EP22 – A conversation with Ravi Krishnan of Innoveo

The COVID 19 pandemic has quickly forced the insurance ecosystem to reexamine its IT infrastructure. In this episode, I spoke with Ravi Krishnan of Innoveo about what this reexamination will mean. Ravi’s central conclusion is that siloed business operations within insurance organizations will need to break down as data will become endemic throughout the organization. This will force companies to also reexamine their business models. From insurance companies selling insurance products, we can evolve towards digital entities that happen to sell insurance products.

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Innoveo (Homepage)

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Transcript

Nick
Welcome back, everyone to another episode of The Coverager Podcast. We'll jump right in. I have Ravi Krishnan of Innoveo. Oh, joining me today. And we're going to be talking about basically, cloud based solutions in this digital environment for the pandemic and how the pandemic's affecting decision making and basically what you need to think about as you're sprinting to take your old legacy technology and bring it up to the 21st century which is more cloud based. So there's gonna be a lot of effort on that regard. Ravi, it's a Saturday. You must be a fairly big insurance nerd to agree to a conversation on a Saturday. But happy weekend.

Ravi K
Thank you so much, Nick. And that I am I definitely would qualify myself as an insurance nerd. But first and foremost, thank you so much for this opportunity. You know, such conversations are never, quote unquote, work. I, you know, I would probably do this on any Saturday, and especially getting this opportunity, having this conversation with you. Pleasure have been a huge and admittedly a huge fan of your opinions and perspectives, not just on social media, but also on insurance, thought leadership, and all of that. So really, really appreciate the time.

Nick
I appreciate that. Thank you so much. Ravi, I start off every episode I'm going to put you in the hot seat Innoveo. Why don't you give us an elevator pitch?

Ravi K
Sure. So Innoveo represents one off what I define as the Neo New Age of insurance technology companies that have crept up into prominence in the last 18 months. And what I mean by Neo new is that you have heard or we have all heard about the proliferation of Insurtechs that have steadily and in some cases quite exponentially grown in the last three years, taking the traditional insurance workflow cycle to the digital platform to true transformative digital automation. But there have been a handful of companies that have taken even that paradigm to the next level, wherein their value proposition is that to the insurance sector to the respective insurance sector that they are targeting, that, yes, we can make your solution digital, we can make your entire workflow transformative and technology driven, but oh, by the way, that's the what...where Innoveo and a few others come into the prominences. They say that even the how of it, like how do we actually make it happen for you can be now done in warp accelerated speeds using the power of what we call the no code platform. So that's kind of I know it's a little bit over 30 seconds elevator pitch for inovio is that not only do we help you get to your desired destination from a digital transformation perspective, but we actually jumpstart and accelerate the process of getting there by the potency of our no code platform, by virtue of which you don't any more have to write, develop, program codes. You can just literally plug and play, drag and drop templates and configure them. And viola, you have your solution.

Nick
Yeah, and Ravi, most buildings are very tall so they don't take 30 seconds anymore. Sometimes it does. take a couple minutes. So that's perfectly fine. You know, low code/no code is kind of the buzzword these days, I think you you kind of hinted at it drag and drop and other things. Can you can you talk about those particular buzzwords, low code/no code? Can you give us maybe a little bit broader definition and talk about the importance of having a platform that that is specifically low code/no code.

