Tag Archives: b2b

Expanding Into Commercial Lines

In personal lines insurance, independent agents constantly face increased competition in an already congested market. Many of the competitors have the technology to provide the on-demand service that customers require. In addition to direct writers and others, massive companies like Google and Amazon continue to hint about re-entry into the insurance markets. The bottom line: For independent agents to remain competitive, they can no longer solely rely on selling personal lines.

Commercial lines offer agents another avenue for revenue, and it is a segment in which they can still dominate. According to the IIABA’s 21st Market Share Report, while independent agents wrote just over a third of personal line premiums, they wrote 83% of commercial lines premiums. Most business owners need a trusted adviser. When searching for an insurance agent, they want a knowledgeable resource who can work with them on the different aspects of their personal and business portfolios. If their current agents can’t handle multiple line needs, many will turn to agencies that can handle both lines of insurance.

But, for agencies looking to expand their book in commercial, the same techniques used to target personal lines clients will not work. Personal lines are fairly straightforward. If you build a good relationship with a prospect, have a reputable carrier to place him with and fall within a reasonable price, you have a good chance of winning him as a client–and having him refer you to family, friends and colleagues. For commercial, you have to know the product and the customer very well. You have to understand the specific business details and the risks it faces on a much deeper level. You also can’t rely on building referral to referral. Prospecting requires much more research and initial leg work before you can start cold calling and networking.

See also: Top 5 Themes in Commercial Lines  

For independent agents looking to expand from B2C to B2B, here are three best practices that will help you land commercial clients.

Master some, but don’t dabble in all

In commercial lines, each industry has its own specific risk categories, and the needs of different companies can vary greatly from each other. For example:

  • How many employees does it have?
  • Does it have business disruption issues such as supply chain or weather-related factors?
  • What is the employees’ safety risk and how will this affect workers compensation?

For many agencies, especially those just entering the market, focusing on one or two industries and selling a specific type of product such as BOP or workers’ compensation, can be an effective approach.

This allows you to become an expert in that particular area and build the right set of carriers that specialize in that focus, a key draw for prospects. It also allows you to narrow your focus and get ingrained in that community.

For example, if you wanted to specialize in restaurants, you could join the National Restaurant Association and subscribe to the top three restaurant trade publications. This would allow you to learn the pain points of restaurateurs on a macro and micro level. You could then create a compelling presentation for the prospect’s business owner or CFO on how your agency could benefit her in ways her current provider cannot. Closing that first lead will help you get referred to other restaurant owners, and soon you can build a client portfolio that will make you the go to restaurant insurance agent.

Promote your credibility — with the right technology

Technology is important in commercial lines – but since you’re dealing with clients one-on-one in a customized way, certain technologies are not as critical as they might be for selling personal lines.

But that doesn’t mean successful agents can rely on old-school tactics like pamphlets, mail and fax to attract clients. Companies are looking for agencies that exude expertise and credibility in their fields. Sending an email newsletter to commercial clients can keep them apprised of the latest developments and emerging risks in their industry as well as keep you top of mind. You should have an interactive, comprehensive website that is easy to navigate, details your expertise working in a specific industry and makes it easy for the commercial client to contact you. Other digital materials such as an agency blog and accounts on key social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter dedicated to your business expertise will also demonstrate your knowledge in your focus area.

The right digital capabilities can also aid you in prospecting. If your website illustrates your expertise in insuring a specific business rather than just commercial insurance, in general, it will attract prospects searching for insurance in their specific industry. For example, a restaurant owner will most likely search for insurance for restaurants, not business insurance. Email marketing newsletters and risk management webinars can also further demonstrate your expertise in working with businesses and provide an opportunity to build relationships with prospects by providing them with insightful information that go beyond sales materials.

See also: Commercial Lines: Best Is Yet to Come  

Let clients dictate the terms and method of communication

All prospect relationships need to be nurtured to keep the lead engaged. You should be ready and able to communicate through whatever channels clients prefer. This may be traditional email or phone calls. But the prospect might need you to present your information to a group of leaders, and you have to be able and willing to travel to wherever that prospect may be. Or, the owner might want to quickly be able to text you a question, and you will have to have some plan in place for handling those requests. Companies might be using more modern video conferencing systems such as Skype or other video platforms. When pursuing a prospect, you should ensure you know the company’s preferred method of communication and make sure you have the capabilities to communicate with them on that platform.

