10 Essential Talents to Leverage Insurtech - Insurance Thought Leadership




November 9, 2017

10 Essential Talents to Leverage Insurtech


Leveraging insurtech is basically a new competence to most organizations. Furthermore, it's not easy.

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Many insurance carriers love insurtech because it can help them become more operationally excellent. A growing number realize that this is not sufficient and that they should deploy insurtech to reinvent the way they engage with customers, as well. Leveraging what insurtech enables and combining even more operational excellence with a next level of consumer engagement is not a gradual development; it requires insurance carriers to develop new talents. Leveraging insurtech is basically a new competence to most organizations. Furthermore, it is not easy. It transcends channels, products and departments. It is about working methods but also about changing decades of routines, beliefs and company culture. And last but not least, to know how to deliver it is the real challenge. To quote Morpheus, the character in “The Matrix,” “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

Here, we will distinguish 10 talents that are more important than ever to leverage insurtech for new ways of customer engagement.

1. Hang out with your customers

A different level of customer obsession is required. Because new technologies redefine behavior, we need to know a lot more. All sorts of connected devices offer insurance carriers unprecedented entry in the lives of customers and all sorts of possibilities to help them on all kinds of occasions.

To capture this opportunity, insurers have to have much better knowledge of the wishes, expectations and behavior of consumers regarding financial services. Insurers have to understand even better what requirements new customer engagement strategies have to meet. Which ways are best to maintain a dialogue with the customers, increase the contact frequency, be of value all the time, develop pull platforms and stay interesting over time? Which events or themes cause customers to go looking for content? In what way can banks and insurers best help them with that? What part can banks and insurers play in customers’ lives? Which role will be accepted by the customer?

Insurers have to know better than they do now what customers expect from them when it comes to the use of data. Insurers need to be aware of how customers weigh privacy against convenience and added value as well as what reciprocity is expected, where the absolute limits are and insurers can familiarize customers with the use of data.

This is not about briefing a customer research agency. Insurers need to immerse in the life of customers. Hang out with them and observe them.

2. Develop leading-edge data analytics skills and turn data into winning propositions

A key challenge for insurance carriers is building new capabilities to take full advantage of the data they collect from connected devices, pull platforms and smart phones. Unfortunately, the enormous amount of data that insurers preserve makes them think there is a lot of knowledge. But all too often it’s just a lot of data used for risk assessment, pricing and targeted marketing. In reality, most insurers have not yet succeeded in translating all that data into new customer propositions with new advantages. All these new data streams only become interesting when new, innovative propositions and revenue streams can be based on them — and by translating the data into actionable insights/new offerings and getting these new products and services to market quickly and efficiently.

Most insurers are simply not creative or enterprising enough to get the most from their data; neither for the customer nor the company itself. Insurers need to step up the plate.

3. Build relations where the value proposition is alive and personal

Building relationships — with customers, insurtechs and partners that are part of the same ecosystem is a core competence.

Developing customer relationships is a something most insurers have outsourced in the last 100 years to brokers and other distribution partners. These talents have to be restored and be translated to digital. Insurers have to think about a few things regarding relationships: With whom do we want a relationship? Who would we pass on? What kind of relationship? How do we develop that relationship? How do we give our best?

See also: Core Systems and Insurtech (Part 1)  

Insurers have to deal with several new aspects. They have to live up to what consumers have grown accustomed to in the mobile world: perpetual updates and improvement, new functionalities and capabilities. Products and services must now be alive and personal. New products and services should take that into account from the conceptual stage on — and there should be longevity. Any concept should be able to sense how consumer needs are changing over time and be able to adapt seamlessly. There should be a constant stream of upgrades and iterations that anticipate the endless consumer desire for continuous product renewal and innovation that will keep motivating customers over a longer period of time.

Apart from relationships with customers, other relationships have to be developed and maintained — with all kinds of parties that play a part in the ecosystem or in the customer’s context and with insurtechs that innovate a part of servicing for a insurer, insurtechs that come up with new ideas based on the data and infrastructure of the insurance carrier, etc.

Building relationships is a core competence.

4. Keep an open mind and leave room for unsupervised learning

New entrants venture to question industry conventions. Established insurance carriers should do that, too. As a colleague Eduard de Wilde (VODW) puts it, “If you want to play the game, you need to change the rules.” It’s all about questioning eroded conventions regarding customer expectations and positioning the business model, the products and services, the role of the broker and the importance of channels. Don’t start out conforming to conventions, look for ways to break them. Keep an open mind.

The high rate of the developments demands that we have to deal with uncertainty. You have to let it happen. That is against insurers’ nature. This is where we can learn from adjacent and similar industries such as banking. MobilePay, Danske Bank’s mobile payment solution, is now used by almost every Dane. But Mark Wraa-Hansen (Danske Bank) says, “If you listen to the MobilePay success story, you may think we had it all  figured out, but we definitely didn’t. Of course we had made a business case, but it didn’t stick at all. We outperformed on a lot of parameters, but, at first, we did not make any money. However, with MobilePay we created a huge user base and it enabled us to build an ecosystem. And there is a lot of money in that ecosystem. The business case is quite different to when we started. It is actually better looking ahead than what we thought initially. There is just a lot of stuff  that you cannot foresee. It turns out that MobilePay is ‘first reach, then rich’. For a bank, this sounds very risky.”

Remember your empathy,  flexibility and improvisational skills. There should also be some open ending — room for unsupervised learning — to use whatever is derived from the data and learning experiences to take the next step and continuously match changing needs. We are shifting from product to constantly evolving services.

