Tag Archives: monique hesseling

connected

How to Insure the Sharing Economy

During the snowstorm that hit the East Coast in January, I took some time to clean up my office and read reasonably current newspapers and trade magazines. I quickly identified many opportunities for new insurance products, mostly around shared assets. For example, an article on Millennials and the sharing economy explained that (primarily young) people make money by sending selfies of what they are wearing every day to a website called CovetMe; they get paid based on the brands and looks they are sporting.

They Uber their way to work, school or social events (when did Uber become a verb?) as a driver or passenger; they use their subscription to a shared car service such as Zipcar to take occasional trips; or they get paid for allowing advertising on their own car by subscribing to companies such as Carvertise. FlightCar gives you free parking at big airports if you let other travelers use your parked car when you are traveling. Similar sharing activities take place with homes, clothing and accessories, occasionally used tools and equipment and even medical equipment.

All these shared assets need to be covered in different ways than the traditional, personal lines homeowner’s or car insurance policies. Occasionally renting out assets to third parties or shared ownership of one asset between non-family members creates a different risk profile than self-use only, both for property coverages and especially for liability.

Think about deductible coverage between multiple owners in case of a claim, good driver discounts or multiple non-familial owners getting involved in the same accident, as liable parties and as claimants. The insurance market has been pondering insurance solutions for the shared economy for a while now and found ways to cover Uber drivers or Airbnb landlords or offer non-owner car insurance. As an industry, however, we defaulted to our classical model of insurance and put a commercial coverage, bought by the shared economy company for their members,  on top of individual personal insurances where needed.

It works, but, as one can imagine, it is a bit clunky. Especially on larger claims, I expect delays and issues to occur concerning liability, wear and tear, acceptable use of assets and confusion around which policy should pay followed by subrogation. Now, most shared-economy companies have stated that they will reimburse their members for losses and will figure out later what is covered by which insurance. This is a good thing for their members, of course, but it doesn’t necessarily help insurers very much.

We should be able to do better and create truly new insurance coverages for the shared economy. For example, why wouldn’t an insurer work with one of the new tech companies that provides people with a cloud solution to document all of their assets with pictures, videos, sales receipts or warranty documents? Why wouldn’t an insurer create a comprehensive coverage for property and liability for all these clients’ assets, under the assumption that they will be shared? Tag the key assets with a sensor and learn from usage data. Use telematics data on the car use. Limit home rentals to one or two partner companies and learn from usage analytics.

Why wouldn’t a carrier try a pilot with a segment of young people with limited assets, in a single location?

I know that this is not a simple proposition and that, in creating these kind of coverages, many hurdles will be encountered. I do think, however, that the market is ready, and that the sharing economy will become a force to be reckoned with soon. So, we might as well figure out how to insure and service that force.

As my colleague Mark Breading stated in his recent research brief, Insurance in the Connected World: Observations on Opportunities and Threats, “Actively participating in the rapidly growing sharing economy will be critical for personal lines insurers. Asset ownership is shifting and requiring a different approach for managing and protecting the assets.”

It is not going to be easy, but customers will count on our industry to develop solutions to protect their shared assets. We have successfully been supporting changing economies and technologies for centuries now – I am sure we’ll also find a solution for the new sharing economy in a connected world.

Moving Closer to the ‘Smart City’

Judging by the reported 11,000 attendees at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, representing companies and cities from around the world, there is great interest in governance, mobility, society, sustainability and technology. The trade show was very crowded even with sunny Barcelona beckoning with a perfect 71 degress Fahrenheit. The event gave me the opportunity to see many interesting technologies.

Many innovations focused on smart traffic routing and parking supported by sensors. Solutions in this category address the need to decrease traffic congestion or enable drivers to find available parking spots – problems afflicting many cities. Car-sharing initiatives by city communities were shown and explained. Autonomous vehicles were on display and got a lot of attention while raising questions about financing and insuring some of these new developments.

With the tragic events in Paris fresh in people’s minds, city officials were very interested in any offerings dealing with crisis or incident management. One example was IOmniscient’s 3D high-accuracy cameras that count people present in a specific location in real-time (very handy for crowd management). Other solutions include facial recognition capabilities to locate lost children or people of interest to law enforcement. These, and other applications, can assist local governments and citizens in preventing, managing and mitigating incidents.

“Gamification” got significant interest. Virtual reality environments supporting driving education or enabling urban planning were in high demand. There were also long lines for learning how to drive a real tram in a virtual city (not as easy as it looks). And Microsoft partner Geodan NEXT demonstrated how children were educated in smart-city development and how kids assisted in real-life design of schools and playgrounds by use of a Minecraft-based solution. In a more adult world, this same tool is being used for collaboration between professionals and citizens working together around a big touch table to address urban planning issues.

