The Emerging Tech Series: William Steenbergen, CTO, Federato

November 14, 2023

William Steenbergen, CTO and Co-Founder of Federato recently joined Gavin Savage, host of the Emerging Tech Series podcast to talk about Federato’s mission to help P&C and Specialty insurers better manage risk, and the importance of investing in modern technology and tooling to enable underwriters to make better risk selection decisions and achieve their portfolio goals.

On this episode of the Emerging Tech Series podcast, William Steenbergen discusses how he moved from a background in mathematics, where he worked at the forefront of reinforcement learning and the algorithms used in ChatGPT, to engineering to co-founding Federato to solve major challenges in the insurance industry.

William shares what surprised him the most about the insurance industry when he and co-founder Will Ross were conducting 1,200+ hours of interviews with underwriters prior to launching the RiskOps Underwriting Platform, and why identifying the problem facing insurers today was much harder than actually solving it.

“I realized that in the insurance world, there is a big need to optimize portfolios, to think about correlations within your portfolio and see your portfolio from a helicopter view. And as I started working on it, I realized that if you really look at who makes the difference in insurance companies, namely underwriters and actuaries, these people are really struggling to talk to each other and implement what they think is the right strategy for their portfolio.”

– William Steenbergen, CTO and Co-Founder, Federato

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Key Takeaways

  • Why organizing an insurer’s data properly to unlock its business value is an underestimated value of the RiskOps Underwriting Platform 
  • What differentiates RiskOps from a traditional so-called underwriting workbench
  • Why adding business value incrementally is important in an extremely risk-averse industry like insurance
  • Why William is optimistic – and not fearful – about the evolution of AI
  • The culture of curiosity and first principles that Federato is building


“We spent the first six, seven, eight months not writing a single line of code… We basically spent those months interviewing underwriters to truly understand the space, truly understand people's problems because we talk a lot about business problems, but I think it's important to think about the people's problems and kind of go from there.” 
“A lot of insurance carriers are using great models, but ‘If your models are that good, why are you unable to build your portfolio in a sustainable way?’ We started to look at how insurers are communicating the results of those models to actual strategy. And it turns out that a lot of it is just PDFs and Excel files emailed to underwriters…. If you invest all this time and money into great models, then why don't you invest in making sure that you can operationalize them?”
“We streamline that communication between actuaries and underwriters from, ‘Hey, what do I want my portfolio to look like?’ to, “What actions do I or my underwriters actually need to take to achieve that specific portfolio?"
“As an engineer, you are making a ton of small decisions, design decisions, coding decisions that actually affect the user experience, right? And if you don't understand what the user experience needs to be or why it's being used, those decisions are going to be wrong, and all those super tiny decisions pile up into an unusable product, right?”

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