Acrisure Innovation is in a sweet spot.
With the resources of a large insurance brokerage and the agility of a fast-moving fintech startup, Acrisure is in the fortunate position to be growing during what has proven to be a challenging time for the tech sector.
“The [insurance] industry in and of itself is quite stable, but what’s nice about Acrisure is its spirit of innovation,” said Chief Digital Officer Tamara Zaichkowsky.
Despite market headwinds like rising inflation and interest rates, geopolitical upheaval and the looming threat of a recession, the insurance industry has demonstrated remarkable resilience over the last few years, and is poised to grow by nine percent in 2023. At Acrisure, which provides AI-driven financial services solutions for the insurance industry, this growth marks a need for more tech talent — and a relentless focus on using the latest technology and AI advances to move the needle on risk assessment.
“We’ve got a lot of hiring to do,” said VP of Data Engineering Deidre Harvego. In the coming year, Acrisure wants to add 100 creative problem-solvers to its team. “At some companies, it’s hard to see how the things you’re working on actually make a difference. At Acrisure, I think it’s pretty easy to understand why what we’re doing matters.”
While insurance might not be the sexiest industry, at its heart is protecting people and businesses against risk, a mission Harvego and her teammates find stimulating. Through the conversion of data into predictions and insights, Acrisure believes its AI-powered tech can remove the constraints historically associated with the scale and scope of the insurance industry.
“Risk is a tough problem that not a lot of people are trying to solve,” said Head of People Operations Jolynn Pérez Cunningham. “The work we’re doing here is more intelligently sharing the world’s risk, on a really large scale.”
From individuals to mom-and-pop shops to big names in finance and manufacturing, Acrisure’s clients all benefit from its mission. But what sets Acrisure apart from other insurance brokerages is the scale of the problems it’s trying to solve paired with its startup mentality. Or, as Cunningham described it, its “big-company problems without the big-company bureaucracy.”
“Working here is a fun and unique opportunity to help solve huge problems at scale in an innovation incubator system,” Cunningham said. “You don't get those kinds of opportunities very often. That’s what really excites me and keeps me here.”
“Working here is a fun and unique opportunity to help solve huge problems at scale in an innovation incubator system.”
Another thing that sets Acrisure apart? The women who power its leadership. Five out of the seven heads of departments within tech and innovation are women. In a male-dominated field like fintech, the makeup of Acrisure’s leadership team is rare.
“I’ve worked in many male-dominated industries and it's a pleasant surprise to work with so many amazing women here,” Zaichkowsky said. “All of the women here are in our positions because of a fair assessment based on our merits and contributions, as well as our skills and capabilities. I feel super grateful in that regard.”
The insurance industry isn’t all that different from finance.
“You’re looking at all of the things that could go wrong in the world and providing a backup plan, if you will,” Tamara Zaichkowsky said. The finance veteran joined Acrisure a little over a year ago. With decades of experience leading digital transformations at banking institutions, Zaichkowsky’s current focus is paving the way for the future of Acrisure’s digital experience and figuring out how the firm will connect with future customers.
“I’m helping take a traditional brokerage to online sales and servicing,” Zaichkowsky explained.
Two areas that are top of mind for her right now are improving Acrisure’s growth marketing strategy and its product propensity, which is a model that predicts the likelihood of customers buying a certain product based on historical data and their customer profile.
What led her to Acrisure? The leadership team, as well as the company’s dynamism. Acrisure moves fast and its C-suite is driven by constant expansion; the brokerage has made more than 500 acquisitions to date, with over 100 in 2022 alone. These transactions have allowed Acrisure to expand its client pool and its services beyond insurance to cyberservices and more.
“I come from very large organizations, but I’ve been at startups as well,” Zaichkowsky said. “What’s nice about Acrisure is that you have the dynamic of being both. It’s a well-established organization in terms of people and resources, but there’s a desire to stay flexible.”
In a tumultuous time for tech, Zaichkowsky said it’s exciting to be at a high-growth company in a fast-changing industry. “There are no limitations,” Zaichkowsky said. “The days of a multiyear roadmap no longer exist. That’s because of the dynamics of the business and its rapid evolution.”
AS VP of data engineering, Deidre Harvego’s job is a big one: “Revolutionize what insurance can do.”
Harvego’s up to the task. With 20-plus years of experience in analytics, software engineering and consulting across multiple industries, Harvego is a results-driven people leader with a genuine passion for technology and employee engagement.
Since joining Acrisure a little over a year ago, Harvego’s been promoted, but she’s much more excited to talk about the cutting-edge tech stacks and multiple clouds she's gotten to work with.
“There are a lot of things that we’re doing with modern technology that haven’t been done in the industry before,” Harvego said. The speed at which Acrisure moves was a pleasant surprise for Harvego, who’d worked at other large companies in the past, but not in the insurance space.
“Insurance was not a cutting-edge area that technologists were excited about in the early days,” Harvego said. “So there’s a number of problems we get to tackle that other people haven’t figured out yet.”
“There are a lot of things that we’re doing with modern technology that haven’t been done in the industry before.”
One thing that’s helping Harvego’s team tackle some of those challenges is the sheer amount of data at their fingertips. Thanks to the success of Acrisure’s many mergers and acquisitions, its breadth of historical data is uncommon.
“Other companies either don’t have that data or don’t have that kind of scale,” Harvego said. “That’s where it gets pretty interesting; you can look at data across the breadth of what Acrisure owns and play in a lot of spaces.”
In her 20-plus years of building and scaling tech teams, Jolynn Pérez Cunningham has worked at both tiny Bay Area startups and Fortune 500 companies.
“I’ve seen all flavors,” the head of people operations said. Acrisure is different. She came to the brokerage by way of acquisition a few years ago, and was instantly impressed with the scope of problems Acrisure was solving.
“While data can be pretty homogenous, the world is not,” Cunningham said. To that end, Acrisure is constantly reassessing its insurance offerings and working to ensure that small and minority-owned businesses have the same level of insurability as the sort of Fortune 500 companies Cunningham’s worked for in the past.
“This space has been operating in a very traditional, status quo way for a long time,” Cunningham said. “And even though there’s a lot of data in the space, risk decisions have not always been data-driven.” Acrisure, she said, has pushed the entire industry into a “new stratosphere” in terms of risk assessment.
Acrisure isn’t just challenging the status quo when it comes to insurance. Looking around at the two other leaders on the call, Cunningham noted that all three women report directly to the C-suite, a rarity in tech. But she’s quick to point out that they aren’t filling a quota; they each got to where they are through decades of hard work and experience, which Acrisure acknowledges and celebrates.
“We’ve all had dynamic, amazing careers where we’ve been recognized and promoted and supported into positions of leadership,” Cunningham said. “And it feels good.”