That is your greatest enemy when it comes to scaling your insurance business.

There are only so many conversations you can have and applications you can complete in a day.

One of those is more important and probably deserves the bulk of your time.

Mike Levins, head of insurance at Counterpart, talks about how you can warm up to new ways to do more of the business you want.

Joey Giangola: Mr. Mike Levins. How you doing today, sir?

Mike Levins: I'm doing great, Joey. Thanks for having me on.

Joey Giangola: Mike, before we really get in anything too serious. I kind of want to ask you this first and is there something that you don't have to do, but it's hard not to do?

Mike Levins: Something I don't have to do, but it's hard not to do. You're probably looking for a more thoughtful answer, but I've recently discovered TikTok. And I think it's not something I ... what's the question? Should be doing, but I find myself doing it like, "Wow, that's interesting." So that's probably an odd answer for you.

Joey Giangola: Mike, you can throw [inaudible] out the window because there are no expectations here. For me, it's boarding a plane. I don't know why people feel like they have to board a plane when they're instructed to board a plane. I don't know exactly what they feel like they're accomplishing. Breathing the same recycled air for longer than everybody else. But I like to be last one on.

But anyways, yes, Mike, that was a fantastic answer. I want to move that over to the world of insurance though, because there are a lot of things in the process of buying and selling insurance that we feel like we have to do, but maybe don't. And as you've sort of experienced and tinkered with this arena for a little bit, what have you found that maybe there are some things that we thought we had to do, but necessarily don't anymore?

Mike Levins: I think that's a fascinating question. And for our lens on the insurance space, what we're focused on and trying to gradually change is the thought process that goes through a broker and an agent's mind on the traditional placement of insurance. Whether that's a new business submission or a renewal submission. Just the process of getting hard documents, getting wet signatures, collecting a lot of traditional data, sending it through an email form, which is, I guess, how everything is done today and was new 15, 20 years ago.

But there's so much more that can be accessed and changed in a subtle way that makes your lives a little more efficient and faster and better. And I think it's the adoption of those processes and understanding them and feeling comfortable with underwriting, issuing quotes very quickly that are legitimate quotes that can be sold and bound and issued into policies. So I think there's just a whole lot in our space that ... and I get it, there's comfort with sticking with the traditional. And we're there, we'll meet the insurance agents and brokers in the traditional way. But we'd like to gradually have them convert over and turn it to a little bit more of an efficiency play with trusting the digital method of transacting.

Joey Giangola: So, Mike, you mentioned comfort. Where would you gauge that comfort level right now, if you had to sort of put like a marker to it? And two, how do you warm people up a little bit more? What do you think needs to be done to make them sort of kick their shoes off, put their feet up?

Mike Levins: The comfort level continues to improve. As they've seen these products in the marketplace and they get comfortable. And many times it's, "Hey, I'm not ready to make the change yet, but I'm watching this." And then a renewal comes up and the same process goes through and they're starting to say, "Hey, this is still consistent in the approach. And the company's still there doing a good job." So it does take time for people to get a little more comfortable.

It's interesting in our space, there's a natural tendency with certain agents and brokers to definitely push digital because they're just looking for efficiencies and they're comfortable in that space to begin with. And it's not necessarily just the younger brokers and agents, although that does seem to be predominantly the case. But we are starting to see people are doing things in a more efficient manner, they're being asked to do more and more all the time. And is there a way to gain efficiencies? So I do see that continuing to evolve.

I think a few years ago, people were very uncomfortable with digital platforms and most of our business still comes in traditional. So we're glad to be there. I'm not saying that's the only way ... that digital is the only way to go. But it certainly is on the frontier. And I think that's going to continue to transact a lot more business going forward. So those that want to handle a greater volume are getting comfortable with it.

Joey Giangola: Is there anything else besides just being okay with the idea that you feel might lend itself to that culture shift of saying, again, is it market conditions? Is it just necessity of needing to turn things around in a more quicker way with how the market might end up developing?

