Industry veterans join insurtech advisory board

Experts will help guide company in its next phase of growth

Industry veterans join insurtech advisory board


By Ryan Smith

Insurance payments platform Ascend has announced that Jim Hackbarth, former president and CEO of Assurex Global, and Robert W. Smith, former president of agency operations at PCF Insurance Services, have been appointed as founding members of its advisory board.

As members of the board, Hackbarth and Smith will help guide the company toward its next phase of growth. Ascend intends to expand its network of insurance brokerages, MGAs, agency networks, insurtechs and carriers.

Hackbarth has more than 30 years of insurance experience. He began his career at IBM and has held senior positions at Price Waterhouse, Policy Management Systems and Agency Management Systems (now Vertafore).

Hackbarth founded Cornerstone Partners, a consulting firm specializing in executive recruiting, early-stage investing and incubating startups. From 2003 to 2021 he served as president and CEO of Assurex Global, the world’s largest privately held risk management and commercial insurance brokerage group. He currently serves as an advisor to insurtechs and a board member for two venture capital-backed companies in the insurance sector.

“Ascend has the potential to streamline one of the most antiquated aspects of insurance,” Hackbarth said. “Payments infrastructure and processes between customers, brokerages, wholesalers and carriers have lagged behind many of the other innovations within insurance, and I am excited to see Ascend tackling these issues of the space as a whole.”

Robert W. Smith has more than 25 years of leadership experience in the financial products sector. He previously held regional and national practice group leadership positions at Acrisure and Aon, and as president of agency operations at PCF Insurance Services.

Smith recently founded Fideles Advisors, an advisory firm for independent insurance agencies, private equity investors, insurers seeking distribution insights, and businesses seeking alignment with insurance agents.

“I am excited to support and promote Ascend’s differentiated value proposition, especially to the larger and more complex buyers,” Smith said. “Drawing on my experience collaborating with both independent agencies and major aggregators, I recognize the transformative potential of Ascend’s cutting-edge technology in streamlining and modernizing the financial insurance infrastructure through automation. Given this I believe Ascend’s approach will significantly boost agency earnings, while at the same time advancing the industry as a whole into the future.”

Ascend secured $30 million in series A funding in January of last year.

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