Ravi K
So there are three elements where this becomes important, as in why okay, so why no code or why low code right, and I think there are three elements, two of which I already alluded to in my previous comment. And so one of them is just accelerated time to market or time for delivery, which is compared to the traditional cycles of when, let's say an insurance company, whether they are an insurer, an mga, a broker, whichever part of the ecosystem they represent, if they have an existing business problem, and then you translate that into a technology need. There was always two very monolithic options for you. One was either you do bespoke development. So that would involve a whole lot of your traditional software program, or software lifecycle development. Or the other end of the spectrum is you basically purchase or procure a third party off the shelf product. And then if you were to tune it to your needs, you end up doing some customization, which would require the first end of the spectrum, which is you would go back to the drawing board and make some programmatic changes, what low code and no code and I'll come to the distinction between the two, if any, in a minute, but what this new, you know, concept/paradigm represents is kind of the best of both worlds wherein you still have the ability to customize and modulate what you specifically need as a customer of this technology provider. But you no longer have to treat it as a bespoke project. And I think that's the, that's the most important part here. So so just the execution of it is number one, or number two, number one being the accelerated timeline. To market which that then results in number three. And to me that's the fundamental differentiator here is now, as a customer of such a solution, you no longer have the burden of engaging, employing or possessing the requisite technology expertise in your workforce in order to get the solution you need, which is different from the you know, they often kind of miss understood value proposition that hey, listen, we have a solution that we don't need your IT guys to work on. That's not the point here. What this does is, brings the provision or brings the delivery of an insurance solution to an undifferentiated state, where we would need your business analysts, your business requirements providers, to be the ones to collaborate with us and allow and enable your it workforce to focus on more strategic needs that are important for your organization. So that's the core distinction here that we no longer need your investment of your technology workforce in order to assist us in building what we need to provide to you, we can kind of enable that for you by your business analysts being able to drag and drop templates and configurable accelerators, and that will give you the solution you need.

Nick
Okay, so let's talk about and I would like if it's possible for you to give us some examples as we go a little bit further along and talk about your specific solution. Before we talk about that, can you discuss who are the customers you're generally dealing with? Who are you designing your software for?

Ravi K
So in order to set the background on that, Nick, so Innoveo came into existence about eight/nine years ago and their origin was traced to working within the confines of a very large insurer. Zurich in this case, and they worked as kind of an idea lab, a think tank within within Zurich and then spun off as an independent entity working on, you know, innovative technology solutions specifically for large insurers, both in the P&C commercial line as well as on personal and in life and health line. Over the course of their first two evolutionary cycles, they realized that they could templatized what they were producing for Zurich, and offer it up to other large insurers. So if you were to now jumpstart ahead, or fast forward to today, or not to today, but to about 18 months to two years ago, that was the core DNA of Innoveo's existence like working and catering to a handful of really large insurers, and providing enterprise solutions for specific constituencies within those insurers, and providing them with this no code platform, which then could be configured easily to suit individual's insurance technology needs. About two years ago, the realization came that we need to now take the next level, which is now we need to keep in house almost like a factory, look at our no code platform and pre build certain accelerators and solutions...point solutions, which do not solve in a holy grail or which which don't cover everything, soup to nuts for a large insurer, but take care of specific points solutions that are important along the flow of the insurance journey. And it is in that context, personally speaking, that I've gotten involved at Innoveo, which is to identify what those specific point areas are. And our primary deliverable at this time in that regard is a digital broker platform, which we have coined the name eBro...Innoveo eBro, and what that does is essentially bridges the gap that currently exists between an end customer looking for insurance, working with a broker in order to get that insurance and the cycle of the broker integrating or interacting with the insurer in order to provide the quotes back to the customer, so that those two elements where there is still a significant degree of what I call asynchronous, you know, miscommunication is what eBro offers to solve. And I think that is a perfectly good testament to what Innoveo's new vision is, which is we will continue to do what we are doing with the large insurers. But our strategic direction now is to inherently make some accelerators and solutions as pre existing plug and play offerings to the market so that we can go to this new constituency that we now can target, say the brokers and go to them and say that we have something which we don't need cycles to discuss on what you need. I think we have something which is 80% of the way already there. So we can literally do it in weeks instead of months.

Nick
Yeah. Is do you know if eBro is an acronym or has some sort of Swiss connotation because I will say it might be the best named insurance related software product I've ever heard it. It doesn't seem like it fits insurance. So I'm wondering if Bro actually means something.

Ravi K
No. So you I mean, I'm thank you for saying that I take it as a personal you know, achievement on my behalf. It's it's worth, but we were toiling with and we were actually kind of toying with a number of names. And you know, as you can imagine, there were numerous names that were discussed, most of which were very, how do I say very professional, very industrious. And finally, I give credit to my very energetic, enthusiastic New Age team of, you know, co developers in Budapest, and myself who thought that let's kind of taken an entirely different line of thinking here. Let's look at the fact that the new age group Workers are going to be founded and run by millennials. Similarly their customers small businesses that are looking for insurance are going to consist of people that have grown up during the times of I mean, the iPhone or the iPad devices and the age of Netflix and Amazon Prime would love to kind of in some way associated subliminally with them and therefore, all eBro stands for Nick is he has an electronic bill or the standard you know, preface to what is electronic and bro is just, you know, a shortening of the word broker. We didn't want to go with e-broker because there are obviously a couple of conflicting names in the market already like that. And bro kind of covers the short form of broker but also represent something which is much more collegial like you know, eBro almost could be pronounced as ebru or Hey Bro, none of which is in conflict with what we are trying to achieve here, which is to partner with brokers, and enable them the power to assimilate with their customers and their insurers in a very integrated manner.

