Tag Archives: ben-hutta

A Word With Shefi: Applebaum at ISG

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 Stephen Applebaum, managing partner, Insurance Solutions Group, and senior adviser at StoneRidge Advisors, who describes the implications of the “torrents of data that will flow from connected cars, homes, buildings and people.”

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 what you do in 50 words or less:

I provide consulting and advisory services to participants across the North American auto and property insurance ecosystem, which leverage my experience, industry contacts and understanding of innovation and emerging technologies to drive meaningful, measurable improvement in revenue, market share, process, profitability and user and customer experience.

What led you to your career in insurance?

Serendipity, actually. An early management consulting engagement with a technology-based startup providing insurance claims solutions to P&C carriers led to a full-time operational and management role and ultimately a very exciting and rewarding 30-year career spanning several different companies that continues today.

What emerging technology will change how insurance is sold?

Prescriptive analytics applied to the torrents of data that will flow from connected cars, homes, buildings and people – enabled by mobile devices and embedded sensors – will transform virtually every aspect of how insurance products are developed, priced, packaged and sold, and how risk is managed in general.

A carrier you highly value for its innovative culture?

Among the many top-tier carriers that have invested in and developed innovative cultures, USAA stands out because of its highly focused and fierce dedication to pursuing constant improvement and technological innovation in the pursuit of providing superior service excellence to its “members” in insurance as well as the full range of its financial services.

You recently published an article on “Disruption in the Automotive Ecosystem.” What tip do you have for companies looking beyond their core value to offer innovative solutions in the auto ecosystem?

I suggest that auto insurance carriers focus on leapfrogging current incremental innovation around connected vehicle and data technologies and begin designing and developing the auto insurance products and services of the future. These will likely be very different than anything offered today and will be enabled by enormous amounts of data flowing from not just connected cars but the broader Internet of Things. They may include personalized, utilization-based micro auto insurance coverages, ride-and-car sharing insurance solutions for owners, drivers and passengers, risk management services from behavioral driving modification assistance to location-based and contextual alerts for commercial favorites as well as navigational, traffic, roadside assistance and weather conditions.

You’ve had more than 25 years of consulting experience in the P&C space. What piece of advice have you found to always be relevant regardless of the subject matter?

I regularly ask myself, “What am I doing, and why am I doing it, and is this the best possible use of my time and talents?” It sounds so simplistic, but if you do it honestly you will find it very valuable.

You are a frequent chairman in industry conferences. In fact, you are the chairman of a coming event on IoT in Miami in December. Who should be attending and why?

Anyone who plans to work, invest and succeed anywhere in the insurance ecosystem over the next decade and beyond should attend. This includes insurance C-level executives, heads of innovation, strategy, claims and innovation, underwriting, business development, product development, strategy, design and innovation, heads of IT, technology and digital, IoT technology companies and startups and regulators.

When you are not consulting on insurance or hosting insurance events, you are most likely…?

Reading, watching and listening to anything and everything that relates to my work – which is, in fact, also my hobby.

A Word With Shefi: Polyakov at Livegenic

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 Alex Polyakov, CEO of Livegenic, which delivers real-time video solutions to help organizations reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction and mitigate risks. His advice: “Never settle for the way things are, and always discover and share a better way, especially when it comes to seeing the customer’s point of view. The better we serve the customer, the happier we become.”

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 what you do in 50 words or less:

I run a fast-paced startup that specializes in real-time video solutions in insurance claims.

Name an emerging technology you are most excited about:

There are many technologies that are hot right now like drones, Internet of Things, analytics, etc. However, live video streaming is the technology that I’m most passionate and excited about. Not just because that’s our specialty, but because this technology is mature, accessible, with low upfront investment costs and drives incredible value in productivity and customer satisfaction.

What are you most excited about with respect to Livegenic?

We were able to foresee innovation in insurance. We envisioned developing a video platform that would deliver a powerful impact to the insurance market, and we’ve been recognized for producing the type of innovative solutions this industry needs.

Name a challenge you have faced working in insurance:

While the insurance industry is ripe for innovation in many areas, it adopts innovations slowly. This is one reason why there aren’t that many start-ups in insurance compared with other industries. However, this challenge is also an opportunity because the industry is fueled by competition and the need to differentiate.

Your best piece of career advice for the insurance professional:

Never settle for the way things are, and always discover and share a better way, especially when it comes to seeing the customer’s point of view. The better we serve the customer, the happier we become.

Your favorite news source:

I follow several sites, such as Insurance Thought Leadership, Insurance Networking News, PropertyCasualty360 and of course Insurance Entertainment. They all share great content, but I must admit that Insurance Entertainment makes me laugh — always a great way to start the morning.

