Tag Archives: Vitality

Maybe Even Diabetes Can Be Insured

The World Health Organization has published a five-year strategic plan focused on 10 major threats to global health in 2019, among which there are noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease – collectively responsible for over 70% of all deaths worldwide. Through the plan, the WHO wants to try to ensure that 1 billion more people will benefit from access to universal health coverage, 1 billion more people are protected from health emergencies and 1 billion more people enjoy better health and well-being. It’s a very optimistic goal, and different types of solutions are required; all means available should be employed.

Where do insurers come in? They are part of the healthcare system and could do more to contribute to global health. Though it may seem perhaps altruistic to associate insurers with such a noble scope, the reality is that they, insurers, would also benefit.

Forward-looking companies have understood this opportunity, so there are examples of insurers that have started to use the “Insurer as Partner” approach, which implies an active role in prevention rather than just being reactive and paying claims when an undesirable event occurs. This new potential role of the insurer has been made possible, in great part, by what we now call “connected insurance,” which encompasses IoT (Internet of Things), wearables and other monitoring devices. The re-shaping of the insurance industry has already begun, and it will continue based on new technologies.

Connected health insurance can become profitable for insurers as it allows measurement of the risk for a specific client and thus allows the presentation of an improved, better-priced value proposition that may also improve general health. The insurance company can’t possibly make it on its own and will have to seek partners from both the technological innovation sphere and medical providers, keeping in mind that its role in the health system is changing from “payer” to “pivot.”

Discovery’s Vitality Program

To better grasp the actual benefits for clients and not just for insurers that adopt such an innovative approach, let’s look at the South African insurance player Discovery, which can be considered the benchmark when it comes to engaging members and improving their quality of life. Its Vitality program has created a system that not only raises the loyalty of customers but improves their lifestyle and overall health.

Discovery’s Vitality uses an “early warning” mechanism that can anticipate serious health problems and more expensive claims. It does so by using connected devices like the smartwatch. According to Discovery, Vitality Gold status members with heart disease have 41% lower risk claims than members with no Vitality membership. Vitality Gold members living with diabetes have 50% lower risk claims.

See also: Security of Medical Devices Needs Care  

Another claim coming from a presentation by Discovery Vitality at DIA Amsterdam 2018 deserves our attention: There is an 18% reduction of hospital and chronic claim costs for the batch of Vitality members who use the Vitality Active Rewards (VAR) alongside the Apple Watch, compared with the group of insured who do not use an Apple Watch. VAR is a smartphone application based on fitness points, which is designed to encourage Vitality members to increase their activity by setting weekly personalized physical activity goals – and then rewarding users for achieving them. (Discovery specifies that its data is based on a cross-sectional view of the relative claims experience, and it is premature to show the improvement over time given the lower frequency of health claim events.)

Discovery says that Apple Watch owners enrolled in the program are 35% more active than prior to getting the watch. Since the VAR system was launched, there has been a 24% increase in physical-activity days and a 9% increase in meeting higher exercise targets. The data is telling, and the implications for ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing are significant. Seen from this point of view, the transition to a “prevention-centered” approach is a pragmatic decision for insurers because, in time, the portfolio tends to change its structure, passing from a majority of “sick” clients to a majority of relatively “in good health” clients.

ICS Maugeri’s Mosaic case study

Let’s look now at a more specific issue within the spectrum of uninsurable diseases, that is diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. In 2014, 8,5% of adults aged 18 years and older had diabetes. In 2016, diabetes was the direct cause of 1,6 million deaths, and in 2012 high blood glucose was the cause of another 2,2 million deaths. It is estimated that the number of diabetic patients worldwide will be 629 million by 2045.

Diabetic patients have a high risk to develop severe complications generated by the evolution of the pathology, such as peripheral neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy and cardiovascular diseases. It is well-known that insurers either do not cover diabetic patients or, if they do, require a high premium. This is due to the difficulty to measure the probability of the occurrence of risks associated with these clients. Therefore, the insurance sector is leaving uncovered a market that is becoming more and more relevant.

ICS Maugeri, a major group of hospitals specializing in rehabilitation medicine, has developed, in partnership with the University of Pavia, an instrument called Mosaic aimed at improving the clinical management of patients affected by diabetes mellitus type 2 (T2DM) that can calculate the risk of developing complications in different time scenarios. Mosaic uses AI and machine learning that is based on algorithms able to learn patterns and decision rules from data. Based on the results expressed in one of their published research papers, the team has been able “to predict the onset of complications (retinopathy, neuropathy, nephropathy) at different time scenarios: at three, five and seven years from the first visit. The final models are thus able to provide up to 84% accuracy in predicting the probability for a diabetic to develop the three main complications and are easy to apply in clinical practice.

