David Disiere is a highly successful entrepreneur, having built not one, but two of the largest commercial automobile insurance Managing General Agencies (MGA) in the United States. David Disiere was the powerhouse behind Deep South Insurance, which grew into a highly successful MGA under his leadership. It was purchased in 2008 by QBE U.S. Agencies, and Disiere went on to found QEO Insurance Group. In this interview he talks about the commercial auto insurance business and the secret to his success.
What trends are having the largest impact on the industry today?
Definitely technology. There’s a whole different world that’s been created by telematics, which involves using devices on the inside and outside of vehicles to monitor constantly what’s going on inside the cab, outside the cab, on either side and behind through digital video. It’s a newer technology that is redefining fault in an accident because it’s pretty easy to determine what’s happened in an accident if you can see it. So telematics is changing how business works today. And then there is a lot of development going on in the area of autonomous driving, and we’ve done a lot of work in that area to understand how and when autonomous driving is going to happen. Because when it happens, and if it happens in the manner in which we can conceive of it happening, it will change the insurance industry. We will no longer be looking at the driving record of a driver. We’ll be looking at how reliable is the software that powers the vehicle in avoiding accidents, be that with another driverless vehicle or a vehicle that’s driven by an individual. So there are a lot of challenges in front of us.
How did you become so successful in commercial automobile insurance?
I had the privilege of starting out in this business going to work for my parents just out of school when I was in my twenties. When I started, I worked in every phase of the business. I did every job in our office from typing policies to acting as an adjuster, then an underwriter, and really getting to experience all phases of business. There is no job in this company that I haven’t done before. I think that acquired knowledge, that experience, is invaluable to me in our everyday operations, even though I thought it was kind of worthless at the time. When I was in my twenties and I was typing policies, it didn’t seem like it had a lot of purpose or future. But now as I reflect back, the tremendous insight I gained by doing those things, it really paid off.
What guiding principle do you think is most important in your business?
In this business, people hand us money, and we give them a sheet of paper. On that piece of paper is a policy that says in the event that there is a loss that occurs, we, the insurance company, will step into your shoes, and we will protect you, your stake and your family to the limit of liability as provided for in this insurance contract. Doing that the right way, every day, with an honorable and ethical practice is a guiding principle that we live up to every day. It’s our privilege to do this, and that’s a word not often used in our business. We take that commitment of doing the right thing every time very seriously here. It’s important to us.
What distinguishes you from your competitors?
Experience. For me, it’s been 44 years. That’s a long time. When you do something that long – I don’t care what it is – you build experience. Although to fully leverage experience, you also need knowledge. Experience can only be used effectively when you have the right knowledge. You know, there’s a lot difference driving in North Dakota than say in Houston, Texas. You have to understand the differences, react to the market appropriately, and price it accordingly; that comes with experience and knowledge. I think that’s a differentiator for us. We’ve had some very good results for a long number of years and I believe it’s because of our experience and knowledge.
How did you get started and why commercial automobile insurance?
It started of course with my parents, and I thought it was a great business. I wanted something that didn’t have a lot of high inventory costs, and I wanted to be associated with something in the financial services business. Although, the most important thing for me was selling a product that everyone needs. There are lots and lots of vehicles across America, and everyone who operates a vehicle needs insurance. So low inventory cost and everyone needing insurance were a big part of the decision for me to get into this business.
What does your day look like?
We have a large group of underwriters here that look at transportation risks all day long, analyzing, rating, looking at the background information. When they finish their write ups, they bring them to me. So I get to look at those throughout the day and make the decision to authorize or not authorize. That takes a really granular approach to our business, which I think is a great asset that we have here. That’s part of my day. Another part of my day is losses. We discuss the losses, analyze all the pieces and come up with a plan of action that fulfills the promise and responsibility we have to our insureds. That kind of divides my day in half, although there’s a small amount of administration as well.
What do you think is the key to success for the future?
The paramount thing in our world today is the use of technology. Technology is playing a role today that is creating solutions that we’ve never even dreamed of before. I think if you’re going to be in business, stay in business, and be successful in business, you’re going to have to be a technology geek, if you will, to avail yourself of every opportunity that gives you the ability to do things a little bit better, a little bit easier, a little bit more efficient. I think that’s what technology is doing. Look at where we were even ten years ago. We all thought we were pretty smart ten years ago, but from where we sit now…we were dinosaurs ten years ago! Things are so different today. So many advances have been made, and I can’t wait to see the next ten years. I’m excited about it.
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