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Top 10 Insurtech Trends for 2017

The beginning of a new year is usually the time to predict key trends for the year to come, and so it goes with the insurtech sector as well. Most lists focus on the latest sexy technologies and applications. But, after a year, we find these have hardly gained any traction and so cannot really be considered “trends” in our view. To call something a key trend, new and innovative is not enough. It requires adoption at scale. We, therefore, decided to take a different approach, resulting in quite a different kind of list.

Being consultants for several blue chip insurers, speaking at conferences and attending boardroom meetings, we meet insurance executives on a daily basis. Consequently we have a fairly good idea about what’s at the top of their agenda as well as the pace in which change will take place, and in turn what insurtech solutions are most likely to fit into those plans. These insights resulted in our Top 10 Insurtech Trends for 2017, illustrated by some awesome insurtechs that joined us at the previous DIA event.

Trend 1. Massive cost savers in claims, operations and customer acquisition

Already a major trend, of course, but one that will gain even more importance in 2017. Quite a few insurers face combined ratios that are close to 100, or even exceed that number. Digitizing current processes is absolutely necessary, for operational excellence and to cut costs. Digital transformation of insurance carriers started in 2015, really took off in 2016 and will be mainstream by 2017 and beyond. Virtually every insurer, big or small, that takes itself seriously will continue to look for ways to operate more efficiently in every major part of the costs column: in claims expenses, costs of operations and customer acquisition costs. Technology purchases and investments by insurance carriers will further explode in these areas, as will the number and growth of insurtechs that cater to that need.

With OutShared’s CynoClaim solution more than 60% of all claims can be managed automatically, resulting in lower costs as well as increased customer satisfaction. Results of the first implementations: as much as 50% decrease in costs, 40% increase in customer satisfaction. The solution takes six to nine months to implement, whether it is from scratch or a migration of established operations to the platform, which is quite spectacular in the insurance industry. Check this out.

See also: How Insurtechs Will Affect Agents in 2017

Trend 2. A new face on digital transformation: engagement innovation

At the end of the day, digitized processes and a lower cost base are table stakes. It is simply not enough to stay in sync with fast changing customer behavior, new market dynamics and increasing competitiveness. No insurer ever succeeded in turning operational excellence into a competitive advantage that is sustainable over the long term. More and more carriers realize that engagement innovation is the next level of digital transformation. From a customer point of view, this is not about a new lipstick or a nose job but about a real makeover. Engagement innovation not only includes customer experience, but customer-centric products, new added value services and new business models, as well. Insurtechs that really innovate customer engagement for incumbents have a great 2017 ahead.

Amodo connects insurance companies with the new generation of customers. With Amodo’s connected customer suite, insurers leverage on digital channels and connected devices such as smartphones, connected cars and wearables to acquire and engage new customers. Amodo collects data from smartphones and a number of different connected consumer devices to build holistic customer profiles, providing better insights into customer risk exposure and customer product needs. Following the analysis, risk prevention programs, individual pricing as well as personalized and “on the spot” insurance products can be placed on the market, increasing the customer’s loyalty and lifetime value.

Trend 3. Next-level data analytics capabilities and AI, to really unlock the potential of IoT

Many insurance carriers have started IoT initiatives in the last few years. In particular, in car insurance it is already becoming mainstream, with Italy leading the pack. Home insurance is lagging, and health and life insurance is even more behind. All pilots and experiments have taught insurers that they lack the right data management capabilities to cope with all these new data streams — not just to deal with the volume and new data sets, but more importantly to turn this data into new insights, and to turn these insights into relevant and distinctive value propositions and customer engagement. Insurtechs that operate in the advanced analytics space, machine learning and artificial intelligence hold the keys to unlock the potential of IoT.

2016 DIAmond Award winner BigML has built a machine-learning platform that democratizes advanced analytics for companies of all sizes. You don’t have to be a PhD to use its collection of scalable and proven algorithms thanks to an intuitive web interface and end-to-end automation. Check this out.