Mike Levins: Yeah. And I think this is something where I think the industry needs to work together on this. Is that comfort level with, have I provided enough information, got the right answers. Have I done enough to give enough information back and forth to transact and have this policy be legitimate without having an E&O concern or a challenge of an underwriter coming back saying, "Well, I didn't have that data. So therefore, we couldn't make that move." Everyone's fear is that something is done incorrectly and they have to unwind it or change it or go back. And that just stops the whole process.

So I think it's that comfort level. And if the agents and brokers aren't there today, then it's on us as insurance carriers to continue to provide that comfort level that we're taking a big picture. And there might be small missteps along the way and we're okay with that. And let's kind of educate and move forward through it without causing big problems or heartaches for anyone.

Joey Giangola: What do you think in terms of, again, as they look to new ways to do business, what do you think has ... I guess, how do you break those habits? Is there a way that agents can sort of assess what they're doing? Is there sort of like a checklist, like sort of like a mirror that you just so casually hold up to help them see what's going on in ways that they can improve?

Mike Levins: I don't know if ... and I think we're improving on this. Because we're getting feedback from the agents through the wholesale brokers that we work with, we were a wholesale only, so we're focused on the wholesale channel. And so sometimes it's a little dated to ... dated meaning a month or two has gone by where we get feedback on certain things from the retail agents. But we are getting feedback that we could continue to ... I got through your whole process and here this one step, I wasn't sure about an electronic signature or if you needed a wet signature or what that looked like. So we're improving our communication components with that. But that's a small opportunity.

I think what's happening is we say, "Hey, transact business with us in any which way that works for you. But then as you get to know us and get comfortable with us and feel like you're going down a right path with us, here's a whole other avenue that you can go. Do you want to do digital? Do you want to do API technology with your brokerage? Do you want to set up some bulk quoting opportunities?" We have some brokers that are just sending us, "Hey, can I send you all my August renewals?" And we'll quote them and then send them back to them.

So there's a lot of different things that we can do and get comfortable with. And I think as we make them more aware of what's available, so here are the menu options of how you want to transact. And then wait for ... I don't want to say, wait for them. Encourage them to explore them. But some people are just going to say, "Hey, that's not my style. I'm going to continue to go down this path and this is where I'm going to go." And other people are saying, "Oh, let me try this. Let me try that."

I'll give you an example. I don't want to call them crusty, but an old wholesale broker out in New York that has been doing this for many, many years. And he told me, he is like, "Listen, I'm not going to send you anything through a platform or a portal. That just isn't my style. I'm going to email you, I want to talk to you, I want to engage with you." I'm like, "That's great. Because we want to talk with you, as well. We want to engage with you, as well." But the whole key is, let's make the data part more efficient for you. So we can actually spend more time on the conversation. That's the whole key for us. And I said, "So that's fine. Just send us your email submissions."

And then after a month or two, he was going to email quotes right away and very quickly. And he says, "I'm going to try your platform." I said, "Go ahead, but that's not necessary. But if you'd like to, we'd like to have it." He did it over a weekend. He quoted an account, he liked the quote, he thought the terms were great. He issued the policy over the weekend. So he bound the account and issued the policy. And I called him on Monday, I said, "Well look at you." And he said, "It was so great." So you kind of have to make it available for people and show them that it's there for them, in my view. And then let them kind of come to it, I guess.

Joey Giangola: Well, Mike, [inaudible] there that I don't want to go under the radar. The idea of like you said, bulk quoting and API sort of plugins on the individual agent level. I mean, that's sort of, again, even I think the next level of where that comfort is, I think maybe at arm's reach at best. They might look at it with like a five, ten foot pole sort of thing. They might be poking at it a little bit. I mean, that's a bit of a wild concept of saying, "Listen, like let's just be way more efficient in a way that you never could be before." I would imagine that you might see some agents like eyes rolling to the back of their head when those types of things are floated. But what about the ones that are excited and embrace those opportunities? What conversations do you have with them?

