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In Age of Disruption, What Is Insurance?

“Somehow we have created a monster, and it’s time to turn it on its head for our customers and think about providing some certainty of protection.” – Inga Beale, CEO, Lloyds of London

In an early-morning plenary session at this year’s InsureTech Connect in Las Vegas, Rick Chavez, partner and head of digital strategy acceleration at Oliver Wyman, described the disruption landscape in insurance succinctly: while the first phase of disruption was about digitization, the next phase will be about people. In his words, “digitization has shifted the balance of power to people,” forcing the insurance industry to radically reorient itself away from solving its own problems toward solving the problems of its customer. It’s about time.

For the 6,000-plus attendees at InsureTech Connect 2018, disruption in insurance has long been described in terms of technology. Chavez rightly urged the audience to expand its definition of disruption and instead conceive of disruption not just as a shift in technology but as a “collision of megatrends”–technological, behavioral and societal–that is reordering the world in which we live, work and operate as businesses. In this new world order, businesses and whole industries are being refashioned in ways that look entirely unfamiliar, insurance included.

This kind of disruption requires that insurance undergo far more than modernization, but a true metamorphosis, not simply shedding its skin of bureaucracy, paper applications and legacy systems but being reborn as an entirely new animal, focused on customers and digitally enabled by continuing technological transformation.

In the new age of disruption …

1. Insurance is data

“Soon each one of us will be generating millions of data sets every day – insurance can be the biggest beneficiary of that” – Vishal Gondal, GOQUii

While Amazon disrupted the way we shop, and Netflix disrupted the way we watch movies, at the end of the day (as Andy G. Simpson pointed out in his Insurance Journal recap of the conference) movies are still movies, and the dish soap, vinyl records and dog food we buy maintain their inherent properties, whether we buy them on Amazon or elsewhere. Insurance, not simply as an industry but as a product, on the other hand is being fundamentally altered by big data.

At its core, “insurance is about using statistics to price risk, which is why data, properly collected and used, can transform the core of the product,” said Daniel Schreiber, CEO of Lemonade, during his plenary session on day 2 of the conference. As copious amounts of data about each and every one of us become ever more available, insurance at the product level– at the dish soap/dog food level–is changing.

While the auto insurance industry has been ahead of the curve in its use of IoT-generated data to underwrite auto policies, some of the most exciting change happening today is in life insurance, as life products are being reconceived by a boon of health data generated by FitBits, genetic testing data, epigenetics, health gamification and other fitness apps. In a panel discussion titled “On the Bleeding Edge: At the Intersection of Life & Health,” JJ Carroll of Swiss RE discussed the imperative of figuring out how to integrate new data sources into underwriting and how doing so will lead to a paradigm shift in how life insurance is bought and sold. “Right now, we underwrite at a single point in time and treat everyone equally going forward,” she explained. With new data sources influencing underwriting, life insurance has the potential to become a dynamic product that uses health and behavior data to adjust premiums over time, personalize products and service offerings and expand coverage to traditionally riskier populations.

Vishal Gandal of GOQuii, a “personalized wellness engine” that is partnering with Max Bupa Insurance and Swiss Re to offer health coaching and health-management tools to customers, believes that integrating data like that generated by GOQuii will “open up new risk pools and provide products to people who couldn’t be covered before.” While some express concern that access to more data, especially epigenetic and genetic data, may exclude people from coverage, Carroll remains confident that it is not insurers who will benefit the most from data sharing, but customers themselves.

See also: Is Insurance Really Ripe for Disruption?  

2. Insurance is in the background

“In the future, insurance will buy itself automatically” – Jay Bergman

Some of the most standout sessions of this year’s InsureTech Connect were not from insurance companies at all, but from businesses either partnering with insurance companies or using insurance-related data to educate their customers about or sell insurance to their customers as a means of delivering more value.