Nick
Yeah, so I, I may have more in common with millennials and the younger generation than I thought because even though the first three letters are bro as in broker, which is where I should have gone, I was thinking, bro like, yeah, bro are you doing bro, which is a very common way for, you know young people to say hello to one another

Ravi K
exactly

Nick
Male or female. So I, I commend you and in that regard because when I saw it I was like how did that get through the attorneys? How did that get you the marketing execs usually they go with the professional names, but that one will definitively stand out. So

Ravi K
Thank you.

Nick
I commend you on that. Yeah, go ahead. Sorry.

Ravi K
Yeah, and you know, on that I would just say and this is again to further certify that this is not revisionist history here, but we really came up to came up to two finalists one was eBro the other was DigiBro is what we kind of had to run by management and advisors. But I was very strong in my opinion that DigiBro reminded me of a television company, you know, founded in the 1980s, you know, so that's kind of what the name DigiBro suggests are one of those huge computers that were in a locked up in some factory in the late 80s. And to me, eBro represented much more of what common modern colloquial terminology is. And that's why we stuck with that.

Nick
Yeah, very nice. Very nice. So, I generally ask this question for, you know, when I'm interviewing folks that are creating an enterprise related software geared towards...it doesn't even have to be insurance carriers, you know, just you know, big time insurance companies. And it just gets around to these companies have invested so much over many, many decades when it comes to technology and they you know, got to a point where the investments were to just sort of keep the systems alive. You know, let's just kind of keep this going. So, you know, the the term that we now use is legacy technology, and insurance and we have basically we're hoarders of legacy technology we have, it's, it's a significant problem. So when I talk to folks that deal with enterprise software, where the insurance business is their main customer, I still struggle trying to understand having had my hands dirty in legacy technology...Jeez, how how are you going to integrate? How what's that engagement going to look like? Because I've seen so many engagements and they, you know, a lot of them just fall off the rails because they just cannot crack the nut of the, you know, past legacy technology. So how do you how do you deal with that? How do you deal with companies that you interact with that have significant legacy technology issues? What's what's an engagement with innovation look like?

Ravi K
So and I use a very, you know, very commonplace example to counter that. And that is what we do day in and day out when we are in front of a computer and go on to the Google homepage. And I'll come to how it relates to your question, Nick, in a minute. But essentially, when we go onto the Google search page and look for whatever we are looking for, whether it's a document or the name of our name, or location of a restaurant, that we are looking to go to, all we are worried about is to get the results on our screen. We literally couldn't care less about what the source of the repository of that particular document or that particular data is. And to me, that's the paradigm or that is the behavior that I am trying to drive within the insurance technology landscape so that yes, At the base level, you will continue to have legacy systems. And those legacy systems themselves can be divided into the transactional nature of those systems and their databases, right where the data that is getting populated because of those transactions are getting deposited. As long as we build a layer on top of those legacy systems, which is web based state of the art can allow for, you know, once data is input, it cannot then be polluted kind of concept, as long as we build a layer on top of that, and allow for the assimilation of individualized data from each one of these legacy systems onto that layer. You know what we couldn't care less that a large insurer has 58 policy administration systems or a large broker has three instances of an agency management systems that kind of becomes their quote unquote, legacy, which we couldn't or we don't need to worry about. So and that's the concept or that's the Solution architecture that, you know that I have propelled within Innoveo as well, that we will build this web based online platform that can be accessed and that can transactionally cover everything from the point of data intake right through the point where the same customer has to say submit a claim. But we're not going to worry about taking or consolidating all of the insurer or the brokers existing legacy systems, what we will do is we'll hook to each one of them using API's. So that's our, I wouldn't call it a kind of a shortcut. But to us that is what would really enable not just the technological challenge or technological query here, which is how do we kind of merge all the systems? Well, we don't, we'll just take data from there into our transactional layer. So that's that in a technological thing, but even more importantly, Nick that overcomes the cultural barrier here and to me that is probably more important based on my prior experience in the insurance industry as well, then you could have the best system that can integrate with the ins and outs of, say, an underwriting system at an insurer. But if the insurer is unwilling to open their systems to you on a transparent basis, nothing can go forward. And to us, this represents something that is the best of both worlds in that regard as well.

