Tag Archives: digital ecosystem

Insurers Can Boost Resilience on Cyber

Research by Accenture on the extent of cyber risk suggests how carriers can steel themselves against threats to their IT and cyber security.

Knowing your exposure is always critical. But the Accenture survey, Business Resilience in the Face of Cyber Risk, found just 5% of carriers run simulated attacks and system failures to test their systems’ resilience. Just more than half—52%—of insurance executives surveyed reported that their organizations have produced threat models for existing and planned business operations. Less than half of the executives—47%—map and prioritize security, operational and failure scenarios. And only 14% said they consistently design resilience parameters into the operational models and technology architectures.

The survey also found that just a little more than one-third—38%—of executives “strongly agreed” that their organizations balance spending on iron-clad security measures and growth and innovation strategies. Some 49% “merely agreed,” indicating there is room for improvement in this critical area.

View the infographic that provides details of the insurance specific results.

Accenture’s 2015 Global Risk Management Study: North American Insurance Report provides more insight on how insurers can better prevent IT failures and cyber security breaches. For example:

  • 50% of respondents “strongly agreed” and 36% more “slightly agreed” that digital presents an opportunity to present the risk function as a business partner.
  • 44% of North American respondents say that their risk management functions, to a great extent, have the necessary skills to understand cyber risk. While that level of confidence was nine points higher than among insurers elsewhere in the world, it demonstrates that the risk functions at more than half of North American insurers either do not have this expertise or have not demonstrated it.

We also suggest insurers consider:

  • Embracing the digital ecosystem—Take advantage of digital capabilities and technologies outside of the enterprise to strengthen strategic decision-making.
  • Managing digitally— Develop the ability to orchestrate, in real time, the myriad internal and external services required for a multi-speed business and IT.
  • Institutionalizing resilience, because it is not a point-in-time initiative—Resilience must be part of the fundamental operating model, engrained into objectives, strategies, processes, technologies and the culture.

To learn more about the study, download Business Resilience in the Face of Cyber Risk (PDF).

Insurance Disrupted: Silicon Valley’s Map

With $5 trillion in premiums, an incredibly low level of customer satisfaction, aging infrastructures, an analytically based, high-volume business model and a “wait until we have to” approach to innovation, insurance is now fully in the sights of the most disruptively innovative engine on the planet, Silicon Valley. The tipping point for insurance is here.

More than 75 digitally born companies in Silicon Valley, including Google and Apple, are redefining the rules and the infrastructure of the insurance industry.

Inside the Insurance Tipping Point – Silicon Valley | 2016

It’s one thing to listen to all of the analysts talk about the digitization of insurance and the disruptive changes it will bring. It’s quite another to immerse yourself in the amazing array of companies, technologies and trends driving those changes. This post is the first of a series that will give you an inside look at the visions, culture and disruptive innovation accelerating the digital tipping point for insurance and the opportunities that creates for companies bold enough to become part of it. (Join us at #insdisrupt.)

Venture firms are catalysts for much of Silicon Valley’s innovation, and insurance has their attention. Frank Chen of Andreessen Horowitz sees software as rewriting the insurance industry, AXA insurance has established an investment and innovation presence here. Others, including Lightspeed VenturesRibbit Capital and AutoTech Ventures, are investing in data and analytics, new insurance distribution plays and other technologies that will change the shape of insurance.

New business models: MetromileZenefitsStride HealthCollective HealthClimate Corp., Trov and Sureify, are using technologies to redefine and personalize insurance and the experience customers have with it.

Rise of the Digital Ecosystem – Expanding the Boundaries of Insurance

Digital ecosystems are innovation catalysts and accelerators with power to reshape industry value chains and the world economy. They dramatically expand the boundaries within which insurance can create value for customers and increase the corners from which new competitors can emerge.