As the insurance market continues to evolve, insurance agents who focus on a single line of business will struggle to keep up with the competition. Independent agents still dominate the commercial lines market, and branching out can provide new sources of revenue. Targeting companies is not the same as individuals – and agents will have to thoroughly understand their focus industry and products. But if they can demonstrate their expertise in a particular field, independent agents can grow highly successful commercial lines books of business.

10 Trends at Heart of Insurtech Revolution

As the insurance industry enters a period of profound change, we at Eos use a concept called the 20/20 dynamic to illustrate the point:

On a conservative basis, we believe most insurers risk losing at least 20% of their business to disruption. On the flip side, for those that embrace innovation there is an opportunity to grow their business by 20%.

Our goal is to ensure our strategic investors are on the right side of this equation.

Insurtech represents a unique opportunity for insurers to evolve their business model. Insurtech is not necessarily about disruption, but more an opportunity to take advantage of technology and data to create innovative solutions, reduce costs and capture greater value for customers, brokers and intermediaries, underwriters and service providers.

At one level, active participation is required just to meet the basic requirements of playing in the new market. For those committed to a strategic approach, insurtech can help drive true competitive differentiation, while enabling measured bets for the future.

See also: Insurtech: Unstoppable Momentum  

Underpinning this transformation are 10 key trends that we have identified and believe will be at the heart of the insurtech evolution:

  1. Insurance, as we have it known it historically, will be bought, sold, underwritten and serviced in a fundamentally different way within the next three years
  2. External data and contextual information will become increasingly more important than historical internal data for predicting risk and pricing
  3. A majority of the simple covers will be bought in standard units through a marketplace/ exchange, permitting just-in-time, need and exposure based protection through mobile access
  4. Solutions will continue to evolve from protection to behavioral change then to prevention — even across complex commercial insurance
  5. Although proliferation of data and increasing transparency on the buyer and seller will cause disintermediation for simple covers, it will also create opportunities for brokers and intermediaries to innovate solutions and channels for their B2C (non-standard risk pools, retirees/older generation, healthcare gaps) and B2B (emerging and unknown risks, cyber, global supply chains, cross-border liability, terrorism) customers
  6. The ability to dynamically innovate (new risk pools, new segments, new channels) and deliver on the customer promise will become the most important competitive advantage (as known risks continue to get commoditized and move to the direct channels)
  7. Internal innovation, incubation and maturing of capabilities will no longer be the optimal option; dynamic innovation will require aggressive external partnerships and acquisitions
  8. Simple “Grow or Go” decisions of the last decade will be sub-optimal, as the dust settles in insurtech; building in future optionality and degrees of freedom will be the key
  9. Consolidation just for economies of scale will provide increasingly less marginal value in non-life as well as life insurance; real value creation will come from “economies of skill” and digital capabilities
  10. Deep learning (next generation of AI), blockchain and genomics technologies will improve financial inclusion and better meet the needs of the under-insured and uninsured

We have linked the above trends to analysis of how profit pools will change over time to build an investment strategy that also focuses on platforms or clusters that allow us to build more compelling propositions by connecting related players in adjacent parts of the value chain.

Three areas of initial focus are:

1. A digital front office solution that leverages an open architecture platform developed by Convista (OneDigitalOffice), augmented by relevant startups including, for example, on-demand insurance by Oula.la and social media adoption by Digital Fineprint.

The ability to drive dynamic innovation is driven by technology stack/system flexibility to respond quickly to customer needs. New risk pools, new products and new ways to reach customers will place massive pressure on traditional systems, making a dynamic digital front office key to execution.

  • 360-degree multi-channel (direct, field sales force, internal sales force, independent agents/brokers) connectivity
  • Augmented functionality across the value chain from sales/distribution through underwriting, binding and servicing
  • Sales funnel optimizer (sales force effectiveness) — inquiry/quote, quote-to-submission, submission-to-bind ratio
  • Sales force/intermediary (broker/agent) segmentation and performance management

As an example, the impact of the sharing economy and need for on-demand insurance will require instant pricing and cover that switches on and off at point of sale to meet the needs of the customer.

2. An end-to-end claims solution developed by RightIndem and supported by additional capability from other technology providers

The claims space is an interesting one; it represents the largest individual expense on any P&C insurer’s P&L but conversely has seen very little innovation. This is now starting to change. RightIndem has developed a platform that achieves significant improvements in customer satisfaction while significantly reducing the cost of managing the claim. This is a win/win for the customer and the insurer and in our view a classic enabler technology that takes an existing function within the insurance value chain but does it much more effectively and with the interests of the customer at its core.