Trend 4. Addressing the privacy concerns

To many consumers, big data equals big brother, and insurers that think of using personal data are not immediately trusted. Quite understandable. Most data initiatives of insurers are about sophisticated pricing and risk reduction really. Cost savers for the insurer. However, the added value of current initiatives for customers is limited. A chance on a lower premium, that’s it. To really reap the benefits of connected devices and the data that comes with it, insurers need to tackle these data privacy concerns. On the one hand, insurers need to give more than they take. Much more added value, relative to the personal data used. On the other hand, insurers need to empower customers to manage their own data. Because at the end of the day, it is their data. Expect fast growth of insurtechs that help insurers to cope with privacy issues.

Traity (another 2016 DIAmond Award winner) enables consumers to own their own reputation. Traity uses all sorts of new data sources, such as Facebook, AirBnB and Linkedin, to help customers to prove their trustworthiness. Munich Re’s legal protection brand DAS has partnered with Traity to offer new kinds of services. Check this out.

See also: 10 Predictions for Insurtech in 2017  

Trend 5. Contextual pull platforms

Markets have shifted from push to pull. But so far most insurers have made hardly any adjustments to their customer engagement strategies and required capabilities. In 2017, we will see the shift to pull platforms, as part of the shift to engagement innovation. Whereas push is about force-feeding products to the customer, pull is about understanding and solving the need behind the insurance solution and being present in that context. Risk considerations made by customers usually don’t take place at the office of an insurance broker. Insurers need to be present in the context of daily life, specific life events and decisions, and offer new services on top of the traditional products. Insurtechs that provide a platform or give access to these broader contexts and ecosystems help insurers to become much more a part of customers’ lives, be part of the ecosystem in that context and add much more value to customers.

VitalHealth Software, founded among others by Mayo Clinic, has developed e-health solutions, in particular for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Features include all sorts of remote services for patients, insurers and care providers collaborating in health networks, access to protocol-driven disease management support. All seamlessly integrated with electronic health records. VitalHealth Software is used by insurers that are looking to improve care as well as reduce costs. Among other OSDE, the largest health insurer in Argentina and Chunyu Yisheng Mobile Health, a fast-growing Chinese eHealth pioneer with around 100 million registered users that is closely linked to People’s Insurance Company of China (PICC).

Trend 6. The marketplace model will find its way to insurance

Marketplaces: We already see the model emerging in banking, and insurance will follow fast. Virtually every insurer offers a suite of its own products. Everything is developed in-house. More and more carriers realize that you simply cannot be the best at everything, and that resources are too scarce to keep up with every new development or cater to each specific segment. In the marketplace model, the insurers basically give their customers access to third parties with the best products, the most pleasant customer experience and the lowest costs. The marketplace business model cuts both ways. Customers get continuous access to the best products and services in the market. And costs can be kept at a minimum through connecting (or disconnecting) parties almost in real time to key in on new customer wishes and anticipate other market developments. In 2017, we will witness all sorts of partnerships between insurtechs and incumbents that fit the marketplace model.

AXA teamed up with the much-praised 2016 DIAmond Award winner Trōv to target U.K. millennials. Trōv offers customized home insurances by allowing coverage of individual key items rather than a one-size-fits-all coverage set with average amounts. Check this out.

Trend 7. Open architecture

A new ecosystem emerges, with parties that capture data (think connected devices suppliers) and parties that develop new value propositions based on the data. Insurers will have to cooperate even more than they are currently doing with other companies that are part of the ecosystem. When an insurer wants to seize these opportunities in a structural way, it is no longer only about efficiently and effectively organizing business processes, but it is also about easy ways to facilitate interactions between possibly very different users who are dealing with each other in one way or another. Again, banking is ahead of insurance. For our new book, “Reinventing Customer Engagement: The next level of digital transformation for banks and insurers,” we spoke to many executives in banking, as well. German Fidor Bank has set up an open API architecture called fidorOS, enabling fintechs to develop financial services themselves on top of an existing legacy system. Citi says that “any financial institution that doesn’t want to rapidly lose market share needs to start working in a more open architecture structure.”

