CEO Mike Jackowski on Duck Creek’s Return to Independence

Meeting at Formation ’19 customer conference, Duck Creek’s CEO talks with IIR about what the vendor has accomplished, how its vision has evolved for the Saas/platform era, and how the current vision represents continuity with Duck Creek’s original ideals.

(Michael Jackowski speaking at Formation ’19. Source: Duck Creek.)

It’s been a little over two years since core systems vendor Duck Creek Technologies, acquired by Accenture in 2011, became a privately-held company through a joint venture with Apax Partners that finalized in August of 2016. Since the finalization of the Apax/Accenture spinoff, Duck Creek has rapidly evolved in the direction of becoming a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform company with a full range of core and ancillary capabilities and a large ecosystem of partners. In June of 2016, fresh on the heels of the initial announcement of its impending ownership status shift, Duck Creek announced that it had agreed to acquire Agencyport Software, a specialist in front-end digital engagement, a move followed in January of 2017 by the acquisition of Yodil, an insurance data management company. The vendor continued this trend in October of 2018 with its acquisition of Outline Systems, whose ProducerOne product became today’s Duck Creek Distribution Management. Today, Duck Creek has over 230 property/casualty clients globally, and in the first two quarters of its fiscal year 2019, it reported nine customers taking delivery of their Duck Creek applications via the vendor’s Duck Creek OnDemand SaaS solution (six of the nine for core systems). Insurance Innovation Reporter had the opportunity to meet with Duck Creek CEO Michael Jackowski on April 1, 2019, at the vendor’s Formation ’19 customer conference in Miami.

Insurance Innovation Reporter: About two years ago, the announcement of Apax’s investment indicated that the move was designed to accelerate the innovation of claims, billing, and policy administration software. How would you say that has played out ?

Michael Jackowski, CEO, Duck Creek: Overall, it’s allowed us to execute with greater agility and speed at lower cost. I think Duck Creek has always been about bringing the best of our industry acumen together with the available technology and enhancing our applications to be the most configurable. You can always get into the details of features and functionality, but the most notable thing is that it has unleashed us to be a SaaS-based company.

IIR: In your keynote, you spoke about Duck Creek’s strategy, which includes P&C applications and content—which now extend beyond policy, claims, and billing—along with two other “pillars”: Platform and SaaS. How is that a reflection of the way the company has advanced its vision since the 2016 announcement of the Apax acquisition?

MJ: Those three pillars represent a combination of platform and cloud that enable our P&C applications and content to be more responsive to the needs and goals of our customers, and allow us to apply leading technologies to support business change.

IIR: That seems to be an understated version of what (Chief Product and Technology Officer) Andy Dey said in his remarks this morning—if I may quote him: “The whole company has singularity of purpose, which is to be the number one SaaS insurance software provider.”

Andy Dey, Chief Product and Technology Officer, Duck Creek Technologies.

MJ: Yes, that’s well-said by Andy, and of course we’re talking about a fundamental strategic direction. I would add that this strategy represents the best of Duck Creek in this stage of its evolution—long-standing business acumen, relentless focus on technology, and over seven years’ experience running our own systems in the cloud.

IIR: Let’s pursue the SaaS theme specifically a little further. We’ve reported a string of announcements—two just last week—of Duck Creek’s customers shifting from on-premises to your OnDemand SaaS option. How would you characterize the importance of OnDemand to Duck Creek’s vision as a P&C insurance software provider?

MJ: There’s no doubt that OnDemand is our number one priority. I’ll also say we’re finally seeing the insurance marketplace’s acceptance of running its core insurance software in the cloud. There’s a lot of interest, and we see it moving faster. It’s because carriers know that technology infrastructure is not their core competency. The software market has matured remarkably — a decade or so ago, the industry wouldn’t accept packaged software in the first place.

IIR: We’ve seen increasing maturity in core insurance software vendors’ shifts from integrated suites to an emerging platform model. As the platform approach matures, how is Duck Creek seeking to differentiating itself from competitors?

MJ: At a high level, I’d say that our differentiation today in the emerging platform and SaaS world is what it has always been for us—how we externalize our business rules and now how we’re increasing investment in low-code tools to help businesses be more nimble. We believe we’re ahead of the industry in these trends, and we’re continuing to lead because we have the best low-code tools that allow our customers to configure our cloud-based solutions to their own unique needs. At Duck Creek, we’ve always made it our mission to give more power to business users so they can change their own business rules. And we continue to work to provide them more configuration tools so they can change their business processes faster.

IIR: What else would you call out as expressing how Duck Creek stands out in the field?

MJ: Another thing that we’re really proud of is the scalability of our platform for carriers of all sizes. We’ve been thrilled that we have new insurtechs with zero DWP on day one using our platform; we also have smaller carriers with premium around $100 million. But then we also have many mid-market carriers in the $1 billion to $2 billion range, and then all the way up to major national insurers like GEICO. We scale all the way up and down, using the same bits, the same code, the same platform.

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Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at AnthODonnell@IIReporter.com or (503) 936-2803.

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