The Insurtech world has grown tremendously over the last few years, enriched with new ideas from startups rising to the surface every day. Insurance carriers continue to keep their eyes peeled, looking for the next big investment opportunity to scoop up from the ground floor.
Our “Shark Tank” culture has led entrepreneurs into the insurance world with their problem-solving ideas. Insurtech influencer and Daily FinTech columnist Patrick Kelahan points out often in his byline that the insurance industry is as a huge opportunity with regard to dollars, coupled with the thought of how much it is disliked as a concept ready to be fixed, and ripe for improvement. Of course, the average person needs “insurance,” but it is not specifically one of their “wants.” Few of those who hit the big PowerBall proclaim that the first thing they will do with the money is buy a massive insurance policy (although perhaps they should). Insurance is not overly exciting, at least not yet (although Insurance Nerds will change that). But there is no doubting the potential dollars and opportunity in this area.
We saw Lemonade become the popular model of InsurTech looking to establish a more user-friendly approach to the claims process. But if you have not come up with the next Lemonade idea yet and many of the new ones are taken, where do you go to boost your creative thinking?
I’ve always been an advocate of the book entitled, “A Whack on the Side of the Head.” It’s a go-to resource when in need of fresh ideas. While additional creativity can help us in so many areas, I recently thought of Chapter 7 in this book titled “Don’t Be Foolish” when I was offered a chance to meet with a large international insurance carrier to discuss and brainstorm new ideas in the InsurTech world.
In May, I accepted an invite to the headquarters of IF Insurance in Stockholm, Sweden. IF is the leading P&C carrier in the Nordic Region with just under 4 million customers in the Nordic and Baltic countries. They were organizing an InsurTech speed-dating event and I was offered a meeting with their highest-level executives to discuss my ideas. I had been following the carrier for months on LinkedIn, noticing how involved they were with the customer service aspect of their business (which piqued my interest).
While taking a tour of their headquarters in Sweden and meeting with their press team, I began to wonder had they read “A Whack on the Side of the Head” as well? Did they skip to Chapter 7 and specifically target the idea of “Consulting a Fool” to gather new ideas?
The background of “Consulting a Fool” dates back to the Middle Ages where the King might call on the court jester to offer a new opinion on a proposal or plan. This would furnish them with new perspectives to break out of the regular thought patterns that were constantly reinforced by the yes-men that surrounded them. The role was an important one and as the fool opened up the thinking of his/her audience.
Now I don’t consider myself a fool by any means, but I was certainly a guest very different from the rest of the European-based participants. I was an American who had worked on the ground floor handling claims and being involved first-hand with customer service of which I was most interested in. I had no app or shiny gadget of which to invest. I was simply there to connect, discuss various trends and challenges prevalent in the brave new world of insurance. Was the precious time of half a dozen of their c-suite staff worth it to as they listened to someone like myself? Who’s to say? But I was truly impressed at their level of commitment and willingness to spend 30 minutes of their valuable time to find out what (if any) salient points my unique experience may provide.
Would I ever have been granted the time in front of a CEO at a large insurance carrier in the US? I would think the chance would be minute. I applaud companies such as IF for not only their dedication to customer service but their innovative approach to new ideas and sustainability. They are not complacent with standing pat and willing to invest the time of their top colleagues to such events as I was a part of that day.
While the Insurtech world continues to evolve I would hope that the focus remain on the voice of the customer. Mr. Kelahan’s mantra has been to innovate from the customer backwards. The real gold comes from the customer who tells us he is unable to download an app and still wants a phone number to call someone to better explain the claims process. After all, he has been paying his premium for 30 years and times have changed from when his local agent around the corner could walk him through the process. This is where the InsurTech world’s focused on the ease of use for customers should begin their, by gaining feedback straight from the horse’s mouth.
Otherwise if that information is unattainable, there may be a court jester with a unique background available to inspire your creativity. Just be sure to set aside the time to listen so you can truly open up your thinking.