When you are not working for Livegenic, you are most likely…

I enjoy competitive table tennis, which is like playing chess at 100 miles an hour. It is a great way for me to take my mind off of things and exercise at the same time.

If you weren’t working in insurance, what profession would you be in?

I am a product and technology guy at heart, so I guess if I wasn’t in insurance, I’d be working in technology in another industry.

Your favorite quote:

“Luck favors the prepared.”

Which term best describes you?

  • Driverless or in control? In control
  • Elon Musk (dreamer) or Warren Buffett (doer)? Doer
  • Risk-averse or risk-taker? Risk-taker

To be honest, I wish I could select a term immediately, but I’m very analytical. The best words I would use when I see these questions are “adaptive intelligence.” Meaning, the answer depends on a situation because I resemble a little bit of both during different times.

A Word With Shefi: Boobier at IBM

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 Tony Boobier, the insurance analytics executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at IBM, who says, among other things, that he lies awake nights thinking about cognitive analytics and who believes big data can even help identify “unknown unknowns.”

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 what you do in 50 words or less:

My day job is thinking about insurance analytics on a global basis, especially in the emerging markets. At the moment, I’m spending a lot of time thinking about our business partners, and how they need to transform to become more digital.

You possess a unique combination of qualifications in engineering, insurance and marketing. Do explain:

I originally qualified as a structural engineer but was more interested in why things fell down, which led me to insurance, and my engineering training helped me look at matters including processes forensically. My team collected data in a department nicknamed “The Engine Room,” as even then, 15 years ago, we realized that the insights we were getting could “drive” the insurance business forward. Being able to effectively explain and implement change was also a critical success factor, which took me toward marketing, which is the profession of communication. Fortunately, all three UK professional institutions have awarded me fellowships, which is their highest honor.

You’ve once said, “I lie awake at night thinking about the convergence between insurance and technology.” What emerging technology are you most excited about?

It’s tricky just to think of one technology, as they are all increasingly converging. The one that most excites me is of course cognitive analytics — but there are lots of other cool things happening in the disruptive technology space. With insurance being heavily dependent on the topic of location, one of my favorites at the moment is what3words.com — a company in the location analytics space. I am also particularly interested in behavioral analytics — why we behave the way we do, and what does it mean for business.

Name a carrier you highly value for its innovative culture:

I’d prefer not to name a single carrier — but is innovation in insurance such a big deal? It’s not like we are astro-geeks discovering a new planet or something. Isn’t it as much about looking outside the insurance industry for new ideas and then taking them into our own business world? Our industry is full of innovative individuals who step out of their comfort zones and do new things, and companies that let them. By the way, IE falls into the innovation category, and that’s why I’ve always been a fan.

You’ve recently published an article on “The Unknowns of the Tianjin Disaster,” where you question whether analytics can give insight into the “unknown unknowns.” Can big data solve big problems? Or is big data best left for those who need a reminder on how often they should brush their teeth (think: Beam Dental)?

Oh, Shefi, I think you’re teasing me! But seriously, overall I think that analytics can reveal “unknown unknowns” by identifying correlations that we hadn’t previously detected and that aren’t apparent using traditional methods. These correlations will give us new insight, which we hadn’t really thought about, and that won’t be a bad thing. It will make us think differently about the world and our industry. If our teeth remain healthy as a by-product, well, probably that’s not a bad thing either.

When you are not working, you are most likely…

I love the arts, in all its forms, and especially to read, write or just think about writing. Last weekend we saw “Bacharach Revisited,” which is a rework of Burt’s greatest songbook. Reminded me that even with the rapid changes happening around us, some of the more experienced guys have still got the best tunes if we choose to listen to them. Take time out to read Tom Peters on “Re-Imagine!” — as fresh as the day it was published in 2003.

You are one of IE’s earliest fans. Which other website do you visit to complement your entertaining insurance tidbits?

Like most of us, I’m bombarded with information. We have a very effective internal company insurance community with 12,600 subscribers, which is active and shares all the relevant market news; it’s a bit like sharing news across the insurance village. But you know, Shefi, that I only have IE’s for you!

Note: Boobier is writing on a personal basis. Opinions are of the interviewee and not of IE.

A Word With Shefi: Kerridge at Hiscox

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 Kevin Kerridge, the head of Hiscox Direct, who says, among other things, that the UK is five years ahead of the U.S. on small business insurance.

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 what you do in 50 words or less:

Building a business in the USA for Hiscox that is reinventing small business insurance — selling policies direct to consumers and through a select group of distribution partners.

What led you to your career in insurance?

I wish I could say it was some form of grand plan, but it wasn’t. I come from a very humble background and from the age of 11 found small jobs around the neighborhood to earn some extra pennies. It’s served me well over the years in relation to work ethic and never taking anything for granted. Despite good grades at high school, my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college, and so I decided to go straight into work — the most attractive offer being an insurance company. The rest is history.

