Tag Archives: Progressive Insurance

3 Technology Trends Worth Watching

At a time when many insurers believe that 20% of their business could be soon lost to insurtech startups and when roughly one third of insurance industry CIOs said that, if given an extra $5 million to spend, they would spend it on big data or increased data collection, understanding technology trends is critical to gaining an edge.

So, let’s look at three of the emerging technologies affecting the insurance sector.

1. Sensors and other data-tracking technologies

In the past, insurance companies and actuaries based their pricing on aggregated data from large numbers of customers. Today, innovations in internet-connected devices such as wearables, auto devices and smart homes are giving insurance companies meaningful data that is specific to individual policyholders.

For example, Progressive Insurance created Snapshot, a device a policyholder can install in his or her car that allows Progressive to monitor certain data about the customer’s driving habits and to adjust pricing accordingly. Progressive claims to have distributed $600 million in discounts to its policyholders, largely because of data from Snapshot.

See also: 10 Trends at Heart of Insurtech Revolution  

Snapshot is just one example of how sensors and data-tracking technology can generate savings for policyholders while, at the same time, making insurers more efficient. As this technology continues to gain adoption, many more sensors will be available to monitor policyholder data on health, autos, homes and more.

2. Drones

Drone technology is a rapidly growing niche in the insurance industry, with some predicting it will reach a yearly value of $6.8 billion in the coming years. This growing interest in drone technology was a driving force behind a recent panel discussion on drones at the Contractor Connection conference in St. Louis. WeGoLook’s COO, Kenneth Knoll, participated in this panel, which was attended by more than 3,000 industry professionals.

Knoll noted that drone technology applies to a wide range of insurance services — roof inspections, underwriting, disaster relief, crop inspections, and much more. Consider an order recently received by WeGoLook requesting a scene inspection at a commercial location where an injury occurred. As compared with photos taken from the ground, aerial imagery captured by one of WeGoLook’s licensed drone operators offered the insurer client a much more effective representation of the scene in question.

3. Paperless solutions

Evolving technology also makes it possible for insurers to onboard new clients, handle claims and send notifications in a completely paperless manner. The increased digitization of insurance solutions has the potential to dramatically improve the speed and efficiency with which insurance companies operate. For example, Lemonade, an insurtech company, allows clients to sign up for policies and file claims in less than three minutes, using only a mobile device.

Mobile is the new paper as millennials have an extremely high percentage of smartphone use (97%). Carriers that can
best cater to paperless, mobile solutions will gain a strong competitive advantage.

See also: The Story Behind the Lemonade Hype  

Final Thoughts

Some have argued that we are currently experiencing a fourth industrial revolution powered, in part, by the developments noted above. Sensors, drones and paperless solutions are just a few of the technologies driving this revolution.

Carriers must make these types of innovations a priority because they are fundamentally changing the expectations of clients. It’s time for all insurance professionals to acknowledge and embrace this digital transformation.

Is Change Really Happening So Fast?

Lots of people are saying these days that the insurance industry, after essentially not ever changing, is suddenly moving too fast to follow — for instance, the recent ITL article, “Feeling Like a Keystone Cop.” But in my 37 years in the industry, insurance has evolved continuously.

Insurers have changed from the days where syndicates consisting of individuals provided insurance coverage through the Lloyds market; today, China Re with a majority ownership by China’s ministry of finance, has a syndicate at Lloyds. Today, a large number of insurers are owned by multinational conglomerates.

Other types of evolution include Berkshire Hathaway’s use of insurance premiums as a means of financing its investment interests. Similarly, Fairfax Financial Holdings of Canada uses premiums collected from its insurance companies around the world to finance investment interests.

Financial services groups such as Suncorp Group in Australia now offer insurance through a number of brand names, such as Shannons (classic car insurance), APIA (Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency) and AAMI. Rand Merchant Insurance Holding Group of South Africa offers insurance in Australia under the name of Youi (https://www.youi.com.au).