5. Be agile and improve the time-to-decisions

This is where we need to distinguish agility in adapting to change and an agile way of working within organizations. They are related yet very different. An often-heard reason for digital transformation is that it speeds up the time to market. That’s true, of course. Time to market of small banks is six months. Large banks need twice this time. By the way, that is not unique for financial institutions. It takes fast-mover Proctor & Gamble about 300 days to go from a new product idea to a supermarket shelf.

But in many large organizations, the time-to-decisions is the main problem. Decision-making takes ages, and it’s losing possible profit opportunities because a possible profit is bigger when you can bring it to market earlier and benefit from it longer. This way, you lose momentum. The longer you wait, the less relevant the idea will become.

Agility will become the standard. Who would have thought that Spotify would eventually be more renowned as an organization model than as a music service?

6. When experimentation is perfect, it’s too late

Fostering opportunities that new technologies offer requires experimentation. We never could have guessed all the things that the internet has made possible, let alone what smart phones have made possible. It’s just as hard to foresee what can be done with, for instance, connected devices. Insurers need to use techniques such as the lean methodology to experiment with new ideas and processes and constantly tweak these with fast feedback loops. Of course, that is also a culture issue. The challenge is to get people to be more ambitious. Again, insurers can learn from the banking sector. At DBS Bank, they have changed the word “no” to the phrase “let’s experiment.” But it definitely can be done, even on a massive scale.

Part of agile working and experimentation is thinking in terms of minimal viable products and improving these on the go. Mark Wraa-Hansen (Danske Bank) says, “We actually launched MobilePay before it was finished. People told us ‘Don’t launch this until you have solved this or that.’ Of course it made us insecure. But we just didn’t want to lose the first-mover advantage. We’re building a plane while it flies. But when it’s perfect, it’s too late.”

7. Be creative and hire strange animals

Collecting and modeling data is one thing; translating it to new concepts, ideas for features in pull platforms, dialogues with customers or added value is quite another. In building advanced data analytics skills, financial institutions suffer from some sort of anemia when it comes to this particular kind of creativity. Put customer experience design in the hands of design experts, not in the hands of workers who have been working in insurance carrier for ages. Hire strange animals who feel comfortable asking the questions nobody else dares to ask, people with completely different backgrounds (from the gaming, e-retail and online gambling industries, for example).

8. Regarding orchestration: Respect all nodes, cooperate and compromise

Orchestration is required at different levels to get the most out of agile teams, break down silos and create an ecosystem where every party has added value. Terms such as “ecosystems” and “marketplaces” suggest that these are more or less autonomous. That is not quite the case. Theo Bouts (Allianz) says, “A key function in smart ecosystems is orchestration. And the most important factor for success in orchestration is a genuine belief in the significance of connectivity — and you must be prepared to live by it. There is a shift in roles between insurer, consumer and distribution partner. That means that you have to understand and respect the needs of all nodes in the network and that you keep granting access to nodes that may not be of value to you but are valuable to the ecosystem as a whole.

This part of orchestration requires a certain level of maturity and a different mindset. If all is well, parties in an ecosystem are all convinced that value is added for the network and for each of the parties. Because of that, there can be no room for practices such as hard selling techniques. Orchestration requires specific talents: content, people and process skills. When you think of a network, you may conclude that process skills are the most important in establishing an ecosystem and continuing to give it new impulses. I think that the other two — content and people — are much more important. If you want to successfully play the part of an orchestrator, you have to master content 100%. Cooperation and, if necessary, compromise, have to be in your blood.

9. Gather the right people and change your DNA

The previous eight talents make clear that leveraging insurtech to the max is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges a company faces, primarily because it often requires the company to change deeply rooted corporate cultures. It’s not about drawing up a new organigram but gathering people around you that feel comfortable with. People who are agile, dare to take responsibility, are willing to keep an open mind, have the right skills (for instance, data creativity), can handle a certain level of uncertainty, enjoy developing relationships with other parties and are obsessed with customers.

See also: What’s Your Game Plan for Insurtech?  

Often, people with these talents are already inside the company — they only have to be found and empowered. But it’s not like the traits we just summed up are present in the genes of every financial institution. It has taken quite some time before insurers invested substantial amounts of money in innovation. Peter Maas, professor of insurance management at Sankt Gallen University in Switzerland, argues that this is caused by the DNA of the whole insurance industry. The core of the business model of insurance is to look backward at risk figures. It is not about painting future horizons, customer obsession and building relationships. Innovation and customer engagement is unnatural.

10. Get in the trenches to instill change

The people at the top are the most important agents of change. So to really get the most out of what insurtechs have to offer, you must have motivated board members who love customers. Furthermore, you need a vision that sees new engagement strategies, informed by new technologies, as the primary source of differentiation and profit.

The IT infrastructure is often an important hindrance in renewing and challenging the existing business. But, in our experience, the management culture may be an even larger barrier. The more management layers, the more bureaucratic processes there are and the more that politics come into play. More agile working calls for resistance, especially by the most powerful part of the organization: the middle management.

Everything stands or falls with the C-level having sufficient strength and power to break this — all while getting the remaining management layers to give the vision their unconditional support. To really bring about change, leaders must make time to get into the trenches to instill change.

Interested to read more?

Check our latest book “Reinventing Customer Engagement: The next level of digital transformation for banks and insurers” (LID Publishing, 2017) here or here.

You can find the original article published here.


About the Author

Roger Peverelli is an author, speaker and consultant in digital customer engagement strategies and innovation, and how to work with fintechs and insurtechs for that purpose. He is a partner at consultancy firm VODW.

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About the Author

Reggy de Feniks is an expert on digital customer engagement strategies and renowned consultant, speaker and author. Feniks co-wrote the worldwide bestseller “Reinventing Financial Services: What Consumers Expect From Future Banks and Insurers.”

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