Brave New World

On October 22, 2015, MIT Technology Review published a piece called, “Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill”.

It’s hard to imagine the degree of academic detachment required to reduce a philosophical quandary to the level of computer programming and to anthropomorphize said computer and the programs it runs to the extent that a life-and-death scenario could be blithely characterized as:

an impossible ethical dilemma of algorithmic morality.

But that’s exactly what happened because:

Jean-Francois Bonnefon at the Toulouse School of Economics in France and a couple of pals … say that even though there is no right or wrong answer to these questions, public opinion will play a strong role in how, or even whether, self-driving cars become widely accepted.

And professor Bonnefon and his fellow academics concluded:

People are in favor of cars that sacrifice the occupant to save other lives—as long they don’t have to drive one themselves.

After reading that article, we found ourselves walking, biking, and taking public transportation for fear of coming up on the short end to some algorithmic morality controlling a self-driving killing machine. But we eventually got over ourselves.

Fast Forward

Since then, of course, self-driving cars have become all the rage, with some predicable results. Nevertheless, the May/June edition of NU Claims features an article entitled, “Autonomous Vehicles: Predictions vs. Truth”. The article said this, in part:

Autonomous technology doesn’t just apply to private passenger vehicles. With the shortage of truck drivers, having autonomous technology would allow goods to be moved across the country on a 24-hour basis. The autonomous trucks could keep moving without the need to stop for drivers to rest … the size of the vehicle and the logistics of turning and navigating in traffic bring a different element to the task at hand.

When we read that, we couldn’t help thinking of the 1971 Steve Spielberg film, Duel. In a latter-day version, of course, the truck wouldn’t be driven by a dude with terminal road rage. Rather, it would be directed an algorithmic morality programmed to kill. We’ve come a long way, baby.

After reading the article, we couldn’t decide who we’d least like to be: The guy who comes up on the short end of a car programmed to kill. The actuaries who have to work with algorithmic morality to calculate risk probabilities. Or the underwriters who have to throw darts at the wall to determine risk levels until there’s enough claims history to rate and price coverages with any reasonable degree of plausibility, to say nothing of profitability.

This is the kind of thing that give the phrase, brave new world, entirely new meaning.

People Don’t Want to Be Sold

People don’t want to be sold. They want to buy. Do you think those sentences are contradictory? Consider this:

Think about what happens when you walk into a retail store. An attendant usually comes up to you and asks, “May I help you?”

You typically respond, “No, thank you. I’m just looking.”

In all likelihood, that’s not true. You’re not just looking. You’re hoping to be buying. But you’d prefer to be left alone to buy what you want — or to buy what you need — in your own time, without pressure from a salesperson.

Now think about this: You walk into that same retail store. The attendant approaches and says, “Hi. I know you’re probably just looking. So, please free and take your time. If you need help, I’ll be right over there. And if you’re interested, I can probably help you save 40 percent of the time you’d otherwise spend here.” Then she walks away.

What happened there? The attendant realized that your need to buy from her was much more important than her need to sell to her. She approached you with the intent to serve you and to make your visit to the store valuable.

No, This is Not Retail

It’s obvious enough that core processing software is not a retail sale. Core processing software is not a a commodity. It’s not an impulse buy. But it does serve business needs. And it does provide value.

That’s why we don’t run ads that say, “We won’t be undersold!” It’s why we don’t run limited-time discount offers. It’s why we cultivate trusting relationships, stand by our customers, provide the services they need to ensure the success of the implementations, and continue to enhance, improve, and add new functional capabilities to our software.

“Why are you telling us this?”

We thought you’d never ask. We’re telling you this because if our desire to sell you our software exceeds your desire to buy it — and to work with us for the good of your company — we’re doing it wrong. And if we come with any intention other than to serve you and to help you achieve your objectives, it’s the wrong intention.

If you’ve ever seen a demo of our software, you know it practically sells itself anyway.

If you haven’t, why not?

