Tag Archives: capital

Examining Potential of Peer-to-Peer Insurers

Recently, I wrote an article where I outlined a simple modeling framework I use when I try to predict how a new insurance product or new insurtech startup is likely to perform. In this article, I will walk through an example to give you a play-by-play on how to put this simple mental model to use.

Can Peer-to-Peer Insurance Succeed?

Peer-to-peer business models really came into their own in the financial arena, where companies such as Prosper and Lending Club were able to create platforms that allowed individuals to loan funds directly to one another. As a Prosper investor, I still recall how neat it was that I could loan a family $25 and be part of a pool of like-minded people who were looking to help others and make a little bit more money than a bank account. (Disclaimer: You can lose your money, too. I have had several borrowers default, and you will need to make up for it on those accounts that don’t default).

Investors, always a group looking for the next unicorn, have applied principles of P2P to others businesses, as well, such as car sharing and file sharing. Even digital currencies such as Bitcoin are P2P-based. Not surprisingly, investors and entrepreneurs are looking into whether P2P would work well in the seemingly tattered insurance industry. Companies such as Lemonade, Guevara and Friendsurance are already selling policies and making a name for themselves. InsNerds.com was very lucky to have Dylan Bourguignon of So-sure insurance, a complete P2P insurer, write an article for us on the topic (be sure to read this article if you want a breakdown from the point of view of an insurer).

See also: 3rd Wave of P2P Insurance  

Let’s walk P2P insurance through the model framework and see what all stakeholders need to see.

Exposure

The exposure component is the one that deals with claims; past, present and future. The P2P model looks to reduce the frequency and severity of losses by reducing the desire among policyholders to make bogus claims. Because policyholders in a P2P model have some affiliation with each other, the hypothesis is that this connection will prevent policyholders from harming their peers. This seems intuitively possible. If it is true, what would that mean to the insurance coverage?

Fraud is estimated to add 10% to losses in property/casualty insurance. That would equal approximately $34 billion a year! Fraud is most typically investigated in workers’ compensation, auto and health insurance (not necessarily in this order). Traditional insurers spend a lot of money rooting out fraud. Big data vendors such as Verisk and Valen have commercial models available for both workers’ compensation and auto — even homeowners insurance isn’t immune. Reports of widespread false claims after Hurricane Katrina were documented.

The difference between what traditional carriers do and what P2P offers is that P2P subtly promises to remove the fraud BEFORE it happens, while today’s fraud is only caught during the fraud or afterward. If P2P can fulfill this promise, there is a tremendous amount of value it can provide to the market.

If I were an investor, I would look for companies that can show that their P2P network has very tight ties. As the network gets larger, it seems unlikely that the strong ties can be maintained, and you begin to lose the ability to have shame or other social pressures keep fraud under control. Any technology that can strengthen the ties to large portfolio scale could be immensely valuable.

I’ve written about Lemonade, and while the company no longer considers itself P2P, the initial “technology” was to group like-minded homeowners or renters together, and give any excess year end profits to a charity of their choice. If you are following along with where I am going with this, you may see some of the flaws in the model. First, homeowners insurance isn’t in the big three for fraud, so the potential benefits are not nearly as big as they would be in auto or workers’ compensation. Second, I didn’t really see any proprietary technology that could give Lemonade a leg up on any competitors. From all of the press releases, the P2P networks seemed easy to copy, as is Lemonade’s charity angle. That Lemonade dropped its P2P marketing seems to have confirmed that that part of the business model probably would not have produced worthwhile value. As an investor, I’d like to see a direct line to fraud reduction and truly big potential to drop the investments now being committed to detecting fraud, post-event.

P2P needs to bring some new type of configuration of insurance that meets needs not currently being met. The insurers mentioned above are tackling industries with heavyweight competition. I see an opportunity for P2P to unite common insureds in a way that provides coverage or risk reduction in areas where coverage is difficult to obtain or just doesn’t exist. In California, earthquake deductibles are very large. It seems reasonable that property owners could unite to buy coverage to protect each other against losses arising from the combined deductibles. There’s a similar case to be made for flood. I imagine these P2P insurers almost acting as public captives covering very niche risks for similar insureds.

