S3E15: Erik Wenzel on Actuaries and Insurtech
Using LinkedIn to drive conversation around embracing insurtech.
What happens when you mix an “actuarial geek” with a Silicon Valley entrepreneur? Insert Erik Wenzel, a fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a top 50 insurtech influencer based out of Chicago. Erik tells how he found his passion for insurtech and how he’s using LinkedIn to drive discussion around how actuaries should embrace insurtech. He believes insurers, insurtechs, actuaries, and regulators can work together to solve the challenges the insurance industry faces by finding new areas of growth. Erik wraps up with a discussion on what he sees happening with insurance innovation in 2018 and beyond.
Erik grew up in Western Canada—literally, as he clocks in at 6 feet 9 inches. He almost went on to play college basketball, but he felt a distinct calling to become an actuary. With a love of math, he majored in actuarial science and passed his exams just a week before his twin boys were born. This led him to working in Texas and Chicago as a traditional actuary; but he still felt the urge to branch out his learning. He started reading books and listening to podcasts, including Stanford University’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast, which changed the way he looked at risk.
Erik realized Silicon Valley entrepreneurs were looking at risk in a completely different light than he was as an actuary. To share his evolving thoughts on this, Erik took to LinkedIn. He quickly found that there were hundreds of other actuaries and actuarial students all asking the same questions he was. Erik has dug in and helped spur global conversation on this facet of innovation in the industry.
Future of Insurtech and Actuaries
Erik acknowledges that he might be a bit biased in saying this, but he believes actuaries are some of the smartest people you can find at insurance companies. They are at the very heart of what drives the profitability of an insurance company, meaning the risk, pricing, reserving, and underwriting. Being close to all these things gives an actuary expertise that overflows to the other niches they operate in, and also brings new technology into those spaces.
He sees actuaries becoming more and more like data scientists in the future. They’ll find new sources of data and apply practices to utilize them. If actuaries gain a sense of entrepreneurship in regards to technology, they can better implement things like AI, IoT, and genomics. Insurtech startups are reaching out to Erik asking for actuaries to join their teams or advise them, so he sees the profession as having a bright path to the future.