Before unveiling a new car insurance portal that allows customers to monitor their car-related records and access a quote with little to no data entry, Credit Karma CEO Ken Lin began his talk with a conversation around how Credit Karma is “more than just free credit scores,” elucidating all of the additional services they have layered on top of their core product to deliver more value to their customers. Beyond simply announcing a product launch, Lin’s talk was gospel to insurance carriers, demonstrating how a company with a fairly basic core offering (free credit scores) can build a service layer on top to deepen engagement with customers. It’s a concept that touches on what was surely one of the most profound themes of the conference–that, like free credit scores, insurance only need be a small piece of a company’s larger offering. This may mean embedding insurance into the purchase of other products or services (i.e., how travel insurance is often sold) or it may mean doing what Credit Karma has done and layering on a service offering to deepen engagement with customers and make products stickier.

Assaf Wand, CEO of the home insurance company Hippo, spoke to both of these models in his discussion with David Weschler of Comcast about how their two companies are partnering to make insurance smarter and smart homes safer. When asked about what the future of insurance looks like, Wand put it plainly when he said: “Home insurance won’t be sold as insurance. It will be an embedded feature of the smart home.” Jillian Slyfield, who heads the digital economy practice at Aon, a company that is already partnering with companies like Uber and Clutch to insure the next generation of drivers, agrees: “We are embedding insurance into these products today.”

Until this vision is fully realized, companies like Hippo are doing their part to make their insurance products fade into the background as the companies offer additional services for homeowners, “Can I bring you value that you really care about?” Wand asked, “Wintering your home, raking leaves, these are the kinds of things that matter to homeowners.”

3. Insurance is first and foremost a customer experience

“The insurance industry has to redefine our processes… go in reverse, starting with the customer and re-streamlining our processes around them” – Koichi Nagasaki, Sompo

To many outside the insurance industry, the idea of good customer experience may seem unremarkable, but for an industry that has for so long been enamored by the ever-increasing complexity of its own products, redefining processes around customers is like learning a foreign language as a middle-aged adult. It’s hard, and it takes a long time, and a lot of people aren’t up to the task.

The insurance industry has been talking about the need for customer-centricity for a while now, but many companies continue to drag their feet. But customer-centricity is and remains more than a differentiator. It’s now table stakes. How this plays out for the industry will look different for different companies. Some will turn to partnerships with insurtechs and other startups to embed their products into what are already customer-centric experiences and companies. Chavez of Oliver Wyman would rather see the industry “disrupt itself,” as he believes it’s critical that companies maintain the customer relationship. In his plenary sessions, he cited the German energy company Enercity as a company that disrupted itself. Operating in a similarly regulated industry, rather than becoming just a supplier of energy, the company invested heavily in its own digital strategy to become a thought leader in the energy space, to be a trusted adviser to its customer and to deliver an exceptional digital experience that, among other things, leverages blockchain technology to accept bitcoin payments from customers. For Chavez, insurtech is already a bubble, and, “If you want to succeed and thrive in a bubble, make yourself indispensable.” The only way to do this, he believes, is to maintain ownership over the customer experience, because, in today’s digital economy, the customer experience is the product.

But to own the customer experience and succeed will require insurance companies to completely reorient their business practices and processes – to start with the customer and the experience and work backward toward capabilities. In the words of Han Wang of Paladin Cyber, who spoke on a panel about moving from selling products to selling services, “It’s always a questions of what does the customer want? How do they define the problem? And what is the solution?”

4. Insurance is trust

“The world runs on trust. When we live in a society where we have lots of trust, everyone benefits. When this trust goes away, everyone loses.” – Dan Ariely, Lemonade

During a faceoff between incumbents and insurtechs during one conference session, Dylan Bourguignon, CEO of so-sure cinched the debate with a single comment, calling out large insurance carriers: “You want to engage with customers, yet you don’t have their trust. And it’s not like you haven’t had time to earn it.” This, Bourguignon believes, is ultimately why insurtechs will beat the incumbents.

Indeed, the insurtech Lemonade spent a fair amount of stage time preaching the gospel of trust. Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and chief behavior officer at Lemonade, delivered a plenary session entirely devoted to the topic of trust. He spoke about trust from a behavioral standpoint, explaining how trust creates equilibrium in society and how, when trust is violated, the equilibrium is thrown off. Case in point: insurance.