Distribution

The distribution component of the framework deals with how companies market to and sell to customers. In the P2P model, there is a heavy emphasis on the social element, like-minded insureds telling other like-minded insureds to join. Most P2P insurers are direct to consumer. Thus, P2P insurers must depend heavily on their insured network to do much of the heavy lifting for them, whether that’s through word of mouth or via social media.

If I were an investor looking into this area, I’d want to see some proof of concept that value can be created here to some scale. Brokers get paid well for a reason: it is expensive to find and maintain insurance customers. Advertising on Facebook is more expensive than you think, and, if you are using Adwords, you are competing against GEICO, State Farm and other large insurance companies. Good luck with that.

See also: Is P2P a Realistic Alternative?  

Ultimately, I think distribution will directly depend on the product development and what was discussed in EXPOSURE above. P2P insurers must be able to differentiate themselves. Take Lemonade. As a home and rental insurer, is Lemonade different than a traditional home insurer? Yes. Is it 10x better? I don’t think so. The product is nearly identical; only the customer experience is truly different. It is exceptional, but will that alone be enough to drive customers to buy policies? I think it will, but not by enough of a margin for Lemonade to deliver Uber-like returns. That’s not happening.

Capital

Insurance is a capital-intensive business. To start a plain-vanilla company in most states requires $5 million to $10 million in surplus capital. This is capital that is above and beyond capital that is used to pay for claims. That capital must be invested into the highest-quality securities (generally government bonds and AA corporates). Any startup that is more complicated than “vanilla” needs more capital. And any expansion into other states will require still more capital.All of this capital is needed even if you only have one on your books and even if you are ceding all of your business to reinsurers. Startup insurers are behind the eight ball right from the get go and are at a massive disadvantage when compared with the big guns.

State Farm has surplus in the tens of billions of dollars. Those are funds State Farm can invest and through which it can generate investment income that can be used to offset other costs in their. Startup insurers can’t do that and are very vulnerable to any large loss and thus require heavy partnerships. And that isn’t cheap! For startups, cost of capital is very high, and those costs must be reflected in the premium.

This is why Lemonade’s expansion across the U.S. is head-scratching. Though Lemonade is not a P2P, as a startup much of its newly acquired capital for this expansion is sitting in bonds. Unless there is some other news that we are not privy to, using B-round capital as a portfolio does not seem to be a great use of funds. This is a lesson for other P2Ps. An entire P2P strategy can collapse if the capital structure is not maximized. If I were an investor looking at this field, I’d want the P2P to be partnering with a capital source that already has scale, so that the P2P can focus on product differentiation and distribution.

Operations

P2P insurers have a terrific advantage in this area. Being born in the digital age means that these insurers can skip over legacy systems and go directly to an entirely modern platform. I would want to see seamless integration and movement of data between marketing, binding, policy issuance, accounting and claims management. I would want to see the ability to easily capture data at the front end, augment data during the lifecycle and put that data to work in integrated plug-and-play models.

See also: P2P Start-Ups From Around the World  

For P2P insurers, Lemonade is providing the blueprint for how this should be done. (By the way, big-time kudos to Lemonade for being so transparent and allowing curmudgeons like me to nitpick the business model). Lemonade’s integration of chatbots to eliminate human intervention in the purchasing of and the filing of claims seems to be an operations winner thus far. In this model, we should expect to see overhead expenses drop. Expenses associated with losses should also drop. If the P2P was not able to show significant decreases in expense, then something is terribly wrong.

Summary

I love the concept of P2P. But I don’t think it will ultimately become a great way to invest venture funds. I just don’t think the returns will justify the risks. P2P insurers should be able to provide significant value in operations. If they can differentiate product development, they should be able to attract customers who would be interested in their products. BUT…I think P2P insurers are not going to find very large markets for their niche products. Because of this, distribution costs will be higher than they expect, and they will suffer from capital costs unless they form the right partnerships. Those really inexpensive Lemonade rates likely won’t last. P2P prices may not end up cheap as capital and distribution costs overwhelm advantages obtained in potential decreases in fraud costs and operational efficiencies.

