Leading with Data: How Alliant's Alex Littlejohn is Transforming Insurance Solutions

22 min read
April 09, 2024

In Episode 3 of the Building Potential series, the Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Alliant P&C, Alex Littlejohn, joins Archipelago's Founder & Chairman, Hemant Shah, to discuss:

  • How Aliant P&C is reshaping risk management with advanced analytics and specialized expertise to yield customer-focused solutions
  • What the future of insurance holds through analytics and AI – highlighting a shift towards digital savviness in the industry
  • How to navigate the shifting landscapes of the insurance industry to meet client needs effectively

Watch, listen, or read along to the full episode below:


Episode 3 – Transcript

Hemant Shah: Welcome to episode 3 of Building Potential, the series in which we explore new frontiers of capability across the risk management and insurance ecosystem.

I'm your host, Hemant Shah, Founder and Chairman of Archipelago, and I'm thrilled to be joined today by Alex Littlejohn, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Alliant P&C. Alex, welcome to Building Potential.

Alex Littlejohn: Hi, Hemant. Great to be here.

Hemant: It's great to talk to you again. How are you doing?

Alex: It's the first three months of the year. Of course, everything is crazy, but going well. Going well.

Hemant: I just wanna take this opportunity to thank you again, for joining us at an Archipelago off-site in Austin, which is your hometown. You had to do it virtually because you were on the road, but I appreciate you carving out some time for your roadshow to dial in and speak to our team.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, of course, you're here and I'm not. But it was it was terrific to catch up with the team and talk about and hear about the plans that Archipelago has and how we can join forces together in that regard. So it was a pleasure to meet up with the team and spend time.

Hemant: And it's probably not unusual for people like us to be in Austin looking to catch up with you in person, and you're on the road. You've been traveling a lot this quarter, haven't you?

Alex: Yeah. I mean, it's been, you know, for a lot of reasons, but mainly to make sure that, you know, we're delivering what we need to deliver to our clients and, take as much as we can, advantage of the market and how the market is performing on behalf of our clients. 

So I was in London just a couple of weeks ago, and I think the market there – it's pretty incredible what I was hearing. And we can go into more detail as we go through our conversation today. But I will say that their performance in the last three months has been really spectacular and done quite a few things that have helped our clients fill programs. And, let's say that, I'd argue there's a lot of outstanding capacity that's actually occurring in the London market that we should all be taking advantage of.

Hemant: So it sounds like things are changing quickly in the market the last few months.

Alex: Well, you know, I will say that there is – what I was told – there was five hundred million dollars worth of limit still available in the London market.

How the market is going to – and how the clients are going to – take that all up continuing to underwrite. There's just available capacity. And, and I think we have to keep that in mind. I think that rates on the property side, you know, are stabilizing, capacity's come back, programs are being filled. We're seeing some, we're seeing what we believe to be comfort with where deductibles have gone, where valuations have come, and made corrections. So I would say what we're seeing in the last three months has been some real positive momentum around that.

Hemant: And how crucial is London market capacity and their feedback to building out your customers' programs?

Alex: Well, you know, obviously the more complex program and the bigger limits that we need, the more capacity around the world becomes an incredibly important factor. We're just seeing some leveling off. I do think there was a lot of correction made and, there was a good year last year, and everybody's gonna say kind of the same thing, but I do think that for the most complex risks, worldwide capacity is still a requirement. And that makes the London market relevant. And I do think the London market is also looking to find ways to broaden their appetite from just the very large and complex risk. And I see an opening and an opportunity for risks coming over to the market where, you know, there is still pressure. So some of the more complex classes of business, but not necessarily the largest types of business.

And then the entire conversation on the personal line side, which is in absolute crisis mode. So, that market has not gotten any better for our homeowner clients.

Hemant: But on the commercial line side, seems like things are beginning to – the curve is bending, or is bent.

Alex: It's starting to get there. I mean, bridge collapses aren't helpful in this regard, but, unfortunately, we still have things that happen and events that occur that take a pause. But, but for sure, you know, the first quarter I felt was very, was optimistic.