Silicon Valley is home to companies acutely aware of how to establish themselves as a dominant and disruptive platform within digital ecosystems. That includes Google, which is investing heavily in the automobile space with Google Compare and self-driving vehicles and has acquired Nest as an anchor in the P&C/smart homes market. Fitbit is already establishing health insurance partnerships. And let’s not forget Apple. The Apple Watch already has insurance-related partners. Apple has clear plans for the smart home market and has recently launched AutoPlay, its anchor entry into the auto market. There are rumors that Apple plans to develop an iCar. And that’s just what we know about.

There are a host of other companies placing digital ecosystem bets in Silicon Valley, as well: GE, which is driving the Industrial Internet of Things; Parstream, with an analytic platform built for IoT; the IoT consortiumJawboneEvidation HealthMisfit Wearablesicontrol NetworkGM and its advanced technology labcarvi; and DriveFactor, now part of CCC Information Services.

Then there are the robotics companies, including 3D robotics, the RoboBrain project at Stanford University and Silicon Valley Robotics, an association of makers.

Customer Engagement and Experience – New Digital Rules, New Digital Playbook.

When your customer satisfaction and trust is one of the lowest in the world and companies like Apple and Google enter your market place, it’s really time to pay attention. There is a customer value-creation and design led innovation culture in the valley unrivaled in the world, and the technology to back it up. Companies like Genesys, and Vlocity are working on perfecting the omni channel expereince. Hearsaysocial and, declara, are working on next gen social media to help customers and the insurance industry create better relationships. Many of the next generation of insurance products will be context aware, opening the door to new ways of reaching and supporting customers. Companies like mCube and Ejenta, are working to provide sensor based insight and the analytics to act on it. TrunomiBeyond the Ark, and DataSkill via cognitive intelligence are developing new innovative ways to use data & analytics to better understand and engage customers. Lifestyle based insurance models are being launched like Adventure Adovcates and Givesurance, And some of digital marketing automation’s most innovative new players like Marketo, and even Oracle’s Eloqua are rewriting and enabling a new digital generation of marketing best practices.

Big Data and Analytics – Integrated Strategies for the New “Digital” Insurance Company

The techno buzz says big data and analytics are going to affect every business and every business operation. When you are a data- and analytics-driven industry like insurance that deals with massive amounts of policies and transactions, that buzz isn’t hype, it’s a promise.

The thing about big data and analytics is that when they are used in operational silos, they provide a tactical advantage. But when a common interoperable vision and roadmap are established, analytics create a huge strategic advantage. That knowledge and the capability to act on it is built into the DNA of “born digital” entries into the insurance market like Google.

The number of companies working on big data and analytics within the valley is staggering. We have already discussed a few in the Customer Engagement section above. Here are a few more, In the area of risk: RMS is building its stable of talent in the big data spaceActian is delivering lightning-fast Hadoop analytics; Metabiota is providing epidemic disease threat assessments; and Orbital Insights is providing geo-based image analysis. In the areas of claims and fraud, PalantirScoreDataTyche and SAS are adding powerful capabilities for insurance. Improved operational effectiveness is being delivered by Saama Technology, with an integrated insurance analytics suite; by Prevedere, with data-driven predictive analytics; by Volumetrix, with people analytics; and by Sparkling Logic, which helps drive faster and more effective decision making.

Insurance Digitized | Next Generation Core Systems

With insurance boundaries expanding, integration with digital ecosystems, increasing reliance on analytics and the demand for personalized and contextualized outcome- and services-based insurance models, core systems will have huge new sets of requirements placed on them. The requirement for interoperability between systems and data and analytics will grow dramatically.

Companies like GuidewireISCS and SAP are building a new generation of cloud-based systems. Scoredata and Pokitdoc are bringing new capabilities to claims. SplunkSymantec and FireEye are addressing emergent cyber risks. And companies like Automation EverywhereOcculus RiffSuitable Technologies and Humanyze are enabling the digitally blended and augmented workforce.

The latest investment wave includes artificial intelligence, deep learning and machine learning, which core systems will need to incorporate.

Surviving the Tipping Point – Becoming One of the Disruptive Leaders

This is a small sampling of the technologies, trends and companies just within Silicon Valley that are shaping the digital future of insurance. The changes these will drive are massive, and they are only the tip of the iceberg.