P2P insurance is full of potential, and as a model, will behave more like traditional MGAs. The potential for supersized returns is not high.

This article first appeared at InsNerds.com.

A Simple Model to Assess Insurtechs

“The paradox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula necessarily cannot exist; because every innovation is new and unique, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to be innovative.”

― Peter Thiel, Zero to One

Whether we’re talking about telematics, artificial intelligence (AI), digital distribution or peer-to-peer, investing in insurance-related technology (commonly termed “insuretech” or “insurtech”) is no longer considered boring. In fact, insurtech is one of the hottest investable segments in the market. As a 20-plus-year veteran in insurance, I find it surreal that insurance has become this hip. Twenty years ago, I gulped as I sent an email to the CFO of my company, where I proposed that there was a unique opportunity in renters insurance. That particular email was ignored. Today, that idea is worth millions of dollars.

What changed?

Insurance seems to be the latest in a string of industries caught in the crosshairs on venture capital. With the success of Uber and AirBnB, VCs are now looking for the next stale industry to disrupt, and the insurance industry carries the reputation of being about as stale as they come. The VCs view the needless paperwork, cumbersome purchasing processes, dramatic claims settlement and overall old-school look and feel of the industry and think they can siphon those trillions of dollars of premium over to Silicon Valley. It seems like a reasonable thesis.

The problem is, it’s not going to happen that way. Insurance will NOT be disrupted. While insurance looks old and antiquated on the exterior, it is actually quite modern and vibrant on the interior. The insurance industry is actually the Uncle Drew of businesses; it’s just getting warmed up!

The Model

Much of the reason I think VCs are unaware of their doomed quest for insurance disruption is that they are looking at the market from a premium standpoint and envisioning being able to capture large chunks of it. $5 trillion is a lot of money. Without an appropriate model, an outsider coming into insurance can naively think they can capture even a fraction of this. But premium is strongly tied to losses. Those premium dollars are accounted for in future claims.

I once had a VC ask me what the fastest way to $100 million in revenue was. The answer is easy, “slash the premium.” I had to quickly follow up with, “and be prepared to be go insolvent, as there is no digging yourself out of that hole.” He didn’t quite get it, until I walked him through what happens to a dollar of premium as it enters the system. And it was this that became the basis of the model I use to assess new product formation and insurtech startups.

There are four basic components to my model. Regardless of new entrants, new products or new sources of capital, these four components remain everpresent in any insurance business model. Even if a disruptive force was able to penetrate the industry veil, that force would still need to reflect its value proposition within my four components.

Component 1 – EXPOSURE

This is the component that deals with insurance claims: past, present and future. Companies or products looking to capture value here must be able to reduce, prevent, quantify or economically transfer current or new risks or losses. Subcomponents in this category include expenses arising from fraud and the adjustment of claims, both of which can add substantially to overall losses.

See also: Insurance Coverage Porn  

Startups such as Nest are building products that increase home security by decreasing the likelihood of burglary (or increasing the likelihood of capturing the criminals on video) and thus reduce claims associated with burglary or theft. Part of assessing the value proposition of Nest is to first understand the magnitude of the claims associated with burglary and theft and then quantify what relief this product could provide (along with how that relief should be shared among stakeholders).

Another company that is doing some interesting things in this model component is Livegenic (disclaimer: I have become friends with the team). Livegenic allows insurers to adjust claims and capture video and imagery using the mobile phone of the insured. This reduces the expenses associated with having to send an adjuster out to each and every claim. Loss adjustment expenses can be in excess of 10% of all claims, so technology that reduces that by a few basis points can be quite valuable to an insurer’s bottom line and ultimately its prices and competitiveness.

