Broker Buddha CEO, Jason Keck, is joined by Sr. Vice President and Principal at York International, Andrew Krantz. Jason and Andrew met 4 years ago at an insuretech dinner and have bonded through insurance and technology. What motivates and inspires Andrew is that the insurance industry is in a state of positive change. The changes are ultimately leading to better business practices and improved client experiences.
Learn more about Andrew.
Season 2, Episode 16
Jason Keck: I just wrapped up another fantastic episode of The Enlightened Agent today. On the show we had Andrew Krantz, senior vice president and principal at York International. Andrew and I met four years ago at an InsureTech dinner here in New York and we've been talking ever since about insurance, technology, data and the client experience.
Really fun show, I hope you all stick around and enjoy what Andrew had to say.
Hi, and welcome to another episode of The Enlightened Agent. A podcast that brings you conversations with top insurance professionals and industry leaders. My name is Jason Keck, and I'm joined today by Andrew Krantz, Senior Vice President and Principal at York international. Andrew, welcome to the show!
Andrew Krantz: Hey Jason, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
JK: We've known each other for a while, but I was sniffing around to see the latest and greatest about Andrew Krantz and came across the fact that you were recognized by the Business Council of Westchester as a rising star, that's incredible.
I wanted to congratulate you first of all, and second of all I'd love for you to tell our listeners what you've been doing to qualify you for such a prestigious award.
AK: I appreciate it, you're too kind. This is council Westchester's great organization up in Westchester County. It's really a team effort, but happy to take a little bit of the credit.
We've been helping businesses think about insurance smarter and helping making it simpler and easier for them to navigate a complex and important industry. I've been at the forefront in telling new business owners what we do and how we can help them. We're very involved philanthropically and in business in Westchester County.
I'm one in a long line of “Yorkies” who have received such a designation and happy to be next and look forward to passing the torch on to many more on the team.
JK: Are you based in Westchester? I think you live here in the city, right? Where do you spend most of your time?
AK: I do live in the city and we do have HQ up in Harrison, which is right outside of White Plains in Westchester about 30 miles north of the city.
JK: Do you do most of your business in Westchester, New York area, or is the digital world allowing you to do things nationwide right now?
AK: Well, we are York International and so we do business everywhere.
We primarily deal with business owners and individuals in the tri-state area and more and more over the last 10, 15 years we've been placing insurance all over the country and internationally.
JK: Do you have a particular specialty? Insurance is very broad, right? A lot of businesses need insurance out there. Personal, commercial focused, any particular vertical that you love?
AK: The agency's about 70% property casualty. Then split by group benefits and personal insurance. We do life insurance annuities as well.
JK: Do you have a passion or a love? Early in our conversations, you used to go to a bunch of real estate conferences. Is that still a heavy thing for you?
AK: That's still very much a thing. We are in New York city, and we've grown up in the real estate space. We work a lot with owner operators, landlords, developers, co-ops and condos, managing agents. All the service industries that feed into the real estate space, that's what we do. I help run our real estate practice group.
JK: You and I met more than four years ago now, right after InsureTech connect. There was a InsureTech dinner in New York and I learned then, and still appreciate it now, that as a young leader in the industry, I could see you have a passion for technology and the use of technology and the industry.
I’m curious to get your thoughts on the state of insuretech today and what's evolved over the last four years since we met.
AK: I'll start with the story of how we met because it gives a lens into how I view insuretech these days. It was a VC who invited me, it was a big round table. I think there was like 20 folks at the table and we're going around in a circle, everybody introducing themselves, who they are, what they do, etc. It just so happened that I was last or one of the last. Everybody's going around and it was mostly the VC’s, entrepreneurs, a couple of carriers, and everybody's talking about five years ago, disintermediation was the hot topic and how tech was going to replace the insurance brokerage community.
Finally it got to you, and you said “I'm founding a business to empower independent agents and brokers to be better, be more modern. Help to run a more efficient business and provide a better customer experience”. Needless to say, I didn't let you walk any further than the table after that dinner and we've been friends ever since.
That truly puts a view, puts a fine point on how I view InsureTech. There's been billions of dollars invested and many different sectors trying to solve a lot of problems. I've lived personally with this industry, I'm third generation insurance and know how important the industry is. How local and grassroots it is on certain levels, even though it can scale up,
I also know intimately that the industry needs to modernize. How do we do that in a way that's going to provide better user experience and help the businesses who are helping the customers run better operations?
JK: There's no question that (I don't know if you can call it InsureTech an industry) but it's very robust with billions of dollars invested.