Hemant: Okay. Speaking of the market, I enjoyed reading your recently published 2024 market insights report. What are some of the headlines, regarding the property insurance market, and how does that compare to what you're seeing on the ground, in real-time?

Alex: Yeah. Our marketing report is broken down by sort of pricing capacity retentions and then sliced by, you know, exposures. And the most challenged are still going to have, are still gonna see pricing. They may see neutral on capacity and retention.

We're spending a lot of time with clients that have challenged exposures and making certain that we're gaining as much information on the risks as possible. Of course, you know, we use Archipelago on all of our SOVs to create and obviously pinpoint enrichment in that, where we have the most challenged risks. Right? So that we can course correct and help our clients present their risk in the absolute best light, so that we can minimize the amount of continued pricing pressure or capacity pressure or program structure redesign, by giving them the benefit of great information.
Really check through those valuations, make sure that we're doing as much as we can to give comfort to the market that that the exposures have been at least, you know, viewed and reviewed. And as much as we can give in way of great information, we are.

Hemant: So key, critical data, data quality really does matter in this marketplace.

Alex: I don't think we're ever going to go back on data quality. I really think that, you know, the requirement from underwriting, requirement from reinsurance, is that we have to have the right data. The data has to tell a story, alongside the risk itself. So where program structure and pricing, and my and coverage might have gone, you know, the way for the last umpteen years. In the last three years, it's all about how we present our data, how we tell the story around risk improvement, how we tell the story around valuation and insurance to value. So I just don't see us ever going back. I think we're gonna keep continuing to go forward and move with a lot more momentum.

And we want to be first at the top of the pile for all of our submissions to market.

Hemant: Yeah. Speaking of top of the pile, one of the insights from your your market report that really grabbed my attention was that you flagged that given the market dynamics, underwriters in the market are seeing an increased flow of submission activity, not because there's more submissions per se, but more submissions are being crosswalked to more markets to search for capacity.

And I think the statistic was that underwriters are seeing growth in year-on-year submissions of thirty-plus percent in the volume of submissions.

I imagine that, you know, given their processes and practices, it's real competition for mindshare to get the underwriter to move your submission to the top of the pile and pay attention. Is that – am I reading that dynamic correctly?

Alex: Well, yeah. I mean, you know, it's over the past several years, there was a limited amount of market competitive, you know, incumbency kind of rules because it was going to be the, you know, risk knowledge to that particular underwriter was probably your best bet.
But for some that restructured and some new market capacity came through. So as the market opens up, ergo, submissions to look to get as much capacity onto program that might've been missed over the last couple of years, new capacity that might've been gained, it is now out for opportunity. 

So there is a lot of activity in the market because in the last couple of years, there hasn't been as much ability to bring on new capacity, shift layers around. So we've got a lot of activity in the market and there is the race to first. You do not want your submission at the bottom of the pile that the underwriter literally never gets to.

So we believe that by putting together a comprehensive submission, that is filled with a lot around what our clients are looking for – their risk themselves, so their coverage, their limits, their exposures. And then how we package that together, how we deliver that to our underwriters, we think it's what puts us at the top of the pile. 

We also, we go by industry expertise. That's how Alliance is built. We are a specialty company and as a specialty company, we have experts that support the knowledge behind how you would submit to market to keep yourself at the top of the pile.

So again, you know, we've adopted a process at Alliant for property where we are we are utilizing the tools in a big way, you know, with all of the capacity that that we have and all of the risks that we represent, we are packaging them up and we are bringing them and delivering them to the market in a way that's consistent.

And then we have our spin of industry knowledge that we deal with in the market every single day. So like kind risk with very much committed underwriting and knowledge both within those industries and how we deliver it.

Hemant: Well, that's a great segue to the topic I wanted to double click on with you, which is that I know you wear a couple of hats, Alex, at Alliant, but whether I guess your day job or your night job, depending on the the the the month. One of your key initiatives is you're driving significant transformation in data analytic and technical capability across the firm, across the platform.