Component 2 – DISTRIBUTION

This component focuses on the expenses associated with getting insurance product into the hands of a customer. Insurtech companies in this space are typically focused on driving down commissions. This can be done by eliminating brokers and going directly to customers. Savings can also be achieved by creating efficient marketplace portals that allow customers to easily buy coverage.

Embroker is one of many companies trying to do just that in the small commercial space by creating a fully digital business insurance experience. Companies such as Denim Labs are providing social and mobile marketing services to companies in insurance. And then there is Lemonade, which is developing AI technology that it hopes will reduce the friction of digitally purchasing (its) insurance and making the buying process “delightful.”  Peer-to-peer (P2P) insurance is a fairly new insurtech distribution model that attempts to use the strength of close ties via social methods for friends and close associates to come together to make their own insurance pools.

Distribution expenses in insurance are some of the highest in any industry. As with the risk component, reducing expenses in this component by even a few basis points is incredibly valuable.

Component 3 – CAPITAL

This component focuses on the expenses associated with providing capital or the reinsurance backstop to a risk or portfolio. For many insurers, reinsurance is the largest expense component in the P&L. Capital is such an important component to the business model that the ramifications of it almost always leak into the other components. This was one of my criticisms of  Lemonade recently. Lemonade will have a lot of difficulty executing some of the aspects of its business model simply because it cedes 100% of its business to reinsurers. So, when it comes to pricing or its general underwriting guidelines, its reinsurance expenses will overwhelm other initiatives. Lemonade can’t be the low-cost provider AND a peer-to-peer distributor because its reinsurance expenses will force it to choose one or the other. This is a nuance that many VCs will miss in their evaluation of insurtechs!

For those seeking disruption in insurance, we have historical precedent of what that might look like based on the last 20 years of alternative capital flooding into the insurance space. I will devote space to this in future articles, but, in brief, this alternative capital has made reinsurance so inexpensive that smaller reinsurers are facing an existential crisis.

Companies such as Nephila Capital and Fermat Capital are the Ubers of insurance. Their ability to connect investors closer to the insurance customer along with their ability to package and securitize tranches of risk have shrunk capital expenses tremendously. Profit margins for reinsurers are collapsing, and new business models are shrinking the insurance stack. It is even possible today to bypass BOTH veritable insurers and reinsurers and put the capital markets in closer contact with customers. (If you are a fan of Michael Lewis and insurance, you will enjoy this article, which ties nicely into this section of the article).

In the insurtech space, VCs are actually behind the game. Alternative capital has already disrupted the space, and many of the investments that VCs are making are in the other components I have highlighted. Because of the size of this component, VCs may have already missed most of the huge returns.

Component 4 – OPERATIONS

The final component is often the one overlooked. Operations includes all of the other expenses not associated with the actual risk, backing the risk or transferring the risk from customer to capital. This component includes regulatory compliance, overhead, IT operations, real estate, product development and staff, just to name a few.

It is often overlooked because it is the least connected to actually insuring a risk, but it is vitally important to the health and viability of an insurer. Mistakes here can have major ramifications. Errors in compliance can lead to regulatory problems; errors in IT infrastructure can lead to legacy issues that become very expensive to resolve. I don’t know a single mainstream insurer that does not have a legacy infrastructure that is impinging on its ability to execute its business plan. Companies such as Majesco are building cloud-based insurance platforms seeking to solve that problem.

See also: Why AI Will Transform Insurance  

It is this component of the business model that allows an insurer to be nimble, to get products to market faster, to outpace its competitors. It’s not a component that necessarily drives financial statements in the short term, but in the long run it can be the friction that grinds everything down to a halt or not.

SUMMARY

I have presented a simple model that I use when I assess not just new insurtech companies but also new insurance products coming into the market. By breaking the insurance chain into these immutable components, I can estimate what impact the solution proposed will provide. In general, the bigger the impact and the more components a solution touches the more valuable it will be.

In future articles, I will use this model to assess the insurtech landscape. I will also use this model to assess how VCs are investing their capital and whether they are scrutinizing the opportunities as well as they should, or just falling prey to the fear of missing out.