Mike Levins: Oh, we love those guys because that allows us to put our product in play and we can continue to learn from it. And we learn by what are any speed bumps or hurdles that you might encounter in this process? Because we're trying to make it as smooth and as efficient as possible. Is it perfect? Probably not. But we don't know where those speed bumps are today. So we need, as people use it more and more.

And then also this works for our data team. So we actually employ data scientists and they're literally excited about submission flow. They want to see as much submission flow come into the system as we can because we continue to learn from that. Not only on the efficiencies of the front end of handling the flow and the in and out with the data. But we take that data and we use that for actually underwriting purposes. And so we learn from every single account that we see and how it's handled and how it's underwritten, what can we do better in the future?

So there's a lot that goes into that. And I think we start to walk before we run with these individuals. So if someone says, "Hey, I keep reading about APIs. I know from a brokerage standpoint, we probably want to get there. But what does that look like today? Like what's the early step? What's the first step?" In my mind, the first step is before we're actually literally sending information back and forth through digital pipeline. Why don't you just send us a spreadsheet with all of your accounts for, like I said, this is the bulk quoting example.

Send us what you have in September. We take those, put them into our system, we have quotes generated. We have an underwriter, we use a little bit of hybrid model where an underwriter actually reviews the quotes to make sure that everything is lined up and maybe makes them more competitive in certain areas or tweaks them a little bit. And then sends them right back out to the broker. We know that those quotes may not always help them with the renewals, but I think you and I were talking earlier about, how do we become more efficient? Is there another extra phone call we can make? One extra step we can take to create some efficiencies and actually CA maybe a great renewal instead of just a normal renewal.

Joey Giangola: Yeah. I definitely wanted to sort of talk about that a little bit in terms of when you have agents that are able to be a little bit ahead of it. They're not sort of dealing with what's on the desk today sort of thing. How much ... and this is the kicker, right? How much of a better experience are they able to provide their client in terms of a renewal and a quoting and possibly a rate experience? Because they have time to go out and get maybe one or two extra opportunities that they could put in front of them. Is that available and do you see it happening as much as maybe as it should?

Mike Levins: We are maybe a little unique in our space in that we want to see all the submissions. And I know a lot of carriers say, "Hey, you're flooding us with submissions. We can't get through them all." We want to get through them all within 24 hours. So our system's set up for that flow. So we want to engage with retail agents and give them the opportunity. I think it's something we're learning.

For example, a retail agent may market a renewal 60 days out from the expiration. Well, we turn around and give them a quote on day 59 out, and then they're not receiving a renewal quotes up until two weeks prior. So sometimes our quote actually sits there for two months before it's actually enacted on. So we're working with the timing with almost being in that case, almost too efficient for them. But there's a lot that can go into it. And these are just the first steps of building more of a digital pipeline, where we can transact in a faster, more efficient way.

I think the other key here we've not touched on is through our wholesale partners. So, our PS broker could literally give our application a digital application to that retail agent, that they save on their desktop and they can fill it out and complete it. And we'll see this happen on weekends when people are saying, "Oh my gosh, we're going out on that property renewal on Monday. And I was going to get an EPL quote." We'll see people type in, "I forgot to do that. Let me get a quick EPL quote from Counterpart." And they'll get a quote on Sunday night, go out the door with it on Monday morning. So there is platforms and efficiencies that the retail agents have at their fingertips. We're just trying to educate the wholesale brokers about everything that's available to them.

Joey Giangola: I guess I'll toss this question, I don't know if it's necessarily a fair one, Mike, but we'll give it to you anyways.

Mike Levins: Sure.

Joey Giangola: Given the state of the market and its challenge that it has presented, do you think that taking the extra opportunities and maybe not just accepting a rate that might just be okay, the same, maybe slightly better or slightly worse than last year. Do you think that there's an opportunity to really turn the tide on this? If you really do the due diligence and you put in the extra leg work.