And, it sounds like some of that is driven by this need to, as a specialty partner, really bring that focused expertise, not just through the human capital, but through the technical capabilities, the firm, the analytics, the model, the data forward to the customer and to the markets.
What are some of your priorities in this data analytics tech, that's a pretty broad remit, of capability? What are some of the priority capabilities you're driving across the firm?

Alex: Yeah. And thanks for bringing that up. It is a day and night job, but one that I love and I think does today and will continue to make a difference, for our firm and for our clients. 

But, you know, really the tools and technology is all about how we can optimize the strength as a specialty organization. So when you think about how long we've been in the public entity sector, as an example, and in the construction sector, as an example, and now in real estate and hospitality, and the ability to drive the utilization of that data to help inform our clients, we do it in multiple ways. We help them understand their risk overall.

So that can be on the side of property analytics between, you know, our SOV enrichment through Archipelago and how we make that model ready to get the best results out of RMS and some of our own models that we've created and how those results then are delivered so the clients can make informed decisions. We have that platform of tools across property and casualty. So AlliantOne Analytics is our own proprietary analytics platform that helps clients make those decisions in the liability, excess liability, auto, and D&O arena. So, you know, those tools, every tool we build is built for the organization's benefit and then applied to their particular client.

So our analytics tools are built on behalf of Alliant, yet we have construction as its own module, entity as its own module, real estate as its own module. So we cater to our specialization, at the same time, we're building a broad array of tools. So everything we do is with an eye toward how do we help our clients make better and more informed decisions, and at the same time, relay those decisions over to the market. So AlliantOne Analytics is proprietary in property.

We engage with you, with Archipelago as a partner, with RMS as a partner, with some of our own bespoke analytics that we've built in property for areas where modeling hasn't yet caught up.

We're working on a wildfire platform to help with the crisis in the market around wildfire, which we just believe to be absolutely critical, at a critical point. And I think that is going to only become more and more evident as data, understands the risk even more. Right? So the data yet is a little bit immature, but it's going to become more and more robust, and we wanna be out in front of those solutions, help the states, help people really make good decisions around how to manage wildfire in an unmanageable world. It can be partly what we're doing as humans in building in places that are naturally prone to wildfire. And then it's just the fact that there's error that's made and fires catch and that's what happens.

Hemant: Yeah. I think the days in property risk of thinking, you know, just about earthquake and hurricane are behind us.

The range of hazards and perils that are driving, you know, risk exposure across the country are pretty diverse and significant and do seem to be growing.

Alex: Yeah. Yeah. I completely agree. So our world of tools and technology are really being delivered in that way.

Right? So where we are taking the technical end of things and optimizing the knowledge and the data we have in each of our industry sectors to bring them forward. So it's not just, you know, analytics in casualty that are trends and development factors that are used, you know, across the norm. They are really built off the bank of data and information that we have as a specialty organization in construction, or in public entity, and so on.

So, it's a pretty proud platform, and it's a bit different because everybody needs analytics. All clients depend on it. You can't be in the game today and not have those tools to deliver to your client – at least my belief.

So why don't we go ahead and take and optimize an organization that's been having data, you know, repository for so many years and put it to work for us and our clients?

Hemant: Sounds like it's a pretty fundamental transformation. And you mentioned the client expectations. It sounds like their expectations are changing as well, that they are increasingly expecting this kind of value-added insight from their partners to help them make more proactive decisions rather than just accept the kind of click, cut, and paste approach to their renewals.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, I think clients over the last, you know, several years, have had to take the market kind of in the face. Right. I mean, it changed very quickly.

And, you know, I think there were tools available, guidance available, but the market was shifting very quickly and you could hardly keep up with the fundamental need and change for the market and clients. I believe the best you can do is not to surprise them, right? Try and get ahead of it and give them empowerment so they can make decisions. And at least, even in the hardest market, feel that they've got enough data to make some good choices. 