The Backbase omnichannel platform is based on open architecture principles. It leverages existing policy administration systems capabilities and adds a modern customer experience layer on top, creating direct-to-consumer portals and giving the opportunity to integrate best-of-breed apps as well as improving agent and employee portals. Swiss Re, Hiscox and Legal & General are some of the insurers that use the Backbase platform. Check this out.

Trend 8. Blockchain will come out of the experimentation stage

When Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Banco Santander decided to leave the R3 Blockchain Group many thought this was proof that blockchain technology apparently was not as promising as initially expected. The contrary is true. It is not uncommon to join a consortium to speed up the learning curve, and then drop out and use the newly acquired knowledge to build your own plans and gain some competitive advantage, especially with a technology as powerful as blockchain. We believe a similar scenario will not take place in the B3i initiative launched by AEGON, Allianz, Munich Re, Swiss Re and Zurich. Thinking cooperation and ecosystems are just much more in the veins of the insurance industry. Plus there are plenty of use cases that cut both ways: improve operational excellence and cost efficiency as well as customer engagement. That is good news for the insurtech forerunners in blockchain technology.

Everledger tackles the diamond industry’s expensive fraud and theft problem. The company provides an immutable ledger for diamond ownership and related transaction history verification for insurance companies, and uses blockchain technology to continuously track objects. Everledger has partnered with all institutions across the diamond value chain, including insurers, law enforcement agencies and diamond certification houses across the world. Through Everledger’s API, each of them can access and supply data around the status of a stone, including police reports and insurance claims. Check this out.

A worker inspects a 5.46 carat diamond before certification at the HRD Antwerp Institute of Gemmology, December 3, 2012. HRD Antwerp analyses diamonds with specially designed machinery, as even for experts it is impossible to visually tell the difference between a synthetic stone and a naturally grown one. Picture taken December 3, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (BELGIUM – Tags: BUSINESS SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) – RTR3B8HW

See also: 5 Predictions for the IoT in 2017  

Trend 9. Use of algorithms for front-liner empowerment

Algorithms that are displacing human advisers generate headlines. Robo advice will for sure affect the labor market’s landscape. For a costs perspective, this may seem attractive. But from a customer engagement perspective this may be different. To relate to their customers, financial institutions need to build in emotion. Humans inject emotion, empathy, passion and creativity and can deviate from procedure, if needed. Banks and insurers need to create a similar connection digitally. With so many people working at financial institutions, there is also an opportunity to create the best of both worlds. We see the first insurers that deploy robo advice to empower human front-liners. This is resulting in better conversations, higher conversion and, finally, greater solutions for customers.

AdviceRobo provides insurers with preventive solutions combining data from structured and unstructured sources and machine learning to score and predict risk behavior of consumers — for instance, predictions on default, bad debt, prepayments and customer churn. Predictions are actionable, because they’re on an individual customer level and support front-liners while speaking to customers.

Trend 10. Symbiotic relationship with insurtechs

Relationships between insurers and insurtechs will become much more intense. All the examples included in the previous nine trends make this quite clear. Insurers will also look for ways to learn much more from the insurtechs they are investing in — whether it is about specific capabilities or concrete instruments they can use in the incumbent organization, or whether it is about the culture at insurtechs and the way of working. We see an increasing number of insurers that are now using lean startup methodologies and that have created in-house accelerators and incubators to accelerate innovation in the mothership.

The Aviva Digital Garages in London and Singapore are perfect examples. They are not idea labs, but the place where Aviva runs its digital businesses, varying from MyAviva to some of the startups Aviva Ventures invests in – all under one roof to build an ecosystem and create synergies on multiple levels.

This Top 10 of Insurtech trends that we will witness in 2017 sets the stage for the Digital Insurance Agenda. It reinforces the need to connect insurance executives with insurtech leaders, which is basically our mission. It helps us to create an agenda for DIA 2017 Amsterdam that is in sync with what insurers need and what the latest technologies can provide. Check Digital Insurance Agenda for more info.

