Women in Insurance: Kacie Conroy, Director of IT, M3 Insurance

Women in Insurance - December 1 2021

In this interview series, we profile women who are shaping the future of insurance. This week, we connect with Kacie Conroy, MBA, CBAP, Director of IT at M3 Insurance, a full-service insurance brokerage firm, and one of the top 50 insurance brokers in the United States. We sat down with Kacie to ask a few questions about her path to insurance, the impact of emerging technologies like AI on brokerage operations, the benefits of blending the startup and business worlds, and why it’s important to resist “bright shiny object syndrome” when evaluating insurtech solutions.

Kacie, prior to M3, you worked in multiple industries including medical devices, healthcare, and insurance and startup-technology as a business analyst and product manager. Tell us about your path to insurance, and what can insurance companies learn from other industries when it comes to IT innovation and the customer experience?

Like many, I fell into Insurance by way of introduction from a peer while going to grad school. At first, as a technologist, it gave me a little pause, thinking about moving from technology to insurance. As I learned more, I saw an exciting opportunity to leverage my technology background and bring that experience to an industry that was emerging in this area. There were loads of opportunities to help shape our future with technology being at the forefront. The timing could not have been better, with the rise of insurtech.

Now is the time for Insurance companies to deepen their understanding about IT and Innovation. They can start by looking at tech companies. It all comes down to two things. Merge the IT and business worlds together to innovate and to experiment early and often. This means you need to build a culture of experimentation and change resiliency. That also means that the term “failure” needs to be redefined. The only failure is not trying, not experimenting, and not learning. This approach allows you to learn, adapt, and ultimately bring more value to your business.

You serve on the Board of Directors for BrokerTech Ventures, a broker-led incubator and venture group focused on broker-centric technology startups. When we think about insurtech and digital transformation, what skills and capabilities do modern brokerages need to invest in to stay competitive and be successful in the future?

There is most certainly an aspect of thinking abstractly about innovation. In today’s world, we have so much technological advancement that technology is the easy part. The focus, and the hard part, is all about HOW you innovate, HOW you implement the change. With seemingly unlimited options, it requires businesses to think more creatively like an artist when it comes to painting the picture of their innovation strategy.

The other important capability here is change resiliency. Technology moves at such a rapid pace, and the insurance industry is now seeing this firsthand. In some ways, insurtech is challenging our risk management roots. We need to get more comfortable with change, specifically the unknown, and stop striving for perfection. The only thing constant in today’s world is change, so we best get comfortable with it to stay on the leading edge.

Technology startups often have very different cultures than established insurance companies. You’ve been a proponent for bringing startup innovation practices into the corporate world of insurance. How do you build a culture of innovation, and what advice would you give brokerages on how to make insurtech partnerships work?

Yes! I love blending the startup and business worlds together. I especially love the term “intrapreneur” here. When cultivating innovation in your organization, locate those intrapreneurs who thrive on change, are curious and think creatively to establish a foundation of innovation. Use this newly formed community to participate in pilots of new innovative technology. It also creates a strong partnership with insurtech organizations. Allowing these startups to have direct access to their customers for feedback on their product is worth its weight in gold. Oh, and by the way, this deep partnership benefits us too!

This approach will not only validate if a technology feature is beneficial but also provide further insight into the needs and other considerations for your work. Additionally, this serves as an inclusive practice by giving a non-traditional group the opportunity to drive change, and it gives your employees the ownership and autonomy to create and experiment, offering new meaning to their job. Utilize this movement within your organization to help with your recruiting efforts. New hires to your organization will see this as a differentiator and a draw.

Insurance is a relationship business, but behind the scenes, brokers spend a lot of time on manual processes – checking policies for errors and omissions, comparing quotes, and going back and forth with underwriters. What role does technology play in helping brokers maintain strong carrier relationships?

Technology is playing a big role here, and we are seeing this play out in today’s business. Are there many new technological opportunities here? Yes. Is solving for this complex? Also, yes. It can feel a bit like going into a grocery store when you are hungry. You want to throw everything into the cart. We need to temper the excitement and fend off what I call “the bright shiny object syndrome” (BSOS). This means that to have real, lasting impact here, we have to do this at a much broader level. This starts with solving for the key needs first and then backing in the proper technology. We are getting some good momentum here with RPA and digital quoting/binding tools that help both areas. That said, I am keeping a look out for that next industry tidal wave.

The insurance industry is in the midst of massive change, and the pace of change is accelerating. From a brokerage perspective, if you had to pick one technology trend that will fundamentally transform commercial insurance over the next 5-10 years, what would it be?

Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence. This technology has the ability to streamline manual, repetitive, and time-intensive processes. There is immense opportunity to create efficiencies and free up more high-value, client-oriented advising. I am very bullish about this technology trend because of the many applications it can have in our industry. There is a lot of exciting activity going on right now. That said, we are still getting started. There is a lot of learning and experimentation going on. Once we have more successes under our belt, we will find a lot more opportunity to drive deeper impact in efficiencies. I can’t wait to see how this will change our industry for everyone.

What positive changes have you seen since you began in your career?

Insurtech, insurtech, insurtech. Seeing the rapid rise in innovative technology is not just creating a better client experience, but it is also creating a better work environment for our employees. Seeing how quickly these insurtech startups adopt our feedback and build their product has been a very welcome change. It has been incredibly refreshing to bring in modern technology that solves key problems, creates efficiency and is just all-around fun to use in our daily lives.

What advice would you give the next generation of women considering a career in insurance?

Like most things, see past the label and the stereotypes. Connect with people you know in the business and engage with them about the work, and how much the industry is evolving. Be intentional about creating a diverse network. Recognize that this takes time, and constant nurturing. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the busyness of the day and neglect this part of our careers. However, it is vital to build your community, so make sure you are taking time for this. Lastly, another key point is to find someone who will be your champion. Having someone with a wide access to be your advocate when you aren’t in the room is extremely powerful. Put yourself out there and ask someone to be that for you.


Kacie Conroy

Kacie Conroy is responsible for the strategic oversight and leadership of the IT team and its technology and innovation initiatives throughout M3 Insurance’s offices. Kacie earned her Bachelor of Business Administration in Management Information Systems from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and her Masters of Business Administration from Edgewood College. She draws on her 15 years of business analyst and project management consulting experience to help M3 create innovative solutions. She is also the chair of M3’s Inclusion and Diversity committee. Outside of M3, Kacie serves on the Edgewood College School of Business Advisory board and runs a program called Girls Educating Themselves about Information Technology (GET IT) which educates young girls about IT careers.

 

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