Are We There Yet?

By Matt Derrick
September 24, 2019

This year at TRANSFORM 2019, we made a ton of changes—some little and some big. Arguably one of the largest was convening a Disrupters panel, featuring the former CEOs of MapQuest, Borders Bookstore and the former Chief Solutions Officer of Yahoo. In the 90s and early 2000s, those were leaders of industries, but along came a little…disruption. I knew I was going to absolutely love the panel—more on that in a minute—but what I waited on pins and needles to find out was would other people find it interesting. I was thrilled with the feedback—it was our highest attended main-stage session AND the highest rated. Clearly it resonated, but the next and more important question is, why?

What I’ve found over the years is that when it comes to technology, people have a tendency to either embrace it or (more often) throw up their hands and say, “The landscape is changing so fast that it’s hard to know where to start.” There’s a natural inclination to wonder, “Now that technology has changed things, is it going to slow down so I can catch up?” In other words, a software twist on the old adage: “Are we there yet?”

The reality is the changes that are impacting our profession are not going to end, and in fact, the pace of change is continuing to accelerate. The tectonic shift that has occurred over the last 10–15 years is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Like any change, that can be good or bad, depending on your perspective. The massive shifts that relegated Yahoo, Borders, and MapQuest to the tech dustbin were clearly bad for them; however, hundreds of billions of dollars of new value has been created in what replaced them. You don’t have to look further than another TRANSFORM mainstage speaker, New York Life’s Ben Yin, to see an advisor that is harnessing technology and using it to turbocharge his business.

Personally, I have always been fascinated by technology going back to my earliest memories of my family’s first Apple IIe computer. Perhaps it was only natural that I gravitated to startups—first, an online life insurance quotes company called ReliaQuote, and then a how-to video website MonkeySee.com. I eventually moved from there to lead marketing at Life Happens (then called the LIFE Foundation). I helped overhaul their marketing and programs, and created Life Happens Pro, a cloud-based software platform that provides email marketing, social media automation, and more.

The vision Marc Cadin communicated was compelling however, and when he was elevated to CEO, I jumped at the chance to take what I had learned and apply it to a larger organization. I started last summer and dove into the challenge of building out a Member Services team. Our North Star as Member Services is making you, the member, love AALU more. We will do that by delivering value through technology products and services that help you on a daily basis.

What my hope for this monthly column is that it can be a tonic for those of you that are fearful of the change that has impacted, and the coming change. In this column, we’ll look at changes that have already impacted us, but also what is coming down the road. Will AI really replace advisors someday? Does genetic testing hold promise or peril? Will the Blockchain turn underwriting into a process that takes minutes instead of months? And for that matter, what is a blockchain in the first place?

One small way to do this is to examine technology trends and look at its potential impact on the profession. In this column, we’ll look at changes that have already impacted us, but also what is coming down the road. Will AI really replace advisors someday? Does genetic testing hold promise or peril? Will the Blockchain turn underwriting into a process that takes minutes instead of months? And for that matter, what is a blockchain in the first place?

Finally, this cannot be just me picking topics that I find interesting and writing about them. You are the reason we exist as an organization, and so I want to explore topics that matter to you. So please, send me an email at derrick@aalu.org or leave comments below and share questions that you have, or topics that you would like addressed in future TechTonic articles.

Together, we will get there, and I look forward to the journey!

Matt

.