The Tortoise and the Cloud: Part Two

In the middle of March, Insurance Thought Leadership published a post called, “‘No-Code’ Goes Mainstream”. The post offered this time-sensitive admonition:

It’s time to take a hard look at no-code–generating computer programs without the need for programmers–which could streamline business processes and slash costs … No-code takes programming to the next level [no indication of what level we’re on now], because it lets even us non-technical types do that sort of grabbing of objects to assemble apps that make computers do what we want them to do — without having to wait for the IT department to have resources for us and without having to translate our current processes and our desires into some language that they can turn into code.

Like cloud computing (as we suggested in our previous post), much of the hard looking is already being done or has been done.


The grabbing of objects mentioned in the Insurance Thought Leadership post refers to object-oriented programming (OOP), which develops software programs as simple, reusable pieces of code blueprints (usually called classes) that are used to create individual instances of objects, rather than necessitating the repetition of individual lines of code. While OOP wasn’t new in the immediate aftermath of Y2K, it was more widely adopted thereafter, along with programming languages like Python and Ruby, as suggested in this historical artifact, which says this, in part:

In particular, the newer generation of programmers wasn’t looking back into the labyrinth of COBOL, ForTran, DB2, and other ancient procedural languages. Rather, they were looking ahead into the as-yet unstructured lexicon of declarative query languages like SQL, JavaScript, and the programming equivalent of Esperanto-XML-that permitted greater functional literacy.

Since that artifact was published almost 22 years ago, it can’t come as any surprise that no-code programming has also been around for a while.

What’s In a Name

To make an arguably self-serving point, our Design Studio offers users no-code/low-code for implementation of the Finys Suite. It’s the exact same toolset our developers and designers use. It enables insurers to be self-sufficient, responsive, and competitive by letting them design and configure their own products. It also lets business users and IT departments collaborate to design, configure, and manage the Suite — as well as states and lines of business — more quickly and less expensively.

Maybe we could have called it No-Code Studio. But Design Studio sounds more elegant. And yes, it’s in the cloud.

As Ted Nugent would say, “Ya gotta love that.”

The Tortoise and the Cloud

We received a report from McKinsey & Company called, “How top tech trends will transform insurance”. It begins with this statement: “Over the next decade, the fully tech-enabled insurer will bear little resemblance to today’s organization. Five trends, individually and in combination, will have a seismic impact.” Seismic impact is a little over the top. But to each his own.

Tech trend, #2, however — distributed infrastructure — struck as a little odd, particularly this statement:

As cloud matures, a rapid shift to the cloud for all core systems will help insurers to be more nimble in launching new products and creating better customer service. Cloud will also be critical for enabling the type of compute [sic] power that is needed to fully understand and make use of the incredibly large data sets (such as tens of millions of claims data points). 

The report was issued in September of 2021. So, over the next decade would take us well into 2031. That seems a bit odd since, according to Wikipedia:

References to the phrase “cloud computing” appeared as early as 1996, with the first known mention in a Compaq internal document. The cloud symbol was used to represent networks of computing equipment in the original ARPANET by as early as 1977, and the CSNETby 1981.

This appears to be yet another instance of our going back to the future. But that’s a subject for another blog post.

Which Is It?

The insurance is frequently criticized for being slow to adopt technology. Yet, in January of 2021, nine months before the McKinsey report was published, Clover Infotech wrote this in a post called, “The Impact of Cloud Computing on the Insurance Industry”:

Insurance companies are readily accepting and leveraging the robust cloud computing services. Cloud-based solutions, besides providing security and flexibility, also offer rapid provisioning, better asset visibility, and robust data governance facilities. Cloud computing has a huge impact on the insurance industry, with benefits for internal processes, new customer acquisition, and building policyholders’ loyalty.

If insurance companies were readily accepting cloud computing in early 2021, we’re not sure where the notion that it’ll take until 2031 for the rapid shift McKinsey projects came from. Ten years might seem rapid to a tortoise. But even the insurance industry is faster than a tortoise.

We suspect the industry would be well-served to look at the capabilities available to it now, rather than waiting for a series of confusing reports to come true.

If it does that, its capabilities in 2031 might be as yet unimagined.