Nick
Okay, well, let's, continue on with that sort of line of thinking, especially in this day and age. So, you know, pandemic, I think has been, you know, the ironic, right, a dam broke in Michigan last week, I think the pandemic has been the breaking of the dam. Yeah. In the insurance industry. Given that now, a lot of the employees have to work from home. And so they really are sprinting towards cloud based solutions. And so, given what you just said, can you talk about how insurers need to think both internally, you mentioned culture, internally how they think about legacy systems, but also help them evaluate what should they be thinking about as they value evaluate new systems to be able to solve this, really, you know, this crisis moment?

Ravi K
So, you know, and great question again, Nick, and you always tend to find silver linings or conciliatory aspects with any kind of bad situation, right, including the current pandemic. And I think, in that sense, if one were to take that tunnel view of let's look for nuggets of positivity, that have emerged out of this, to me, there are three very clear ones that that are, you know, in scope or within the confines of your question. The first one of which is the sheer removal of the cultural inertia that still existed within the insurance community of it is extremely difficult to be productive when you're not in person. And that, you know, yes, that could apply to a person to person relations. Like, you know, at a saY at a brokerage, a producer, or an account manager talking about their, their their workforce needing to come to the office every day and be there in order to be productive or it could mean something to the effect of an insurer really needing to be on site to, to to look at the degree or the status of the determinants of a claim request in order to really provide the claims case package to the underwriter. So none of those things are being seen as insurmountable as they did two months ago. Today, people to the power of technology through the power of the visual medium and the networking and the connectivity associated with it, have realized that you know, what, if we are to continue moving the engine of our existence, we not only can see the benefits of virtual work environment, actually, in some cases, it represents everything that the digital pioneers have been drilling at us that it is actually faster, it is more efficient. It's often operationally less costly. So all of those things which were culturally considered inert or peep that the insurance industry was inert to before, have now been overcome by force, and people are seeing the results of that. So that's one thing. The second thing is, it's again a very literature driven concept, which is brevity has become pristine. Just as a simple example, and I'll keep going back to the, you know, the broker world just because I feel most affiliated with that. Traditionally, even for the smallest insurance request, right? from a small business looking for, say, a BOP policy, you would have brokers go to them in person, make an appointment present a proposal of different quotes, and that, quote/unquote proposal would consist either of 18 different worksheets on an Excel spreadsheet, or in a best case scenario 100 slides that would take take a full in a PowerPoint deck, which would be distributed on paper. And while that seems like a very small example, what the current environment has done is to force people to think that because that is no longer an option, how do we get more precise and concise in our deliverables to our end customer. So that could mean a direct, you know, digital channel for an insurance company for an insured to go in and get a quote and policy in a matter of seconds. And that summary of insurance or that proposal consists of no more than a quick compare and code card, which he or she can visualize on their iPad or any kind of tablet versus having to download a PDF and then go through eight different pages. So that again, that changing mindset of not everything has to be voluminous and descriptive, and you know, driven to the minute as details in order to complete a transaction, to me is the second element here. And last, but not the least, is the sheer opening of the mindset around the the what I call the CAPEX versus OPEX discussion, and that is driven by the fact that this pandemic has led to a significant loss of productivity or loss of revenue and potentially loss of existence for a lot of companies. So people are losing money by the day companies are losing money by the day. So their mindset, which we, you know, would be happy to serve is instead of thinking about what am I going to spend x hundred million dollars on as a capital investment on a new software in the next year or in the next quarter, is there a way I can work on a pay as you go model or a subscription as a service model, and that is where again, the New Age, new Insurtech companies have come to the rescue by saying that instead of and I leave the names unnamed. But instead of the traditional old school, unnamed companies that were coming to you with a pretty big, you know, price tag for you to invest in. Let's just go with a, you know, ongoing subscription based model, wherein we are not putting a hole in your wallet at the worst possible time. So those are the three areas where I feel I think the New Age companies have really come to the rescue.