In insurers’ terms, this shows that risk associated with diabetes can be estimated; furthermore, given that clinical evidences show that a proper management of the diabetic patient (intensive pharmacological treatment etc.) can lead to a significant reduction in the possibility of developing complications, the risk itself can be managed and reduced. The question is: How can insurers make sure that diabetic patients follow the required therapeutic path? It’s a difficult job. Diabetic patients are required to follow a rigorous clinical, diagnostic and therapeutic path to manage and control their pathology and try to limit or slow the consequences of this chronic disease. This path involves periodic medical checks and diagnostic tests as well as continuous and intensive drug therapies, requiring significant effort for patients and their caregivers. Most of the time, the scheduling of such periodic checks must be autonomously managed by the patient, resulting in a progressive reduction of adherence to the required clinical paths.

Within the Mosaic project, the patient is monitored with the help of wearables and telemedicine; this allows the team to (i) personalize and update pharmacological treatments, (ii) identify and update the diagnostic path to be performed to monitor and reduce the risk of complications and (iii) identify on-time criticalities that may require timely investigations. Therefore, this approach allows a significant risk control and, potentially, risk reduction, allowing the insurer to update the premium yearly.

See also: An Easy Way Forward on Health Costs  

How do Discovery Vitality and Mosaic fit in together?

Discovery Vitality uses gamification, reward systems and tracking devices to steer clients toward a healthier life style. Imagine if Vitality would be integrated with Mosaic’s technology for diabetes patients. This would mean that suddenly diabetics would become insurable, and the client base would increase.

Vitality has already proven that a reward-based system can help improve behavior, so probably it would also work as an additional incentive for diabetics in keeping them effectively engaged with their prescribed treatment. Taking for granted that diabetics will follow a program step by step and change their behavior toward a desired goal is not something anyone should do. Even if the real stake for diabetics is their own life expectancy, which should be motivation enough, the reward element could be a good and fun extra incentive for reaching health goals.

As estimated costs with lifestyle-related conditions (including diabetes) will be 47 trillion by 2030, insurers, the healthcare systems, clinical providers and patients could all benefit in some way from such a program. We would like to see this implemented in the short term at a larger scale than the test made by Mosaic, and it would also be interesting to look at how this approach could be extended to other chronic diseases.

Article based on the chapter written by Andrea Silvello and Alessandro Procaccini, “Connected Insurance Reshaping the Health Insurance Industry,” Smart Healthcare, Intechopen, 2019, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.85123.

Key Technology Trends for Insurers in 2019

In 2019, we will see many of the 2018 technology trends continue but with an added focus on business transformation and value.


In 2019, we will see continued investments in insurtechs and fintechs, as more companies realize the value of technologies that enable the delivery of next-generation digital experience, especially in the area of customer engagement. Consumers’ demands are driving the need for better self-service capabilities, mobile capabilities and engagement tools.

As with John Hancock’s use of Vitality and with SE2’s investment in Life.io, we’ve seen the creation of next-generation customer engagement platforms that leverage wearables and other social and industry data to get unique insights into prospects’ and policyholders’ lives. That allows these companies to offer better needs-based, more personalized products. As insurers are able to access higher-quality data, there will be more experimenting with analytical models and algorithms to transform the underwriting, sales and marketing paradigms. Additionally, the ability to access consumer data in real time will continue to drive innovation in the insurance industry.

Companies like Human API and Clareto are bridging the gap between heath information exchanges, healthcare providers and life insurance carriers, enabling them to fine-tune underwriting, claims and other business processes. Helping consumers live a better life and have a holistic approach to manage both their mortality and income risks is the way to go rather than sell point solutions with aggressive sales tactics.

See also: 3 Insurtech Trends Accelerating in 2019  

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning

While there continues to be excitement and conversation around artificial intelligence and machine learning, the fact of the matter is that the insurance industry as a whole continues to struggle with adoption. Issues around data governance still need to be solved, data rationalization is not complete and data quality continues to remain a major challenge for insurers.

Looking ahead in 2019, there will be more work in this area as insurers make progress in putting into place the foundational elements needed to create a strong data paradigm that will enable AI and ML adoption as well as generate real business value. There will be progress made in creating and enhancing data repositories, data lakes and other foundational infrastructure technologies. This year will see a refocus on AI and ML — especially in conversational AI — that will enable insurers to streamline and augment the work of their own employees and distribution network, ultimately providing a superior experience to policyholders.

Digital Transformation

Driven by customers’ market needs, digital transformation continues to remain a key priority in 2019. Many insurers remain constrained by the complexity of their back-end systems, resulting in very real concerns around agility, value and delivering the right consumer experience. Consumers are demanding more simplified products, as well as a growing preference for bundled products with the overlap of income and mortality risk. Without a nimble, flexible architecture in place, many insurers struggle with launching products fast enough to capture new customers with these preferences and gain market share.