International Pi Day

Those of you who aren’t mathematically inclined may not be aware of the fact that today, March 14 (3.14), is International Pi (π) Day.

Pi is a mathematical constant — derived from the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — roughly equal to 3.14159; although, its decimal representation never settles into a permanently repeating pattern and is allegedly infinite. We say allegedly infinite because that’s never been factually proven. With one exception, everyone who’s attempted the proof has died of old age. The exception was Wilbur Freemish from Baked, Alaska. Wilbur’s wife, Agnes, found him unresponsive at his desk. The autopsy revealed he’d aspirated some seeds from a slice of raspberry pie he was eating as he calculated.

When Agnes was brought into Police HQ for a preliminary interview, she blurted out, “It serves the chooch right. All he ever did was play with those damn numbers!” Agnes was never considered a suspect in Wilbur’s demise. But her statement wouldn’t have mattered, either way, because the cops weren’t recording the interview or listening to Agnes. They were working on their own decimal representations for pi.


At any rate, due to poor communication and current supply-chain shortages, the first announcement of International Pi Day caused a panicked market run on apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, chocolate, custard, banana cream, lemon meringue, and key limes. There were no shortages of mince, of course, because no one actually likes mince pie.

On hearing of the confusion, the International Mathematical Union issued the following statement:

It is with deep regret that we acknowledge the besmirching of our beloved π. Without it, the areas and circumferences of innumerable circles would remain unknown to us to this very day. As a boon to trigonometry and physics, π has spawned countless formulae, especially as they pertain to ellipses and spheres. Let it be noted, as well, that pi occurs in various mathematical problems involving the lengths of arcs or other curves, the areas of sectors and other curved surfaces, and the volumes of many solids. It’s used in various formulae to describe such periodic phenomena as the motion of pendulums, the vibration of strings, and alternating electric currents. And in the field of entertainment, π was a foundational element in classic performances of the Three Stooges.

No matter how you choose to celebrate International Pi Day, we hope you enjoy it.

But watch out for the raspberry seeds.

To Go, or Not To Go, That is the Question

It’s a new year. Spring is coming. That means the first trade show season of the year is coming. (Fall will be next.) That means a whole bunch of budgetary decisions have to be weighed against a whole bunch of social decisions. Given the gravity of those decisions, we decided to debate the issue amongst ourselves, pro and con. Here’s what happened:

Pro: Hey. How you doin?

Con: Really? That’s how you start a debate?

Pro: Sorry. I think we should sign up for the trade shows because we get to see people we haven’t seen in a while.

Con: Have we ever acquired a new customer as a direct result of attending a trade show?

Pro: No. But if we’re not there, people will think we’re in trouble.

Con: Yeah. But if we go and there are no prospects there, we will be in trouble.

Pro: Given the size of our marketing budget, we can afford to go.

Con: Since the commitment to going costs tens of thousands of dollars, what else might we do with our marketing dollars that could be more effective?

Pro: I have to admit that’s a good question. But I don’t know that anything else is as effective as person-to-person communication.

Con: Do we yet know the effect COVID will have on trade-show attendance in the future?

Pro: No. But isn’t going the best way to find out?

Con: Yes. But it’s also the most expensive way to find out.

Pro: Then what should we do?

Con: I don’t know. Let’s think about it.

Pro: Have I ever told you how much I admire your decisiveness?

The Real Question

The levity of the preceding conversation notwithstanding, that kind of debate goes on in most companies in most years. This year, the debate is likely to be a little murkier thanks to COVID, even though (or maybe because) we seem to be shaking it off in some places (and not in others). But the debate will never go away.

As always, the resolution of the debate will depend on some subjective combination of personal predilections, budgetary considerations, and incremental value. On one hand, we managed to survive two years with virtually no trade shows (but lots of virtual ones). On the other hand, if we don’t show, we run the risk of being perceived as having gone dark.

To go, or not to go, that isn’t the real question. The real question is: What’s the cost of either choice?

Choose wisely.