What Gig Economy Means for FinTech

Earlier, I discussed the implications of the gig economy on the insurance industry. We concluded that the existence of “crowdworkers” in the gig economy creates four main opportunities for insurers: a faster flow of information, claim process efficiencies, information customization and cost efficiencies.

We at WeGoLook believe all industries must take notice of the disruptive gig economy to remain smart and streamlined, adapting to consumer needs.

What I want to do today is focus on the traditional finance industry, which includes insurance, and the new disruptive trend in fintech. When you combine two major disruptive shifts (fintech and the gig economy) the results are game-changing.

The Fintech Disruption: The picture we can already see

Fintech is an umbrella term for an array of new financial sector services that were once monopolized by large financial institutions. This is a good thing. The change is forcing traditional banks to adapt and may even keep those pesky banking fees to a minimum!

Goldman Sachs predicts these fintech startups will capture as much as $4.7 trillion in annual revenue from traditional financial companies and $470 billion in profit.

These fintech companies include budgeting platforms such as Mint and Acorns, automated investing services such as Betterment or lending services such as Lending Club, OnDeck and Kabbage. What these companies are accomplishing is the decentralization and democratization of financial services like loans, banking and investing.

These fintech companies are making traditional services more accessible to consumers. Remember, the gig economy — or what some people term the “sharing economy” — is all about access.

See also: ‘Gig Economy’ Comes to Claims Handling  

In 2015, the Economist declared fintech to be a “revolution” of the finance industry, and Time Magazine stated banks should be “afraid” of fintech.

The Role of the Gig Economy in Fintech: Flexible workforces

In the gig economy, intermediaries disappear. But don’t ask me — ask your local taxi owner, hotelier or car rental agency if Uber, Airbnb or Turo have affected their way of doing business. This is a rhetorical question; of course there’s been an effect. This is a good thing, but how we react will define our businesses in the years to come.

When discussing what fintech means for the traditional finance industry, Barry Ritholtz, a Bloomberg columnist, aptly said: “What is much more interesting to me is how the traditional money-management industry will respond to and adopt the latest technologies for helping it operate more efficiently and with greater client satisfaction.”

This flexibility is something most industries, including the financial sector, have yet to fully embrace. There are a number of gig economy companies out there that have access to thousands of on-demand workers who can perform a number of tasks that were traditionally in the wheelhouse of full-time employees.

Why would an insurance company or other large financial institution have tens of thousands of employees across the country to verify assets when they can leverage a stable of trained, vetted and professional gig workers? This is the gig economy, where people with spare time are self-identified as willing to complete on-the-ground tasks in their location.

See also: The Gig Economy Is Alive and Growing  

Gig economy companies aren’t just a vendor service — they can be part of the process. Need we get into the amount of money this can save a company?

Let’s dive into a specific sector of fintech — online lending — as a case study of how the gig economy can enable and complement the lending process.

Gig Economy Case Study: A flexible workforce and online lending

Online lending, including peer-to-peer lending, is an old concept reinvented for a digital age. Entrepreneurs, business people and citizens have always borrowed and lent money, but only in recent history has that become much more sophisticated and accessible through online marketplaces and fintech services.

Foundation Capital predicts that more than $1 trillion in loans is expected to have originated through these new lending marketplaces by 2025. Let that number sink in for a second.

Indeed, fintech has enabled a safe lending environment between people and businesses through innovative screening and credit checking. Investors and businesses of all stripes can now lend and borrow through internet platforms without traditional bank applications or even the need to physically exchange documents.

In most of these cases, however, asset or document verification are still requirements.

Take, for instance, common financial loan transactions, such as vehicle financing or refinancing, property financing and business loans. All these transactions require some form of physical verification that an asset exists and is “as described.” Whether that is a car, property, business or some other assets, someone needs to fulfill lending requirements.

Gig economy companies such as mine, WeGoLook, have access to thousands of workers across the U.S. who are ready and trained to travel to a specific destination to complete asset verification tasks.