Originally published at www.insnerds.com,

Why Insurance WILL Be Disrupted

As it’s Pantomime season, can I start this with “Oh, Yes It Will”? (For those not familiar with Pantomime, check out some of the history here.)

I write in response to a great post from Nick Lamparelli on why insurance will not be disrupted (here). He takes a really interesting position. But I sit on the other side of the fence and believe insurance will, is and can be disrupted.

In answer to Nick’s six points as to why insurance will NOT be disrupted, here’s my perspective:

1. He writes: “At the core, insurance customers are leasing the potential to access capital…. How do you make a big pile of money irrelevant?” But this will vary from line of business to line of business. Where there are person-to-person (P2P) and other self-insurance approaches, why do I need capital? I will self-insure.

2. He writes: “Peer-to-peer providers just won’t be able to get sufficient scale to efficiently use capital to cover risk.” But isn’t this more about how they enable distribution and connections and pools of risk?

3. He writes: “IoT [Internet of Things] devices [and other new technologies] will slowly be adopted by most insurers as they look to get competitive edges, but the follow-the-leader paradigm of the industry will mean that any edge will disappear quickly, and we will all be running hard just to stay in place. These technologies are impressive. I would classify them as a solid innovations to the industry, but not disruptive.” I agree on this – it’s more evolution, not revolution. The revolution comes if the carriers actually do something with the technologies and create better products that are truly personalized. Note that we are still thinking in a product mindset, and I suspect this will change.

4. He writes: “I think State Farm and large auto insurers like them will be just fine, and technologies such as autonomous vehicles will be more of an annoyance than an existential threat.” Like Nick, I think there will be evolution. But I think the change with autonomous vehicles is not only to move from personal insurance to product liability (or a mix with a flex of product and personal liability, e.g. the manufacturer will provide the base layer of cover, but after that you have the flex options to add extras). To me, the issue is more about distribution of the product. I envisage that next you will buy insurance to cover a journey, instead of buying insurance once a year through a price comparison/aggregator site. Equally, the big auto insurance carriers Nick mentions will need to look for new sources of income and value-added services, be it breakdown or otherwise to drive revenue and profit. I suspect these will be more often from outside our standard world. The car will be the most connected thing we engage with, and that alone brings a whole host of exciting opportunity. If we do go for autonomous cars in scale and get them right, then the disruption could be that product liability (PL) dramatically reduces to being a capacity provider only to a new distribution channel (auto providers?). Or the CL carriers and reinsurance providers actually take prominence (higher likelihood in my view).

5. He writes that regulators could stomp on innovation. This is a tough one, but I think the consumer will always win. Regulators’ views will be driven by what’s best for the customer. Equally, smaller, nimbler insurers that can turn on a dime will be better-equipped to manage through regulation changes, as opposed to large, legacy-laden carriers that will be too slow to react and catch any positive outcome.

6. He writes that there is very little that technology can do to disrupt insurance for natural catastrophes, which is his area of expertise. I reply: OK, you win. Not many seem to be tackling this, if any at all. However, how we manage in advance, or the ensuing events, how we handle the supply chain and how we treat return to pre-loss will improve, again as natural evolution rather than as disruption. You could argue that crop insurance has changed dramatically over the years with better weather data. Some pay out proactively based on weather data, without ever the need for a claim. This to me is revolutionary and goes back to the point that customers come first.

I’m 100% with you and Paul VanderMarck, chief strategy officer at Risk Management Solutions – customers and better outcomes will ultimately win. However, on the race to this end, there will be many who change and challenge our thinking. To me, this is why there are so many new entrants and existing carriers investing heavily to understand what, why and how we can disrupt. Have a look at some of the work from CB Insights, which gives a fascinating view on the state of the market. See here for some of the great work Matthew Wong and team are doing.