See also: Insurtech Checklist: 10 Differentiators  

3. Artificial intelligence (AI) with an initial focus on life and health insurance developed by Gen.Life

We are particularly excited about the combination of AI and the latest health technology to transform insurance. Examples include Livingo Health, which combines a blood glucose monitor support and intervention to help coach people through diabetes, and Cycardia Health, which employs machine learning predictive analytics software to categorize abnormal circadian patterns in otherwise healthy breast tissue to provide early detection of breast cancer. These types of technology will allow the early detection of potential diseases so that preventative treatment can be started much earlier, dramatically improving chances of success. Rather than life and health insurance being about prospective payments after an event, they can become the key mechanism for deploying technology to allow people to enjoy healthy lives.

The insurance industry will look very different in five years, but more importantly there is an opportunity to drive huge benefits to society through reducing under-insurance and supporting the transition from protection to prevention.

How to Embrace Workforce Flexibility

Because of the economic crash in 2007, many people were left scrambling for work, any work.

Those who were determined, but still came up short, looked inward to their skill sets and assets to find relief.

The answer quickly became obvious; what is now referred to as the flexible workforce or sharing economy, is made up entirely of freelancers and independent contractors.

This new group of freelance workers now makes up more than 35% of U.S. workers and earned more than $1 trillion last year.

This information is found in a recent survey, “Freelancing in America: 2016,” which was published by Upwork, one of America’s largest freelance workplace platforms.

The Gig Economy: A Brief Introduction

The gig economy is a term that describes a portion of the U.S. economy that is made up of freelancers. It is often used, interchangeably, with “sharing economy,” “collaborative consumption” or “access economy.”

This growing army of gig workers has become an integral part of the workforce, available on an on-demand basis.

This has allowed innovative businesses to pivot and remain nimble. Indeed, in an era where consumers are increasingly more interested in access over ownership, flexible workforces have become powerful tools for businesses.

Although many believe this segment of the workforce may be a fad that will soon to be diminished when unemployment numbers eventually plummet, a closer look at available data indicates otherwise.

Reportedly, the gig economy has grown every year over the past five, and there are solid indications that this trend will continue.

See also: 9 Impressive Facts on Sharing Economy  

What the Feds Report

Well, they haven’t quite caught up yet – although they’re getting there.

The labor experts in D.C. minimize the gig economy by referring to gig workers as “contingent workers” (any position not expected to last longer than one year).

The feds report that that this segment makes up about 4% of the total workforce.

Looking more closely, however, one can easily determine that the most recent survey numbers used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics refers to data accumulated more than 10 years ago.

I don’t feel like we need to delve into why that’s an issue, correct?

How the Gig Economy Is Growing

The gig economy continues to increase as traditional companies look for solutions to workforce issues.

Although “outsource” is a term that consumers and traditional employees detest, no one has a problem with a temp in the workplace.

But when you use the word “outsource” (which is what a temp employee is), many Americans think of good American jobs being sent overseas where workers will work for pennies on the dollar.

The gig economy is growing because entrepreneurial gig workers now have the means to share with others how they can become freelancers and realize their dreams of being self-employed.

Platforms such as Upwork, Airbnb, Uber, TaskRabbit, WeGoLook and many others seamlessly connect this new freelancer class with those who have paid work available.

This entire process is all facilitated by innovative mobile technology and apps.

What’s not to love about that?

It’s certainly not for everyone, but for those who even feel a mild burn of the entrepreneurial spirit, they can use their skills or assets to become part of the gig economy.

Why The Gig Economy Is Growing

The gig economy (flexible workforce) continues to grow because America needs it to grow.

Companies can access skilled on-demand workers for one-off or continuing tasks.

Thanks to on-demand worker platform, businesses can now access expert freelancers to perform critical functions that are temporarily needed.

According to Jobshop, nearly one-third of B2B companies plan to hire gig workers over the next five years.

Further, a report by Fieldglass indicates that 95% of B2B companies not only understand, but recognize, the need to incorporate the gig economy into their business models.

The American workers are changing. Many regard employment as a job totally unrelated to what their life goals may be.

Goals that were formed in their minds at a young age and continue to burn deep in their hearts.

Even highly skilled workers earning terrific incomes imagine what it would be like to do what they love to do rather than what they have to do.

Although born out of necessity, gig work has become a compromise for millions of hard-working Americans.

Freelancing allows them to choose to do what they love and what they are best at. It provides the flexibility to work the hours of their choice, spend more time with family and become highly skilled experts in a field they love.

Embracing the Flexible Workforce

The insurance industry can embrace this growing flexible workforce made up of skilled freelancers in a number of ways.

For starters, insurance carriers can use skilled gig workers to create efficiencies across many channels in their organization.