The Gig Worker Landscape: What that means for fintech

Technology allows us to direct our “lookers” to capture the correct on-site data and perform tasks in a consistent manner across the U.S. (and now in Canada, the U.K. and Australia). The benefits of this gig model are numerous, and a looker, or gig economy worker, can now:

  • Replace multiple vendors;
  • Augment or supplement employees in the field;
  • Augment, supplement or replace employees dispatched from a bank to verify assets or perform a task;
  • Provide faster task completion at a lower cost; and
  • Capture and store all data in the same place and format.

For an example of a real estate report we provide to many of our banking clients, click here.

Because of the flexibility inherent in gig work, there is a significant increase in flow of information to clients. For instance, companies like mine can provide an electronic “live” report, which allows clients to review photos and information prior to receiving a traditional report.

There is also the ability to support video, enabling a walk-through of a property, a demonstration of a piece of equipment in operation — and much more. This walk-through can also be done live with the client, if needed.

In the past, a customer would need to bring documents to a bank and work face-to-face with a branch employee for notarization and paperwork completion. This is no longer the case.

Gig employees can now immediately travel to the customer’s home or place of business. The gig worker can take photos of the asset, deliver documents, notarize originals, deliver them to a shipper and submit all relevant information via an electronic report.

This allows the bank to view all information and verify all documents are properly signed. The bank can then fund a customer before the FedEx or UPS package of original documents arrives.

See also: On-Demand Economy Is Just Starting

All this flexibility allows for faster turnaround times, the elimination of multiple vendors and a reduction in lag time waiting on a customer to try to get to the bank during business hours.

In the end, what we have is a smarter and faster process, which is important, particularly when a loan rate guarantee is in place.

Changing entire industries takes time, but the gig economy and fintech are rapidly altering the landscape of the traditional finance industry. As discussed, all three of these industries aren’t mutually exclusive. Traditional financial services can embrace the better use of technology through fintech and greater efficiency through the gig economy.

Blockchain Technology and Insurance

What if there was a technological advancement so powerful that it transforms the very way the insurance industry operates?

What if there was a technology that could fundamentally alter the way that the economics, the governance systems and the business functions operate in insurance and could change the way the entire industry postulates in terms of trade, ownership and trust?

This technology is here, and it’s called the blockchain, best known as the force that drives Bitcoin.

Bitcoin has gotten a pretty bad rap over the years for good reason. From the collapse of Mt. Gox and the loss of millions –  to being the de facto currency for pedophilia peddlers, drug dealers and gun sellers on Silk Road and the darling of the anarcho-capitalist community – Bitcoin is not doing well in the public eye. Its price has also fluctuated wildly, allowing for insane speculation, and, with the majority of Bitcoins being owned by the small group that started promoting it, it ‘s sometimes been compared to a Ponzi scheme.

Vivek Wadhwa writes in the Washington Post that Chinese Bitcoin miners control more than 50% of the currency-creation capacity and are connected to the rest of the Bitcoin ecosystem through the Great Firewall of China, which slows down the entire system because it is the equivalent of a bad hotel Wi-Fi connection. And the control gives the People’s Army a strategic vantage point over a global currency.

Consequently, the Bitcoin brand has been decimated and is thought by too many to be a kind of dodgy currency on the Internet for dodgy people.

The blockchain, a core technology behind what drives Bitcoin, has been slow to enter the Zeitgeist because of this attachment to Bitcoin, the bête noire of the establishment.

But that is changing fast. Blockchain as a tool for disintermediation is simply too powerful to ignore.

People are now beginning to really look at the blockchain as an infrastructure for more than monetary transactions and what it has done for Bitcoin. Just as Bitcoin makes certain financial intermediaries unnecessary, innovations on the blockchain remove the need for gatekeepers from a number of processes, which can really grease the wheels of any business, including insurance companies.

How blockchain works and can work for the insurance industry

Because of the way it distributes consensus, the blockchain routes around many of the challenges that typically arise with distributed forms of organization and issues such as how to cooperate, scale and collectively invest in shared resources and infrastructures.

In the blockchain, all transactions are logged, including information on the date, time and participants, as well as the amount of every single transaction in an immutable record.