The year 2019 will see an increase in insurers looking to create effective and efficient direct-to-consumer distribution channels or other digital distribution channels to reach the vastly underserved middle market and millennial customer segments. Additionally, there will be increased pressure by the market for lower pricing, leading insurers to create cost efficiencies through digitization of back-end processes, increasing usage of RPA (robotic process automation), STP (straight-through processing) and digitized operations processes throughout the entire lifecycle of the policy.

There is not only a price play but a consistency and a quality play that our industry struggles with, as well. At SE2, we call this moving from a “high touch” to “low touch with hugs” operating model.

End-to-End Platform Modernization

Driven by the need to reduce or eliminate outdated legacy technologies and address business and technology architecture complexity, an end-to-end platform modernization focus will be a very high priority for life and annuity insurers this year. Insurance carriers are realizing that the investments they’ve made in front-end digital capabilities are not giving them adequate return on investment without a fully digitized, modern and simplified back-end system. These delay the time it takes to launch products and hamper the ability to streamline business models. With a digital, open architecture platform, insurers can easily integrate systems and plug in APIs to extend their capabilities.

See also: 8 Key Insurtech Trends for 2019  

Overall, 2019 should be yet another interesting year for our industry and SE2, as we see billions of dollars of innovation spending led by tech giants like Google, Amazon and Microsoft, and the L&A industry finally beginning to reposition itself.

3 Forces Shaping Insurance’s Future

The disruptive power of digital technologies has spread more slowly across the insurance industry than other financial services. This will not last much longer, and many insurance executives risk being caught by surprise by the drastic changes these advanced technologies will inspire.

What kind of change is coming? In life insurance, a U.S. company says it can help companies accept or reject new policies by analyzing selfies to determine an applicant’s health. In other examples, advanced analytics can help fine-tune prices and segment customers more accurately; machine learning can present precise cross-selling opportunities; and digital interfaces can support single-event policies and purchases without any interaction with human agents.

Indeed, the first waves of disruption have already hit automotive insurance, where claims are being processed using smartphone apps and where online aggregators are leading buyers to the lowest-priced offers from a range of companies. Similar changes will unfold across all corners of the industry. Our experience shows that many executives in all branches of insurance are underestimating the disruption these technologies can bring, putting their companies at risk.

Early incursions into insurance

Change enabled by digital technologies will come from outside and within the industry. Attackers will find ways to snatch profits along vulnerable edges of the industry, while longtime players will refine their models, products and customer service to become more competitive.

Technology companies focused on financial services, known as fintechs, have grown rapidly in recent years. These fintechs moved first and aggressively into traditional banking services, giving many insurance managers a false sense of comfort.

In 2016, the market intelligence group VB Profiles reported that 1,329 fintech companies globally had together raised more than $105 billion and had a combined market value of $870 billion. Of these, 356 specifically targeted banking and payments, 196 financing, 108 investments and just 82 insurance. The remainder focused on technology infrastructure, such as analytical and business tools, that could be applicable across sectors. VB Profiles also said that in 2015 insurtech companies that work directly on insurance innovations attracted investments totaling $2.2 billion, more than any other segment in its study. This is an ominous trend for traditional insurers, even though investment levels slid in subsequent years as companies focused more on product development than on raising funds.

Already, digital applications are scooping up profits at the periphery of the industry. Price-comparison websites, for example, scan the internet for car insurance prices and provide the data to users. A separate study by S&P Global Ratings found that almost two-thirds of new car insurance policies in the U.K. are being sold through these sites. Another example from outside the core industry is single-trip cancellation insurance offered by online travel-booking companies such as Expedia, often underwritten by established insurers.

Insurers are also using digital technologies to cut costs, improve customer service and create competitive advantages. In the U.S., for instance, property and casualty insurer Allstate lets customers file claims on car accidents by submitting photos through its smartphone app. In an example of using new technologies to augment current practices, a large U.K. insurer gathers its internal data to make pricing and service decisions that take better advantage of a customer’s life-cycle value. A customer with several products, for instance, could automatically have claims processed faster or be offered favorable pricing on additional insurance products.

Three unstoppable forces

Three extraordinary forces—a cascade of data, advanced analytics and heightened customer expectations—make the flood of technological innovations seen today very different from advancements witnessed in recent memory. Handheld tablets introduced to agents may have improved efficiencies, but they had little effect on underlying business models or how sector profits were divided. These three forces will be different.

See also: 2 Paths to a New Take on Digital  

Using auto insurance as an example, we’ve noted how price-comparison platforms have changed how customers shop. Soon, data automatically delivered from built-in sensors in cars and trucks will offer judgments on driving habits that could allow companies to raise or lower prices for individual clients with increased precision. The same sensors could also notify insurers of an accident, prompting the insurer to dispatch police, medical personnel or tow services; to send an automated drone to assess and film the situation; and even to arrange a rental car. All the while, the customer is updated on these actions over a smartphone app. Not only is customer service improved, but companies will also have immediate, concrete information on incidents, which could help prevent fraud, reduce costs and improve risk modeling.