An Insurance Tech meetup group open to all the insurance-related companies within Silicon Valley was just announced by Guillaume Cabrere, CEO of AXA Labs, and already has 64 members. For established companies to survive the tipping point and thrive on the other side of it requires more than handing “digital transformation” off to the CIO or marketing team. Success requires a C-Suite that has become an integral part of the community and culture building the digital generation of insurance companies.

For technology companies and next-generation insurance companies, success requires building partnerships with established and emerging players.

This blog series is designed to inform and accelerate that dialog and partnering formation. It will include a series of interviews with disruptive leaders from industry and Silicon Valley. If you or your company would like to be a part of that series, please let me know.

Join us for the next Insurance Disrupted Conference – March 22-23, 2016 l Silicon Valley


ITL readers receive a 15% discount when registering here.

Are You Ready for the IoT?

It’s no longer a question of whether insurers should prepare for the Internet of Things (IoT), but when and how to do so. Connected cars and homes are already here, with Ford’s CEO predicting driverless cars on the road by 2020 (the same year that Toyota plans to launch its driverless car).

But preparing for the IoT isn’t just about adapting existing business models or launching new services. It’s an opportunity to innovate and develop new business models, ways of working and ways to understand risk. It’s a chance to better connect with customers, to reinvent the claims process and to become an integral part of people’s lives.

Keys to success in the IoT

Accenture has identified five keys to success for insurers to capitalize on IoT opportunities. This week, I’ll look at two of them:

  • Choose the role you intend to play. Accenture’s Technology Vision for Insurance 2015 identified the need for insurers to become part of a digital ecosystem. Insurers must consider how they will collaborate with their ecosystem partners, and whether they will play a leading or supporting role. Either way, how will they administer the claims that result from the ecosystem and its partners? Further, insurers may need to tailor their approach for each market, business or region-and must bear in mind that, no matter what, they must offer a differentiated customer experience that delivers more than just claims administration.
  • Adopt a three-layer model for claims. The IoT demands a shift from one-to-many (one experience for many customers) to one-to-one (personalized service, delivered at scale), and a three-layer model can help insurers achieve this. As shown below, it’s based on a foundation of product, upon which is layered technology and then service. Together, the layers enable insurers to offer a customer experience characterized by convenience and seamlessness-which should be cornerstones of the overall experience, and especially the claims experience. For claims leaders, the three-layer model presents opportunities to leverage new forms of technology for a more nuanced understanding of risk and liability. For example, a car accident involving a connected car can provide precise data about speed, direction and driving conditions. Claims leaders should also consider how they can plug into the extended services that are part of the three-layer model. How can they work with lifestyle partners within an ecosystem to ensure that claims can be administered effectively and efficiently?


That’s some food for thought in the holiday season. I wish you a safe and happy holiday season and look forward to wrapping up this blog series in the new year. I’ll be back in January to share three more keys to success for insurers in the IoT.

Insurers: the New Venture Capitalists

Property and casualty insurers are as rich as Croesus, awash in capital and having a tough time figuring out where to put it. They can certainly invest (and largely do) in the equity and bond markets, but the paltry returns give deep pause for additional consideration. So a few insurers are stashing at least some of their cash in a venture capital fund.

As cash piles grow bigger, property/casualty insurers that have had limited success in launching new technologies to support their businesses are now choosing to buy rather than build. Over the last two years, roughly a half-dozen property/casualty insurers have formed venture capital funds, among them AXA, XL Catlin and American Family. Not only do these funds present the possibility of big winnings by betting on an investment in a unique start-up venture, these same ventures may be of use to the companies in their underwriting, claims management and sales and marketing strategies.

The industry has long been branded a technology foot-dragger, the perpetual latecomer to the digital party. Potential disintermediation by established technology players Google, Amazon and Apple is the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the boardroom. Few insurers were prepared, for instance, when Google launched Google Compare to sell automobile insurance. Even fewer imagined Zenefits, a start-up on track to displace insurance brokers in the provision of employee benefits. The company in May was valued at a staggering $4.5 billion.