Each trust agent in the network owns a full copy of the blockchain, and, in the case of a private consortium blockchain (more relevant to the insurance industry), the transactions are verified using advanced cryptographic algorithms, and the “Genesis Block” sits within the control of the consortium.

The mathematical principles also ensure that these trust agents automatically and continuously agree about the current state of the blockchain and every transaction in it. If anyone attempts to corrupt a transaction, the trust agents will not arrive at a consensus and therefore will refuse to incorporate the transaction in the blockchain.

Imagine there’s a notary present at each transaction. This way, everyone has access to a shared, single source of truth. This is why we can always trust the blockchain.

Imagine a healthcare insurance policy that can only be used to pay for healthcare at certified parties. In this case, whether someone actually follows the rules is no longer verified in the bureaucratic process afterward. You simply program these rules into the blockchain.

Compliance in advance.

Automation through the use of smart contracts also leads to a considerable decrease in bureaucracy, which can save accountants, controllers and insurance organizations in general an incredible amount of time.

While the global bankers are far out of the blocks when it comes to learning, understanding and now embracing blockchain technology, the insurance industry is lagging. Between 2010 and 2015, a mere 13% of innovation investments by insurers were actually in insurance technology companies.

There are some efforts to tap innovation, as the Financial Times in the UK recently wrote. European insurers such as Axa, Aviva and Allianz, along with MassMutual and American Family in the U.S. and Ping An in Asia are setting up specialist venture capital funds dedicated to investing in start-ups that may be relevant for their core businesses.

Aviva recently announced a “digital garage’ in Singapore, a dedicated space where technical specialists, creative designers and commercial teams explore, develop and test new insurance ideas and services that make financial services more tailored and accessible for customers.

And others are sure to follow in the insurance industry, particularly because both the banking industry and capital markets are bullish on investing in innovation for their own sectors – and particularly because they are doing a lot of investment in and around blockchain.

Still, the bankers and capital markets are currently miles ahead of the insurance industry when it comes to investing in blockchain research and startups.

Competitors in the capital markets and banking industries in terms of blockchain solutions include: the Open Ledger Project, backed by Accenture, ANZ Bank, Cisco, CLS, Credits, Deutsche Börse, Digital Asset Holdings, DTCC, Fujitsu Limited, IC3, IBM, Intel, J.P. Morgan, London Stock Exchange Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), R3, State Street, SWIFT, VMware and Wells Fargo; and the R3 Blockchain Group, whose members include the likes of Barclays, BBVA, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Royal Bank of Scotland, State Street and UBS.

Then there are start-ups like Ripple and Digital Asset Holdings, led by ex-JPMorgan exec Blythe Masters, who turned down a job as head of Barclays’ investment bank to build her blockchain solution for banking.

There are others in the start-up world moving even faster in the same direction, some actually operating in the market, such as Billoncash in Poland, which is the world’s first blockchain cryptocash backed by fiat currency and which passed through the harsh EU and national regulatory systems with flying colors. Tunisia is replacing its current digital currency eDinar with a blockchain solution via a Swiss startup called Monetas.

There are both threats and opportunities for the bankers… so what about the global insurance industry?

Every insurance company’s core computer system is, at heart, a big, fat centralized transaction ledger, and if the insurance industry does not begin to learn about, evaluate, build with and eventually embrace blockchain technology, the industry will leave itself naked and open to the next Uber, Netflix,  AirBnB or wanna-be unicorn that comes along and disrupts the space completely.

Blockchain more than deserves to be evaluated by insurers as a potential replacement for today’s central database model.

Where should the insurance industry start?

Companies need to start to experiment, like the bankers and stock markets, by not only working with existing blockchain technologies out there but by beginning to experiment within their own organizations. They need to work with blockchain-focused accelerators and incubators like outlierventures.io in the UK or Digital Currency Group in the U.S. and tap into the latest start-ups and technologies. They need to think about running hackathons and start to build developer communities – to start thinking about crowdsourcing innovation rather than trying to do everything in-house.

Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter have hundreds of thousands of innovators creating products on spec via their massive developer communities. Insurance companies that don’t start lowering their walls might very well find themselves unable to innovate as quickly as emerging companies that embrace more open models in the future and therefore find themselves moot. Kodak meet Instagram.