Increased data

In 2015, Forbes magazine noted that more data had been created in the previous two years than in the prior entire existence of mankind and that only a tiny portion of that data — about 0.5% — is analyzed or mined for value. This data is generated constantly: tens of thousands of Google searches every second, tens of millions of Facebook messages every minute and, soon, 50 billion smart devices connected globally, composing the Internet of Things, among other sources.

Insurances companies that harness this data can make better decisions, improve customer service and even prevent claims in the first place by, for instance, advising clients on healthier lifestyles or safer driving habits. Used properly, this cascade of data is the raw material needed for a more precise risk assessment on every single policy and for early warnings of any anomalies.

If neglected, this trove of data is also a threat to established insurance companies. For example, a digital giant such as Google or Facebook could use its rich deposit of data to target the most attractive customer segments with tailored insurance offers that would be difficult to match in terms of personalization. Or, a major automaker could leverage data already arriving from sensors to strike an exclusive relationship with a single provider, closing a significant portion of the market off to others. Such a move is plausible as self-driving cars are perfected and as carmakers themselves seek ways to protect their own profits as the economic value in the auto industry moves from manufacturing to software.

Advanced analytics

While the data stream has swollen significantly recently, companies have been capturing data from their customers for years, often without extracting optimal value. Recent advances in analytics and predictive analysis, however, make it easier for companies with technological expertise to find value in these terabytes of data.

Advanced analytics can provide better risk profiles of customers using data from a wide range of sources, from social media activity to public databases relevant to specific locations or occupations. The analytics also open the door for technology startups to target especially attractive customer segments or create targeted products, such as nascent “gadget insurance”—policies that cover just a laptop, tablet or smartphone rather than an entire household and its contents.

Analytics can also help perfect pricing and customer-service policies. For instance, advanced analytics can be used to present promotions that would be attractive to a specific client based on how a large pool of other customers responded to the promotion. Analytics could also flag new opportunities, such as when a client’s children have reached a life stage when they might need their own policies.

Customer expectations

In the digital age, customers are becoming accustomed to highly personalized products and services. These customers, especially digital natives who grew up with the internet and represent the new generation of insurance buyers, expect Amazon, for instance, to suggest items based on their previous purchases and to be able to pick exact seats when buying concert tickets online. They expect immediate access to their banking information over their smartphones and have little patience for elaborate sales pitches.

Such expectations cannot be satisfied by simply migrating traditional offers to a website or mobile platform. Customers want to have a choice between, say, purchasing a standard auto insurance policy or picking and choosing from among modules, such as roadside assistance and rental-car replacement, rather than an online brochure that touts traditional products.

As an extension of closer customer relationships, some insurance companies are using new technologies to offer preventive programs, which deliver clear benefits to both policyholders and insurers. For example, insurer Discovery in South Africa runs the Vitality wellness program, which predates the digital era and has been updated with new technology. Vitality applications allow the company to encourage customers to frequent gyms, eat healthily and improve their driving habits. Hospitalization costs for program participants are as much as 30% lower than for nonparticipants, and participants live 13 to 21 years longer than other insured groups do. Similarly, IAG in Australia uses claims data to identify dangerous road segments, alerting customers as they approach these hazardous zones and working with governments to correct them. The company says a single improved highway ramp can save AU $600,000 (U.S. $470,000) a year in claims.

Implications span crucial areas

The exact implications of new digital technologies on insurance are difficult to foretell. Innovations in the financial services sector, in general, have been dynamic, and there is every reason to believe that these technologies will have a similar wide-ranging impact as they embed themselves into the insurance sector.

Broadly, four areas can expect the greatest disruption.


A clear understanding of changing customer expectations is essential to take full advantage of new technologies. For many companies, this means adjusting product and service portfolios to cater to customer wishes, rather than presenting the same set of rigid offerings that have sold well in the past. Companies that use big data and advanced analytics to better understand their customers and agile product development to cater to these new needs rapidly will have a better chance of thriving in the digital environment.

In one example, a growing number of private clients are participating in the sharing economy using platforms such as Airbnb for properties and BlaBlaCar for shared rides, and they need relevant policies to protect against damage and liabilities under these new circumstances. Unlike traditional policies, such products might cover only clearly limited periods or specific situations.

Customer experience also has greater importance. While good experiences may not always outweigh price, especially as comparison websites reach more broadly into the industry, bad experiences, such as complicated site designs or claims processes, can easily send customers to rival offerings. In one example, a large U.K. insurer processes claims quickly, often within seconds, for customers whose data shows they are long-time clients who meet certain criteria, such as owning several products or having few past claims.

