gen AI.” All they’re doing is saving you from copying and pasting something directly into chatGPT. We saw a recent lawsuit where a famous comedian is now suing them all for copyright infringement. It’s a fascinating thing, but I do think there’s some very real value. We start to think about how there is a race to the bottom to ask the few underwriting questions to get a bindable rate. It’s a real power in AI in that regards to interpreting what those questions are trying to solve for, “map” against what carriers need, hitting the word that a carrier can get enough information to provide a bindable quote. In the less sexy areas of the industry, you’ll see areas where sophisticated pricing models and underwriting models are the most ripe for benefit from that. You can run a lot of different scenarios through AI process efficiency. You could probably run a million first notice of loss claims examples through an AI model in a couple of days to find where you can move the needle. If we think about it that way, that’s where it lives adjacent to a human being, and provides very real value upstream to eliminate some duplication of entry. It allows the consumer and the agent to work together to get a more complete and thorough understanding of their risk and a price that matches. What you’re describing to me largely is our point of view as well of where things are going in. The companies that win with this technology are going to embrace it as an assistant to each of the key roles in the organization. I have a co-pilot or an assistant that enhances my ability to get my job done, to better serve the customer, to better quote the customer, or to better communicate, whatever it might be. I want your opinion on this. To do that, our point of view has been that AI and Gen AI specifically, you are going to have to have applications of that technology that are built around specific verticals in this industry. You can’t take these general large language models, dump them on top of an insurance company, or independent agent, and expect there’s going to be value delivered. It’s going to be building it from the ground up around a specific industry data set, probably around your customers, and the data around those customers. That’s where the value is going to be delivered. I want your opinion on that if you agree or disagree.
EXIN 9 | Insurance Industry
Insurance Industry: AI and gen AI specifically, building it from the ground up around a specific industry data set, that’s where the value is going to be delivered.
To overly simplify, you don’t see contractors running around town with a hammer looking for nails. There’s a very specific purpose to things. To intentionally deployed to solve a meaningful business problem, there’s a lot of value in that. I completely agree with you. If you’re trying to solve something, leverage the AI to do it and let the people interpret the results, and go from there. Where this evolves is sitting adjacent to being an assistant, I do think it will evolve rather quickly into reshaping what roles and what talent is necessary for an organization to take advantage of that. I was in an industry event where a large broker was explaining they are using these models to write the first draft of code for some of the stuff they build in-house. They’ve pivoted the talent or they see the talent from being a code writer to a code authenticator. I’m validating it. I’m a human in the loop that’s checking it to make sure. It was fascinating to hear them talk about that. You would seem like you might go from being a book author to a proofreader. They found that when you start to evaluate code or when a person writes code, their head is in the way they’re building the code. They’re sequentially working through their understanding of the way the language works and what they’re trying to accomplish. They don’t have the benefit of that when they’re just given pages of code. It’s a different skillset. Not a lesser skillset and not a lesser talent. It saves time, but it certainly is a different way of thinking about things, whether you’re a marketing person, salesperson, or whatever that is. I was thinking about that dynamic across all of those lenses. Ilya and Chris, thank you so much for the time. This was a great conversation. I look forward to continuing the dialogue here in the coming months. I appreciate it. A huge shout out to you both for your support of the Agents Council for Technology, and for diving into what I think too is a good spot to get fully acclimated and immersed in this great industry. It means a great deal. Thank you for the opportunity. Thanks again.

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About Chris Cline

EXIN 9 | Insurance Industry Through Chris Cline’s 25+ years in the insurance industry, he has established himself as an industry resource for topics such as perpetuation, merger and acquisition, culture, agency operations, marketing and sales, data and analytics, and has had multiple speaking engagements around these topics. In spring of 2022, Chris assumed leadership of the Agents Council for Technology as ACT’s Executive Director. In his prior carrier roles, Chris led a team focused on the entire agency life cycle and has experiences ranging from graphic design, marketing, sales, training, compliance, and personal lines leadership. With his life-long focus on continual learning (he’s a closet science geek), Chris has developed a passion for the independent agency channel and helping agencies across key strategic areas such as perpetuation, hiring, culture, DE&I, data/analytics, the customer, information security, and technology. He was also the inquisitive and thought-provoking host of the award-winning podcast, Closing the Gap. Chris earned his degree in Graphic Design from the University of Akron. Away from work, Chris and his family spend as much time as possible camping, racing BMX, playing guitar, writing, or cruising the family hot rod.

About Ilya Filipov

EXIN 9 | Insurance Industry As General Manager of Insurance, Ilya Filipov leads vertical growth and works directly with customers and prospects to address industry pain points. With more than 15 years of experience leading growth strategies for several large insurance carriers in p and c and life insurance, Ilya brings deep insurance expertise to help agents drive immediate value in their sales and customer engagement.