It is not often that I get to attend conferences outside of the insurance or technology space. It was refreshing to see the enthusiasm of professionals for innovation in a different industry. And many of the technologies that we frequently discuss, such as driverless cars, resource sharing, gamification, drones or Internet of Things, are equally relevant for smart cities.

I was also pleased with the balanced approach the people I spoke with took regarding opportunities for innovation and risk mitigation. Assisted by big data and technical developments, historically more disconnected industries such as technology, insurance, government, health or energy will quickly become more connected to each other, and the people of the world will collaborate in smart communities to capitalize on innovations.

The show in Barcelona was an uplifting experience, even with the sun beckoning.

A Better Question for Evaluating Tech

Earlier this month, my colleague Monique Hesseling wrote about the power of asking the right questions in product development. That is just as important with new technologies.

As we have seen with social media and smartphones, what were once “emerging” technologies can become widely available and widely used in a very short time. Insurers have developed ways to use both of these technologies in new products and services, although plenty of untapped opportunity remains in both areas. But as new technologies continue to emerge, how do we, as an industry, continue to incorporate them into products and services?

The conversations about using new technology in insurance have typically centered on two questions: Why? and Why not? The Whys, as we shall call them, are reluctant to adopt new technologies because the status quo works (or works well enough). The Why Nots, on the other hand, jump at the opportunity to use new technologies because of their novelty and the desire to be among the early adopters, even when the benefits are not necessarily clear.

The problem with framing the conversation around adopting new technologies as a question of “why” or “why not” is that it focuses on personal beliefs and opinions. The best questions to ask about new technologies start with “how.”

How can insurers take the technologies around us, whether they be established, maturing or emerging, and use them for competitive advantage? How can we get the most out of their use, and how can we use them to improve the customer (and employee) experience? How can new technologies be applied to products to make them better and to differentiate our company?

This year’s SMA Innovation in Action Award winners gave us some good examples. For instance, John Hancock’s Vitality Program is using mobile technology, “gamification” and wearable devices (a free Fitbit) to create a highly interactive relationship between life insurer and policyholder. Wallflower Labs is using the Internet of Things to provide brand new preventative services to a specific population of homeowners policyholders: those with aging relatives or young or special needs children, who face increased risk of house fires from the unsupervised use of ranges and cooktops.

Both of these initiatives gather data on policyholder behavior (fitness activities and cooking patterns) that insurers can use to offer premium discounts and leverage to create increasingly personalized life and homeowners products. Haven Life Insurance Agency has taken this thinking a step further by designing a term life product that uses big data and analytics to offer policies online with a 20-minute application process.

These award winners demonstrate just how much can be done toward creating products and modifying existing ones through the creative use of maturing and emerging technologies. John Hancock, for example, models effective decision-making with regard to incorporating new technologies into existing products by offering program members a free wearable device. Wearables can provide behavioral and physiological data that can be used to inform the calculation of life insurance premiums. The same wearables can provide policyholders with valuable feedback and the possibility of earning premium discounts. It’s a win-win for the customer and the insurer.

All insurers looking to incorporate new technologies into their product development should invest in idea-generating processes that are focused on how a given technology can be deployed before deciding whether to pursue that technology. Insurers excel at calculating risks and benefits, after all. Once the potential uses of a specific technology have been determined, insurers can apply that expertise to performing sophisticated cost-benefit analysis on those options.

The Whys and the Why Nots will never agree on everything, but they can unite behind the question of How. That shifts the discussions around new technologies to evaluation and problem-solving rather than opinion and persuasion. Ask “How?” and reap the benefits.

Telematics: Because Accidents Happen

As I researched recent developments in the telematics space, I thought of the wise words of an unknown car driver: “The worst fault of a car driver is his belief that he has none.” Whenever I speak to a group on telematics, I ask the audience, “Who considers themselves to be a better than average driver?” Every time, at least 80-90% of the hands go up.

Even if we are all close to perfect drivers, accidents will still happen. And telematics data can be used to help identify who is at fault.

