Patience and Fortitude in Insurtech

Written by: Ron Scheese

I recently visited the Manhattan offices of one of Andesa’s Insurance carrier clients. Like many organizations, their belief statements were prominently displayed in the headquarters’ lobby. A particular statement caught my eye and resonated with me:

… we’ve stayed true to these beliefs. They are the driving force behind what we were, what we are, and what we strive to become. Through every change that has taken place and will take place in our Company or in society at large, these beliefs keep us focused on the fact that we are in a business that can make a difference in people’s lives.


On that same trip, our team strolled past the New York City Public Library. I snapped a couple of quick photos of “Patience” and “Fortitude,” the names given to the marble statute lions which grace the library steps.

At the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s, newly- elected Mayor LaGuardia named the lions Patience and Fortitude; the qualities he believed New Yorkers would need to demonstrate in order to survive and recover. Since then, the lions have been trademarked by the Library, featured in its logo and serve as mascots.

Fortitude is not a word frequently used in today’s lexicon. It is defined as courage in pain or adversity. We think of fortitude in terms of moral strength, firmness of purpose, resilience, backbone, grit, endurance, resolve and perseverance.

Patience is defined as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. We think of patience in terms of a willingness to wait for results, tolerance for the behavior of others, an open mind when confronted with opinions different than our own, and short-term sacrifice to achieve long term results.

Both classic virtues are significantly diminished by the demands of an instant gratification society, a polarized political environment and the impatience of a quarterly Wall-Street and venture-capital mindset that demand short-term returns.
As I reflected throughout that day, it struck me that the permanency represented by core belief statements, marble statues, and the words “Patience” and “Fortitude” are not common descriptions of today’s insurance technology (insurtech) phenomenon.

The insurance industry is a noble industry. When you peel away the financial models and the technology enablers, it is an industry of humans serving humans, at a time of loss and at raw and very vulnerable moments. Obviously, many insurance companies and fraternal organizations have internalized this mission since so many have been in business for more than 100 years. Like our insurance company clients, one of Andesa’s key leadership priorities is to maintain a long-term, “forever” perspective. We often call it our Evergreen Company focus.

Contrast this approach with many of today’s insurtech companies – most of whom have existed for less than ten years. However, there appears to be quite a “frenzy” around these technology companies. Perhaps what concerns me most about the current state of insurtech is the misalignment of the quick growth, technology-backed culture with the longer-term nature of insurance entities.

Profit is certainly not an evil word. Without profit brokers, insurers and insurtech organizations would not be able to invest in technology, attract and reward talent, and build a company with a forever horizon mindset. Many start-up insurtech entities enhance a carrier’s ability to underwrite, service its policyholders, assess claims, analyze markets, etc.

These are all good things. However, many new technology entrants are financially-engineered organizations with a mindset that is focused primarily on short-term results, high visibility and growth in the pursuit of a sale, IPO or acquisition by an insurance company. With this cultural mis-match, we will continue to see carrier-led incubator and investment bank-like experiments targeted at distribution improvement and operating performance. And, that also is a good thing!

Our Andesa Forever vision seeks to align a long-game strategy with clients who plan to be serving humanity for hundreds of years. We understand the importance of reliable, flexible and accurate core financial recordkeeping systems. And we accept the challenge of staying current and relevant as markets, products, technology and society changes.

When a client places a life insurance policy on the Andesa system, generations of future Andesa employees will be in place, living into our values, supporting our systems and servicing our clients and their policies. The element of humans serving humans aligns our teams with that of our client’s operations in a partnership synergy.

Perhaps Daniel Burrus in his book The Anticipatory Organization stated it best, “Older technology often has its own unique profile of functional strengths that the new technology can never fully replace. Phrased another way: It’s not an either/or world we live in. It’s a both/and world. And the key to success is to understand that it’s the integration of the old with the new that creates greater value than either would have on their own.”

Andesa acknowledges that many of our clients will select enterprise-wide digital experiences or data analytics solutions – the exuberance of today’s insurtech market. Andesa must plug and play into those solutions. We also understand that for certain product offerings, our clients will rely on Andesa for those same broad, digital capabilities and experiences. Andesa must also offer a full set of solutions to meet those needs as well, whether built or through partnerships.

All in all, it is an exciting time for insurance, and Andesa. Clearly, patience and fortitude will be needed as we strive to thrive, serve humanity, build an Evergreen Company and help our clients celebrate their 200-plus-year anniversaries in the future.

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