Bill Hartnett has had a colorful history working in and around
the world of insurance. With ACORD looking to advance innovation among insurers, Hartnett decided his next challenge will
be to serve as head of innovation for the insurance industry’s
leading standards orgtanization and he accepted the position
Hartnett’s role with ACORD developed out of the 2020
initiative ACORD president and CEO Greg Maciag put in place.
Hartnett ran the roundtables for the vendor community and
wrote a report for the ACORD
board of directors.
“There was sentiment that
this should be an initiative,” says
Hartnett. “ACORD was formed to
do R&D on behalf of the industry.
As you go along with any organi-
zation, though, the ‘R’ becomes
smaller and the ‘D’ becomes
bigger. We need to focus on the
research and what is coming down
the pike so we can adapt to it
ACORD created the new
position for Hartnett to put structure around the 2020 initiative
and not only monitor the industry but also to allow ACORD to
improve things within the organization.
“We’re a standards development organization and there
are certain things we need to do to have that designation, but
there are other ways we can look at standards and other ways
we can provide products and services to the membership and
add relevance to the industry that we haven’t done before,” says
Carriers and Technology
Dating back to his years running the insurance practice for
Microsoft, Hartnett has seen firsthand that the insurance industry is not known for innovation. Hartnett famously described
insurers as the “Amish of the financial services world,” several
years ago, pointing out that insurers were not early adopters of
“That comment was more in recognition that this is a risk
adverse industry. Insurers don’t do things quickly and with
good reason,” he says.
Today, though, we live in an exponential world and Hartnett
Hartnett Finds an Innovative Fit
As the new head of innovation at ACORD, the insurance gadfly hopes to spark
new ideas for the industry.
believes if the insurance industry is doing things essentially the
same way it did 300 years ago, they can’t expect incremental
change to be enough to survive in the face of changes from
outside the industry.
Hartnett pointed to the capital markets as one example.
They are characterized by high-frequency trading and speed-of-light has become a competitive advantage, such as proprietary
fiber links to give a nanosecond advantage in trading. Banking
is doing things with payments and online services for customers, which may not be as innovative as the capital markets, but
are far more innovative than what is being done in insurance.
Hartnett does believe ACORD members are above average
in terms of innovation, but most insurers remains far behind
and, until recently, unaware of the danger they face from a lack
“The ACORD membership, through the 2020 process, is
looking for help to figure out not only what’s going to happen,
but the implications of new technology like the Internet of
Things and other broad technological changes in the world,” he
says. “There are hundreds of insurers out there and not all of
them can have a task force to look at these issues. That’s what
ACORD was created for; to see what we can do to help everyone adapt.”
Hartnett believes the software industry is driving innovation
in the consumer space and because of that businesses have
to adapt because expectations are set by consumers and they
believe every business should meet their desires.
“Banks have mostly had startups deal with this,” he says.
“You didn’t see the old core providers step up.”
Hartnett points to PayPal as an example. The old payments
network used by banks did not adapt to the Internet and al-
lowed Pay Pal to become a major force in payments.
“If banks were on top of their game that never would have
happened,” he says. “Anybody with a system that has been out
there for a while faces this dilemma.”
The fact insurers are members of ACORD makes them predisposed to collaboration and sharing, according to Hartnett.
Members understand the many-to-many problem the insurance
industry faces with a broad distribution force and a large number of carriers. He maintains that is one reason why ACORD