Claims handling might be the new frontier for telematics, in general; beyond the early adopters of telematics-based pricing, many insurers have run pilots and proofs of concept with telematics in areas such as product development, underwriting, new business and market segmentation. They have gathered insights and developed telematics-based solutions for the broader market, often with the support of increasingly sophisticated telematics solution providers in technology or data and analytics. In fact, the SMA 2015 report, “The Changing Auto Insurance Landscape: Influencers Driving Disruption and Change,” revealed that, since its introduction to the market in 2010, telematics has come to be recognized as a maturing rather than emerging technology and often gets incorporated into connected car initiatives. The study also discussed how the industry is starting to investigate even newer technologies that might affect the auto insurance market, such as shared transportation and the autonomous vehicle.

However, it would be a mistake to move on to newer technologies and initiatives without further considering investments in telematics, especially when the full business value of telematics offerings may not have been reached yet.

Right now, particularly in personal lines, telematics is used primarily for market segmentation, product and underwriting purposes. There is a growing appreciation, though, of the value of telematics in claims handling beyond accident avoidance and driver education. For example, at a recent LexisNexis/Wunelli insurance event, it was demonstrated that telematics can play a key role in claims investigations by helping to determine which party is at fault – not always a clear-cut matter. In the specific accident discussed, two cars hit each other in the parking lot of a supermarket. The physical damage did not give a clear picture of who was at fault, and the drivers disagreed in their statements about what actually happened. One of the cars involved, however, was equipped with a telematics device. At the request of the driver of this car, the insurance carrier was able to analyze the data on the location and speed of her car immediately preceding this accident. This analysis made it abundantly clear that the driver of the telematics-equipped car could not have been at fault, which provided the insurer with proof to settle the claim accordingly.

I found it even more shocking that it was the insured driver who actually had to point out to her insurer that telematics data was available and that access to that data could be of great help in handling this claim. It was obviously not standard procedure for this specific carrier to look at telematics data in the claims handling process – and in this case, without the driver’s suggestion, the opportunity would have been missed.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that this carrier is unique. I would urge personal lines carriers, in particular, to consider the uses and applicability of telematics data outside of the market segmentation, product and underwriting functions. We can all learn from examples like this one, as well as from the commercial lines telematics applications for risk management and claims handling.

Because we all know that, even though we drive better than the average driver, accidents still do happen.

Maturing Use of Mobile in Insurance

“Can you hear me now?” The use of mobile technology is indeed maturing in the insurance industry!

Recent SMA research shows that, over the last year, insurers have increasingly invested in developing digital strategies. Most intend to migrate, over time, to a comprehensive digital insurer approach. Some others pick a specific area to work on, such as mobile agent/broker support or self-servicing capabilities for policyholders. Although both approaches are perfectly justifiable, we strongly recommend to tie all digital and mobile initiatives together under a “digital insurer” strategy. This approach will ensure consistency between business functions, market segments and customer experiences – and it is the approach that will help prioritize investments.

A big part of a digital strategy is a plan for implementing mobile technology. Most phones are not being used primarily to make calls anymore. (When I was overseas last week, and my phone didn’t work, I experienced first-handed how much we all rely on our smart phones for information and transactions, restaurant and hotel bookings, travel info, weather, banking and shopping.) Today, people expect to be able to transact on their mobile device as if it is a desktop or laptop. So how is our industry responding to these expectations?

Especially in the direct writing, personal lines space, mobile has become a mature and widely implemented technology. Direct writers support pretty much all informational and transactional interactions with their policyholders via mobile devices. In the last year or two, we have also seen carriers with agent/broker distribution channels invest heavily in mobile services. This investment tends to be triggered by one or more of three drivers: cost savings because of self-servicing; distribution channel experience (ease of doing business) and expectations; or competitive pressure. Almost all of these carriers start their mobile implementations with purely informational capabilities, followed by enabling transactions. In addition, some of the multi-channel carriers are now starting to expand their mobile capabilities beyond the distribution channels into the policyholder relations, carefully balancing what to communicate directly to policyholders and how to continue to fully engage the agent/broker.

On the commercial side of the business, we have seen a slightly different approach to mobile enablement. Carriers first built mobile capabilities around loss or risk management functions, including information on replacements materials and costs, uploading pictures of damaged assets, providing tools for risk assessments or location-specific information. In most cases, these capabilities were first rolled out to distributors; now we see some carriers that also offer them to their policyholders. Especially in the commercial segment, however, insurers are very cautious about reaching out directly to policyholders, and almost all communication is a three-way process among carrier, agent/broker and policyholder.

As both our research and our interactions with specific insurers have shown, mobile strategy and implementation have matured rapidly. Our industry is definitely past the “can you hear me now” days. The next focus area will be how to integrate mobile into a true digital strategy and how to capitalize on the information we are starting to gather on our policyholders and partners. That is the point where all investments made will truly start paying off.