Products and prices

Companies will have to reexamine their product and service portfolios, taking into account evolving customer expectations, insights generated by advanced analytics and aggressive maneuvers from attackers. For example, insurers will have to find ways to deconstruct homeowners’ policies. Rather than insuring the entire contents of a home against theft or damage, specially designed policies could cover only selected items, such as computer equipment or musical gear. Products for individual events, such as travel or leisure activities, should also be expanded.

Using new technologies, products can also be developed for customers who might be otherwise unattractive or too costly to serve. For example, in agricultural insurance, remote sensors could provide an insurer with pertinent information on soil conditions, temperatures, humidity and other factors for remote farms. Crop insurance claims from a drought or other natural calamity could be more quickly and efficiently processed using primarily this data, rather than waiting for an expensive visit by an adjuster.

Insurance companies must also use technology to keep prices competitive while preserving profit margins. Looking at car insurance, S&P noted in 2016, “Insurers that do not find their quotes in the top five places on a [price-comparison website] may struggle to gain new business, no matter the quality of their product offering and service.” Among other measures, deploying new technologies to partially or fully automate processes such as application processing and claims payments can be especially effective in reducing back-office costs.

The potential for increased transparency into client lifestyles and habits will also affect policy pricing and risk assessments. Although privacy concerns are still being addressed, sensors on smartphones and wearable fitness gadgets, for instance, could provide data that allows insurers to reduce premiums for clients who lead healthy and active lifestyles. In a similar vein, sensors inside vehicles can provide automotive insurers with valuable information on an individual’s driving habits. Increased use of this data, however, also leaves insurers open to the risk of customers hacking into these devices and sensors to present erroneous favorable data.

IT systems

For many established insurance companies, legacy computer systems are not up to the task of compiling and analyzing the massive amounts of data that feed these new technologies. These systems often lack the flexibility and speed needed to cater to today’s customer needs and to keep pace with industry attackers.

To face this challenge effectively, many companies have developed a two-pronged IT approach. Processes that don’t require the strengths of new technologies, such as accounting and fraud management, remain the province of legacy systems, while social media, customer service, product development and process automation, among others, are handled by updated systems. For most companies, investments in new systems will be required to meet these needs.

Among recent IT breakthroughs, blockchain technologies, which essentially provide a shared digital ledger that no individual controls, are being scrutinized for potential opportunities. Fifteen insurance companies, including Allianz, Munich Re and Swiss Re, have joined in a pilot program called the Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative B3i to “explore the ability of distributed ledger technologies to increase efficiencies in the exchange of data between reinsurance and insurance companies,” according to an Allianz statement. Blockchain technology has particular potential in transaction validation and fraud prevention.

Business models and risk

As we’ve seen, advanced technologies deployed within the industry can support new business models, from gadget insurance to intricate pricing approaches. These technologies deployed in other industries could also disrupt business models. Consider the example of self-driving cars. Once they are in common use, the liability for any accident could shift from human drivers to manufacturers, bringing insurance into the suite of services offered by manufacturers in the overall ecosystem. Maintenance of software and mechanical systems could become more crucial to reducing risks, compelling insurers to collect data from service providers to help assess and manage these risks.

Similarly, home insurers could gather data from utilities using smart meters and other sources to monitor the risk of fire or flood and dispatch warnings and instructions to mitigate risk to clients as necessary. In the U.K., home insurer Neos, founded in 2016, offers its customers a policy that includes a suite of smart-home sensors that alert the homeowner and the company if, say, a door is left open or the plumbing leaks. Neos also offers to arrange the necessary repairs.

See also: Finding Value in Insurtech (Part 1)  

While the availability of such data can help assess policy risks more accurately, it also creates internal risks that must be understood and managed. Perhaps the biggest issue revolves around privacy questions, especially as companies gather data from a variety of external sources to create customer profiles and inform pricing decisions.

For example, one U.K. insurer is considering a program in which potential customers are given policy quotes with virtually no questions being asked. Instead of the usual long list of questions, the insurer would use the mobile number of the incoming call to identify the caller, find an address and compile various data related to the caller’s lifestyle and risk. The call-center agent would then offer an immediate quote for the desired policy. However, similar programs from other insurers that tapped into social media activities were met with protests over privacy concerns and had to be discontinued.

Talent brings it all together

To make the most of these advanced technologies and remain competitive, insurers will require new talent and new capabilities. The technology itself is readily available; assembling the talent needed to extract the greatest value from digital advances will be the crucial element that sets a company apart from its competitors.

