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New Phase for Innovation in Insurance

A bit of a backlash is developing about the insurtech movement – sort of, “We’ve been hearing about insurtech for a few years now, so why hasn’t it meant the end of life as we know it? Why doesn’t an app on my phone just know what I want and when I want it and provide that insurance for me?”

We understand. We get impatient, too. But innovation in insurance is actually moving into an exciting and healthy new phase, where insurtechs and incumbents are finally working together rather than circling each other warily as potential enemies.

We’ve always thought that cooperation was the way to go. That’s why our team at gener8tor structured our OnRamp Insurance Conference to facilitate authentic, high-yield connections between participants at all levels. Over 1,100 insurtechs and incumbents come together for a one-day conference at a sports stadium. The program includes industry thought leadership, product demos, startup pitches, exhibitions and networking optimized to help attendees uncover opportunities to work with, not against, each other. We wanted to create an onramp, if you will, for consequential deals.

As we draw closer to our fourth insurance conference (in Minneapolis-St. Paul on April 11 — you can register here), the sort of deal that grew out of last year’s event could serve as a model for how incumbents and insurtechs can collaborate.

TCARE joined us last year as a startup with a grand total of two employees but with an unusual insight into long-term care: that caring for the caregivers can be key.

“There are a lot of solutions out there helping the family members manage care better. We do not do that,” said Ali Ahmadi, CEO and cofounder of TCARE. “We are all about the care of the family caregiver, not the patient. We take care of the family member better, which in turn has shown significant outcomes on the patient side.”

Science known as identity discrepancy theory shows that sons and daughters go through five stages as they shift from primarily a child-parent relationship to a caregiver-patient relationship, and TCARE monitors the transitions so it can support the children/caregivers during each phase. A two-year pilot with the state of Washington found that the TCARE approach delayed patients’ move into long-term care by 21 months, while reducing costs by 20% by allowing so much more aging in place.

See also: So, You Want to Work With Insurtechs?  

At OnRamp last year, TCARE had a series of meetings with insurers that, over the following six months, developed into formal relationships, including investments. One is from RGA, the other from a faith-based institution that doesn’t yet want to be identified.

Ahmadi says the RGA relationship has provided considerable expertise in modeling that has improved TCARE’s underwriting and has contributed demographic data on families that has greatly increased TCARE’s accuracy.

TCARE is now at 19 employees, on its way soon to 30-plus. It has signed a long-term contract with the state of Washington for its Medicare/Medicaid programs and has seen business pour in from other states and insurers looking to manage their long-term-care businesses. TCARE is now mandated legislatively in four states for use in their Medicare/Medicaid programs.

Everybody wins, including the children and the parents they’re caring for.

At OnRamp this year, we expect a great deal of interest on the medical and healthcare side of the business, partly because there is so much data that can be used in insurance applications (while protecting everyone’s privacy). As usual, we also believe that what we think of as horizontal technologies will play a major role, both at the OnRamp conference and within the industry – it isn’t just insurtechs proper that will drive innovation; companies with cross-industry expertise in analytics, AI, etc. will be crucial, too.

Elizabeth Carraro, director of digital strategy and partnerships at Securian, says, “We’re looking at the innovation space broadly, not just looking at the latest and greatest in life insurance. How do you take the sorts of ideas you see with the connected home and apply that kind of thinking to improve life insurance? How do you bring a 140-year-old company into modern times?”

Securian, which provides life insurance and other investment and retirement solutions, is looking in three main areas, she says. The first relates to changes in distribution, including through new aggregators and direct-to-consumer applications. “How do we change the conversation,” she asks, “so we aren’t just providing a piece of paper? Are there planning tools we can provide, as well?” The second covers the customer experience, a huge emphasis in the life insurance industry. “If you provide data to show that you’re taking care of your health, how can we provide you with a better experience and maybe a better rate?” Carraro asks. The third relates to back-end operations: “If you started a company from scratch, what would your systems look like? You need to build for today’s tech stack.”

Brittany Clements of Allianz Life Ventures says the corporate VC fund has a double mandate. As you’d expect, the fund needs to generate a significant return on its investments. But it also helps the startups in the portfolio thrive and assists the rest of Allianz in taking advantage of the innovative capabilities.

“It’s more about the strategic opportunities,” Clements said. “We have one person devoted fully to business development for these investments. We work together to solve some of our business challenges, as well.”

