Expert in the insurance sector, Dr. Kaenan Hertz counsels C-Suite leaders on insights and analytics, strategy, and innovation. He focuses particularly on the ways in which carriers, agents, and reinsurers may benefit from analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), marketing, blockchain, telematics, wearables, and Insurtech. He was a driving force behind the innovation of several start-up and established financial institutions. Using digital, conventional contact centers, and third-party channels, he deliberately molded their customer experience and improved their business.
Kaenan had executive positions in marketing strategy and decision management with premier insurance, banking, and finance businesses, including USAA, Citibank, and Sallie Mae, as well as consulting firms PwC and EY, before launching Insurtech Advisors and overseeing Ninety’s US development.
Below are highlights of the interview conducted between World’s Leaders and Dr. Kaenan Hertz:
Describe who you are as a person, inside and outside of the workplace.
I am a ‘happy-go-lucky’ kind of person. Always trying to make people smile. I am an extrovert who is energized when she presents to a group of people. However, I enjoy solitude as well. Helping others is a key part of my ethos. I am a problem solver by nature, which sometimes gets in the way of just listening, when that’s all that’s called for.
Describe your background and what did you do before you started/joined the company?
I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. After completing my undergraduate degree in Calgary, I decided to go to graduate school in Boston. There, I became interested in understanding what influences people’s voting behavior. I decided to pursue a doctoral degree in political science and moved down to Atlanta to finish my studies at Emory. While there, one of the professor’s wives worked at a public health consulting company, and they needed someone with statistical and analytical skills to help them evaluate many different federal and state health-based programs. I had the opportunity to study disease outbreaks (long before COVID), preventing HIV/AIDS transmission between pregnant women and their infants, and improving child development.
While I loved living in Atlanta, I had a desire to move to the Big Apple. Doesn’t everyone? I moved myself to Manhattan and had a blast. I then changed career paths and started to work for an urban entertainment dot-com company. While we only lasted a little more than a year, it was an incredible opportunity that provided me with the skills and experiences that have shaped my recent career path.
From New York, I moved to Washington and got to dabble in the political world a bit, but moreover, I started my career in financial services there working for Sallie Mae, the student lender. I ran their analytics and database marketing functions, and we were among the early adopters to embrace email marketing. From there, I got recruited to work at Citibank, which allowed me to move back to New York City, a city I truly love for all its beauty and warts. While at Citibank, I was recruited to head up customer analytics and board/CEO reporting for USAA, and I got to relocate, yet again, to San Antonio, TX. Moreover, this was my first foray into the world of insurance, which is where I’ve spent most of my career post-USAA.
Having lived in San Antonio for 3 years, I had the opportunity to move back to NYC and work for PwC, helping build out a new on-shore off-shore analytics practice. I was then recruited to EY to help build out a customer experience practice. It was while I was at EY that the worlds of Fintech and Insurtech had their beginnings. I started to work with insurance carriers to help them improve their digital and customer strategies and understand how the Insurtech evolution would create a revolution in their space.
Tell us about the inception of the company. How did it all start?
Insurtech Advisors grew out of my work at EY. While working with larger insurance carriers to tackle the influx of forced innovation, I realized that larger consultancies could not provide the same level of advice to smaller regional carriers, who dominate the rural landscape. I wanted to help these regional carriers because I grew up in the West milking the cow whose milk we drank.After consulting with a few CEOs to assess their interest in and appetite for this type of help, one of them told me that if I did this, he would sign up for my services. With that commitment, I made the jump from working for someone else to working for myself and started to build a company and a brand. I will forever be grateful for the foresight that the CEO had. It’s been 5 years, and it has been an amazing journey where I’ve been able to help many smaller carriers compete and innovate in ways that the larger national carriers wish they could do as well.
What has made you successful? What do you value?
I believe that what has made me successful has been a commitment to helping. I didn’t start Insurtech Advisors because I wanted to make more money. I started it because I didn’t like selling and rather wanted to help companies solve brain-numbing problems. Moreover, I am more than willing to provide whatever help or connections I have without thinking about compensation. My philosophy is that there is a higher authority who controls that aspect, and in the end, if you provide people with value, they will pay you for that. Most people are comfortable with getting everything for free.
What is the significance of innovative ideas in the company?
Because we work on the cutting edge of innovation within financial services, creativity and being able to look at our clients’ aspirations and challenges from many different angles are key to generating innovative ideas that our clients can embrace and deploy.
Give us your opinion on; do organizations rely heavily on individual heroics or team processes?
Frankly, I believe individual heroics trump overly rigid team processes. However, multiple minds (diversity) looking at the same problem and bashing their heads together always leads to better outcomes.
What are your responsibilities as the Founder/CEO of the company? What is the happiest part of your daily routine?
As the managing partner and founder of Insurtech Advisors (and a co-founder of Ahoy!) my responsibilities are endless. The happiest part of my day is when I get to check in with teammates and clients, not just about a deliverable, but about them more personally. What goes on in people’s lives does impact their professional lives, and I want my colleagues and clients to understand they are not just another number to me.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
As a former executive coach of mine, Scott Eblin, told me, the skills that got you promoted are not the ones that will continue to get you promoted. You will need to develop and leverage new skills for your new role. Embrace the change and get comfortable coming out of your comfort zone.