Although major insurers have embraced technology, they continue to fumble the ball streamlining their processes and supply chain.

Similar to the federal government, large insurers have many layers of bureaucracy that at times put the breaks on workflow, innovation and even communication.

The result typically frustrates the consumers they have committed to serve.

In the digital age where consumers crave access, convenience and timely services, cumbersome policies and bureaucracies will fade. Quickly!

Areas that need rethinking and refocus are those where consumer interaction is critical.

Communication

There are many critical areas of communication that need not be assigned to full-time workers.

These tasks are generally performed on-demand and for specific reasons and following certain events.

Using a skilled freelancer who can be available on an as-needed basis for a short period makes more sense than using a highly paid (when you consider compensation plus benefits) full-time employee.

See also: Benefits: One Size No Longer Fits All  

Claims

Streamlining the claims process is a priority for every insurer because it’s not only a profit-earning department, it has many functions considered menial to an experienced licensed adjuster.

Tasks such as consumer visits, picture taking, damage verification and more could easily be assigned to a local gig worker.

Why maintain a network of thousands of field employees nationwide when you can access hundreds of thousands of on-the-ground gig workers when you need them?

Although claims activity can be forecast to a certain degree, many insurers are caught off guard with the arrival of events such as a natural disaster.

This often leaves carriers scrambling to recruit independent contractors, who sometimes are unwilling to perform many of the tasks that a freelancer can provide.

Marketing

Because marketing is about communicating with various market segments, it makes sense to contract with gig workers who specialize in that particular demographic.

For example, millennials communicate differently than Generation Xers, who talk differently than Baby Boomers.

Although each category can have similar insurance product needs, they prefer to learn about it, and make the purchase, in different manners.

Whether you are an agency or an insurer, outsourcing your marketing needs to a gig workers can make more sense than loading your payroll with different personality types so that you can accommodate the preferences of the various market segments.

Or, many companies are electing to leverage gig workers to augment their current full-time staff. Gig work isn’t a full-time or part-time discussion – they can be complimentary.

Whether you designate this growing on-demand labor force as the flexible workforce, gig economy, freelancers or outsourcing, there is no doubt that this workforce can provide skilled on-demand workers to the insurance industry.

These are workers who are doing what they know best and are passionate about.

Principals in the insurance industry should look to this flexible workforce to streamline processes that affect consumer satisfaction and save payroll dollars in the process.

As the gig economy continues to grow as a viable employment alternative for many, traditional insurers can get ahead of the curve by leveraging them and embracing flexibility.

FinTech: Epicenter of Disruption (Part 3)

This is the third in a four-part series. The first article is here. The second is here.

Typically, disruption hits a tipping point at which just less than
50% of the incumbent revenue is lost in about a five-year timeframe. Recent disruptions that provide valuable insight include streaming video’s impact on the video rental market. When broadband in the home reached ubiquity and video compression technology matured, low-cost streaming devices were developed and, within four years, the video rental business was completely transformed. The same pattern can be seen in the Internet-direct insurance model for car insurance. At present, 50% of the revenue from the traditional agent-based distribution model has been moved to direct insurance providers.

Revenue at risk will exceed 20% by 2020

According to our survey, the vast majority (83%) of respondents from traditional financial institutions (FIs) believe that part of their business is at risk of being lost to standalone FinTech companies; that figure reaches 95% in the case of banks. In addition, incumbents believe 23% of their business could be at risk because of the further development of FinTech, though FinTech companies anticipate they may be able to acquire 33% of the incumbents’ business. In this regard, the banking and payments industries are feeling more pressure from FinTech companies. Fund transfer and payments industry respondents believe they could lose as much as 28% of their market share, while bankers estimate that banks are likely to lose 24%.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 2.28.21 PM

A rebalancing of power

FinTech companies are not just bringing concrete solutions
to a morphing consumer base, they are also empowering customers by providing new services that can be delivered with the use of technological applications. The rise of “digital finance” allows consumers to connect to information anywhere at any time, and digital services can address their needs in a more convenient way than traditional nine-to-five financial advisers can.