Why didn’t a seasoned insurance company or brokerage invent Zenefits, which allows small and mid-size businesses to manage employee benefits in a very simple way? Chalk it up to a pronounced lack of leadership and intellectual capital-visionaries and software architects with real technology chops.

Insurers simply have not grown their workforces to spawn the technology leadership of a Steve Jobs, much less the programming savvy of a Steve Wozniak (Apple’s founders, of course). While many carriers are just now beginning to create digital ecosystems, they’d like to goose the process. That’s where the venture capitalists come into the picture.

“We’ve been investing a lot of time and money in process improvements and digital technologies, but the truth is we weren’t doing particularly well in getting access to new and innovative ideas in the insurance and technology spaces,” conceded Manish Agarwal, general partner of AXA Strategic Ventures, a venture capital fund launched by AXA in February 2015. “We weren’t seeing the ideas that could be game-changers.”

Other carrier venture capitalists were set up for the same reasons. “Not all the innovation happens inside our company or inside our industry,” said Dan Reed, managing director of American Family Ventures, the venture capital fund formed by American Family Insurance in 2013. “A lot of brilliant stuff happens outside the marketplace.”

Just the stuff these carriers are looking for, too. Their venture capitalists are investing millions of dollars to buy small stakes in a stellar array of extremely innovative businesses, most of them creators of novel digital technologies that may be useful to the funds’ parent companies in future.

“We’re looking to fund or create ventures that can significantly improve the cost or the effectiveness of insurance,” said Tom Hutton, managing partner at XL Innovate, the venture capital initiative launched by XL Catlin in April 2015. “These include new models for providing, distributing and capitalizing insurance.”

As the old refrain goes, “If you can’t build it, buy it.” Besides, why should the venture capitalists at big firms like Andreessen Horowitz have all the fun and make all the money?

You Gotta Put It Somewhere

Property/casualty insurers may well be smart in their decisions to launch venture capital funds to invest in myriad tech and other startups. The challenge for the industry in recent years has been where best to invest its massive cash hoard, built up from years of low losses, particularly on the property-catastrophe side of the house.

Meanwhile, the pile is growing, according to a study by BlackRock last month (October 2015). With all this excess money lying around, the asset management firm believes that insurers are experiencing trouble determining where to invest it. That’s causing more than a few insurers to simply sit on the cash, sticking it under the mattress like Grandma used to do.

Certainly, every insurer would like to buy more high-quality bonds, but there aren’t enough to go around. Consequently, 40 of the insurer respondents to BlackRock’s study plan to use derivatives to gain exposures to assets they’d like to buy but can’t. Others are turning to alternative assets with longer-term yields matching their liabilities, such as infrastructure debt.

Then there are those placing their bets on a tech start-up becoming the next Uber or Zenefits. Not that this is unique. “Insurers have always made investments in areas that were either directly or tangentially aligned with their business models,” said Robert Hartwig, president and chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute.

In the 19th century, insurers were heavy investors in railroads, Hartwig noted. In the post-war 20th century, they were big investors in real estate, “looking to both diversify their investments and generate an additional revenue stream off a physical asset-in this case property and buildings,” he said.

Hartwig is not surprised that insurers have formed venture capital funds to invest in technology and other start-up businesses. “The industry has record capital to invest on a global scale and is suffering like any institutional investor from low yields on traditional investments,” he explained. “It makes sense to look outside the traditional range of investments so long as they are not risking policyholder money.”

Because the sums are small relative to the insurers’ overall investment portfolios, Hartwig is not worried. “Some of them will produce strong returns, but not all of them at the same time,” he said. “Besides, these investments in technologies like next-generation [automobile] collision avoidance systems can be a hedge against current business risks.” He’s referring to the reduced automobile premium volume insurers have experienced as cars become increasingly safer and accidents fewer and less catastrophically severe.