Nick
And I think that you know executives have more more of the you know the traditional legacy insurance companies they should look at the you know how these digital companies within insurance and without an outside of insurance that this is their moment and and I think you said I think you actually said this like this is what they've been preaching for a very very long time. The pandemic sped it up but but these but a lot of these companies were already incredibly successful in a digital environment and now it's there they will be for those that are that I think for those that cannot raise their digital bar up they're going to the value of their companies just gonna languish. Right and it's like, I it's what it's what we've been preaching for so long for these insurance. We have to stop thinking of themselves as insurance companies and think of think of themselves more of, you know, a digital, a digital player that happens to sell insurance. And they'll just, it'll have so many more legs. thoughts on that.

Ravi K
Absolutely. And couldn't agree more. In fact, I may not have more substantive statements to utter beyond what you said, especially your last two statements there. I mean, I couldn't agree more with you like that. I think it is extremely important for the legacy minds to think of digital as the new way of operations and forget about the fact that it is a new tool. I think the biggest problem that that that has to be, you know, solved or the biggest impediment that has to be taken out is the concept of technology being equivalent to tools. Technology is not, you know, tools and solutions and, you know, a an off the shelf packaged. Technology is a new way to operate. And I think that's where the power of digital, the power of seamlessness and boundarylessness is so important. And it especially is important for companies, which are in the legacy mode that have been unwilling to change. Now all of a sudden, they're scrambling around to find a solution for their very existence. And you know, what, there is a ready made solution here.

Nick
Yeah, they are sprinting, aren't they? So, you know, we were talking about your particular product, but let's, let's shelve that for a second. Crisis emerges, you know, there's a lot of pressure on IT teams, on you know, within companies that are more on the legacy side, they may not be aware of all of the different options, you know, they they might be spending a lot of their time just trying to keep their systems going and alive.

Ravi K
Yeah.

Nick
Speak to them speak to the IT professionals that need to communicate up to, you know, the Chief Financial Officer, the CEO, you know, none of these none of these answers are going to be inexpensive, but their investments speak to the the IT person and describe to them what they specifically what they should be looking for, how they should, how they should be analyzing different solutions for their particular problem.

Ravi K
So I was reading a recent article, Nick, it was again in the context of what is now become core to the balance sheet for large companies. And this wasn't restricted with an insurance but it obviously applies as much to an insurance company as it would to any other company, that 60% of the day to day work that gets done within an IT company has started to be considered as not non essential, but it doesn't have a direct correlation with revenues, right? I mean, and in a way, that's the traditional model of considering or looking at IT as a back office function. Now 60% by itself, I feel a significant progress. A decade ago, that number was probably 80% where people thought 80% of the day to day activities within an IT company within the IT department of a company is not directly correlating with revenue generation. And to me, that's the single biggest change that something like the new world that we're living living in, will induce where you would allow things which are keeping the lights on type of activities, to be less in proportion to the other things that the IT department can do. So things that have taken a lot more time, keeping things on working to make sure that all of your mainframe systems are patched and upgraded and kind of re versioned in order to still allow for batch feeds on a nightly basis to fulfill and satisfy the needs of your you know, your your policy administration requirements, we literally in one blow, you could do away with all of those activities. And on top of it every time you make even a small tweak, like instead of literally my last comment here, instead of having to worry about patching, reversioning, upgrading your inbuilt mainframe legacy software and then doing a batch feed of data into your transactional system, you replace that whole definition that that I just said with a web based, you know, software as a service type of solution, which is batched upgraded reversion by the company that is providing the software And oh, by the way, you don't do it in batch mode, you're doing it in real time the you know, the synchronization is happening in real time. Now, all of a sudden, you've completely eliminated the additional latency that that was involved in the previous process, thus now enabling your it workforce to focus on more strategic activities. What they can then put their very I feel hard earned and high IQ capabilities, which is to think bigger, think more innovatively is. Now we have data. What do we do with this data? How do we utilize the data to run loss run reports? And then get predictive about the nature of our customers? How do we redesign our policies, right, in order to cater to a certain insurer, or insured constituency, which seems to be raising claims on this particular category day in and day out? So how do we analyze and design our products in a better manner? So you get to move up the value chain of prominence as an IT function by utilizing you know, the New Age solutions.