Insurance, he explained, has violated consumer trust and has thrown off the equilibrium–the industry doesn’t trust consumers, and consumers don’t trust the industry, a vulnerability that has left the insurance industry open to the kind of disruption a company like Lemonade poses. As an industry, insurance has incentives not to do the thing it has promised to do, which is to pay out your claims. And while trust is scarcely more important in any industry as it is in insurance, save in an industry like healthcare, the insurance industry is notoriously plagued by two-way distrust.

What makes Lemonade stand out is that it has devised a system that removes the conflict of interest germane to most insurance companies – as a company, it has no incentives to not pay out customer claims. In theory, profits are entirely derived by taking a percentage of the premium; anything left over that does not go to pay out a claim is then donated to charity. The result: If customers are cheating, they aren’t cheating a company, they are cheating a charity. Ariely described several instances where customer even tried to return their claims payments after finding misplaced items they thought had been stolen. “How often does this happen in your companies?” he asked the audience. Silence.

And it’s not just new business models that will remedy the trust issues plaguing insurance. It’s new technology, too. In a panel titled “Blockchain: Building Trust in Insurance,” executives from IBM, Salesforce, Marsh and AAIS discussed how blockchain technology has the capacity to deepen trust across the industry, among customers, carriers, solutions providers and underwriters by providing what Jeff To of Salesforce calls an “immutable source of truth that is trusted among all parties.” Being able to easily access and trust data will have a trickle down effect that will affect everyone, including customers, employees and the larger business as a whole–reducing inefficiencies, increasing application and quote-to-bind speed, eliminating all the hours and money that go into data reconciliation and ultimately making it easier for carriers to deliver a quality customer experience to their customers.

See also: Disruption of Rate-Modeling Process  

While the progress in blockchain has been incremental, the conference panel demoed some promising use cases in which blockchain is already delivering results for customers, one example being acquiring proof of insurance for small businesses or contractors through Marsh’s platform. With blockchain, a process that used to span several days has been reduced to less than a minute. Experiences like these–simple, seamless and instantaneous – are laying the groundwork for carriers to begin the long road to earning back customer trust. Blockchain will likely play an integral role this process.

5. Insurance is a social good

“We need insurance. It is one of the most important products for financial security.” – Dan Ariely, Lemonade

For all of the the naysaying regarding state of the industry that took place at InsureTech Connect, there were plenty of opportunities for the industry to remind itself that it’s not all bad, and its core insurance is something that is incredibly important to the stability of people across the globe. Lemonade’s Schreiber called it a social good, while Ariely told his audience, “We need insurance. It is one of the most important products for financial security.” Similar sentiments were expressed across stages throughout the conference.

In fact, in today’s society, income disparity is at one of the highest points in recent history, stagnating wages are plaguing and diminishing the middle class, more people in the U.S. are living in poverty now than at any point since the Great Depression, the social safety net is shrinking by the minute and more than 40% of Americans don’t have enough money in savings to cover a $400 emergency, so insurance is more important than ever.

For Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyds of London, insurance has a critical role to play in society, “It goes beyond insurance–it’s about giving people money and financial independence,” she said during a fireside chat. She went on to describe findings from recent research conducted by Lloyds, which determined that, by the end of their lives, men in the U.K. are six times better off financially than women. When designed as a tool to provide financial independence and equality for everyone, insurance can play an important role in addressing this disparity. While this has been a focus in emerging markets, financial stability and independence is often assumed in more developed markets, like the U.S. and Europe. In reality, it is a problem facing all markets, and increasingly so. Ace Callwood, CEO of Painless1099, a bank account for freelancers that helps them save money for taxes, agrees that insurance has an important role to play. “It’s our job to get people to a place where they can afford to buy the products we are trying to sell,” he said.

You can find the article originally published here.

What Do Bots Mean for Insurance?

