We’re excited to welcome Verlyn Fischer to the Federato senior leadership team as our new Vice President of Product. Prior to joining Federato, Verlyn was Principal Product Manager at Acrisure, the fastest growing insurance brokerage in industry history with nearly $4B in annual revenue. A seasoned enterprise SaaS product leader, he has delivered design-driven AI/ML products for leading companies including Living Security, DISCO, Sentient Play, and IBM, where he served as Watson Design Manager (and worked with Federato co-founder and CEO Will Ross). We sat down with Verlyn to ask a few questions about why he joined Federato, building world-class products, and how technologies like AI and machine learning are transforming the insurance industry.
1. Welcome to the team, Verlyn! You coined a phrase that has become a core value for Federato: “Businesses don’t have problems, people do.” It’s a rare opportunity to get to work with the person who inspired the entire product philosophy of the company! Can you share a bit more about your product vision, and why it’s important to solve for the needs of the individuals who work for our insurance customers?
It’s been my experience that the most expedient way to solve large company and industry problems is to recast them as smaller problems faced by individuals. This is important as it allows Federato to use an iterative “discover, design, and deliver” product development process. Federato’s product vision is to transform the underwriting experience by assembling disparate data and guidelines into a single “pane of glass”, enabling sleek workflows with modern user interfaces that match the underwriter’s evolving role, and aligning portfolio strategy with underwriting action. By taking a human-centric approach, we aim to make underwriting more unified, efficient, precise, and painless.
2. What attracted you to Federato? What stood out about the Federato team, technology, or approach that made you want to come on this journey with us?
The fact that Federato acts with intention resonates with me. I see intention in our company values and the way they are lived. I see intention in the product vision and product strategy. I see intention in the way that we learn from our users and the way we support them. And the company does this with humility by regularly questioning assumptions and, more importantly, testing them. Federato is on a shared journey with underwriters and, for the reasons above, it’s a journey I couldn’t resist.
3. One of the things that made you a “must have” addition to the Federato leadership team is your human approach to using advanced technologies to not only tackle complex business challenges, but improve the lives of people. Where does that human-centric perspective come from, and are there specific companies or products that you look to for inspiration?
I firmly believe that everyone can use their talents to make a positive impact on the world around them. My passion is finding ways to use technology to amplify these talents and make greater impacts, sooner. I’ve found that a human-centric approach, one that places the needs and interests of people at the forefront, allows better decision making when designing user experiences and the products that support them. For me, a human-centric approach comes from a personal and professional commitment to empathy and compassion. While the usual suspects, like Apple and Zappo, are great places to draw inspiration, we’re in a user-centered design renaissance and there are a wealth of other places that we can look to.
4. Throughout your career, you’ve focused primarily on AI/ML, most recently at Acrisure, a leading insurance brokerage, and have deep knowledge of AI and machine learning. When you think about insurance, where significant investments are being made in these areas, what’s your take on how well the industry is capitalizing on these advancements?
Where AI/ML is concerned, the insurance industry, like many others, has only begun to scratch the surface. While technology advances are increasing at an exponential rate, incorporating these into human-centered business processes is a painstaking endeavor. For instance, providing underwriters with AI-enabled super powers requires that new technology seamlessly integrates with the entire underwriter experience. Nonetheless, the traction is real as we see that optical character recognition and natural language processing are used for processing submissions, recommendation engines are used when triaging submissions, rules engines are helping to assess risk, machine learning models are in use for processing, and digital workflows are improving the efficiency of processing.
5. What’s one thing that people might be surprised to learn about you?
I pilot a type of light sport aircraft called a “trike”. To me, it’s like riding a flying motorcycle. It’s fun to take my son on scenic flights in the Texas Hill Country.
6. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
One achievement I think back on regularly is climbing Mount Rainier in Washington state. There were four of us roped together with ice axes, helmets, and crampons, working as a team to summit the 14,411 foot peak. We spent nine months in preparation – conditioning our bodies and sharpening our mountaineering skills. I was in awe when I reached the top and saw a view of the other 14 thousand foot peaks in the Cascade Range.
7. What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?
Picking a favorite is almost impossible as I tend to cultivate a lot of hobbies and try out lots of experiences. One thing I’ve really enjoyed recently is scuba diving. My wife and I took up diving a couple years ago and have become enamored with the beauty of the ocean and the otherworldly underwater experience.
8. It’s that time a year when we start to see a lot of predictions coming out about what 2023 will have in store for the insurance industry. Care to dust off your crystal ball and weigh in on the trends and challenges that will be top-of-mind for insurers next year?
I suspect that emerging risks arising from climate change, social inflation, and cybersecurity threats will be challenges that the insurance industry will continue to tackle in 2023 and beyond. We’ll likely see a heavier reliance on physical risk assessment models when rich historical data isn’t available and a more dynamic approach to assessing individual risks based on those rapidly evolving models. I predict that insurance companies will rely more heavily upon underwriters to help them navigate paths to optimal growth and profitability in areas impacted by emerging risks. Lastly, I suspect that underwriters will need greater volumes of data – in a format that is clear and actionable.