The talent insurers want — and where to find them

Most insurers seek digital hires with capabilities in data analytics, digital apps, the Internet of Things, the habits of digital natives and other comparable areas. A natural first stop to find such talent would be the broader financial industry, especially banks, which have a head start on insurers in addressing these changes (and also have familiarity with operating in a highly regulated industry). Hires from banks and other financial services companies are likely to experience less culture shock than would those from outside the financial industry, but insurance companies must be ready to pay for this scarce talent. Recruiting from further afield will be more difficult, although necessary.

Forward-looking insurers also prize meaningful international experience—a common gap in the resumes of otherwise high-flying, U.S.-based digital executives, who tend to have spent little time managing outside their home territory.

Finders, keepers

Of course, finding digital leaders is only half of the equation. The insurance companies most successful at transforming themselves will also prioritize employee retention. This is easier said than done, given the insurance industry’s reputation as a stodgy work atmosphere. Potential cultural clashes and generational gaps between young talent and older insurance executives must be recognized and addressed. Indeed, cultural clash may be the most difficult obstacle in recruiting and retaining the top talent needed to exploit new digital technologies.

As banks have discovered, top hires with technology backgrounds expect a fast-paced, innovative environment, or they will take their in-demand talent elsewhere. One way that insurers seek to bridge the cultural divide is to set up separate innovation centers that mimic the digital “hothouse” environments found in technology or other fast-paced industries. Such models can work—and work well—but only when senior leaders are purposeful about attacking the perennial management challenge these approaches bring: transferring any insights generated in the incubator to the core business and integrating them into its day-to-day operations. Executives who expect this to simply happen of its own accord will be sorely disappointed.

In the end, we find that the most powerful approach to keeping digital talent engaged is deceptively simple: make sure that company leaders—starting with the CEO—do their utmost to instill a sense of purpose in the work of the transformation itself. To be sure, perks and pay matter, but when digital leaders feel a genuine commitment to change, they are far more likely to stay the course, despite the inevitable culture clashes and other growing pains. Seeing a meaningful commitment to innovation and responsiveness from company leadership goes a long way to engaging and retaining digital talent.

When in doubt, partner up

In most circumstances, partnerships will also be needed to fill capability gaps. Insurance companies will have to collaborate with a range of technology companies, rather than relying on a small set of providers. In the process, the role of the chief information officer (CIO) will evolve to encompass a greater emphasis on managing a vast ecosystem of diverse vendors and partners as well as in-house innovations and proprietary systems. The shift will be complemented by other organizational changes, such as the creation or promotion of chief data officers or chief digital officers, to help maintain the right balance.

For optimal impact, companies cannot pick and choose among these approaches to talent but rather must incorporate each model. Internal talent development, new hires and strategic partners must all be brought into the mix for the best results. Like all transformational efforts, success is largely reliant on top-level support and enthusiasm. CIOs and other senior executives must work toward an ideal balance of new capabilities and hard-won industry knowledge. Processes and structures must be adjusted.

This will require a mix of new and old change-management skills, with communication a central component. One British insurer established a task force to disseminate the new digital culture and language throughout its global organization. As part of the transformation, an initial group of 30 “ambassadors” was responsible for explaining the changes broadly, and each recruited 10 new ambassadors to bring the message deeper within the organization.


Outside innovators and leaders within the insurance industry are already looking carefully at the risks and opportunities posed by new technologies. Like those already witnessed in the banking industry, disruptions are likely to move quickly through the insurance sector, affecting everything from customer service and products to back-office processes. The key to capturing the value of these new technologies will be digital talent, which is already scarce. Companies that wake up and move now will have a much better chance for succeeding in this new environment.

IoT: Collaboration Is Now Mandatory

The definition of collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce or create something. That seems far too simplistic a way to describe the many types of collaboration already at work in the insurance industry and moreover does not begin to convey the looming and enormous demand for working together that will be required for success in implementing the Insurance Internet of Things (IoT).

Historically, the insurance industry has had to use a wide variety of collaboration tools to succeed as data, information, consumer behavior, products and regulations changed with increasing velocity. These tools included e-mail, texting, instant messaging, content management systems, enterprise social platforms and formal enterprise collaboration software. Insurers have even begun to leverage the use of digital technology and web-based collaboration tools such as Slack to empower employees, enhance user experiences, improve internal communication and strengthen agent and broker relationships.

See also: Insurance and the Internet of Things  

Looking beyond insurance companies themselves, we note the emergence of insurtech accelerators and incubators, both independent and captive. What is becoming apparent is that there is a convergence taking place between these entrepreneurial startups and the traditional carriers, sparking collaboration between the new, small and fast market entrants with the old, big and slow incumbents. Much more of this kind of collaboration will be required for the insurance industry to survive and thrive in tomorrow’s world.

