12 Questions with Jeff Cohen
Welcome to 12 Questions, a Q&A series where we pose the same set of 12 questions to intriguing folks at the intersection of insurance, risk management, commercial real estate, and digital innovation.
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This week, we chat with Jeff Cohen, SVP at Zywave, and former President of Advisen. (Zywave acquired Advisen in November 2020.)
1. What is the most interesting idea you’ve encountered in your world lately?
For starters, I am not a glass-is-half-full person; for me, the glass is overflowing, and I am fortunate in so many categories of my work and non-work life. The pace of change in our industry is moving rapidly, and you can see faster innovations happening now more than ever before. Beyond some exciting insurtech situations, I will mention one. For the first time, the ability to transcend classic insurance program benchmarking – what is everyone else buying? – is upon us. Using loss event data, insurance buyers can compare known loss events to their limit purchases while brokers can better serve insurance solutions to their clients when reviewing the discrepancies between their clients’ limits and known loss events. Instantly, cross-sell situations and cases where known losses eclipse coverage limits pop out. This approach to limit adequacy is pretty cool.
2. Where do you think no one is looking right now?
This pandemic has brought about rapid changes in #WorkingFromHome and how we all gather remotely. The issue awaiting to confront us as workers spread out is how we perpetuate our unique company cultures. I am bullish on how the notion of office and business travel will shift in the future. However, I am deeply concerned that in-person collaboration and those personal bonds which unite teams will suffer due to this pandemic. So far, my best response is to foster as much communication and transparency with my colleagues as possible.
3. If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your industry?
I am intensely proud to work in an industry that truly protects against calamity. When disaster strikes, claims professionals step in. On the underwriting side of the insurable loss equations, though, my Utopian kaleidoscope reveals an era where insurance carriers proactively transform society for the better. This occurs via a willingness to decline - or charge a hefty premium - for risks that are inherently troublesome for humans &/or society. I’m not advocating a nanny state per se, though I am in favor of protecting laborers, reducing health problems, challenging industry, influencing better behavior, etc.
4. What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
Bringing people up the curve. There is no greater thrill than helping a colleague reach an objective previously out of reach or showing a developing talent an alternative route to reach a goal.
5. What do you envision the next 12 months will bring?
Look out for a boatload of changes related to how we work on the horizon, of course. I expect that we’re about to run headfirst into the confluence of transparency & privacy. The post-pandemic work-from-home reality will require a higher degree of disclosure to colleagues as we work together in new ways, and the boundaries between work and non-work blur. Running a company teaches you pretty quickly that you’re always being watched closely by your co-workers, clients, investors, everyone. Assume background checks on new hires will become more intense, and all sorts of personal activities will get way more scrutinized in the future.
6. What’s your favorite building?
A few blocks south of our Manhattan apartment is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The grandeur of the largest art museum in the US transcends its distinctive turn-of-the-last-century Beaux-Arts Fifth Avenue façade. The building has morphed into a bevy of buildings, concealing a modern interior blended with 1900’s foundational structures. Since NYC museums began reopening this past fall at 25% capacity, being able to wander some of these oddly empty galleries during pandemic weekends has been really awesome.
If you’re curious, Emanuel Leutze's iconic classic of Washington Crossing the Delaware is my current Met fave.
7. Please dispel a myth or misconception about your work.
My spouse thinks I get paid to talk on my cell phone all day and host online webcam meetings because that’s all I do. The beauty of the commercial P&C marketplace is that it’s all about relationships. I love how counterparties and competitors are all so well-acquainted. Maintaining all of those relationships is a labor of love for most insurance people whom I know.
8. What are the tools, apps, or gadgets that you just can’t live without?
At Advisen, we switched to Microsoft Teams about two months prior to the pandemic, and I pooh-poohed it then because I thought the chat feature would be too invasive for my own workflow. Wow, was I wrong! Microsoft Teams – and the easy ability to connect with a person across time zones instantly via webcam so you can see expressions and body language – has been a crucial reason we’ve thrived during the pandemic.
9. What’s your biggest pleasant surprise related to remote work?
Well, I am continuously surprised at how much can be accomplished with just a laptop. I still stop by periodically at our New York office just below Times Square just to water the plants (as a former bio major, I have a lot of plants) and get the mail. Each visit, I marvel at how much stuff is at the office, and how much we just don’t need in order to do our jobs.
10. What’s your favorite productivity tip for staying motivated and getting work done?
We’ve held a weekly Monday Morning Meeting to start the week with all employees so that there is at least one regular time for each of us to turn on our cameras and see the whole group, ask questions, share news & updates, and generally come together virtually. Especially in this new era, whatever calories you spend on communication will have tremendous ROI.
11. What or who do you read/watch to keep informed?
Every day begins with
and, of course,
I’m a news junkie, so reading the news starts online before I get out of bed in the morning. I will also take apart print editions with a pair of scissors. I like to clip and send articles to colleagues and friends.
12. Nominate two people who should answer this next. Why?
My list of go-to market professionals with a distinctive view of the Property market includes
- AIG's Duncan Ellis, the consummate industry statesman.
- Aon's Rob Stein, whose wit is unmatched.
Thank you to Fred Kipperman, Managing Director of Archipelago, for inviting Jeff to answer 12 Questions.
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Written by Jeff Cohen
Senior Vice President at Zywave following Zywave’s acquisition of Advisen in November 2020. Previously, he served as President of Advisen.