Each of the venture capital funds has capital provided solely from its parent company. The money is earmarked to invest in start-ups or slightly older businesses with a unique product or service twist on underwriting, selling, marketing and distributing insurance, among other traditional insurance functions.

AXA Strategic Ventures, for instance, has two investment strategies: early-stage to seed money to a new company and later-stage to do the same for more established entities. AXA has allocated 200 million euros (about $290 million) to the venture capital fund for both purposes. The fund is set up in a separate general partner/limited partner structure, its returns not reflected on the parent company’s balance sheet.

Over the past year and a half, AXA Strategic Ventures has made seven investments in the U.S. (three of them made public) and 10 in Europe. Among them is PolicyGenius, creator of an online platform for consumers to review insurance coverages and research and compare quotes for term life, long-term disability, renters and even pet insurance.

“The reason we made the investment had less to do with the idea of buying something online, which is not really new or novel,” Agarwal said. “What we especially liked was the great front end they had created to engage customers. It really stands out.” (See for yourself at www.policygenius.com/.)

Another investment was in Limelight Health, designer and developer of a mobile, cloud-based technology that helps smaller companies simplify the process for providing health insurance and other benefits information to their employees. “Today this process typically involves a lot of work with an agent, with multiple paper-based quotes and a lot of faxing things back and forth,” Agarwal explained.

He said that the technology enables brokers and carrier representatives and underwriters to immediately respond to customer quote requests, compare this information and model the different benefits provisions and quotes against real-time market data (a concept that sounds similar to the Zenefits model).

American Family Ventures has invested in approximately 30 companies so far, according to Reed. They fall into three categories: companies in the data analytics space; those that make technology tools considered of use in the insurance value chain; and those that provide Internet of Things (IoT)-type connectivity, as this relates to the insurance products and services of its parent company. With regard to the latter, Reed provided the examples of autonomous vehicle technologies and the smart meters turning on our air conditioners, lamps and appliances. “These are new digital signs of risk,” he explained.

Among the investments (or “partnerships,” as Reed called them) is ImageVision, a provider of visual search and analytics tools leveraging machine-learning technology, and SNUPI Technologies, a sensor and services company focused on home safety and security. “Its customers use a wireless device that alerts them when a hazardous event occurs in their home,” Reed said.

XL Innovate is investing in businesses identified as offering new underwriting opportunities, such as New Energy Risk, a provider of data analytics and performance warranty products. The eight-month-old venture capital fund is in the midst of acquiring a cyber analytics company, whose name Hutton was not at liberty to divulge. “We’re also in early talks about an investment in a property data company,” he said.

Several life insurers have recently formed venture capital funds, among them Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance. Many of the same reasons apply. “A lot of amazing innovation occurs outside the industry in the entrepreneurial community, and when there is equity ownership in these companies this tends to spur innovations faster,” said Eric Emmons, managing director of MassMutual Ventures. “By partnering with these companies, it keeps senior management aware of what is coming down the road.”

Small Steps, Big Gains—Maybe

Other insurance companies, like the Hartford and Transamerica, also have venture capital units but were unable to provide comments by press time. In all cases, the parent insurers are not dabbling-there’s plenty of cash going into these activities, albeit nothing along the lines of Sequoia Capital, the Silicon Valley giant that has invested in start-ups that command more than $1.4 trillion in combined stock value today. (Source: “Inside Sequoia Capital: Silicon Valley’s Innovation Factory,” Forbes.com, March 26, 2014)

Still, the nearly $300 million invested in AXA Strategic Ventures and the reported $50 million invested in American Family Ventures isn’t chump change. Neither are the sizes of their investments, with American Family Ventures typically investing between $100,000 and $2 million in early-stage companies. “We generally receive 5% to 10% [of equity] in return,” Reed said.

Down the line, maybe one of these funds will become the equivalent of the next Uber, not to mention Google Compare or Zenefits. Not only would this be great for the insurers’ investment income, but it may also help differentiate their value propositions, products, services and operations.

Besides, it would be a heck of a lot of fun. Who says insurance companies are stodgy? Not the folks running their venture capital units.