As customers increasingly demand a better experience when they interact with companies, including insurers, help is coming from a counterintuitive source. It turns out that one of the best ways to be more personal is through… robots.

More precisely, the answer is turning out to be chat robots, or “chatbots.”

People don’t like having to phone call centers and wade through that phone tree — “Para continuar en espanol, oprima uno… For billing, press 2; for….” Many, especially younger people, just want to be able to text a question and get it answered. That’s how they handle everything else. So, many companies are realizing they need to have customer service reps that respond to texts, and they’re seeing an opening to use chatbots.

Using so-called natural language processing to understand a text message and then drawing on artificial intelligence to both find the answer and generate a reply, chatbots can handle perhaps 70% to 80% of queries. They can hand a conversation off to a human when necessary and can take the conversation over again, without the customer’s ever realizing that a bot has been involved or that a handoff occurred. In fact, the bots can wind up sounding a lot less robotic than the standard call center rep who is only allowed to read off a script.

The bots are so efficient about finding answers that they actually have to be slowed down, so the customer doesn’t think, “No one could type that fast,” and wonder if a computer is involved. (A certain percentage of typos can also be programmed to appear, as can emojis or lots of exclamation points, to make the bots seem more human. You can actually program the bots to have different personalities.)

See also: Want to Enhance Your Customer Experience?

With so many mundane tasks handled by bots, the call-center reps get to deal with more interesting issues and can spend more time with customers, giving everyone a better experience.

Although they haven’t shown up widely in insurance yet, they are in use in numerous other industries, with great success.

Why now?

Chatbots have been around for more than 20 years. Why should companies pay attention to chatbots now?

For starters, these days just about everyone is carrying a super-computer around in her pocket. In 1991, 1GB of flash memory would have cost around $45,000. Now, most phones have at least 32GB of memory. Processors are more than 1,000 times as fast as they were in 1991. So, the technology for chatbots is lightyears ahead of where it was.

Companies have also placed an increased focus on messaging, including with bots. Facebook Messenger uses more than 11,000 chatbots to respond to messages. The chat app Kik recently said that more than 20,000 bots have been made specifically for its platform.

Perhaps even more importantly, the pendulum in the customer-business relationship has swung heavily in favor of the customer. Companies no longer control the message/brand; it’s all out there in the ether, and companies need to guard their reputations by caring for customers. Some companies, such as Zappos, have pretty much built their businesses on the customer experience, while others, including cable companies (Comcast, most notoriously), are vilified.

Insurance companies can see what’s happening in other industries and see what they need to do. Net Promoter Scores (NPS) are the insurance industry’s most consistent measurement of customer loyalty, and, despite some pockets of brilliance by individuals, most of the time the insurance industry stinks. Chatbots can help.

Chatbots create a conversational web and conversational commerce. They can even be programmed to wish the customer a happy birthday or happy anniversary or make some comment about how long the customer had been with the company.

Chatbots make a company’s behavior more consistent across the board, especially in terms of elegance and simplicity. On top of that, it’s easy to keep the bots on-message, and they only need to be trained once.

See also: ‘Age of the Customer’ Demands Change

In 2013, it was estimated that it takes five screens to get a user to where he wants to go. In 2015, that number has increased to seven. Bots get the information almost instantly, even if that means going to a deep link in an app or on a site or in a corporate data center.

Bots aren’t “one size fits all.” They’re “one size fits one.” So work has to go into customizing them for a company. But simple bots such as for frequently asked questions can go live in a day, and an ecosystem of bots can be developed over time. Once a bot exceeds its ability to answer a question, it might initially pass the question to a human, but, in time, the handoff could go to another bot that has been developed.

Bots will also be able to take on more tasks, including outreach to customers. Bots could automatically alert customers of an impending hurricane and begin a dialogue with them about what steps to take to prepare, who to call if they need immediate assistance, how to file claims, etc.

