Tag Archives: swot analysis

The Hype Cycle of Insurance Disruption

The research firm Gartner has a great model for showing the relative maturity of different technologies. It’s called the Hype Cycle, and it looks like this:

hype

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle

There are five phases. First, a technology emerges, triggering a myriad of ideas for potential applications. Startups are founded, commentators predict it will change everything, incumbents include it in the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis section of their annual strategic plan. These expectations reach a peak and then start to decline as technical limitations, barriers to consumer adoption and regulatory concerns emerge. Chastened, new technologies then slowly regain credibility as people focus on how they can be applied to create real value in the here and now. Finally, they achieve mainstream adoption and acceptance.

So what would the hype cycle of insurance disruption look like, in 2016? I think something like this:

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The hottest topics of discussion in insurance right now are those left-most on the chart. We can expect the next 12 months to see seed-stage angel and VC investments in start-ups addressing the insurance implications of IoT/connected home (Domotz), blockchain (Everledger), drones (Drox) and maybe even artificial intelligence (Brolly).

Meanwhile, insurance industry incumbents will continue appointing chief digital officers, opening digital garages and launching venture funds and start-up incubators with the aim of getting a stake in the next generation of InsurTech companies. It will be a few years before we see whether these investments are creating value.

On the other side of the peak of inflated expectations, there is a deepening malaise around peer-to-peer (P2P) insurance. New York’s Lemonade may have just raised a $13 million seed round, but it has a long hard road ahead. The company’s somewhat hubristic claim to be the world’s first P2P insurer suggests executives aren’t aware of Friendsurance or Guevara and the challenges these admirable businesses have faced in creating a value proposition that consumers can understand and buy into.

P2P insurance remains intellectually exciting to insurance industry insiders but deeply unappealing to ordinary people. Do you want to feel social pressure from your friends not to make a home insurance claim if you spill paint on the carpet? No, neither do I. It will take a radically different articulation of the P2P consumer proposition for it to gain more traction — probably one that doesn’t focus at all on the product mechanics.

If the appeal of P2P insurance is in decline, big data is in the trough. There is even a bot that substitutes the phrase “chronic farting” in any tweet that mentions it. Consolidating a global insurer’s data assets on a single platform and then powering the whole organization with advanced analytics seems about as realistic as boiling the ocean.

But away from these grandiose projects, there are specific insurance use cases where big data has tangible value today. Underwriting using Twitter data is already as powerful as traditional question sets. At Bought by Many, we’ve analyzed the anonymized search data of 3 million U.K. Internet users to identify where the biggest gaps are between consumer demand for insurance and the products being supplied by the industry. Meanwhile, social media data, particularly from Facebook, is hugely powerful for insurance distribution – not just for targeted advertising but for understanding and serving people’s unique insurance needs.

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There is also a number of technologies that are mainstream in other sectors but still haven’t been fully adopted in insurance – programmatic advertising, even web analytics. The most egregious example is mobile. 75% of U.K. adults now use mobile Internet, and yet encountering a mobile-optimized or responsively designed insurance quote and buy process is still a pleasant surprise. Perhaps this reflects insurance companies’ bad experiences of developing apps that no one downloaded during the earlier phases of smartphone adoption; but surely getting mobile sorted should be a higher priority for insurers than launching an incubator. Mobile-first insurance startups like Worry + Peace and Cuvva can provide inspiration.

When it comes to technology, insurance isn’t a leader, it’s a follower. So it’s in the smart application of maturing technologies that the biggest opportunity for insurance disruption lies.

Protecting Your Corporate Reputation

A company’s reputation, which is core to its profitability and long-term competitiveness, faces new challenges as information speeds blindly through online media and social networks. Lanny Davis, former assistant to President Clinton on crisis management and principal in Lanny J. Davis & Associates, recently noted that, in the age of the Internet, “you never get a second chance to change a first impression. Once your reputation is smeared and your character unfairly attacked, the eternal misinformation echo chamber of the search engine allows the harm to continue eternally, unless you fight back — early, with all the facts, often yourself — until the truth gets in the way of the search engine lies.”

When a corporate reputation is tarnished, a company can lose its trust factor; investor confidence is weakened; and a company’s share price can be reduced.  In extreme cases, a damaged reputation can lead to a company’s downfall. “Hackgate,” “Rupertgate,” or “Murdochgate” -– names given by the press to the News International phone-hacking scandal – led to the demise of News of the World newspaper.

Let’s make a list of some leading triggers to reputation failure: 

  • unethical behavior such as Sears’ management team’s unrealistic performance quotas for its car repair business, which led to overbilling and created a scandal in the 1990s.
  • financial irregularities, such as those that led to Enron’s bankruptcy.
  • executive misconduct, such as the conviction tied to insider trading that led to Martha Stewart’s resignation.
  • environmental violations, such as Nike’s exploitation of workers in sweatshops, failure to provide work environments that are safe and contact with cotton factories using slave labor—issues that dogged Nike through the 1990s and beyond.
  • safety & health product recalls, such as followed allegations of “unintended acceleration” in Toyota cars.
  • security breaches, such as the recent one at Target in which tens of millions of people had credit-card data stolen.

In other words, much as Murphy’s Law says:  “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” 

What should a corporation do to protect its reputation? 

  • Use your CEO: Fred Smith, FedEx’s legendary founder, is a good example.  A good CEO embodies and reiterates a company’s values, code of ethics and vision.  Your CEO regularly communicates honesty and transparency and is trusted with your corporate reputation. 
  • Perform an S.W.O.T. analysis: Identify your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. 
  • Develop a corporate reputation strategy:  Johnson & Johnson is still reaping reputation benefits more than 30 years after its swift and sweeping recall of Tylenol and institution of tamper-proof packaging after some maniac laced some pills with cyanide and put them in bottles on store shelves, killing seven people.
  • Monitor your reputation online.  Constantly check social media sites and your own website. No company can afford to be reputation-blind, and no suit of armor is impenetrable.
  • Be honest, factual and open with the media. 
  • Create a plan to manage an unexpected crisis.  Execution is the cornerstone. Train everyone on identifying the crisis, what to do and who gets contacted.   Preparation is essential to managing potential and actual crises in a timely fashion.  Communication is no longer one-way; it’s now two-way. 
  • Evaluate the purchase of corporate reputation insurance. For 20 years, the insurance industry has known that how a company manages a reputation crisis will have a dramatic impact on the cost of civil litigation arising out of that crisis.  For this reason, insurance purchased for the risk of shareholder lawsuits, directors and officers insurance, has from time to time included an option to purchase, or included automatically, “crisis management” insurance. This reimburses the company for the cost of crisis management expert fees up to a set amount, usually $50,000 to $200,000.

However, since 2010, there has been an outbreak of “new and improved” reputation insurance policies from name-brand insurance carriers like Zurich (Brand Assurance), AIG (ReputationGuard), Munich Re (Reputation Insurance) and a number of Lloyds syndicates, including a standalone reputation policy produced by Steel City Re.

Some carriers emphasize reimbursement of crisis-management expenses while others are more geared toward reimbursing a company for a loss. Finding the right one, or right combination, can be challenging, but they are worth a look.

Be sure to check out Thought Leader Ty Sagalow's recent appearance on New York News!

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