The first step for insurance companies with blockchain technology will likely be to look at smart contracts, followed by looking for identity validation and building new structural mechanisms where parties no longer need to know or trust each other to participate in exchanges of value.

Blockchain technology, for instance, can also allow for accident or health records to be stored and recorded in a decentralized way, which can open the door for insurance companies to reduce friction in the current systems in which they operate.

Currently, the industry is highly centralized, and the introduction of new blockchain-fueled structures such as mutual insurance and peer-to-peer models based on the blockchain could fundamentally affect the status quo.

As comedian and writer Dominic Frisby once penned, “The revolution will not be televised. It will be cryptographically time stamped on the blockchain.”

Some of the many questions that the industry should explore:

  • What kind of effect will blockchain technology adoption in markets have on the the public’s perception of risk?
  • Today, the insurance industry is centralized, but what could it look like if it were decentralized?
  • How could that affect how insurance companies mutualize?
  • Can the blockchain improve customer relations and confidence?
  • Can smart contracts built on the blockchain automate parts of the process in how business is done in the insurance industry?

If you want to explore further, sign up to express interest here about our coming event in London: Chain Summit Blockchain Event for Insurance.

4 Ways Insurance Is Disrupting Itself

Coming from the Insurance Executive Conference earlier this month in New York, I am extremely excited by what I heard regarding where the industry is heading.

I attended both the life insurance and P&C tracks, picking up the following insights about how the industry is disrupting itself before others can:

  1. Insurance carriers are embracing change.
    Anwar Haneef, partner at IBM Watson, said, “We have not seen much disruption in the insurance industry in the last 100 to 200 years” and acknowledged that new technologies have the potential of changing that. Jeffrey Killian, vice president of in-force service and operations at New York Life, stated, “We could become Blockbuster (Video) if we don’t go through the change.”
  1. Insurance carriers are focusing on their customers in a new way. For example, Gerald Patterson, senior vice president of retirement and investor services at Principal Financial group, spoke of Principal’s move away from thinking about customer service to focus instead on the customer experience. Principal tries to provide value to the customer and understand that young consumers expect the same technology from insurance carriers that they experience with other service providers. He also stressed the importance of embedding experimentation in your customer experience on a regular basis.
  1. Insurance carriers are embracing technology and planning for a different future.
    At the highest level, for example, Jane Chwick, former partner in charge of global technology at Goldman Sachs, provides technology expertise as a board member of the relatively young company Voya Financial. Patterson mentioned that he has recently spent time visiting Silicon Valley and attending Fintech conferences.

Killian acknowledged that realizing a company’s vision of customer experience requires investment and pointed out that Principal is committed to making the right investments to accomplish this. He remarked “We have invested a lot in Lean Six Sigma. It’s amazing how much energy you can unlock through these processes.”

Joe Beneducci, chairman, president and CEO of Prosight Specialty Insurance, said, “Technology is a catalyst that affords us options.” Life insurance executives discussed their expectation that the analytics movement will affect carriers’ entire value chain. They also saw predictive analytics enable insurance carriers to be learning organizations.

West Hunt, vice president and chief data officer at Nationwide, discussed the capability of scaling human expertise through cognitive computing. At the same time, the rise of robo-advisers and their potential threat to the business was mentioned. Finally, the recent trend toward digital and what it means to the industry was raised. Technology was discussed all over the conference.

  1. Further opportunities to leverage technology were identified. Colleen Risk, senior analyst at Celent, mentioned the opportunity insurance carriers have of enhancing their websites to provide transaction capabilities for consumers, such as changing beneficiaries. Recent research by Celent showed that less than 25% of life insurance carriers are doing e-delivery of contracts. Other opportunities include: making data available throughout the company, producing strategies to sustain customer loyalty, developing a compelling message for life insurance and educating Millennial consumers.

I was happy to participate in the conference and felt energized by the discussion of new topics that position the industry to continue to thrive into the future.

What do you think? Post your comments below!