In addition, some insurance companies, like Progressive, are taking a technology-only approach to offer motor vehicle insurance in Australia without a “brick and mortar” presence. Apart from the option of reporting a claim by phone, all other communications are through email or a web page. With this approach, Progressive in Australia will only attract those who use technology. Here is the link http://www.progressiveonline.com.au/car-insurance.aspx

People talk about Google, Walmart, Amazon and others possibly entering the insurance market — again, this isn’t something new. Brand names have been used by insurers for many decades. Coles, a large supermarket chain in Australia (https://financialservices.coles.com.au/insurance) (similar to a Safeway or Ralphs here in the U.S.), offers various insurance polices to its customers that are underwritten by Insurance Australia Group.

Whether Google, Walmart or Amazon actually decides to underwrite risks, act as channels for insurance or simply provide a means to compare insurer premiums remains to be seen, but, regardless, none of this is new. For example, InsWeb has offered car insurance price comparisons since the mid-1990s. Here is the link: http://www.insweb.com.

One thing that is certain, however, is that the insurance market will continue to be driven by price and service, especially service at the time of a claim. In his 2013 annual report, Warren Buffett made the following comment, “GEICO in 1996 ranked number seven among U.S. auto insurers. Now, GEICO is number two, having recently passed Allstate. The reasons for this amazing growth are simple: low prices and reliable service.”

Over time, risk types change, and insurance coverage follows. Boiler explosion insurance for example, was a major type of insurance through the 1800s and into the mid-1900s. It still exists but is only a very small percentage of the insurance market.

We will see changes to vehicle insurance coverage when driverless vehicles appear on our roads, as mentioned in the recent ITL article titled, “Beginning of the End for Car Insurance.” There are many risk coverage issues for potential exposures with driverless cars. Imagine if a child runs onto the street to retrieve a ball without looking (a common occurrence for those living in the suburbs). With advanced technology built into driverless vehicles, the vehicle would be programmed to make a decision about which action to take in the best interest of all parties (i.e. the child, occupants in the vehicle or nearby vehicles as well as pedestrians): (1) brake but still hit the child or (2) brake and avoid the child but possibly hit another object such as another vehicle or lamppost, injuring the occupants of the vehicles as well as nearby pedestrians.

All this will need to be addressed by laws and road rules when driverless vehicles are introduced, with insurance following on. Premiums and who pays are the least of the insurance complexities involved with driverless vehicles. If a manufacturer is required to obtain insurance coverage or volunteers to obtain insurance coverage, the premium would be factored into the price of the vehicle; otherwise. it would be paid by the owner of the vehicle. Regardless, insurers will receives premiums from one source or the other.

Another evolving insurance coverage relates to a disability occurring from a work-related, motor-vehicle or non-work-related incident. While U.S. jurisdictions ponder whether coverage for a work-related injury or illness should be through a workers’ compensation policy issued by a property/casualty insurer or through the opt-out option (a hot topic in the U.S. at the moment), Europe, Asia and Australia are focusing on what people with a disability can be doing and deciding on how best to achieve this, including funding. In this case, the evolution relates to who will pay the premiums. Will employers continue to pay for work-related injuries, or will individuals buy personal injury coverage to cover their recovery costs, no matter whether associated with a work-related, motor-vehicle or non-work-related incident?

In the evolution of insurance, technology has always played an important role in areas such as deciding which segment of a market companies want to attract, meeting reporting obligations and improving processing efficiencies. In workers’ compensation, a number of U.S. carriers have chosen to outsource many of their claims functions, as I outlined in my last article. Whether this practice continues remains to be seen, but something needs to change in the way the workers’ compensation insurer or its representatives (e.g.. third party payer) handle claims, because clearly what they are doing is not producing the desired outcome for the injured worker or the employer, and no form of state legislature or technology change will address this shortfall.

Products like IBM’s Watson and Saama that are able to use unstructured data in addition to structured data to perform analytics are part of the technology evolution, and there is high probability of success. But we saw something along the same lines during the early 1990s, when all the buzz was about neural networks.

In closing, I don’t feel as if I’m a Keystone Cop when it comes to professional development, either relating to insurance or the technology used now or offered in the future. I also don’t think the major players in the insurance industry (like Berkshire Hathaway, Fairfax, Suncorp and others around the globe) feel they or their personnel are operating like Keystone Cops. If they were, I’m sure their share prices would not be as high as they are.