Steve Downey, President, Downey Insurance
Like community banking, the insurance sales business is not a hotbed of technological innovation, but that's changing. Eighty percent of insurance shopping is now done online, said Steve Downey, who is president of Downey Insurance, a general insurance brokerage offering home, auto, health and life insurance to individuals and small businesses from offices in San Diego.
In response to that, Downey created a spinoff software company to develop a groundbreaking application called SuperAgent that brokers and employers can use to present health insurance plans in a comparative and interactive fashion.
Handing out a brochure is the traditional approach for insurance companies, said Downey. "That's not where it's going; agents need the ability to deliver information on their smart phones and websites," he said, adding that that information cannot be static, but needs to be dynamic, analytical and personalized to the buyer's situation.
Downey Insurance, not surprisingly, is a user of SuperAgent. Downey said he can present analytical information over the Web using Go-To-Meeting. The combination is increasing sales 15 percent, Downey said, but also "enhancing our reputation as experts in the field."
Just as people seek out Downey when in the market for insurance, Downey consults with technical advisers on his telecom and IT decisions. He does have a beef though: "There's great technology out there, but it's hard to get them to discuss it in a manner I can understand," he said. That's why Downey started a project called Bridge to IT as a way to help bridge the communication gap between IT pros and business owners.
Downey is keen on outsourcing as much of his technology management as possible. "I don't want to think about passive technology," Downey said, saying the value of a technology adviser is what they can take off his plate in terms of proactive management. And, he likes to have them around as a sounding board for new initiatives.
Jon Handy, CEO, Target Solutions
Jon Handy also makes technology decisions for his company from the corner office on his San Diego-based online training company, Target Solutions. "To run any business in 2013 you have to come to terms with the technology requirements," he said, but this is especially true for a technology company like Target Solutions. "It would be hypocritical for us not to do it."
Handy, a self-professed tech geek, said he surrounds himself with the best and the newest gadgets in his personal life and the best IT staff — internal and external — in his business life. Handy, who is in his 40s, is the elder in the company, which is staffed by 20- and 30-year-olds who have always had technology and expect it.