And where they've been, you know, having to take risk assumption. You know, whether that's higher deductibles or limits of top or whatever the program designed ended up to be, that they felt that they were a bit in control. I'm sure most clients will say that they didn't feel that way. But we need to make sure it's our job, our duty to make sure that they do feel that way, that they feel empowered in information, in data, and analytics are gonna get them there.

Hemant: So, you know, transforming how business gets done via technology can be a daunting process. There's the technology itself making the right choices. There's the business processes that need to be rewired. There's the human dimension.

What have been some of the challenges that you faced defining and then rolling out this kind of capability over the past few years?

Alex: It is transformational.

Hemant: You probably have a lot of scars on your back. [Laughter]

Alex: Yeah, no one wants to see that. [Laughter]

Hemant: Yeah. We can cut the video for this part. [Laughter]

Alex: They, listen, it comes from the top. Right? So, I think people well, there's a couple of things. I think that leadership within an organization has to be behind it and they have to support it.

And I think that you have to continually give wins for your colleagues and wins for your clients. Right? So as you're going through the transformation, you really need to be able to give out little wins as you go. You know, you can't wait and then say, here's your big package, the biggest prize in the room.

People don't digest things well that way. In fact, they'll say, geez, that's a really gigantic prize and you got the color of the ribbon wrong, so I don't like it. Right. So you, if you continue to adopt, if you continue to pull people in and adopt as you go, show them the wins, show them the things that are of great value that they will say and have said game changer for them for their process and their clients' process. You feel winning all the way through it. 

And then change transformation just occurs. Right? It's not this gigantic day the lights went on and everybody goes, Ah, you know, I don't like how I look in that mirror. Right? Or I don't look how I look in a bright light.

I think transformation happens over time. And through multiple ways of setting up wins.

And clients help us with change transformation because they demand that we have things that help them make better decisions. So when your clients are talking to you and when we're building at the same time and we're giving out little wins, that transformation doesn't feel as painful as what it might feel if you were doing something in a very dramatic way.

Hemant: So it's not a big-bang approach. It's like a marathon running hundred-meter sprints.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, we've taken our SOV platform, as you are well aware, over the last two years. Right? And we have transformed almost a trillion dollars worth of SOV onto platform that Archipelago fuels for us.

And, you know, that has been a game changer for our ability to understand our own portfolio, for our clients to understand their portfolio, to be able to argue that we are making their risks better because we're giving deeper insight into their own risk by way of information from engineering, by, you know, appraisals and all the data that we're able to supply onto the platform that enriches their own risk. And by doing that, they've been transformed, and that's by a simple upload. That is by taking what you have, uploading it, and then fixing it, right, as we go.

You know, we have hundreds of people on that platform that are transacting in that every single day. So that was an easy one, quite frankly. You know?

And then, of course, all the down streams of the modeling that take place that are just helping them make good decisions ultimately, you know, transforming, clients in the casualty space around where the market shifted much slower than property.

You know, in some moments very painful and then some not so painful. And I feel we'll probably have another trajectory going to painful, certainly in the auto space. And in the excess space, you know, as a result of the auto space. But auto is a huge pain point. I've talked about it all year so far, on this being one of the major areas that we need to be prepared for. I know there's been a lot of a lot of emphasis on that.

So how do we get our clients to really, you know, in a way that's easy for our people to help describe the issues that are out there. And I think our fingertip analytics that we've developed are gonna bring them there.

It's a really easy platform and it helps clients make decisions. And, you know, it's built off the background of our industry specialization. So, you know, I think that's how you handle the transformation.

And then there's just the point that there's some that can never be transformed. Right? I mean, it's okay. You can have that too. There's some clients that won't need it. There's some clients, there's some colleagues that won't adopt it, and you just move on from there.

Hemant: Yeah. So it sounds like it starts with commitment from leadership.

Alex: For sure.

Hemant: It is about making the right choice on the technical partners and tools and technologies.