This article was originally published by Carrier Management.

Can Insurers Move at the Speed of Change?

Chances are you are currently or soon to be engaged in the annual planning cycle, taking stock of the year and anticipating your goals and targets for 2016.

Annual planning feels anachronistic in a world where businesses survive only by operating at least at the speed of change, and where constant iteration is the order of the day. But annual planning does at least provide the opportunity to take stock and set early New Year’s resolutions. It’s useful to hit the “pause button” and remove yourselves from daily operational tactics to reflect on business aspirations and how to make them real.

The fact is, more and more top talent in the start-up and technology sectors is taking aim at the insurance sector, and sees it as ripe for disruption. This is obvious in one-to-one conversations I have had recently with senior executives, at incubator demo days and at investor pitch presentations. It’s apparent in the intensity of interest in driverless cars, the advances in the sharing economy, the number (and quality) of new entrants who are providing friendlier and more transparent access to insurance quotes than ever and in the sheer volume of well-funded, highly valued fintech products being developed for the under-40 crowd.

That the insurance sector has a metaphorical bull’s-eye on its back should come as no surprise. An outsider not steeped in status quo belief systems about how insurance products are created, how distribution works, how commissions are paid and how clients are served can easily recognize that as a whole the industry is out of step with consumer wants and needs, the massive shift underway in who controls the economy (hint: it’s not the Boomers) and the bigger and newer opportunities technology makes possible. While there are certainly outliers at both ends of the spectrum, and an apparent pick-up in tech investment and experimentation among traditional players, there is considerable room to accelerate digital transformation in 2016. It’s an imperative.

So here’s the question: Are you positioned to make meaningful progress? Here are four principles essential to digital transformation and performance against which to answer that question:

  • The insurance business is about people, not policies. Digital transformation is grounded in client-centricity. Is that emphasis a “check the box” or do you really practice it? Language is a mirror of a culture and belief system, and so it is when it comes to a company’s culture, as well. It’s hard to imagine that any insurance business referring to its clients – the people who keep you in business – as “policies,” “lives” or “gross premium dollars” can claim to be client-centric. What language are you speaking?
  • Time is the most valuable currency. The return on time is compounded or devalued by speed of execution. So, what’s your sense of urgency? I was speaking with a fintech founder recently about the company’s branding strategy, and on seeing his disbelieving look as I shared that it can take six months or a year to develop and launch a brand in a legacy business environment, we cut the cycle for this start-up’s brand development effort down to a couple of months. And we were left with a high-quality, thorough method. The absence of bureaucracy, the sheer will to win and the focus on getting things done quickly and with quality is an asset whose absence cannot be rationalized away by those who plan to thrive in the new economy.
  • Self-awareness is step one to transformation. Do the insurance leaders you know really get what their position is in a morphing marketplace? As an independent adviser, consultant and angel investor, I see a good swath of start-ups and thought leaders whose ambitions and actions form a mosaic of trends and oncoming disruptions. An organization lacking collective knowledge and understanding of the insurance sector, including new and non-obvious entrants, will have a tough time redefining its direction. And is the internal response, “Oh, the regulators will never go for that”? Or are you anticipating the reality of disruptive change that is already spreading across insurance verticals from P&C to health, life, retirement and commercial products?
  • What gets measured gets done. And the wrong metrics will suffocate new business opportunities and misdirect resources. Have you challenged the measures of digital success? It’s also true that the wrong timing to read what may well be the right metrics will also stifle new business opportunities. If you are not revisiting your traditional scorecards, and paying real-time attention to the business model drivers you want to achieve — vs. merely monitoring and managing to the monthly bottom-line results — the benefits of digital transformation will elude you.

At any given hour, “now” will never feel like the best time to step out of the complexity of daily operations so you can re-frame your business strategy and make digital transformation happen. Aligning people, process, technology and investment dollars is where the re-framing should manifest itself. And now is a great time, and an urgent time, as you begin to anticipate 2016.

The clock is ticking. And the broader digital ecosystem is expanding, faster and faster.