Nick
I'm so happy you, you I'm so happy you connected the dots all the way to that part of it. It's for for executives, of insurance companies. What this is going to do, as you just described, is it's going to tear down the silos.

Ravi K
Exactly.

Nick
The the all of the analog silos actuarial does this, claims does this, back office does this, filings does this, underwriting does this other piece. It tears it all down because data is like I'll you, I'm thinking of a bad analogy, but that is like that is like sunlight. Right? Like Yes, you it it will it will get through like it will it will, it will go through blinds it you know it you you can't stop it. It's and what that what that data does because it's so so penetrating, is it'll be extremely difficult to basically not have the marketing team communicate with the claims team. Right? Like it'll it'll be very easy for the claims team and the marketing team to sit down and say, you know, this natural catastrophe occurred and what what did we learn about that? How can we use that? All the way to product development. That to me that's like you keep thinking, you know, second order/third order effects. That's the to me that's going to be the gigantic one that executive should be like ecstatic doing cartwheels over is I'm going to be able to tear down these silos, and we're going to be able to run a much, much more effective business where data then can can flow between departments and we can actually do more we can create more solutions, better solutions. That's the promise of the, you know, this digital movement that

Ravi K
again, hundred percent agree with you make, in fact, I had a comment on that. And which kind of also turns into a question, which is the translation of that versus what is still very much the status quo is that in a lot of legacy companies in the insurance industry, the faculty of innovation, right, whether it's a chief innovation officer or someone who's responsible for innovation seems to be a siloed function, which from an HR perspective seems to report into marketing or to operations. And wherever it is, where it is not, is in the traditional IT area. And to me that it by itself feels very curious or rather, to me, it's not that it fits within IT. But to me, innovation is a mindset, it's not a role. And that needs to permeate across to each one of these defined faculties that I named and that you name. And as a result, to me, the kind of partition or this cocooning of innovation as a HR job title, while it is in a way self serving to whoever is responsible for it, and they become accountable for quote/unquote, innovation, but to me that innovation and the DNA that is that needs to transcend across each one of these other functions in order to truly make that organization innovative? Would you agree there?

Nick
Yeah, completely if, Ravi, if you, if you ask me, you know, how do you know if a company is serious about solving this particular problem. And to me, it all boils down to if the C level execs aren't rolling up their sleeves on a day to day basis, like meeting with the, you can have an innovation, job title, but if the CEO is not directly communicating with that person in a very collaborative way, not just executive summaries, it's not gonna work. Ultimately, that person has a job title, but you know, if you can't if the CEO is not directly involved, I just don't see how how it functions or how are you going to get to where you want to go?

Ravi K
Hundred percent hundred percent agree with you there.

Nick
Yeah. So I think that's an awesome way to sort of end this conversation because it's rather than you and me patting each other on the back, agreeing on everything. We should, we should, we should leave it there. And this was a really solid conversation about innovation and insurance and what needs to be done. Thank you so much for geeking out with me on a Saturday afternoon Ravi

Ravi K
absolutely no problem. In fact, much appreciated. It was an exhilarating session, as has always been the case, Nick, you know, again, as I said, I've been a reader of your material online and all of that. So got an opportunity to converse with you really appreciate that and had a great time doing this.

Nick
Yeah. So for anyone that's listening, of course, keep continue to stay safe. Where we're now getting they're unlocking us. So I'm now seeing folks going out to dinner or whatever, but that does not mean you should not be safe. Continue to have social distances where appropriate, wear your mask, always wash your hands, stay clean. For this particular episode if you want any sort of the links to connect to Ravi. to is it Innoveo or Innoveo?

Ravi K
Innoveo

Nick
Innoveo actually sounds better rolls off. If you want connections, the links, the transcripts, the video, you want to watch this just when the link goes out, just go to that don't crash pull over the side of the road. And as usual to my guests, Ravi, thank you so much again.

Ravi K
Thanks so much, Nick was a pleasure.

Nick
Appreciate it.