No-Code/Low-Code Expectations

After seeing a sizable number of articles and posts about the application of no-code/low-code (NC/LC) development in insurance, we recently conducted a Google search on that precise topic — no code/low code in insurance. The search yielded 4,920,000,000 hits, leading us to the conclusion that the topic might not be that new or novel. One of the hits we got was an article from the research and evaluation firm, AIMultiple, entitled, “Impact of the Low/No-Code Platforms on the Insurance Sector”. It said this, in part:

Low/no-code practices democratize and accelerate the software development process thanks to their graphical interface that reduces or eliminates the need to write code. It is an opportunity for insurers, pushing them to develop solutions that solve their business problems quickly … By using low/no-code development, insurance companies can:

  • Decrease sunk costs of their IT investments significantly,
  • Quickly adapt to the changing environment,
  • Increase their operational efficiency by eliminating the negative effects of skills differentials among their employees.

We don’t mean to be arrogant. But it was by precisely that logic, for exactly those reasons, that we introduced our Design Studio in 2018. It comprises the exact same toolset our developers and designers use. And it’s built on a no-code platform


The subhead above isn’t the familiar distress signal. Rather it’s the abbreviation for Shiny Object Syndrome. We understand technology companies have marketing jobs to do to attract interest in their products. We understand consultants have technologies to tout to attract interest in their services. We understand the trade media have sales jobs to do to attract readers and advertisers to their publications. And we understand some chasms are wider and take longer to cross than others. So, we appreciate the fact that some things are hyped beyond their sell-by dates.

But sometimes we can’t help but wish that the trade media would publicize what’s real and in use, just as we wish the news media would publicize the good news that takes place and the good deeds that are being done every day.

We’re familiar with the journalistic phrase, if it bleeds, it leads. And we know sensationalism sells.

But sliced bread, bottled beer, and NC/LC have been done. We can be more creative than this.

The Importance of Balance

On January 2nd, Insurance Thought Leadership published an article called, “Insurtech Trends for 2022”. We think it reflects the abiding confusion and uncertainty around insurtech. This excerpt seems to reflect that confusion and uncertainty:

While insurtech has been around for some time, the past year’s growth has been picking up substantially. We’re well past the days of simplistic disruptive thinking, where startups would present themselves as the Uber of X. Traditional insurers clearly understand the importance of becoming digital … The opportunity to transform traditional, legacy-driven processes remains massive, as is reflected in global investment transactions in insurtech – by the end of the third quarter of 2021, up another 23% from the year before and hitting $10 billion … Compared with overall fintech data, insurance actually still remains an underinvested sector.

If insurance represents an underinvested sector, where did the $10 billion go? If we’re well past the days of simplistic disruptive thinking — and if insurtechs have learned the underlying complexities of the insurance business model they aim to renew — why is insurance an underinvested sector? We may have an answer.

Value-Based Buying

In buying software or systems, insurers have to consider a number of factors:

  • What are their needs, short-term and long?
  • Who’s the vendor they’re buying from?
  • What’s the track record of the vendor they’re buying from?
  • Are they trading fresh ideas for a lack of experience?
  • Are they trading experience for a lack of fresh ideas?
  • Is it possible to get both?
  • How long will implementation take, including business rules, integrations, and customizations?
  • How good will the software of the system be once it’s up and running?
  • Does the long-term value exceed the short-term price?

Private insurance companies and mutuals are responsible for the financial interests of their policyholders. Publicly traded insurance companies are responsible for the financial interests of their investors. Neither of those responsibilities leaves room for undue risk-taking and dice-rolling.

That’s why we look for long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. That’s why we offer a fixed-price engagement so there are no short-term prices or long-term surprises. And that’s why we focus on total cost of ownership over the long-term.

The Best of Both

We understand most people would prefer the newest, the fastest, the shiniest. Maybe the insurance sector is underinvested (we’d like to see that term clearly defined) because insurance isn’t new, fast, or shiny. Maybe the promise of new, ideas doesn’t offset the security and stability of experience. Or maybe it’s possible to strike a balance.

We believe it is. That’s why we’re here.