But a lot of it, in your experience, and a lot of the scars are about changing behavior. And how do you create a change management program that actually brings people through the change, particularly in an entrepreneurial and somewhat decentralized organization like yours, where people are, you know, they are incented to be nimble and agile and, you know, move in their own way because that creates their competitive advantage. But layering into that culture, some best practices. It's about change management and a lot of that sounds like it's people.

Alex: Absolutely. I mean, you know, we are built on – our backbone is all about our people. Right? It's the expertise that the people bring, that serve our clients.

And so we are very careful in making sure that what we deliver to our colleagues is something that is an overarching need. You know, we don't we don't over impose impossible standards to be met. So it leaves everybody in a pretty flexible way, and they pick up on the great things that we're offering. And we also don't overload in all kinds of change. Right? So we take our change very seriously. And when we put change to work, it's because our people are ready for it.

So we don't just change on top of change and then on top of change. We're very careful in that way and deliberate in that we are delivering what is absolutely needed so that we can manage through our change process for all the reasons you just noted, the entrepreneurial spirit of our organization driven by the people that work here.

Hemant: Well, I was very impressed on the way you schooled me on how to manage the change. And it was clear that from the get-go, you were thinking very clearly and explicitly, not just about the tech, but about how do we drive adoption in a systematic way that builds, as you said, early wins, builds grassroots support, and then gets that whole flywheel of all going. So it doesn't become a push, to create a kind of sense of buy-in, and not overload the system with, you know, the latest new thing, because people have day jobs, right?

Their job is not to adopt the new best practices. Their job is to serve their customers. And you can be empowered with best practices, but it's people and they have finite bandwidth. And you've been very deliberate and systematic, which is why I wanted to dig into it because I think a lot of our listeners, you know, think of transformation, mainly through the lens of tech and the language of tech, but a lot of it is about people, behavior, adoption, change management, incentives, encouragement, and, pacing. The change in the right way.

Alex: Absolutely. Pacing, readiness. I mean, you have to know when to push. Right? And, I'm very excited.

I think that, you know, our colleagues feel good about where we are, I think. And I think that they, as we continue the journey, they feel even better and better about it as they learn more about it and use it and make it work for them. And their feedback is incredibly important because that's how we feedback to you. That's how we feedback to our internalvsystems that we're building.

I mean, the feedback from the field, from the market, from our partners is incredibly important because we're here to serve that constituency of clients and colleagues. And so the more we are able to make sure that we're catching the things that are of most interest to them and their clients and solve problems, I think we'll always be sort of in that wind category.

We're not building tools and technology in the sky. We are building them on the ground. We are building them with our people. We're building them by brokers, people that have their own clients and, you know, our own challenges with our clients.

So I feel and as you know, the Alliant story, everybody has a client at Alliant, you know? No matter who you are, you have your client engagements. And so I think it's remarkable because it keeps us close to what those needs are. And when we're building things, we're we're feeling the same pain, so we wanna solve for that. And I think that's a very unique place to be.

Hemant: So you and I, I think it's fair to say, are are both veterans, in this vertical market, and, you know, we're both driving transformation.

What does this all lead to? Is this about being incrementally better at what we do today or on the other side of all these changes and all this adoption of technology and data analytics and new ways of thinking and acting, does this industry change?

Or is it just becoming incrementally better at doing what it does today? Like, what does this all lead to from your vantage point?

Alex: Well, forty-seven years into it and, still watching people mail posting notices for workers' comp to their clients.

I'm a little suspect that it's going to be changed remarkably.

But I do think that we're never really going back. Right? I mean, so we just continue to train. We have no choice, even this industry with so many things that are, you know, deeply rooted in some weird tradition, I guess, like for lack of a better word.

Hemant: I'm gonna borrow that term.

Alex: Maybe, you know, I mean, maybe deeply rooted in tradition. It's kinda funny.

But really, what we should expect is that we continually change and we continually ride the train that is taken from the station already today. How do we embed better AI into what we do every single day? 