In insurance, there’s nothing like the Domino’s pizza tracker, which allows a customer to follow along with an order every step of the way, from the order to the oven to the front door. But there will be, and imagine how helpful that will be with claims. Many customer calls are about where their claims are in the process, so streamlining it and providing a bot with the capabilities to respond to the customer would make the process easier, eliminate a lot of calls — and make the customer much happier.

Of course, an insurance bot isn’t going to answer “what is the meaning of life?” or “how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” like Apple’s Siri can. But a bot can be tailored and trained to answer many questions, filling a gaping hole in the insurance world.

Managing Behavioral Health at Work

At the RIMS 2016 Annual Conference, Kimberly George, senior vice president of Sedgwick, and Scott Daniels, director of disability for Comcast, discussed an approach to managing mental and behavioral health in the workplace. The discussion focused on how Comcast deals with these issues. Comcast has a very diverse workforce, owning a cable company, multiple television networks and even theme parks.

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Behavioral health claims not only affect your employees directly, but they also can have a significant impact on your business. According to a recent study by IBI, four of the top six employment-related concerns of employers related to the health of their workforce. The study also found that mental health was the second-highest duration of disability diagnosis for their short-term disability programs.

Comcast has had 1,300 to 1,600 behavioral health claims per year, paying millions of dollars in benefits. One area of concern for the company is that 60% of those being treated were not being seen by licensed behavioral health experts. Instead, they were being treated by general practitioners who lacked the expertise to adequately address the issues. Comcast is trying to focus on being an advocate for its workers on health issues, and part of that includes assisting them in being treated by the appropriate medical providers.

See Also: A New Focus for Health Insurance

Comcast’s program is currently focused on the group benefits side. The company hopes to someday expanded to workers’ compensation. If employees have a behavioral health diagnosis, they are required to treat with a practitioner specifically licensed in that area. Comcast does not direct to specific providers but instead work with the employee to help identify providers in the network. The Comcast employee assistance program (EAP) comes into play as the employee can receive a certain number of behavioral health visits under this at no cost to the worker. The program has been in place less than a year, but Comcast is already seeing  significant decreases in duration of disability for behavioral health claims.

There is hope that this program can have a positive impact on workers’ compensation claims, as well. Under the EAP program, Comcast can provide the behavioral health treatment outside the workers’ compensation claim to help address the psycho-social issues that could have an impact on the claim. This approach recognizes that you must treat the whole person to effectively manage workers’ compensation claims, and you cannot ignore psycho-social issues that may be affecting the case.

One of the first resources that Comcast tapped into in developing its program was its EAP provider. The  provider offers a variety of resources to the workforce, not just in the area of behavioral health but also with a variety of lifestyle issues. The EAP was being underutilized before this program started, but the change in focus helped employees to fully understand the benefits under their EAP.

Resilience is a also very important issue that can affect both disabilty and workers’ compensation claims. Comcast is working with a vendor partner to assist employees in developing coping skills and being more resilient. Comcast feels that by strengthening the resilience of its workforce it can significantly reduce all disability in the workplace.

Comcast is also using more telehealth, which is yielding positive results. It makes it easier for the employees to receive medical care in a timely manner. This has been especially useful with behavioral therapy.

The company is also hoping that the focus on getting the employee the proper care will decrease relapse in disability. Oftentimes, relapse is driven by the employee’s not receiving the appropriate treatment.

The overall focus at Comcast is establishing a culture of health for the workforce. The company wants employees to engage in the healthcare experience and become educated consumers. The hope is this culture will ultimately lead to healthier employees, which will result in fewer disability and workers’ compensation claims.

IoT Is Game Changer for Insurers

The Internet is now an integral part of our daily lives, and we would struggle to imagine life without it. However, to date, growth has largely been driven by access to content and by speed.

We are now moving into the new phase of growth where the everyday “things” around us will be connected to the Internet. This is the Internet of Things (IoT) – it will have a profound impact on our daily lives and change the way we interact with our environment. It will also have a big impact on how industries operate and relate with their customers. This is particularly true for insurance companies, where there is an opportunity to move from being passive and reacting to losses, to being proactive and helping prevent them.

In short, the IoT will be a game changer for insurers.