Describe the Hiscox brand in one sentence:

Bold, courageous and contemporary — coupled with a sense of tradition where it matters, in areas like integrity, honesty and being human. As an insider, it feels like we’re in the insurance industry but not of it.

Name one similarity and one difference between how consumers shop for insurance in the U.S. vs. the UK:

The UK is five years ahead of the U.S. in the small business insurance space. In the UK, the first place most small businesses go for insurance is the web, whereas in the U.S. it’s still the local agent who dominates. One similarity is that small business consumers see insurance as a low-interest purchase — they want to get the right coverage, fast and at good value for money — so that they can focus their energy on running and growing their business.

Do you think insurance agents are a thing of the past for small business insurance?

Absolutely not — but they will look different than they do today. At Hiscox, we’ve leveraged our investment in the direct-to-consumer infrastructure to enable agents to access our custom small business products for their existing customer base. Our wholesalers love it because it gives them a very efficient and effective way to win in the $500 premium space — our slick technology solution coupled with their valued expertise is a powerful mix.

What has been instrumental in establishing Hiscox’s presence in the U.S. small business insurance space in a relatively short amount of time?

Two things came together very quickly for us in 2010 – an obvious market opportunity where business consumers were moving to the web, and no market incumbents were serving that need. Having already built this business in the UK, the ace up our sleeves was our crystal ball in relation to an intimate understanding of what it takes to make that business model a success. In addition to our crystal ball, we are also lucky enough to have an executive team with the stomach to invest behind this opportunity – the investment required for success is material (think hundreds not tens of millions of dollars) and the path to profit is a long one. A patient executive team and shareholders are critical.

In 2010, Hiscox was the first insurer to allow the actual sale of small business insurance to occur online for your products and classes. What allows Hiscox to truly deliver the promise of omnichannel?

Too many insurance businesses are still inwardly focused; going into dark rooms to build very complex solutions they think they can sell to consumers. At Hiscox, we try to build around the customer. As an aspiration, we talk about being a marketing and technology company that just so happens to provide insurance products — we’re not quite there yet, but having that mindset is important.

What do you find the most challenging in Hiscox’s digital operation?

The speed of change and building a technology infrastructure to keep up with that. We started building the blueprint for our U.S. small business operation in 2009 — it feels like it was just yesterday, and yet the iPad didn’t even exist then, and I think I was still using a 56k dial-up modem at the time.

Five years later, are small business owners ready to really buy insurance online?

I’m still trying to figure out whether that’s a trick question! Hundreds of thousands of small businesses have already purchased insurance online in the U.S., and those numbers will only continue to grow. The real question is whether the insurance industry is ready to make the material shift needed to provide small business consumers with the online purchasing experience they’re accustomed to experiencing online.

What is the strategy or the thinking behind Courageous Leaders, and what do you hope to achieve with it?

In our overall U.S. business, our brand platform is Encourage Courage. It’s not about courage in taking insurance risk, but a more holistic view of the courage needed to build successful businesses and embrace those emotional fears we all have in life. In this respect, we have huge affinity with the small business community – many of whom put everything on the line to follow their passion. Courageous Leaders is a celebration of entrepreneurial courage — and us tipping our hat to the courage they show. I hope it inspires others.

What other insurance brand (insurer, vendor etc.) do you admire and why?

There are a handful of small brands in the online small business insurance space that are showing tremendous entrepreneurial spirit in grasping the changing small business insurance landscape — I have great admiration for them. They truly are the gold prospectors of our industry in these times.

Favorite quote?

Two come to mind, both from people who have had a massive impact on my career and life, and both quotes said to me in person. The first, from Robert Hiscox, was, “I don’t mind you losing me money occasionally, Kevin, but never lose me my reputation.” The second was from our Group CEO, Bronek Masojada: “In life there are good bets. And there are bad bets. But not all good bets are winning bets.”

When you are not working in insurance, you are most likely…

I love spending time with my amazing wife and four wonderful children — just taking in everyday experiences together, from cooking to traveling. I’m blessed that they’ve all been willing to make sacrifices along the way to support my passion for what we’re doing at Hiscox. Outside of that, my one selfish passion is fishing — the thrill of the catch, coupled with some downtime in the fresh air to collect my thoughts…

#InsuranceMarketing: How to Use Hashtags

The hashtag phenomenon dates back to 2007, when Twitter launched a tool that allowed users to search and share topics by using the # symbol. Since then, the symbol has gone mainstream, and you will commonly find it in other social media sites, such as Instagram and Vine.

Insurance companies caught on to the trend and incorporated hashtags into their digital strategies, adding humor, wordplay and aspirational connotations.

