A Q&A With New Applied Systems CEO Taylor Rhodes
| Connections Editor | Dec 12 2019
Since taking the helm as CEO of Applied Systems, Taylor Rhodes has already participated in his first Applied Net conference as well as taken on many other initiatives new and old. We recently caught up with him to learn how his first conference went and so much more. What follows is a combination of that interview and an earlier piece that ran on the Applied Systems blog.
How do you see your experience in technology and tech-enabled services transitioning to the world of insurance? How about your time in the Marine Corps?
Taylor Rhodes (TR): Technology is changing business models and creating opportunities for companies to serve their customers in ways that are more valuable and convenient. My experiences at both Rackspace and SMS Assist have focused on enabling companies in other industries to adopt and leverage new technology to create revenue growth and cost savings in their own business models. I think that insurance agencies in this time of change and digital transformation are no different – our job at Applied is to enable agencies and brokerages to consume technology in more valuable ways. Applied already excels in this area, and I look to further that focus for the benefit of the industry.
My Marine Corps experience relates to how I connect with people and lead teams to achieve great outcomes. Author Simon Sinek wrote a great book called Leaders Eat Last in which he studied great leadership cultures. He found that the Marine Corps is one of the most successful leadership cultures because of the way Marine leaders are taught to put those entrusted to their care first. Marine officers always eat last, making sure everyone else is taken care of first. This is a proxy for an entire ethos around servant leadership. In my time as a Marine, I found that to be followed as a leader, you must have followership that is volunteered, not ordered. Followership must be earned, and you earn it by first being a servant to those you would lead, showing them that you care for them.
What digital transformations are you keenly watching? Anything on your radar you predict driving major change in the industry?
TR: Insurance has one of the biggest opportunities for powerful new capabilities, like machine learning, to help produce actionable insights and valuable products from data. Insurance produces some of the largest data sets in the world, and historically the industry hasn’t maximized the opportunities to leverage that data to create more customer value. With the ability to create data-driven insights for the agency channel, we can help our customers know more about their customers, their businesses, and their insurer partners. There is a huge opportunity to take this largely untapped data in the insurance industry and turn it into value for both agencies, insurers and their customers.
Is there anything else you’d like to emphasize about Applied Systems and your [recent] appointment?
TR: When I was considering the opportunity to join Applied, I ultimately decided to join this team because it is a winning team that is the clear leader in the industry. That leadership position has been achieved through an intense focus on product innovation and customer centricity. With new market entrants and investments driving change in how insurance is created, sold, distributed and consumed, it’s a really exciting time to be joining Applied. As an industry leader for the last 35 years, we feel like it’s our responsibility to continue to lead, and not to rest on our laurels. It’s time for us to double down on our commitment to innovate and bring value to the industry for the next 35 years and beyond.
Tell us about your first Applied Net experience.
TR: Attending Applied Net for my first time was an eye-opening experience. Before taking the role of CEO of Applied, I had spoken to many of Applied’s customers and other industry experts who knew Applied, and they all gave Applied a lot of praise. It wasn’t until I was immersed with customers at Applied Net that I fully understood how much they love Applied. It was a wonderful experience to hear how the technology and services transformed their businesses for the better straight from customers. The energy at Applied Net 2019 was incomparable and I’m looking forward to an even better conference next year.
What’s next for Applied Systems’ partnership with Google?
TR: Our most recent enhancement using our partnership with Google is to the customer mobile app, Applied MobileInsured, which we unveiled at Applied Net in October. We have added an artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant to the app, enabling insureds to quickly and simply begin the claims process. Customers can upload pictures, answer questions and stay aware of the claims process via the mobile app, speeding up the claims process and creating ease of use for the customer.
We are actively working with Google on expanding our artificial intelligence and machine learning initiatives, among other technology. Some areas that our customers have expressed interest in include life event prediction (using client data history to predict life events), fraudulent claims detection, and customized insurance premiums (based on driving habits, for instance) just to name a few.
In addition to leveraging Google’s technology to create more valuable products for our customers, we are also benefitting from learning from Google about innovation. We are partnering with them to explore how Google fosters and champions innovation to challenge us to look at innovation in different ways, and collectively build creativity and value creation.
Share your best tip for staying productive.
TR: As simple as they sound, here are my three secrets to staying productive:
- First, think about your priorities on a regular basis. Are you focusing on what is most impactful and important to you, your role and your company? If you don’t think about this regularly, you can drift.
- Second, manage your time!! There are many “time traps” that try to make their way onto your calendar, so you have to learn to be somewhat ruthless about the meetings you accept. Do they align with your priorities? Where you spend your time and energy, especially as a leader, will determine how much and where you can impact your role, your team, your company.
- Last, manage your inbox. I never finish my day until I have taken care of anything that requires me to take an action so that others can get busy with theirs. When you become the bottleneck, it can really slow down an organization — especially if you are a leader.
What role do you see Applied Client Network playing in your vision for the future of Applied Systems?
TR: When an agent or broker adopts our technology, it is important that they are set up for success with the proper resources. Applied Client Network provides Applied customers with a community of agents with the same software so they can ask questions and learn from each other, enabling them to maximize their technology. I am excited to continue to work alongside the Applied Client Network to deliver a valuable experience for each one of our customers.
Tags: Applied Net , Applied Systems , Digital Agency , Taylor Rhodes