January 16, 2020
Time to ‘Flip the Bird’ on Insurtech
For too long, the insurance industry has been like the sandhill crane, always looking down for food. It's time to emulate a different bird.
“Once you have tasted the taste of sky, you will forever look up.”
— Leonardo da Vinci
Is it time to recast our vision for where Insurtech 2.0 should be headed?
People say that the worst thing you can do is start off with an apology. I still must begin with one; not for the headline on this article, but for living in central Florida. While most of the country has been bombarded with freezing cold, we’re living with the windows open, wearing shorts and playing golf. My apologies.
The apology is important because it is involved in how I came to ask the question as to whether it’s time to “flip the bird” on insurtech.
As we were working on our flower garden, five Florida sandhill cranes walked by. These magnificent birds are almost four feet tall and have a six-foot wingspan. They have a most graceful gait as they strut by, bobbing their heads to and fro.
Sandhill cranes are always looking for food. They do not have a meal plan with the Golden Corral or any other buffet restaurant. Because they eat insects, seeds and other small pieces of anything edible, being so tall means they are always looking down at the ground right in front of them. Sandhill cranes plod slowly, heads down as they wander back and forth without any discernible path or plan.
As these five walked by, they passed right beside our cherry tomato plants. The plants were full of ripe fruit and located at the same height as their eyes, but the cranes walked by without giving them a second notice. With their focus down on the ground in front of them, they had no idea that luscious, delicious and nutritious cherry tomatoes were there for the taking. All they had to do was look up. But with their habitual downward gaze, they were oblivious to what was right there in front of them.
See also: Insurtech 2020: Trends That Offer Growth
As I watched the sandhill cranes miss their golden opportunity, I wondered if the same might be said about insurance organizations and their use of technology. Are they forever missing insurtech opportunities for greater customer engagement/protection, enhancing distribution channel effectiveness, eliminating unneeded tasks/data and driving down costs? Are there significant openings to leverage technology all around the insurance industry that we are missing because we are only looking down right in front of us?
I believe that the answer is a resounding “yes”—it’s time for insurance organizations to stop emulating sandhill cranes. Insurance organizations need to lift up their heads and stop looking just at their feet.
There are many reasons that insurance organizations only gaze downward:
- We’ve been doing things this way for as long as we can remember.
- Once upon a time, one of our executives designed the way we’re doing things, and we don’t want to risk his/her wrath if we question one of the “children.”
- Even though revenue streams are in retreat, doing things the same way is predictable.
- Our core system only does things one way, and the road to replacing it is very long and expensive with no guarantees.
- We’re too busy to try anything different.
It’s time to “flip the bird” from a sandhill crane and become more like a hawk. Hawks are always looking for movement and change. Spotting an opportunity from above, they swoop down for a quick strike and make off with the reward while others are still assigning a committee and study the opportunity.
Hawks are discerning when they strike—not grabbing at anything or everything; they ignore that which will not help. They selectively pick only that which will benefit them and their family. And when they grab onto something, they never let go.
Teddy Roosevelt said, “Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.” Because I don’t want to incur the wrath of TR, let me propose some solutions to consider:
If any organization, or anyone, says they totally understand insurtech and have a perfect solution, grab your wallet, run and don’t walk to the nearest exit.
Don’t wait for the perfect solution but try something now. Remember that the enemy of the good is the perfect.
Look to your front-line employees for ideas and suggestions. After all, they bear the brunt of the self-inflicted pain associated with the current approach.
Because you will not have all needed information before you start, be willing to adjust and learn as you try.
See also: Is Insurtech a Game Changer? It Sure Is
Some define insurtech as very complex and all-consuming with extremely expensive leaps. But why can’t we look at it more as a continuing evolution, small changes over time, that will eventually add up to significantly alter the way we sell and service insurance.
So why don’t you “flip the bird” on insurtech, keep your head up, and get into the game!
This article first appeared in the 2019 edition of “Last Agent Standing,” published by www.paradisopresents.com.