Does Continuity Have a Price?

In an article we published in the Fall 2020 edition of the The Demotech Difference — “The Importance of Sound Implementations” — we wrote this:

Turnover is the equivalent of corporate amnesia.

We recalled that recently because there seems to be a spate of updates of late telling us about leadership turnover in the vendor community of which we’re a proud member. And it seems as if many of the folks coming into those leadership positions are from outside the insurance industry. Please don’t misunderstand us: We completely understand the desire for new blood, fresh ideas, varied perspectives, and deliberately defying complacency. But we don’t understand how companies can sacrifice that much intellectual capital and still remain viable and competitive.

Let’s Sharpen the Point

Turnover of any kind diminishes continuity. Replacing people with folks from outside the industry would also diminish domain experience, industry knowledge, process familiarity, troubleshooting and problem-solving experience, organizational cohesiveness, and reliable interdependencies — to name just a few. And would that leave organizations that diminish themselves with constant turnover and repeated hiring from outside the industry in a perpetual state of x-steps-ahead-x-steps back?

It may boil down to an overall lack of insurance operational expertise. If I’ve led and auto-racing team and I’m appointed to lead an insurance software company, I likely won’t understand the deliberate way the industry moves forward and embraces change. The fact is not many executives from outside the industry understand that until it’s too late, until after they’ve made commitments to the their customers. That creates panic, wasted time, financial losses, and diminishing returns when they realize they were overly optimistic. With no knowledge of the history of the company, its successes and failure, and the decisions that led to both, leaders with no industry experience are being set up to fail. So are their customers.

Realistically speaking, how do you sell that? How can you make an argument for organizational stability and credibility if you’re announcing the fact that the organization lacks stability and credibility? We recognize those are tough questions. But we aren’t aware that anyone else is asking them.

Let’s Do the Math

Even if those kinds of losses of experience, continuity, and intellectual capital don’t have direct costs (we think they must), they have opportunity costs, at the very least. What’s the cost of strategic directives that aren’t realistic — or simply may not work — because they suffer from a lack of understanding of the problems carriers face.

We’re absolutely sure this must make some kind of sense to someone. But it doesn’t make sense to us. On the other hand, what do we know?

Is there anything like a continuity cost? We’d have to say we’re not sure.

But we’re positive a lack of continuity has a very large price tag.

Read the Fine Print

We’d been reading about folks who claim to be able to implement a core processing system in one day. Then we had a prospect ask us if we could do the same thing.

We said, “Sure. Anybody can do that.”

The prospect replied, “Can you do it for me?”

We said, “Yep. On one condition.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“You have to take the system, out of the box, and don’t change anything.”

Enter Reality

The prospect started getting excited: “Well, yeah, but I have a dozen or so integration points.”

“That could take more than a day,” we said.

“I also need to produce customized bills,” he said.

“Ooh. It sounded like you said custom.”

“I did. And I have some other customizations, as well.”

“That sounds like more than a day’s work to us,” we said.

“And how about building in all my business rules?” he asked.

“You might want to be looking at a calendar, rather than a clock,” we suggested.

“And I also have to pull in reports from my legacy system.”

“We might be able to do all that in a day if we were on Venus,” we said. “One of its days lasts 243 Earth days. Have you considered relocating?”

Vive la Différence

Fans of Tim Burton’s 1989 film, Batman, will remember Michael Keaton (as Bruce Wayne) saying to Kim Basinger (as Vicki Vale), “It’s not exactly a normal world, is it?” Even if you haven’t seen Batman — but you have tried to implement a core processing system in a day — you know he’s right, perhaps especially in insurance.

Despite the fact that insurance is as regulated as it is, there’s precious little standardization in the industry. That makes normal a little tough to pin down. Company A does it this way. Company B does it that way. Both of them are happy and productive. But nothing is going to work for both of them out of the box. In fact, it’s highly unlikely they’d want it to. (Hello, differentiation.)

The next time somebody says you can get a core system implemented in a day, tell him to read the fine print and think outside the box.

To quote Robin Williams, “Reality. What a concept.”