She cites Covr Financial Technologies, which Allianz Life Ventures met at OnRamp and invested in last year. Covr has developed a platform that digitizes the whole life insurance process for advisers, which is a business in its own right but also can help Allianz’s existing operations.

See also: Is Insurtech Wave Hitting a Riptide?  

Rick Zullo, who cofounded Equal Ventures and who has a history both with insurance investing and with OnRamp, focuses on establishing relationships at conferences, often well before he considers an investment. He met RiskMatch at our first OnRamp insurance conference and developed relationships that led, first, to an investment and a seat on the board and then to a successful exit when Vertafore bought the analytics company in 2017.

“Our general philosophy has been less about disruption and more about appreciating what legacy insurers and brokers can do very well and appreciating what startups do well,” Zullo says. “We try to match those capabilities.”

He adds: “Insurance is a world that is rooted in connections and complexity. The folks who win require both. You have to have an extremely nuanced understanding of how this industry operates, and of how relationships are extremely important to getting things done.”

We agree, which is why we think the partnership approach for insurtechs and innovation will prove to be so fruitful.

We hope to see you at the Target Center in Minneapolis-St. Paul on April 11. Last year’s crop of startups that applied for one-on-one meetings have raised more than $1.7 billion in financing, and we think this year’s group is at least as intriguing. Please register here and join us.

What the Inauguration Tells Us

Jan. 20, 2017, Washington, D.C.: Donald Trump takes the oath as the president of the U.S. Something that was unthinkable even a year ago has actually happened.

A lot has been written about this event in political terms and in economic terms, but what does it mean to us as human beings and as professionals? What does it tell us about the world we all live in and work in?

It’s the perfect postcard moment, the perfect imagery that captures the paradigm shift that has been going on for some time at a human level and a societal level. It tells us unmistakably that the world works differently now and values things differently now.

Pithy Trumps Thorough. Our attention span is measured in seconds now. We rarely sit down for an hour or two at a stretch to read something and consider something deeply. We are drawn to pithy, memorable soundbites and no longer have the patience to go through a logical, comprehensive analysis of anything, even if that is of monumental importance. This is not just in politics; even the business world is awash with soundbites, fancy infographics and short-term tactics.

Connection Trumps Content. If we like a leader — if we feel a “connect” with the leader — we support the leader even if the leader’s ideas are not great or they don’t have many ideas. If we feel a job-seeker is like us — if we feel a connection — we hire him even if he doesn’t have the experience we said we wanted. If we like a brand, we buy its products and pay more for them even if they are not the best products.

See also: What Trump Means for Best Practices  

Confirmation Trumps Consideration. If someone says something that confirms our own preferences or ideas, we believe it. If someone says something that is contrary to our preferences or ideas, we shut the person out. We don’t wish to spend the time needed to consider, to think, to examine, to perhaps change our minds. Conversations have become echo chambers. Again, this is not just in politics. Just think back to the last time you witnessed a conversation between business managers and risk managers in your own organization.

Passion Trumps Perseverance. Our image of the last several generations is that of people persevering to achieve what they want. People starting out with very limited means but working their way up over the course of many years and decades. The current generations are more about passion. If we believe in something, we want everyone to know about it. We want everyone to know our passions and to experience our lives just as we are experiencing it.

Fast and Fleeting. Everything seems to happen faster. Stories build up in hours — globally. Leaders rise to the top in a few short months. New products and companies become dominant in a year or two. But things fade away faster, too. Stories become stale in days, and then no one cares any longer about the Syrian toddler or the burning cell phones or that game-changing corporate merger. Fifteen minutes of fame has become fifteen seconds of fame. Window of opportunity has become a small keyhole.

Digital Unites Us. And It Divides Us. It is no surprise that digital technologies are making the world a smaller place. In politics, pundits and ideas and even fake news seamlessly travel from one country to another. In business, we routinely work with people scattered across the globe. In our daily lives, we use products and services coming from everywhere. However, at a micro level, digital seem to be separating us, putting us in our own bubbles. If you go to a restaurant or observe a family sharing a meal, more often than not their faces are awash in the digital glow of their own devices. The impulse each of us feels to “like” a post or send a message at that very moment is so much stronger than the desire we have to look into each other’s eyes and have a real conversation. Just as technology has broken up and reorganized entire industries, it seems to be reorganizing the society — earlier, we belonged to a family or a tribe or a city or a nation, but now we belong to a global, digital, amorphous, even transitory group of people who share our interests.

What should we do?