Some of that money going towards full-stack carriers. Companies that are just showing up and saying “we're going to rewire the entire industry” in a particular insurance vertical or a particular product line. Then you've got a pretty robust second phase of technology enablers, right?
Showing up to help the agents, the carriers, and everybody in between. Now I feel like there's this new wave coming around of embedded insurance which is around companies, selling insurance in places where it's never been sold before. At the point of sale or point of views or point of risk, which I think is super fascinating. It's neither disrupting the incumbents nor enabling the incumbents. If anything it's actually expanding the pie and saying “hey, we're going to create a new market for insurance by selling new products at a place in a time where nobody ever really thought about it”. Embedded insurance is the third wave of InsureTech and it doesn't seem like it's stopping.
Are there any particular technologies or products that you've come across that you find interesting, exciting, rewarding, eye-opening? Did you get to Insuretech Connect this year? Have you been to any conferences? Just kind of curious what's top of mind.
AK: Since that dinner, we have been very loyal and happy customers of the Broker Buddha platform. I know you don't like talking about yourself, but that was one of the first products that we dabbled in as an agency to help us modernize the customer experience. It really taught us so many more things about how we can be better at running our own business, which in turn will also help our customers.
It's been a pleasure to both utilize and learn from you and your team and the software that you provide.
JK: Thanks for your business and thanks for the discovery that we've done together around what works, what doesn't work and how to create an amazing client experience.
What's the right level of personal touch points and digital touch points and simplification that we can do without fully automating the entire journey? You don't want to take the agent out of the experience you want to help them do it more efficiently. Which is what we've been getting better and better at over the years.
We're allowing agents to collect and gather data in a structured format in a way that allows them to reuse that like they never had before. One of the things that is a hot topic in the industry right now is obviously data, and the use of data. People are spending a ton of time trying to extract data from PDF’s which are used to exchange information, unfortunately. They’re good for signing contracts, terrible for changing data, because getting data off of them is so hard. That’s one of the things that we do extremely well, is we help companies structure their data and make it available to them.
Data is a hot topic for you. Is there anything that you want to share with the audience about what you guys do with data, how you use data, and why it's important?
AK: There's a laundry list of the ways in which our industry is not using this valuable asset of data. I have a lot of views on what I'd like to do, and let's say it's a work in progress.
You can talk about agency management systems and not enabling us to access that data and data in a meaningful way. We talked about real estate and then I always say to our team “what’s the latest price per unit”? That's how owners think, how much is insurance going to cost me per unit?
We know because we're doing deals all the time and because we've been doing this a long time. We have an active pulse on the market. That's just in our gut, it's because we remember the last three or four deals that we do. There's no way for us to look at that, or we've not been able to successfully capture that data on a broad scale, in a meaningful way that allows us to draw insights, to negotiate even better deals or help us be smarter or help bring additional value to the clients as they're underwriting new deals.
JK: One of the things that I imagined would be a powerful use for the data is just transparency. Creating exactly what you're talking about, which is the ability for you to say by client, by segment, by industry, and by location. What are people paying for their products, is it fair?
What are the limits they're getting where they're paying, given the limits they're getting? How does that compare to others? That type of benchmarking data is hard to come by. It's mostly only available for public companies. When you're talking about private companies, there's next to nothing out there so I can appreciate the need for that.
As a consumer of insurance, somebody who buys insurance, I feel like the amount of information that I get before making a purchase is pretty limited. It’s basically trusting my agent that they know what you know, which is what is, and isn't fair, but I think I'll have a much more comfortable time with the buying process if I had more information.
AK: We spend our ethos and what we think about all the time is the fact that the entire insurance purchasing process is opaque. Yes it helps when you trust your broker, and we always seek to build those kinds of relationships. How we do that is by bringing the customer or the business owner into the process and explaining what moves the needle.
What about them specifically will allow us to tell their story better that the underwriter is going to care about. All of these insurance companies are overstaffed and overworked. How do you differentiate one vanilla risk from another? How do you properly explain a story that has some intricacy to it?
Data is one way, but involving the customer in the process so they can tell their story in a way that's super meaningful. Being able to coach them on how to do that is going to impact the end result. That's unlocked a lot of fruitful relationships for us and for the customers that we work with.
JK: I've heard you talk about customers, and customer experience a couple of times so far on the show. I come from the consumer internet space. Customer experience is everything right? When you build a mobile app, you have one chance to hook somebody on using it. Otherwise, they're gone.