Mike Levins: Yeah. And that's where I think we're trying to make it super easy for someone to do a little extra due diligence, to get another qualified quote presented. There definitely is, I think that opportunity, we're working through this quite a bit where ... and listen, everyone's busy and we understand that. And there are other markets, what's going on in the cyber market and challenges over there that are causing a lot of time to be taken from a professional liability broker. And so they want an easy, efficient management liability renewal, and we get that. So we're all about trying to create that efficiency for that broker. So it's an easy process for them.

And say, they're used to getting 10, 15, 20% increases in management liability. And now they might be getting a 5% or a 10%, maybe even a flat renewal. I get that mentally like, "Hey, that's a win." What we are missing out on is one extra step, whatever submission. You don't have to put it in through a platform. Send us an email with that account, we'll have a quote for you probably same day. And what also comes with that is, we're sending out risk assessment, similar to what the cyber companies have done. So we'll help a management reliability customer understand why they're paying what they are for a D&O, EPL fiduciary quote. Give them a little snapshot into the underwriting that goes into behind the scenes.

Now with our platform, sometimes we might actually verify and say, "Hey, that's actually a great quote that you have. Because our pricing might come out to be a little higher." We're seeing a lot of things that other markets are not seeing. We pull a lot of third party data instantly to analyze that company. And there might be something on the horizon we view is a little riskier. So we might say, "Hey, you got a nice renewal there at $10,000. Honestly, that looks good to us, because we'd probably be closer to 12 or 13 on this one." And that's verifying just kind of justifying that the broker feels like, "Hey, I've got a good quote in the end."

And many times the opposite happens. We're seeing something that makes it look a little more appetizing to us. And we say, "Hey, it's a good account. It looks like 10,000 was a fair price. But we actually think 8,000 is probably more appropriate because we're seeing this company do the right things in the marketplace. Their vendors, their suppliers, their customers, their employees are all kind of motivated to be with this company and work with this company. We think that warrants a better price." And so you can very easily get a better deal by taking that additional step.

Joey Giangola: This is a simple question. I don't know if there's an easy answer, we'll see. How would you sort of, I guess, define an agent knowing that they have covered the market? Is there an exercise? Is there a number of like options that they should have looked at to feel like, "Man, I feel like I really know we're in a good spot here."

Mike Levins: Yeah. No, I think that's a fair question. It's almost like a benchmarking example, right?

Joey Giangola: Yeah.

Mike Levins: Yeah. I've gone historically, I've gotten three or four quotes. You feel like you take the ... it's almost like when we're buying auto insurance. How many quotes do you really want to go get and present with yourself? So you get three or four, you kind know where the market is and you know what you're getting and you probably choose the best one from there.

I think there's just a lot of dynamic things happening in this space, the private management liability space today. I don't want to pick on anyone in general. But if you're relying on the same carriers that you've always used for the past 10 years, they're solid, they're stable, they get great reputation, a great brand, you're comfortable with them. I get all of that. But you might be missing out on something new. And I think that's where you should pull in someone else that is taking a different view of the marketplace and see what they think. Many times the product might be, again, here's a great product with better sub limits or different retentions or something unique that is not presented in a more of a traditional market.

Joey Giangola: Mike, you're kind of living and breathing this every day and your comfort level with where you're trying to get the industry's comfort level is, is probably very different. So I kind of want to know what's on your radar? What's making you feel a little uncomfortable right now? Where do you maybe kind of want to get to? What's on the horizon that you want people to be aware of that might be hopefully coming, even beyond sort of our conversation right now?

Mike Levins: Well, it's a dynamic marketplace. The private management reliability space has been hardening for a number of years and we're seeing it softened very, very quickly. Which has pros and cons with everything, right? So, that creates some opportunities in certain segments. So I think we're monitoring that and we're watching that. Our whole focus is to continue to be customer-centric. And that involves actually the insured as well as the retail agent and definitely the wholesale broker. So that whole channel and how we're being efficiently approaching that channel.