Separately, I think we have jumped on the “disruptor,” label, as, like any industry, we need to be able to offer up the opportunity for the next unicorn (Zenefits, Oscar etc.) and to attract the right attention, from both inside and outside the industry, along with the appropriate talent and thinking!.

Either way, for me it’s an exciting time out there in insurance, and we must continue to evolve, revolve, pivot, disrupt – whatever we call it. Sitting still is not an option!

Capturing Hearts and Minds

This article is an excerpt from a white paper, “Capturing Hearts, Minds and Market Share: How Connected Insurers Are Improving Customer Retention.” In addition to the material covered here, the white paper includes specific recommendations on how to improve retention.

To download it, click here.

Insurers currently operate in a challenging environment. On the financial side, premiums are stagnant and interest rates low, and many cost-cutting measures have already been enacted. On the other hand, customer empowerment is growing. Customers are finding the information and offers they need to switch providers more freely than in the past – customers whom insurers can ill afford to lose.

For many carriers, the key to preserving customer relationships still lies in personal interaction, executed through traditional distribution and service models with tied agents and brokers. For some customer sets – those who strongly favor personal interaction – this business model works well. Yet a growing segment of customers, especially those 30 years old and younger, differ in some key aspects. While they still look for help and advice, they seek personal contact in the context of a holistic, omni-channel experience; they communicate and find information whenever, wherever and however they want. And even traditional customers appreciate if their agents have broader and faster access to the information and specialists they need on a case-by-case basis.

How can insurers keep – and even expand – these diverse customer sets, old and young alike? What factors drive retention and loyalty? To explore these questions, we surveyed more than 12,000 insurance customers in 24 nations about relationships with their insurers, what they perceive as valuable and in what ways they would like to interact and obtain new services going forward.

We found that while insurers understand well how to cover risks, they often fail to engage their customers on an individual basis. Even though insurance is complex, customers want to be involved, emotionally and rationally. When insurers act on this knowledge, customer share can rise.


The churn challenge

As a rule of thumb, the cost of acquiring new customers is four times that of retaining existing ones. To grow market share, insurers need new customers. But for the balance sheet, retention has a much larger impact.

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For a long time, the insurance industry did not consider this lack of trust a problem. In the highly asymmetrical pre-Internet world, there was a necessary gatekeeper to information and knowledge about risks and coverages: the insurance intermediary. For insurers, the intermediary’s trusted personal customer relationship was a guarantee of fairly reliable renewals and low customer churn – thus, keeping the most profitable customers.

The technological innovations of the digital age have altered this picture. Information asymmetry is diminishing. Although many customers still seek advice on insurance matters, the empowered digital customer does not need to rely solely on the gatekeepers of old for information. With communication being swift and ubiquitous, misinformation is quickly uncovered, leading to a steady erosion of trust, even with the personal adviser and insurer.

We have come to expect that only 43% of our survey respondents trust the insurance industry in general – a number that has stayed fairly stable since our first survey in 2007 – but only 37% trust their own insurers to a high or very high degree. Most customers are neutral, with 16% actually distrusting their providers.

As we have often seen in past studies, trust varies widely by market and culture. For example, only 12% of South Korean customers responded that they trust their insurers, compared with 26% in France, 43% in the U.S. and 51% in Mexico.

Low trust translates to high churn. Even though 93% of our respondents state that they plan to stay with their current insurers for their recently acquired coverage through 2015, almost a third came to that coverage by switching insurers. Why? Most commonly (for 41% of respondents), their old insurers couldn’t meet their changing needs (see Figure 1).

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The pattern of increasing customer empowerment and decreasing information asymmetry is continuing. New and non-traditional entrants to the insurance market are taking advantage of the opportunities of digital technologies. For example, Google recently launched an insurance comparison site for California and other regions of the U.S. This presents a real threat to both online insurers and traditional providers – not because of the comparison option itself, but because Google has collected a huge amount of information about each individual through his or her surfing habits, thus allowing better personalization and higher-value offers.