In the commercial sector, we are familiar with the benefits of connectivity in smart buildings. When we go to a hotel, door locks are controlled with smart cards, and there are links to lighting and air conditioning to save energy and improve security. Fire systems are networked to sprinklers. Indeed, I’m not sure I’d book a hotel that gave me a metal key. More significantly, most modern commercial buildings would struggle to get insurance coverage without new technology.

The IoT will bring this same level of intelligence to the home.

Standard devices such as light switches, thermostats and door locks are being networked. Smartphones allow us to monitor and control air conditioning, as well as access and monitor security and lighting, with alerts if there is a problem. The first wave of connected appliances is now starting to roll out. Just as with commercial buildings, “interoperability” will become standard in homes because it makes them safer, more energy-efficient and easier to manage.

The smart home is already going mainstream. Big-box stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Best Buy, Target and Sears have started to offer their own DIY smart home solutions. They are competing with the major service providers such as AT&T, Comcast, TWC and others that have developed their own consumer offerings. The entry of Apple, Google and Microsoft into the space with different consumer strategies is a clear sign that the market has arrived.

Many of these new entrants have recognized that data will be key to their future success in a connected world where devices will generate as much as we can handle and the ability to refine and exploit it will decide the winners and losers in many industries. This data is going to be particularly important to insurers, which have traditionally based their pricing on risk assessment. If a competitor has better data on which to base judgments, it will have the edge.

The IoT and access to data will reshape industry boundaries and create opportunities.

The IoT will allow insurance companies to move from the traditional passive role of underwriting risk to take a more active position by supplying smart home products and services. Other industries have already adopted this type of strategy. For example, the major cable companies and telcos now offer smart home products over the top of their broadband. These provide new revenue streams, leverage their core competencies, increase customer loyalty and provide a platform for growing new value-added services. Insurance companies could take a page out of the service providers’ playbook and offer their own solutions to realize similar benefits.

The IoT and smart home can give insurers a more direct relationship with the consumer through daily interaction using touch points in apps and messaging. Insurers could also become more competitive by adopting pricing strategies that include direct sourcing and bundling with policies. Contrast this to consumers’ traditional negative experience of bill paying on an annual or semi-annual basis for something they most likely didn’t use.

Consumers would see insurance companies as a logical source for products and services that protect people and their property. Smart home systems can be DIY, offering protection for security, fire and flood. Moreover, they bring new levels of protection with innovation. For example, low-cost leak detectors and temperature sensors can automatically shut off the water supply when triggered.

The IoT is a real growth opportunity, and any business can scale as new connected devices come along. This can be done by offering devices and sensors that improve in-home healthcare and appliances that can be remotely monitored to reduce warranty support costs. These products and value-added services can drive new revenue streams, improve customer retention and reinvent the way consumers perceive their insurance provider. More importantly, the IoT secures access to the data from the things in the home that would help insurance companies manage risk.

If there is a nervousness to step outside the traditional industry boundaries, the alternative is to forge new partnerships with the companies that are deploying smart home solutions.

These companies have access to the data that will help insurance companies manage risk. For example, Lowe’s has partnered with a number of leading insurance companies to trade data from the Iris smart home system. Clearly, data privacy is a major issue, so customers have to approve sharing. This can be achieved by offering a benefit on the policy, usually in the form of a discount.

Clearly, the IoT market is moving extremely fast, and it will challenge conventional wisdom. Just five years ago, the only connected device in home improvement retail was a smart door lock, and now there are hundreds – even dog bowls and toothbrush are becoming connected. If the IoT grows as predicted, every powered device will be IP addressable in the next 10 years. Ignoring this market is not a smart move.

While competing in the smart home space by offering consumers new products and services may seem daunting, the IoT will disrupt traditional industry boundaries, and attack is sometimes the best form of defense. Moreover, actively entering the market has the biggest upside. At a minimum, there is a need to find ways to partner to protect your position and get access to data to remain competitive. The leading insurance providers will be those that embrace the IoT and its impact.