And so to kind of get more direct to your question, what we're seeing now is people have developed these cyber platforms and now they're pivoting towards management liability. And so whether that is a third party vendor, that's creating their own platform. Whether that is a wholesale brokerage, such as RPS, having their own in-house platform that they work with. And you're seeing a lot of activity in discussions in there. And I think it's going to shake out a little bit on who's actually doing what, where and how. So, I think that's probably the next six months as we go into the softening market, how do markets such as ourselves and others continue to have access to a variety of accounts? We only deserve that if we can actually make it easier on the broker and the agent and the insured to get our products, understand our products and see our products. So we have to fight for that and deserve to get that by showing that we have a great process.

Joey Giangola: All right, Mike, I've got three more questions for you, sir.

Mike Levins: Sure.

Joey Giangola: And the first one is very simply, what's one thing you hope you never forget?

Mike Levins: Oh, I think ... well, one thing I hope I never forget. And I'm sure I won't is that this is an amazing industry, it's an amazing business. If it isn't, we wouldn't all be in it. But the relationships and the trust that is generated by working with good partners, such as RPS and others, that's what I never want to forget. You can create the best model, the most efficient thing, the next greatest thing. But if it's not doing something that helps your partners with their process, their risk, their analysis, creating something a little more efficient, giving them greater clarity into why the ratings are, why they are. We want to build those relationships and take them down to the insured level.

Many of our insureds are small to medium size. They don't have full-time risk management teams that are out there scouring what's happening in the marketplace. So it kind of goes back to me, you asked a simple question and I made it an elaborate one. It's about the relationships. It always is. And I think for as far as I can see, it always will be.

Joey Giangola: Now, Mike, on the other side of that, what's one thing you still have yet to learn?

Mike Levins: It's funny, being kind of a tech-centric company and working with a lot of very smart people that are great at quantifying things and analyzing things and trying to boil things down to mathematics and controls and things like that. One thing I'm still learning is the dynamics of not only this industry, but really the businesses that our industry is serving. And the challenges that they're facing all the time and their growth and their issues and their ... look at COVID. I mean, up and down and staffing and all sorts of things going on.

That the dynamic industries that we are serving as an insurance industry is something that we continue to try and learn more about. And I don't think we should always ever have it fully quantified. But we want to use as much math and technical expertise as we can to get us to the appropriate level of understanding. And then layer on those relationships in the foresight of, well, where is this company going? And are they doing the right thing? Are we seeing the right steps be taken by the management? Can we get behind that and therefore provide a better product for that company?

Joey Giangola: All right, Mike, last question to you, sir. If I were to hand you a magic wand of sorts to reshape, change, alter, speed up, really any part of insurance, what's that thing? Where is it going? And what's it doing?

Mike Levins: Oh, wow, these are great questions. You know what I think is fascinating? And it doesn't really bother us, but we're talking at a macro level right now is that, people that get it realize the insurance products out there really allow them to operate their businesses. And without it, it'd be hard to do.

I don't know if you watched Shark Tank, but at one point I think Mark Cuban was on there and he picked up on this right away. He said, "That looks like a really amazing product. I think it's very fascinating. It really could go far. But I don't think any insurance company would ever ensure that and therefore I'm out." And so it's one of those things where ... and this doesn't bother us that have been in the industry for a while. But our industry warrants and deserves a lot of respect and I think we get that in most circles. But every now and then, people are like, "Well, I don't really understand what you guys do."

But we facilitate business to allow individual businesses to be successful, honestly, by providing that safeguard. So that understanding, I guess, is what I continue to hope that the countries in the world continue to see as much as we see.

Joey Giangola: Mike, this has been fantastic, sir. I'm going to leave it right there.

Mike Levins: Thank you. I appreciate, Joey. It was fun chatting with you. I think I got a little long winded on a few points there, but I enjoyed the conversation.