They're just very finicky people so we've put a lot of emphasis on design, onboard and user experience. When you think about client experience, it's very different from buying a mobile app. Let's be super clear, the difference between installing a mobile app, and buying a hundred thousand dollars insurance policy are very different. I'm curious how you approach that. It's a different approach, but I’m interested in how you go about it with your clients when it comes to both acquiring new clients and keeping them.
AK: With new clients, we learned that taking them through a workshop right is a way in which we can have an organized onboarding process. Customer acquisition costs for an insurance business can be incredibly high. Given how much time you have to spend the first year, the first renewal is always the most challenging, because you're getting to understand the intricacies of those, the client and their risks and their challenges.
We built this workshop which is a set of questions, to put it simply. A structured way of capturing data, and it's a way in which we're not sitting across from the table from the customer, we're sitting on the same side. We are helping them navigate this industry that's complex.
JK: Can you talk to me through that?
You sit down? Is this a day, is this an hour?
AK: Nobody could spend a day on insurance. Come on, Jason.
JK: In workshops you can get a lot done in a day.
AK: We like to break it off into 45 to 60 minute chunks. They go along, we're jamming. It usually takes two sessions, and once we've done that we get a thorough understanding of the business.
We bring it back to the team, and we kick it around. We ask for the client to provide some additional information, hopefully collected through Broker Buddha platform of course. For the most part we're off to the races, of course there's back and forth to follow.
JK: What is it about the workshop that makes such a difference? Why is that so powerful?
AK: Tt allows the questions we're asking to help new customers who don't necessarily know us, whether they're referred or not, to get a feel that we understand their business. Take real estate, since we’ve talked about that. We know what challenges they're facing, we know how tough New York city can be with laws and regulations.
The questions are designed to extract the information and allow us to tell stories that sympathizes and empathizes and also conveys we've got a plan to help.
JK: When you think about job interviews, they tell you that one of the best ways to make a good impression is through the questions you ask them.
You're showing that you understand the role, the business, you show a level of interest, and you challenge them. So I can imagine a similar approach from a prospecting and connecting perspective with your clients would have a similar effect. You're educating them about their industry by asking them challenging questions.
You're showing them that you've been down this road before and you've done this. How did you learn all that? How did you learn those questions to ask?
AK: Full disclosure, we've been in business for 35 plus years. I've been on the team 11 years and there are many lessons learned. I just help the team take all those lessons and distill them back into questions.
They typically stem from a problem that we solved, a claim that we got covered for some specific reason, some sort of challenge that another business owner like them had.
JK: Do you distill it down or do you drive these workshops? Do you run the workshops or does everybody run the workshops? Are you responsible for pulling it together?
AK: So when it comes to real estate, I'll typically join any of our sales folks who have those types of engagements. I help build the workshops, but we very much work in teams. It's allowed us to be extra productive, we don't have people running off doing their own thing.
Yes, I'm at the forefront of helping our team think about new customers, solving problems and how we go about doing that in an organized way.
JK: Is this is what you always dreamed of doing? How did you end up in this world? You said you've been doing this for 11 years, how did that happen?
AK: This is definitely not what I always dreamed of doing despite growing up at the dinner table with it my entire life.
JK: You couldn't get away, it was too interesting, it was too fun!
AK: Reverse psychology is a powerful thing, Jason. My grandfather started York (which was called something else back then). Insurance was the only career my father ever had for 40 something years. As a child, I didn’t have any interest but that was more of a lack of understanding of anything really.
I had a bunch of different jobs and worked in different industries growing up. When I got to be a senior in college and things started getting real, I figured it'd be a smart idea to at least explore the family business. I worked as an intern for CRC in wholesaler, after school I worked for AON for a couple of years.
I saw the industry from a top great company. I learned a ton, met a lot of great people and saw things that I probably would never have seen. I joined York as of Monday, 11 years ago.
JK: Hey, congratulations on your anniversary! Good for you. You said your grandfather started it. Most agencies that are family founded agencies are named after the founder.
I’m guessing York is not your grandfather's name. How did York come to be? If your grandfather founded it, how were you guys organized? How are you organized now and what was the succession like?
AK: So as the business was passed down, my grandfather was sick. As it was passing from him to my father, he merged with another company and they knew they didn't want to be Krantz.
They just didn’t want to do that. They went home and York international was picked out of thin air and we've been growing ever since
JK: You're near New York, you're not in New York. My wife is from York in England. So I have a good connection with the name. It's been fun getting to know you over the last four years.
I'm glad to hear that you've had success with it. It sounds like you're still a big part of why it's growing and hopefully part of pushing it forward with data and technology. I look forward to being on that journey with you for a long time. Andrew as you know, the show is called the Enlightened Agent.