New forms of collaboration are emerging in the insurance ecosystem, some more formal than others. Strategic alliances and partnerships are being announced daily, as are vendor-vendor and carrier-carrier arrangements. Recent examples are plentiful; CoreLogic joined the Guidewire PartnerConnect program to deliver more accurate property risk pricing and residential estimating more efficiently to Guidewire’s property insurance customer base, and Insurity collaborated with Allstate Business Insurance to quickly deliver a new self-service quoting app with convenient data pre-fill.

Co-opetition is a more innovative form of collaboration that has been gaining traction. Former competitors work together to leverage a common, defined opportunity that yields better results for each company than either could have achieved on its own. In the world of insurance IoT, of which the connected car is a major subset, we increasingly see original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) participating in programs with auto insurers with telematics data exchanges and with each other in developing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication standards.

In other areas of insurance IoT, we are seeing a rapidly increasing number of health and property insurtech partnership announcements with insurers delivering innovative new risk-management products and services to consumers (e.g. Vitality-John Hancock, Roost-Liberty Mutual, True Motion-Progressive, etc.).

As the number of connected things expands exponentially, so, too, will the frequency and velocity of data generated by these sensors and devices. The ability to receive, normalize, manage and use all of this digital data will quickly exceed the capacity and expertise of even the largest insurers, so collaboration with a new generation of information management and data science providers will be mandatory.

See also: 12 Issues Inhibiting the Internet of Things  

For insurers and others to successfully navigate this burgeoning ecosystem, access to relevant knowledge and competitive information will also be mandatory, and one effective way to gain these insights is participation in subject-specific industry conferences where expert speakers and industry thought leaders share their experiences and insights. One such event is the Insurance IoT USA Summit taking place in Chicago on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

So critical will be effective collaboration in the future that it is conceivable that formal courses, certifications and degrees in collaboration will be offered by business schools in response to the exploding demand for this set of business skills and expertise driven by IoT proliferation and adoption. In any event, participants in the insurance ecosystem that best master the art of collaboration are sure to be the market leaders of the IoT future.

UBI Has Failed, but Telematics…Wow!

Insurance telematics has been out there for more than 20 years. Many insurers have tried to play with the technology, but few have succeeded in using the data available from connected telematics devices. The potential of this technology was misunderstood, and best practices have remained almost unknown, as it was not common in the insurance sector to look for innovation in other geographies, such as Italy, where progress has been made.

But the insurance sector is being overtaken by a desire to change, and it’s becoming more common to see innovation scouting taking place on an international level. In the last two years, billions of dollars have been invested in insurance startups; innovation labs and accelerators have popped up; and many insurance carriers have created internal innovation units.

On the other hand, I’m starting to hear a new wave of disillusion about the lack of traction of insurtech initiatives, the failure of some of them, or insurtech startups radically changing from their original business models.

In a world that tends toward hyperconnectivity and the infiltration of technology into all aspects of society, I’m firmly convinced all insurance players will be insurtech—meaning they all will be organizations where technology will prevail as the key enabler for the achievement of strategic goals.

See also: Telematics Has 2 Key Lessons for Insurtechs  

Starting from this premise, I’d like to focus on two main points:

  1. The ability of the insurance sector to innovate is incredibly higher than the image commonly perceived.
  2. While not all insurtech innovations will work, a few of them will change the sector.

In support of the first point, consider the trajectory of digital insurance distribution. The German Post Office first experimented with remote insurance sales at the beginning of the 1980s in Berlin and Düsseldorf using Bildschirmtext (data transmitted through the telephone network and the content displayed on a television set). Almost 60% of auto insurance coverage is now sold online in the U.K., and comparison websites are the “normal” way to purchase an auto insurance policy. In few other sectors is one able to see comparable penetration of digital distribution.

In the health insurance sector, the South African insurer Discovery demonstrates incredible innovation, as well. Over the last 20 years, the insurer has introduced new ways to improve policyholders’ lives using connected fitness devices to track healthy behaviors, generate discounts and deliver incentives for activities supporting wellness and even healthy food purchases. Discovery has been able to replicate this “Vitality” model in different geographies and different business lines and to exploit more and more usage of connected devices in its model each month. Vitalitydrive by Discovery rewards drivers for driving knowledge, driving course attendance and behavior on the road with as much as 50% back on fuel purchases at certain stations.

More than 12 months ago, I published my four Ps approach for selecting the most interesting initiatives within the crowded insurtech space. I believe initiatives will have a better chance to win if they can improve:

  • Productivity (generate more sales).
  • Profitability (improve loss or cost ratios).
  • Proximity (improve customer relationships through numerous customer touchpoints).
  • Persistency (account retention, renewal rate increase).

Those insurtech initiatives will make the insurance sector stronger and more able to achieve its strategic goal: to protect the way people live.

One trend able to generate a concrete impact on all four Ps is connected insurance. This is a broad set of solutions based on sensors for collecting data on the state of an insured risk and on telematics for remote transmission and management of the collected data.

