PROTO Accelerator Corporate Partner Spotlight: Farm Bureau Insurance of America

Q&A with Cheri Barnhart, director of corporate innovation

PROTO InsurTech is proud to team up with incredible partners across Michigan who align with our mission and vision to enhance Lansing’s status as the insurtech hub of the Midwest. As the first partnership of its kind between Michigan’s technology industries and the global startup community, PROTO InsurTech attracts creative minds from all over the world and weaves them into the fabric of the state’s leading companies, many of which are headquartered in our hometown of Lansing. One of those local leaders is Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan.

While entrepreneurs in the program get the valuable experience of performing pilot tests, corporate partners of Michigan’s leading companies get a front row seat to cutting-edge insurtech development working alongside startups to innovate. We sat down with Cheri Barnhart, director of corporate business analytics and quality assurance (former director of innovation) at Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan, to learn more about her experience as a corporate partner of PROTO InsurTech’s program. 

Q: How has PROTO InsurTech impacted the environment, structure and pursuit of innovation for Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan?
A: PROTO InsurTech has broadened our awareness of the start-ups working on solutions that hold promise for new customer experiences. We have adopted practices to support proof of concept and pilot tests, and methods to evaluate new technologies. We are balancing specific solutions for current problems and opportunities to transform how we operate in the future. 

Q: What inspired and/or motivated you to participate in the PROTO InsurTech program? What problems were you looking for PROTO to solve?
A: There are multiple reasons for us to participate in the PROTO InsurTech program. It’s a great opportunity to boost the technology and innovative talent available in the Lansing area. Working with start-ups provides us with fresh perspectives and the potential to influence technology in ways that benefit us both. We are eager to move away from “how things have always been done” and use new technologies to better serve our customers.

Q: What’s one thing you wish people knew about Lansing’s impact on insurance technology within the region?
A: Innovation is taking place all around us in Lansing. Michigan is our home and we believe in investing in our community. There are several insurance companies in Lansing, and insurance is one of the top employers in the region. There are support mechanisms, incubators and accelerator programs to help advance innovation and entrepreneurship right here in our city, including the PROTO InsurTech program. One of the start-ups selected for PROTO’S 2020 cohort is from East Lansing.  

Q: How will the collaboration of PROTO and Farm Bureau Insurance impact the people it serves?
A: As we look at the technology prototypes, our first question is always, “how will this benefit our customers?” We want to deliver services that match our customer’s expectations and strive to find the right tools for them.

Q: What does “innovation” mean to you? What’s trending within InsurTech that inspires you and makes you excited?
A: Innovation is all about finding those thingsthat can make a big, positive impact on our business. You can look at examples around us, such as how Amazon changed the buying experience, how Uber has changed transportation, or Netflix changed television viewing. Introducing technology to positively change a customer experience is exciting, finding ways that our company can benefit our local communities gives us purpose, and we are always looking for the twist that offers value to both the customer and the company.