As professionals and individuals and as mentors and parents, we need to put more emphasis on these traits and skills:

  • Be a marketer. Good work is important, but talking about it and selling it in a pithy, passionate, confident and catchy way is equally important.
  • Connect with people. Learn how to understand, relate to and connect to people. Find areas of agreement. Appeal to their heart.
  • Truly embrace change. Like it or not, change is happening and happening fast. Better to be on its side than to be complacent, comfortable or cocky.
  • Use the power of digital. It is much more than devices and apps. It can help you find allies across the globe and collaborate with them. It can fundamentally change how your business or home or community operates today.

See also: What Trump Means for Healthcare Reform  

But remember to check the devices at the door, when you are with people who are important to you. Just like Trump, your most loyal and trustworthy fans and advisers are likely those you live with or those you often meet face-to-face.

4 Myths on Social Marketing and Selling

Everywhere you look, marketers and companies are promoting the merits of “social marketing” and “social selling” for insurance producers, and there is certainly value to be derived from content marketing and from increasing brand awareness. But social marketing and social selling don’t lend themselves to insurance.

There are four myths about social media that an insurance producer has to account for to reach his ideal target client and reach his sales goals.

Myth #1. Social media marketing is useful in and of itself.

Yes, it’s inarguable that you need to have a quality LinkedIn and Facebook presence, but that is only a “backstop activity” that allows someone to check you out after meeting you … by some other means. As one blogger recently wrote, LinkedIn is a place for “hunters and the hunted.” Most people don’t go out to a place like LinkedIn (or Facebook) to find or to shop for an insurance provider. All the carriers and brands are on those sites, shouting positioning messages and trying to get noticed, but more than 75% of LinkedIn users go to that site just once a month, or even less often.

So, don’t expect that people will find you on social media and that you’ll be distinguishable.

See also: 4 Marketing Lessons for Insurtechs  

Myth #2. Content is king.

Publishing good content makes a lot of sense as it can add authority and credibility about who you are. But throwing content alone into your social stream is like casting a big net onto the waters hoping to catch someone swimming by. When you push content out broadly to your networks and your contacts, you’re expanding your reach but are still just hoping that someone will swim into that net and want to have a further “discovery” conversation.

How’s that working for you now?

Myth #3. I can get noticed by being active in the social marketing stream.

Don’t fool yourself. Ask the question: Who is my ideal target client, and how noisy is that person’s world? With all of the messaging coming at us all every single day, how can you expect to get enough mindshare to stimulate a response from whomever you’re targeting? We’re all inundated and have created barriers so that only those people we already trust are let in to our worlds.

The walls are only going to get higher, and social marketing will become even less effective.

Myth #4. Mass promotion using social marketing tactics fits my audience and will fill my sales funnel.

Wait! Just stop and ask yourself: Why do people now choose you as their insurance professional? Then ask: How many leads do I get now from my social media sites?

At the top of the list as to why people choose you will be reasons like trust, relationship and your proven competence. But how can a prospective new client get to learn about you and your character and competence without you focusing on building a highly engaged relationship?

If I glance at your social media pages, I can do it quickly and privately. You won’t even know, and then I’ll be gone. You can’t build trust with these drive-by lookers.

You need to focus first on building connections that really make the walls come down or the doors open, and no amount of mass or social marketing can make up for your investing a part of yourself into the personal relationship. You’re in a market where people and relationships matter the most, so this is where your focus should be.

Mass “social” tools are actually un-social and are a poor substitute for building a true one-to-one connection.

The Right Approach

In my firm, Refer.com, we know how valuable a focused, personalized, relationship-marketing approach can be for insurance producers. We have seen how, in less than six weeks, a producer can gain eight to 10 new clients and can generate referred sales opportunities each and every month thereafter.

We urge our clients to build their quality LinkedIn and Facebook pages and gather their great content to provide to the connections that they’re making but to focus on building highly engaged, one-on-one relationships with a small group of people. This includes clients, other professionals, connectors and influencers in your marketplace. Then, initiating a continuing, “high-touch,” personal connecting plan enabled by a sophisticated app will turn those key people into focused sources of introductions and new-client referrals.

See also: How to Capture Data Using Social Media  

You’ll quickly set yourself apart from others in your area who are undisciplined and unfocused while you’ve built a team of committed partners working together to help you grow.

My next article will present the reasons why this approach is guaranteed to change the direction of your business and fill your prospect pipeline with high-quality opportunities. And then we’ll show you, step by step, exactly how you can easily make this work for you.