December 02, 2013

When I was told I would be interviewing Lin Elliott for an upcoming feature article on how line of business executives can take advantage of cloud services (look for it in the next I&T digital issue), my first thought was, "It can't be the same one, can it?" "Lin Elliott kick" is a phrase that haunts me and many other Buffalo Bills fans: it peppers the boxscore of Super Bowl XXVII, when Elliott's Dallas Cowboys butchered our beloved team in its third of four unsuccessful trips to the NFL's biggest stage. Seeing it took me back to my days as a 10-year-old, poring over the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle for hours, hoping that somehow the game story would change or I would wake up from what was just one of the first of many Bills-related nightmares.

But a quick check of his Wikipedia page confirmed that, yes, the investment manager for Texas Farm Bureau and the former Cowboys kicker are the same person, and once I got over the shock, I became excited for the chance to interview someone who had actually played football at its highest level with a unique angle. After I spoke to Elliott about a SaaS-based investment management program, I asked if he would talk a little bit about relating his playing days to his current career in insurance. Here's what he had to say:

Insurance & Technology: Was insurance your first stop after football?

Lin Elliott, Texas Farm Bureau: As a kicker, you either start or you're looking for a job. So after football I wanted to use my degree, which is in finance. But I wasn't about to get into a kind of bureaucratic banking job where it was set hours and set pay. I wanted something where you can be as good as you can be, so I worked at UBS as a retail investment manager.

I&T: One of my former colleagues did an article about a former NFL cornerback who now runs an investment firm, and he later found that many former athletes choose careers in the capital markets. Why is that?

Elliott: The thing I miss most about sports is that whether you won or you lost, you knew that you had accomplished your job. Once I realized that we were going to win the game [Super Bowl XXVII] it was one of the greatest feelings I ever had. When you transition out of sports and you get into a job at, like, a community bank, it's hard to ever really know if you did your job. That's why I think a lot of people go to the capital markets side, the retail investing side or whatever it may be. You know you've done a good job when you land a $5 million client. You also know when you did a good job when you see the results of your management.

[More crossover between football and insurance: Why didn't State Farm's Super Bowl blackout tweet go viral like Oreo's?]

I&T: So given all that, why make the jump into insurance?

Elliott: It's hard from me to walk away from my job at UBS, but when I looked at the opportunity and being brought in at the senior level, that was what I wanted. We manage well over a billion dollars and keep it real simple -- primarily we buy municipal bonds and government agencies. It's not quite as exciting on a daily basis, but on the other side of it you have a mission and it's to get out there and buy high-quality bonds for my company.

I&T: You and I just had a long conversation about an analytics tool that you're using -- I wonder if you've heard about the use of advanced statistics in football and what you think about the potential for analytic tools to change your former job as well as your current one.

Elliott: Well, I guess it all started with the book and movie Moneyball andsabermetrics. They start to really dive into the numbers and what do the numbers mean? I definitely know that moving forward those analytics are going to be used in other sports. You can't just have the highest payroll, charge ticket holders more to cover the demands, and win.

There's something local that's going on at Baylor University. Their coach Art [Briles] was a Texas high school coach. He realized early on that the team wasn't as big as the other teams that were playing, so he had to figure out a way analytically that they could compete and beat bigger teams. He decided to stretch the field from sideline to sideline. An exacmple of a play he came up with is 52 vomit. After he picked up a first down, he'd put the two best receivers out wide and streak them down the field. He'd put the second string receivers in and the next play was also streak down field. Within 12 seconds he had the first two receivers back on the field and ran the defensive back 175 yards in 12 seconds. That's what he's doing now at Baylor, spreading the field, picking up the tempo. I don't know how that works analytically, but it's really interesting to watch.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...