I mean, in AI, I'm I'm frightened of it. You know, with forty-seven years, I still like paper and typewriter that doesn't exist anymore. But, you know, you do transform. You become a different type of seller, a different type of servicer to your client.

And, for most part, you're just more enlightened by the things that are available to you. So you're a better transcriber to your clients, those things that are important. So I know AI is gonna have a gigantic influence in what is what I believe low-hanging fruit in our industry to take advantage of.

I think that there is so much platform that, some things that are really difficult should be made easy. I think large and complex needs that insurance plays a part in, for companies that have very complex and diverse issues, that consultative nature, the need for analytics and decision-making through it will probably certainly last through my career and I, and I'm sure for the next generation coming up behind me. And then – kind of – who knows? Because the technology platform and the road to information availability is so vast that it could solve even those problems and insurance will look something very different, well into my aging, long time, long time from now retirement.

But it certainly is something we think about all the time. We've got a very, I think, progressive group of thinkers that run everywhere from our own colleagues in the property and casualty space to how our marketing people know and hear about ways of the future –AI and other delivery methods. So they think about that all the time, how they're giving us that information back so we're smarter about our clients' needs and risks. So it's really, I think, a benefit in the world of being nimble, to be able to take advantage.

So I hope that, you know, I love and cherish the traditions of our industry, but I'm also a realist in that things are definitely going to change. And, oh, by the way, those that are coming into our industry, from school or maybe changing into our industry from another industry, demand that things are made simpler. They absolutely demand. They are not interested in printing things, mailing things. I don't think they've ever mailed anything. But, you know, going to the post and dropping things. Just, some of this stuff just has to be normalized and made easier to do. And I think the next generations that come into this demand it because they're not interested in things that aren't tech-driven.

Hemant: They're digital natives and they have certain expectations and, you know, the industry does need to continue to renew its talent base. And that talent pool has very different expectations of what business and work should be like. And so it becomes a human capital, imperative as well.

Alex: Absolutely. It's a demand. So we have to find ourselves there. We have to make sure that we're adopting to it.

So yeah, I think it's here to stay. So the good news is I think it's here to stay. I just don't know that it's going to look exactly the way that it looks toda, in twenty years from today.

Hemant: But as you say, you get there in stages, steps, change behavior, expectations, feedback loops, and then the wheels start turning and they start turning faster and faster, and then change happens. 

And sometimes I think, what was it, Ernest Hemingway, but, financial situations, like some things, they go slowly and then they go very quickly.

Alex: Right. Well, the best change is the one you never felt.

Hemant: Yeah. So speaking of, going quickly, RISKWORLD is right around the corner. I'm looking forward to continuing our conversation in San Diego soon.

Alex: Oh, absolutely. We're very excited about it. You know, we, together with you, we're actually doing a lot.

So we're we're I know we both have booths. We're at #1843, but we also are demoing, at the Alliant Arena, of the Archipelago product. And we've got a very exciting kiosk demonstration.
So you can find that at Mezzanine Level 16.

And where are you? Where are you, Hemant? Where can we find you?

Hemant: Well, I'm going to be camped out at booth #2115.

I think it's a bit of a smaller booth than your booth, but, maybe I'll sneak into your booth, to help with the demo. But, yeah, we'll be at #2115. And I know we're gonna be partnering there. And thanks for that opportunity, Alex, to help give us the opportunity to support you, at RISKWORLD with your customers.

And I'm looking forward to continuing our conversation. I'm sure we'll be talking before then. But, in San Diego as well, Alex.

Alex: Absolutely. Look forward to seeing you there.

Hemant: And thanks so much for this conversation. 

Alex: Oh, thank you.

Hemant: It's been fun and stimulating. I think our audience is going to enjoy it a great deal.

Alex: Absolutely. Thanks, Hemant.

Hemant: All right. Thanks, Alex. Talk soon.

Alex: Take care. Bye.

Hemant: Bye.


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