The three dimensions of retention

What do insurers need to do to increase trust and customer retention with the intent of improving both the top and bottom lines? The findings of our survey point to three courses of action:

    • Know your customers better. Customer behavior is affected by experiences and underlying psychographic factors. Insurers need to know and understand customers better, not only as target groups but as individuals. Insurers also need to get their customers involved, rationally and emotionally.
    • Offer customer value. As overused as the term is, a strong and individualized value proposition is exactly what insurers need to provide to their customers. Value is more than price; it includes many factors, including quality, brand and transparency.
    • Fully engage your customers across access points. As Millennials become a significant part of the insurance market, speed and breadth of access has begun to matter much more than in the past. Insurers need to engage their customers as widely as possible, from in-person interactions at one extreme all the way to digital interaction models such as those made possible by the Internet of Things.

Customer perception and behavior

Ever since the Internet has become a viable way to shop for goods and services, much discussion has centered on the matter of price. In theory, insurance products are easy to compare, so shouldn’t the cheapest one win out?

This view assumes that, aside from the price, all else is equal. If that were true, price would indeed be the sole tie-breaker. In reality, though, all else is never equal. Insurance is a product based on trust, for which perception matters. Perception, and thus customer behavior, is shaped by the individual customer’s attitudes and experiences. Understanding a customer on an individual basis helps a carrier tailor these experiences by communicating the “right way.”

To classify our respondents according to their attitudes, we used the same psychographic segmentation as in previous studies (see Figure 2).

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One size seldom fits all

Overall, our respondents stated that the three most important retention factors are price (63%), quality of service (61%) and past experience (33%) – leading back to the price as the main tie-breaker. Yet a closer look across segments paints a more diverse picture: For a demanding support-seeker, quality is by far the most important (74%), while a loyal quality-seeker bases his renewal intentions on past experience more strongly than any other group (43%).

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Assuming an insurer is targeting all these customer segments, it will need a diverse set of customer communication options, as each segment requires approaches tailored to its specific preferences (see Figure 3). This figure shows the five most-used insurance search options in the three segments where we are seeing the biggest shift among Millennials, who represent future customers.

The power of emotional involvement

Our data show that appropriate communication with customers sets off a positive chain reaction. First, it increased the use of that type of interaction. Customers perceived the interaction as more positive, and ultimately this increased emotional involvement with their providers – the “heart share” of our study title. Finally, emotional involvement is strongly connected to customer loyalty, so increasing involvement from medium to high had a dramatic impact on the loyalty index (see Figure 4).

What is the right way to communicate and increase involvement? As seen in Figure 3, the answer is “It depends,” so there is no one right approach for all customers. But using current technology – specifically, social media analytics – can help insurers improve involvement.

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With this tool, providers can “listen” to various online sources, understand how they are seen by customers, uncover trends and quickly tie this knowledge to specific actions. Providers can combine the findings of social media analytics with psychographic segmentation and an individual customer’s place within the segmentation; the latter gained via more traditional customer analytics. With this customer view, insurers can even go beyond the personalized knowledge their tied agents tend to have: As customer wants and needs change and they articulate it on social channels, insurers will know and can react in close to real time.

Social media analytics

Social media analytics is a set of tools that allow insurers to analyze topics and ideas that are expressed by their actual or potential customers through social media. This can be on an individual basis, or per customer group. Through social media analytics, insurers can apply predictive capabilities to determine overall or individual attitude and behavior patterns, and identify new opportunities.

This article is an excerpt from a white paper, “Capturing Hearts, Minds and Market Share: How Connected Insurers Are Improving Customer Retention.” In addition to the material covered here, the white paper includes specific recommendations on how to improve retention.

To download it, click here.

5 Key Steps for Succession Planning

Succession planning has two key components: the financial component and the human capital component. They are both critical. Many financial services professionals spend a career selling solutions for the financial component, but this means very little if the right people are not in place to step forward and assume responsibility for the future. My experience, working with companies on their human capital needs, is that producers, managers, general agents and brokerage general agents (life/ annuities, group insurance, money management, etc.) have the same challenge that all businesses face. In any business, succession is one of the most critical elements in attracting good people to maintain, grow and build on the foundation for the future.