According to our survey, two-thirds (67%) of the companies ranked pressure on margins as the top FinTech-related threat. One of the key ways FinTechs support the margin pressure point through innovation is step function improvements in operating costs. For instance, the movement to cloud-based platforms not only decreases up-front costs but also reduces continuing infrastructure costs. This may stem from two main scenarios. First, standalone FinTech companies might snatch business opportunities from incumbents, such as when business-to-consumer (B2C) FinTech companies sell their products and services directly to customers and position themselves as more dynamic and agile alternatives to traditional players. Secondly, business-to-business (B2B) FinTech companies might empower specific incumbents through strategic partnerships with the intent to provide better services.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 2.33.19 PM

FinTech, a source of opportunities

FinTech also offers myriad possibilities for the financial services (FS) industry. B2B FinTech companies create real opportunities for incumbents to improve their traditional offerings. For example, white label robo-advisers can improve the customer experience of an independent financial adviser by providing software that helps clients better navigate the investment world. In the insurance industry, a telematics technology provider can help insurers track risks and driving habits and can provide additional services such as pay-as-you-go solutions.

Partnerships with FinTech companies could increase the efficiency of incumbent businesses. Indeed, a large majority of respondents (73%) rated cost reduction as the main opportunity related to the rise of FinTech. In this regard, incumbents could simplify and rationalize their core processes, services and products and, consequently, reduce inefficiencies in their operations.

But FinTech is not just about cutting costs. Incumbents partnering with FinTech companies could deliver a differentiated offering, improve customer retention and bring in additional revenues. In this regard, 74% of fund transfer and payment institutions consider additional revenues to be an opportunity coming from FinTech. This is already true in the payments industry, where FinTech generates additional revenues through faster and easier payments and digital wallet transactions.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 2.33.19 PM

This post was co-written by: John Shipman, Dean Nicolacakis, Manoj Kashyap and Steve Davies.

A Word With Shefi: At Telematic

This is part of a series of interviews by Shefi Ben Hutta with insurance practitioners who bring an interesting perspective to their work and to the industry as a whole. Here, she speaks with Marti Ryan and Tom Yates at Telematic.

To see more of the “A Word With Shefi” series, visit her thought leader profile. To subscribe to her free newsletter, Insurance Entertainment, click here.

Describe Telematic in 50 words or less:

Telematic is a SaaS platform that creates personalized pricing models based on driving behavior, mobile phone usage and lifestyle behaviors. It offers insurance companies a way to more accurately price risk, yet more importantly it’s a new marketing channel for a more personalized insurance experience.

Why Telematic?

[Marti] Because usage-based insurance (UBI) makes sense; it’s where insurance is moving; and it’s a good problem for us to solve as a team. Tom was working for a top carrier and saw how difficult it was to execute a dongle-based telematics program and realized that mobile would most likely replace the dongle/hardware solution, so he went home and built it for a year.

[Tom] Marti has over 10 years of market research experience making cities sticky for the next generation. Together, we can make insurance sticky.

Describe your typical client:

We are in the B2B space targeting small to mid-sized, forward-thinking carriers that are looking to explore UBI and are willing to do something different and stand out.

Biggest challenge:

Convincing insurance companies that telematics is a play toward a one-to-one relationship with their customers, rather than an extra tool to price risk. The space is crowded with several companies focused on actuarial, B2C and fleets, but then again that’s an indication of the role this technology has in the currently evolving insurance value chain. Our solution brings in a different approach to the space, one that creates a new marketing channel using 17 years of combined insurance experience to leverage mobile in an engaging way for the next generation.

Who has been supportive of your cause?

Co-Manager at Wisconsin Investment Partners Bob Wood has been a champion, Brian Worden CEO of TeamSoft, Liz Eversol from SOLOMO Technology, Tera Johnson of the UW-Extension Small Business Development Center programming in Madison and, of course, our families.

Why did you decide to take part in the Global Insurance Accelerator?

[Marti] The timing of our start-up lent itself well to an accelerator program that took place in the spring. I’m new to the accelerator scene but understand the huge value it can offer when the right circumstances align to the right program. We had applied to a Madison-based program, and in doing so we broadened our application to the Midwest market. GIA proved to be the perfect fit for us given its insurance focus and our goals; we’ve made connections and built relationships within the GIA network that will help us get Telematic to where it needs to be.

If not for Telematic, what would you be doing?

[Marti] Most likely doing three to four other things; working with the B-Corp group to help B-Corps tell their story via B The Change Media and continuing to provide business planing and consulting for the food industry, including a non-profit, kitchen incubator (FEED Kitchens) and a local restaurant kitchen buildout to allow scaling a meal preparation and delivery business using organic, local and gluten-free ingredients.

[Tom] Working as a software engineer for another SaaS startup.

Best life lesson:

Never give up and keep asking the right questions to the right people.

What are you most excited about with respect to Telematic?

The opportunities that are in front of us are outstanding. We’re certain we’ve got a shot at being a partner for our target market, and, because we’re in the GIA, we’re well positioned to support Midwest-based carriers.