At the beginning of May, I had the pleasure of attending Insurance Networking News‘ first annual DigIn conference. This two-day conference was dedicated to the digital future of insurance. The agenda held titles like “Putting Data into Practice”, “User Centric Innovation in Insurance”, and “The Drones are Here.” It promised to be two days of hearing about exciting innovation and technology in insurance. Prior to the event, I was seeing articles about InsurTech in my inbox almost daily, my colleagues and I, at the CPCU Society Leadership Summit, had talked about some of the new technologies we had recently seen, and I thought about some conversations I’d had with entrepreneurs looking to innovate in this space. I had even gone through MetroMile’s quote process on my own! After leaving the event, I came away with these three thoughts:
1. It is Still about Relationships!
As I listened to leaders in the industry and entrepreneurs sharing the steps they were taking or the products they were creating, I reflected on the fact that any technology that was implemented needed to work for multiple types of users. We’ve seen technologies that make an Agent’s job of collecting information and learning about products much easier, or a claims system that helps Adjusters, or a Customer Facing Website that allows a customer to pay a bill easily, but often these systems don’t talk to each other. Many presenters at the conference talked about needing to create solutions that were useful to everyone who “touches” a policy. This is important because at the end of the day, these systems improve our relationships. If an agent inputs information, and the customer then needs to interact with the company through an adjuster or an after hours service representative, the customer is now expecting the company to have that same information. It is damaging to the relationship if this level of service is not the norm when it is the norm in other industries.
2. Our Products are Competing for a Consumer’s Dollars:
One of the speakers that we heard was from Tesla. This was relevant not just because of Autonomous Cars, but also as an example of how innovation is happening so much more quickly at tech companies, like Uber, etc. During a presentation by one of Progressive’s Big Data Leaders, a comment was made that Consumers compare experiences between all companies. That is to say, if I use a website or call someone to get a quote, I compare that experience to the experience I had in booking plane tickets or in buying groceries. While most people must buy insurance, they are not thinking to themselves “I have to buy insurance, so if I have a bad customer experience, it doesn’t matter.” They are more likely thinking something along the lines of “I have to buy insurance. I wish it was as simple as Amazon.com, but it’s not, so I need to set aside a couple hours to deal with this once per year, and I’m going to make sure I get the cheapest deal available.” That thinking puts us at risk if Amazon or other customer centric tech leaders jump into the insurance distribution game! To combat this, insurance companies should think about how they can add value to their customer’s lives before a claim. Some really cool examples were shared such as companies that built apps to help their life insurance consumers get better rates or improve communication about safe driving between parents and teens. Because we sell an intangible product, the overall experience is paramount.
3. There are Some Companies Doing REALLY Cool Things!
Finally, I met representatives from companies like DropIn, DataCubes, and RiskGenius. These are companies that are building platforms and software to solve pain points for insurance professionals. There are many more #InsureTech startups popping up all the time, finding one single problem and striving to build the best solution for that specific issue. These are just a few examples, but one thing is for sure, the Silicon Valley startups are hungry for our business! They see us as outdated, bloated and old fashioned and are unleashing a lot of innovation our way.* There was a time when most insurance companies were able to live on homegrown solutions, but we have to understand that these types of cutting edge technology, customer centric solutions will be the wave of the future. The IT talent from outside the industry or from those who’ve left their Carrier positions will begin to serve niches that we never even imagined! It will be the responsibility of the Carriers to ensure that they choose pieces from these entrepreneurs that “talk to each other” to continue to protect the relationships I mentioned in my first point.
*the part highlighted in green was added by Tony and he takes full responsibility for it, Carly might freak out when she sees it*
I’ve been working in the industry since 2004. Compared to many of my colleagues, this is a short time, but the amount of change I’ve seen since I started is tremendous. For colleagues who are new to the industry, it can seem like insurers move at a snail’s pace and like our technology is eons behind everyone else’s, but we are aware of the gaps, and we are taking the necessary steps to catch up. For those in the industry, it is an exciting time to help shape the direction and initiatives of the companies we represent. For those outside of the industry, especially those with IT knowledge and skills, there are places that are interested in the ideas you might have to improve our industry. We are ripe for improvements, and you could be the one who comes up with the “Uber” of Insurance!
About Carly Burnham
Carly Burnham began her insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. She got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how she fell in love with the industry. She saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. When Carly moved to Des Moines in 2010, she decided to commit to the industry, and she completed her CPCU in one year finishing it in 2012 and attending commencement in New Orleans. She completed her MBA at Iowa State University in 2014. During this time, she and Tony founded a Gen Y Associate Resource Group at Nationwide in Des Moines. After they had both left Nationwide, Tony recruited Carly to co-author and manage InsNerds.com. She has the difficult task of keeping his constant flow of crazy ideas focused and helping to flesh them out into useful articles. Carly enjoys sharing knowledge and ideas about the future of the industry and finds the website a good outlet for this passion. Carly is involved in the the CPCU Society Underwriting Interest Group. She also writes "Next Wave" a monthly column in the "Perspectives" section of Best's Review.
Carly was at DigIn 2016. Tony was on advisory board but couldn't make the trip. Carly learned: 1. It's still about relationships. 2. We are competing for consumer's dollars. 3. Cool stuff coming from companies like like DropIn (Tony is on the advisory board too), DataCubes, and RiskGenius.