A New Play on Old Technology
“If you don’t find yourself giving it your all you may be starting the wrong business,” says Philip Charles-Pierre, CEO of Semsee. As the builder of three companies from the ground up, he knows this well. Semsee is an automated small commercial quoting solution for insurance agents, giving them a new way to sell insurance. While he’s focused on insurance today, Charles-Pierre has multi-faceted experience in building technology for travel, publishing, and real estate, leading to success with three entrepreneurial ventures. His achievements drew the attention of D.E. Shaw Group and Nephila Holdings, who funded Semsee, and Charles-Pierre was named the CEO. Within one year of its launch, Semsee has nearly 20 carriers on the platform and offers multiple lines including BOP, Workers Comp, and Commercial Auto, and is continuing to add more. Today, it is the go-to platform for independent insurance agents.
An Unconventional Start
Being the head of an insurtech startup, Charles-Pierre considers his educational background unconventional. He graduated with degrees in international studies and philosophy, initially hoping to go to law school. “However, in one of the best decisions of my life, I decided not to become a lawyer but instead went to graduate school at Harvard,” he says. He obtained a Masters in the Philosophy of Religion and began his career working on Wall Street. After leading successful enterprises in the travel and real-estate sectors, Charles-Pierre decided to tackle insurance. He realized that there weren’t a lot of options out there that focused on enabling agents and was thrilled with the opportunity Semsee presented to build technology for independent agents on the commercial side.
Connecting to Carriers
Each carrier has different requirements and information they need especially in small commercial lines where the coverage can be complex. Semsee’s user interface combines all of these questions and accounts for the different variations enabling the agent to easily and seamlessly answer questions using one form to receive accurate quotes from multiple carriers. It keeps all the unique elements of the carrier intact. Semsee can also partner with carriers that are not as technology-enabled, using its RPA system. This gives agents access to a broad array of carriers on the platform.
Bridging Technology and Agents
“I don’t think agents will be disintermediated, in fact, I think the agent’s role will become even more important, evolving to be even more of an advisor,” says Charles-Pierre. He believes agents will be necessary to help guide customers through the different policies they need based on their type of business. Consider the Wimbledon competition and how the agency working with Wimbledon organizers made sure there was coverage for a pandemic.. They received a $170 million check and didn’t have to hold the competition. Meanwhile, other tournaments had to run their events without spectators bearing a dramatic financial impact. Valuable advice like this means that technology won’t replace agents—but it can empower agents to do more.
The Perception Challenge
Early on, there was some skepticism about how successful Semsee will be at convincing carriers to join their platform. “We broke down that barrier little by little. Both large and small companies are seeing the value of partnership and there is tremendous momentum,” says Charles-Pierre. Onboarding new carriers is a significant task, but the team at Semsee takes the care and time to make sure they are integrated correctly. Most agents and carriers have not had access to a tool like Semsee before. Convincing agents to try a new process can be difficult. But once a person uses the seamless interface of Semsee, they realize how easy it is and becomes much more efficient.
“Our proudest accomplishment is that we have tangible evidence that we are providing value to the industry,” says Charles-Pierre. Every month the number of Semsee users and the total amount of premium being quoted on the platform is increasing at a high rate. Charles-Pierre’s advice to budding entrepreneurs is to be relentless, have passion, and get comfortable with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. “I didn’t realize how much I like insurance before I started working in it. Thankfully I do because it enables me to dive into more detail than I normally would because I want to learn more,” he adds. Charles-Pierre believes that we’re going to see an acceleration of change and more rapid digital advancement in the insurance sector and is confident that Semsee will be at its forefront.