If you are looking for a way to have a smooth transition with maximum benefit to all stakeholders, retain clients and key employees, you must take five key steps:

1. Identify the end goal.

2. Determine the kind of person needed for a successful succession.

3. Have a well-thought-out process for identifying the successor.

4. Set target dates, milestones and trigger points.

5. Put everything in writing.

CLEARLY IDENTIFY THE END GOAL

Do you know what you want to happen with your business when you exit? The goal might be as easy as selling to a peer, key employee or family member. But it might involve a lot more work and thought if you decide to split the business up into smaller pieces to sell it off or to look outside your current firm to find a successor. In many cases, executing your end goal and letting go isn’t easy and requires doing a great deal of planning, asking tough questions and setting expectations for everyone involved.

DETERMINE THE KIND OF PERSON NEEDED FOR A SUCCESSFUL SUCCESSION

What type of individual should be stepping in to take over? Look at experience, background, character, shared vision and willingness to follow through on promises made. Once you have these basic skills/traits identified, you need to define what will be expected on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Some of the questions you need to answer include:

  • What are the key performance expectations, both short-term and long-term, for the individual filling this role?
  • How will you define and measure successful performance in this role?
  • How will he know whether or not he is properly performing the critical functions in meeting the organization’s expectations?

Once you have answered these questions you can move on to the next step.

HAVE A SET PROCESS FOR ATTRACTING THE RIGHT PERSON

Once you have identified the role requirements for a candidate, the search can begin. If you have internal candidates who might fit the description, now is the time to approach them regarding the role and your long-term plans. If you don’t have any internal candidates, you need to go out to the marketplace yourself or hire someone to make appropriate introductions for you. You will need market research on the number of available candidates and the cost to attract them.

An outside consultant who knows your niche is your best source for obtaining the market research you need and for qualifying potential candidates. Even large companies that have human resources and strategic planning departments will find that an outside consultant can provide great help with an impartial viewpoint – and usually at a lower real net cost. You will also find that they can help you avoid some of the internal political battles that exist in larger companies.

Once you have a complete list of candidates, you can begin your evaluation of their background and desires to see if they align with what you are looking to accomplish and the legacy you wish to leave.

SET TARGET DATES, MILESTONES AND TRIGGER POINTS

No one likes uncertainty. Employees, clients, carrier partners and potential succession candidates all need to know what to expect and when to expect it. Owners often believe that an incoming owner will work harder if she is “hungry,” but if she doesn’t know what is expected of her, how will she know when your goal has been reached?

Both you and your successor need to agree on and accomplish specific goals. For example, if it’s a general agent (GA) succession plan and the target is 15 new recruits each year, attach a number to both the incoming GA and outgoing GA. If the incoming GA doesn’t hit the mark agreed to at each milestone, she doesn’t get the additional stock in the organization. If the outgoing GA doesn’t hit the milestones he agreed to, he doesn’t get as rich a payout (this way they are both tied to the other’s success). You can create this same kind of agreement in all sectors of the business and at all levels of an organization (president, manager and producer). You also need to set dates to sit down and review progress and successes (and potentially have a third party involved). This will help everyone focus on what’s important and work together.

PUT EVERYTHING IN WRITING

I’ve often talked with an organization halfway through a succession plan, and I hear different stories from the partners, employees and carrier partners. Making sure the carriers and existing partners are all in agreement with the plan is essential to your success. No one wants to feel taken advantage of, and having a clear plan laid out in writing will keep everyone on the same page and pulling for each other. Have a written business plan with all timelines and expectations (without financial numbers) to share with clients, company partners, employees and prospective employees. Not only can this be an effective recruiting, business development and retention tool, but communicating that you have a well-thought-out succession plan can be critical to existing and potential new customers. As the saying goes, “The business that stays, pays.”

This is certainly not a complete list of everything that is involved in succession planning, but these are the five foundational elements that should keep your quest for the right successor on track.