Thoughts on AASCIF 2018 and... Lumberjacks?

This was my first year attending the AASCIF Annual Conference and it did not disappoint! Held at the JW Marriott within the Mall of America in beautiful Minneapolis, Minnesota, the conference featured some fantastic industry talent, thought leadership and local sightseeing. DataCubes was a proud sponsor of the event. A brief disclaimer: I was neither able to attend nor write up every session and activity at the event, so this post will not cover all this conference had to offer, however it will give the highlights from my experience there.


Mall of America is just awesome!

Bob Lund - Opening Remarks

Bob Lund, President and CEO of SFM, was a gregarious host for the conference and incorporated hilarious videos to get the audience warmed up. I don’t believe his opening video is posted publicly, but his promo video can give you a feel for the mood he set.

George Will Keynote - The Political Argument Today

One of today’s most widely-read columnists and a Pulitzer Prize Winner, George Will, provided commentary on the current state of politics, what the future holds and challenges Americans are going to need to overcome – all with some solid baseball analogies mixed in. In George’s own words:

  • “There will be another economic recession and when it comes it will start with a trillion dollars of debt.”
  • “In 1917, J.D. Rockefeller could retire the entire national debt simply by writing a personal check. Today, Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, could write a check for his entire net worth and cover only three months interest on our current national debt.”
  • “In 4 years we will be spending more on servicing the national debt than we do on defense.”


George has a wealth of political, economic and, most importantly, baseball knowledge. 

Matt Birk Keynote - What Makes Teams Great

This was an inspirational presentation by the former NFL player, author and public speaker on how to build great teams. It turns out it’s the simple things: getting a routine, being dedicated and “doing the things that require no talent”, such as showing up on time, that make all the difference in both individual and team accomplishment.

Dan Buettner Keynote - Blue Zones: Secrets of a Long Life

Dan Buettner and his team are famous for studying the world’s “Blue Zones,” communities where people live healthy, active lives well past 100 years old. This was a fascinating review of his findings, including:

  • The importance of strong family and social connections.
  • A diet of mostly vegetables with meat only about five times per month and… regular consumption of red wine!
  • An active lifestyle often including gardening, which provides both exercise and fresh organic foods.
  • Purpose, this was the biggest insight for me: these cultures don’t put their elderly out to pasture. They continue to be involved as an important part of the community right up until their death. In Japan, there is no word for “retirement”.

Panel Session: What Is the Future of Distribution in the Small and Mid-sized Markets?

This was a very insightful panel session led by Karlyn Carnahan, Head of the Americas, Property Casualty at Celent. There are many new distribution models that have recently emerged for Workers Comp, including direct, but the agent remains an important part of the ecosystem and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

Tom Phelan, President and CEO, Chesapeake Employers said something that resonated with me: “We need to find more ways to take noise away from our underwriters.” I know exactly what he means, it’s about optimizing their time and removing work from their plates that does not add value. That’s essentially the founding vision of DataCubes!

Outing at Nicollet Island Pavillion

Self-explanatory lumberjack awesomeness:

If you attended the conference this year, what were your thoughts?