In a survey of ACORD members by the North American Connected Insurance Observatory, 93% of respondents stated this trend will be relevant for the North American insurance sector. It’s easy to understand why. We live in a time of connected cars, connected homes and connected health. Today, there is more than one connected device per person in the world, and by some estimates the figure will reach seven devices per person by 2020. (Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, “The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of The Internet Is Changing Everything,” April 2011, estimates seven per person; AIG/CEA, 2015, estimates five per person.) Others put the number at 50 devices for a family of four by 2022, up from 10 in 2014. The insurance sector cannot stop this trend; it can only figure out how to deal with it.

Moving to the concrete insurance usage of connected devices, the common perception of UBI is not positive at all. This is the current mood after years of exploring the usage of dongles within customer acquisition use cases, where the customer installs a piece of hardware in the car for a few months and the insurer proposes a discount based on the analysis of trips. This partially (only for a few months) connected car approach is based on the usage of data to identify good drivers, with the aim of keeping them as clients through a competitive price offer. In 2015, around 3.3 million cars in the U.S. sent in data to an insurance company in some way, representing less than 1.5% of the market.

In contrast, another market used telematics in a completely different way—and it succeeded. Almost 20% of auto insurance policies sold and renewed in the last quarter of 2016 in Italy had a telematics device provided by an insurer based on the IVASS data. The European Connected Insurance Observatory—the European chapter of the insurance think tank I created, consisting of more than 30 European insurers, reinsurers and tech players with an active presence in the discussion from their Italian branches—estimated that 6.3 million Italian customers had a telematics policy at the end of 2016.

Some insurers in this market were able to use the telematics data to create value and share it with customers. The most successful product with the largest traction is based on three elements:

  • A hardware device provided by the insurer with auto liability coverage, self-installed by the customer on the battery under the car’s hood.
  • A 20% upfront flat discount on annual auto liability premium.
  • A suite of services that goes beyond support in the case of a crash to many other different use cases—stolen vehicle recovery, car finder, weather alerts—with a service fee around €50 charged to the customer.

This approach is not introducing any usage-based insurance elements but is an approach clearly able to satisfy the most relevant needs of a customer:

  • Saving money on a compulsory product. Research shows that pricing is relevant in customer choice.
  • Receiving support and convenience at the moment of truth—the claims moment. Insurers are providing a better customer experience after a crash using the telematics data. Just think of how much information can be gathered directly from telematics data without having to question the client.
  • Receiving services other than insurance. That’s something roughly 60% of insurance customers look forward to and value, according to Bain’s research on net promoter scores published last year.

Let’s analyze this approach from an economic perspective:

  • The fee to the customer is close to the annual technology cost for the hardware and services. The €50 mentioned above represents more than 5% of the insurance premium for the risky clients paying an annual premium higher than €1,000. This cluster represents less than 5% of the Italian telematics market. The fee is more than 10% of the premium for the customers paying less than €400. This cluster represents more than 40% of the Italian telematics market.
  • The product is a constant, daily presence in the car, with the driver, with no possibility of turning it off. While the product ensures support in case of a crash, it is also a tremendous deterrent for anyone tempted to make a fraudulent claim, as well as for drivers engaging in risky behavior otherwise hidden from the insurer.
  • The telematics portfolio has shown on average 20% lower claims frequency on a risk-adjusted basis than the non-telematics portfolio, based on the analysis done by the Italian Association of Insurers.
  • Insurer best practices have achieved additional savings on the average cost of claims by introducing a claims management approach as soon as a crash happens and by using the objective reconstruction of the crash dynamic to support the claim handler’s decisions.
  • A suite of telematics services is delivered to the customer, along with a 25% upfront discount on the auto liability premium.

So, best practices allowed carriers to maximize return on investment in telematics technology by using the same data coming from the black box to activate three different value creation levers: value-added services paid for by the customer, risk selection and loss control. The value created was shared with the customer through the upfront discount. The successful players obtained a telematics penetration larger than 20% and experienced continuous growth of their telematics portfolios.

See also: Telematics: Moving Out of the Dark Ages?  

These insurers were able to orchestrate an ecosystem of partners to deliver a “customer-centric” auto insurance value proposition, satisfying the three main needs of customers—or at least those of “good” customers. Compared with many approaches currently being experimented with in different business lines around the world, where the insurance value proposition is simply enlarged by adding some services, this insurtech approach is also leveraging the insurers’ unique competitive advantage—the insurance technical P&L—to create a virtuous value-sharing mechanism based on the telematics data.

The story of the Italian auto telematics market shows how insurtech adoption will make the insurance sector stronger and better able to achieve its strategic goals: to protect the ways in which people live and organizations work

This article originally appeared on Carrier Management.