We like to share stories about amazing agents who do amazing things. Enlightenment is defined as ‘the state of having knowledge or understanding’. I like to ask all of our guests if there's any stories you have about people in the insurance industry that might qualify them as being enlightened? Is there anything you can share with our listeners?
AK: Of course! As I said, we work in teams. Last week we had a client who owns a number of hotels and is expanding. They were buying a hotel across the country and the lender had some strict insurance requirements that the client had to adhere to. Things leading up to the closing, which was Monday, were choppy. The team went above and beyond, pulled a rabbit out of a hat on Thursday. We were able to drive a much better result, improve coverage, satisfy the lender, and then some. Of course, somehow it was at a third of the price. Our client was thrilled as they embarked on this new venture.
JK: Did they need to get insurance as part of the transaction, is that what was going on?
AK: Correct, we needed a new insurance program for this new hotel.
JK: That's amazing. I think every agency is filled with great people and great teams. It sounds like this is a good group of people. Do you have one person who is your go-to or how do you guys operate? How are you organized?
AK: So everything's in teams. This one in particular is two gentlemen, Carey O'Connor and Joe Webster, who certainly went above and beyond as with a time client who really appreciates us. Those two guys were at the tip of the sphere for sure.
JK: Amazing. What does this mean to the lender? They’re thrilled because the coverage is there, that's critical for the client. What does this mean for them? I'm guessing you had options for coverage, but this was just a better package? What does this mean for them?
AK: We weren’t going to let them not close the deal. The new solution totally changed their economics for the better. It's going to be such a windfall for them as they embark on this new venture of opening a hotel.
JK: Is it in the New York area?
AK: So they're based in New York, this hotel's in Arizona.
JK: I was going to say, does this mean that my wife and I are going to have a more affordable stay at a hotel when we need to get a night off?
AK: I can certainly get you a room next time you're out west.
JK: Arizona is a bit of a challenge with a couple of rug rats running around. I need a place to stay in New York where you can get away for the weekend. I think with everything COVID and post COVID, travel's been tough for a lot of people. I know that the hospitality industry has been fighting to not just stay alive, but to grow. It sounds that timing wise, this is hopefully a good opportunity for your clients to capitalize on.
I would say not renewed demand, but pent up demand for travel and build a great business on it. Kudos to the team for doing a good job on that. The whole background around the podcast is around elevating these stories because frankly, I don't think agents get enough credit for the awesome things they do.
Thank you, and thank you to your team. Whether we end up in Arizona at the hotel, or just at another location that happens to work for us because somebody like you was around to help them get the coverage they need. It's an easily overlooked need and I'm glad you guys are here to take care of it.
AK: I would say that in general, as an industry, we're good advocates for clients. We are not so good at promoting ourselves, and there's a stigma around insurance. So thank you to you for shining a light on awareness for our space. Not just on this podcast, but you told me something a couple of weeks ago, and you said “7 out of 10 of my, or our customers respond and fill out their applications within one day”.
That amazed me. That’s a word that I don’t use that often, even though it gets tossed around. The other three clients great, they can roll with PDFs but 7 people had a great day.
JK: Not just the clients, but your agents and your carriers who aren’t cranking to underwrite with little to no time. When you can streamline operations and you can streamline the data gathering process and you don't have to key in rows and rows of data because the information is stored online and can be reused, then frankly, everybody wins. I hate wasted time, I hate wasted effort and technology is a fantastic tool to get rid of those things.
I’m happy to help bring the industry along and be a part of the change that needs to happen and thrilled that you've been along the ride with us. Andrew, this has been awesome. As I say, an enlightening conversation. As we continue the thread there, I've enjoyed having you on the show.
Before we wrap up here, is there anything you want to share with our listeners?
Ak: I’d like to say thank you to you as well. It's been quite the journey, it will continue to be the journey. The work is continuing to be very motivating. You use the word enlightening, I'll say inspiring is that the industry is in a state of change for the positive.
As long as you're keeping up with it, we'll be able to run better businesses. Clients will ultimately have better experiences and we will be able to continue to do our part in the chain of commerce and all people sleep better at night. So thanks to everybody. That's been a lot of fun.
JK: Awesome, Andrew! Enjoy the rest of your week, and the rest of your year I hope 2021 ends for you incredibly well. I look forward to seeing you out and about maybe at an insurance conference or just on the streets of New York. Thanks for being on the show.
AK: Thanks, Jason. I really appreciate it.