Insurance Entertainment benchmarked seven hashtags used by insurance companies to provide some insight into how hashtags can be best used:

#DreamFearlessly by American Family

#ThinkSafe by Travelers

#SummerIsMayhem by Allstate

#MakeSafeHappen by Nationwide

#BeTheJake by State Farm

#InFlovation by Progressive

#GeckoPhilosophy by Geico

The hashtags fall into two categories: 1) branded hashtags, which refer to the brand directly or indirectly (e.g. #InFlovation), and 2) interest-based hashtags, which speak to shared topics (e.g. #ThinkSafe). Some companies use Twitter to position themselves as aspirational brands by building communities around shared values.

Here’s the bird’s-eye-view of who’s doing what and why:


Geico and Progressive, for example, opt for “branded hashtags,” while American Family and Nationwide promote “interest-based hashtags” in an attempt to target like-minded individuals.

7. Geico – #GeckoPhilosophy

Twitter: @GEICO, @TheGEICOGecko, Hashtag: #GeckoPhilosophy

#InspirationalQuotes are abundant, shareable and, generally speaking, positive. Geico took notice and added the Gecko flavor to its version of inspirational quotes, forming what is known as the #GeckoPhilosophy. Geico gets an A for creativity but a C for execution, as the tweets are often dull on screen. The idea has merit and is an example of a branded hashtag, tailored to the audience on social media, which in the long run may see more pickup by users.


6. Progressive – #InFlovation

Twitter: @Progressive, @ItsFlo, Hashtag: #InFlovation

#InFlovation is Progressive’s playful take on innovation and Flo.

Similar to Geico’s #GeckoPhilosophy, it’s a branded hashtag targeting those who enjoy interaction with Flo. By the way, at this time, Flo does not make public appearances. Someone asked. Progressive answered.


5. State Farm – #BeTheJake

Twitter: @StateFarm, @JakeStateFarm, Hashtag: #BeTheJake

Another branded hashtag around the real Jake from State Farm.


4. Nationwide – #MakeSafeHappen

Twitter: @Nationwide, Hashtag: #MakeSafeHappen, Powered by MakeSafeHappen

Nationwide’s marketing team drew some heat for its Super Bowl ad featuring a “dead boy” with the tagline #MakeSafeHappen. But let’s face it, the #1 cause of childhood deaths is preventable accidents, and you know that thanks to Nationwide. So, aside from completely reshuffling its marketing team, the company “stands behind the commercial and the message.”

Since then, #MakeSafeHappen has taken a less controversial route, but not without consequences: MakeSafeHappen.com desktop traffic tumbled to an all-time low of approximately 1,000 monthly visits compared with 85,000 when the ad premiered. Better safe than sorry?


3. Allstate – #SummerIsMayhem

Twitter:@Allstate, @Mayhem, Hashtag: #SummerIsMayhem

Mayhem is the third most-recognized insurance advertising character, behind the Geico gecko and Flo. With more than 79,000 Twitter followers for @Mayhem compared with about 61,000 for @Allstate, it is obvious why Mayhem’s dark humor is an integral part of Allstate’s digital strategy.


2. Travelers – #ThinkSafe

Twitter: @Travelers, Hashtag: #ThinkSafe

Surprise. An insurance company posting safety tips.

There is actually more to this strategy than meets the eye. Aside from its relevant and practical content, albeit dry at times, Travelers is also looking out for its independent agents by producing content they can easily share. Travelers gets an A for thoughtfulness, an F for entertainment.


1. American Family – #DreamFearlessly

Twitter: @amfam, Hashtag: #DreamFearlessly powered by DreamFearlessly

American Family has one of the best brand extensions an insurance company can hope for. In the land of cost savings by Geico, price comparison by Progressive and 3:00am customer service by State Farm, nothing says different like American Family. A slogan turned interest-based hashtag, #DreamFearlessly is a branding initiative that allows American Family to move away from functional attributes and create an aspirational brand.

There is one caveat, though – which is true of all interest-based hashtags. They are not exclusive. While they do generate more reach, sometimes the tweets have very little to do with the insurance brand seeking to be associated with that message. So while #InFlovation offers a direct association to Progressive, interest-based hashtags such as #ThinkSafe, #MakeSafeHappen and #DreamFearlessly require a bigger marketing push. The outcome, once successful, is worth it.


As the graph below shows, in the last 30 days #DreamFearlessly enjoyed more than 10X the reach of #GeckoPhilosophy. Clearly, Americans love to dream.

chart 1

In sum, hashtags are only as great as one’s offline strategy (American Family, Travelers); there is no harm in plain fun (Progressive, Geico, State Farm); and never underestimate the size of the fight in the dog (Nationwide). After all, there are no low talkers on social media.

Bottom Line: In a zero-sum game, the score is American Family (1), Geico (-1).