Insurance innovation is definitely alive and kicking, and gaining traction in the insurance industry, as represented by the wide array of innovation award submissions for the 2020 Innovation in Insurance Awards sponsored by Efma and Accenture. Last year, I was honored to be selected as a judge for the awards and in early May I reviewed the large number of submissions and voted. The winners were just announced yesterday in a virtual award ceremony. Congrats to all for carrying the commitment to innovation for our industry!
Innovation is much more than a project. It is a foundational strategy and organizational commitment to deliver relentless innovation, something we at Majesco have been committed to for years. Why? Rapidly changing customer demographics and expectations are driving the imperative of digital transformation. Add to this, the pressures of emerging new channels and competitors. The insurance industry must apply innovation to a strategic focus on growth, rapid development of new products and operational change to drive efficiencies and effectiveness. The new world of insurance and the exciting advancements in technology are together intensifying the impetus for change.
Additionally, these emerging technologies provide opportunities for innovation. Internet of things, drones, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and machine learning, new data sources, mobile, digital experience platforms, and intelligent digital ecosystems are driving new products, services and innovations that are rapidly shifting us to a digital world. We see a two-speed strategy around innovation – speed of operation and speed of innovation. Speed of operation focuses on optimizing the existing business model while speed of innovation looks at new business models that will disrupt the business. This two-speed strategy aligns well to AM Best’s innovation ratings.
Innovation that Stands Out
So how are insurers innovating? In the submissions this year, there clearly are leaders who are creating a burning platform for change and are forward thinking. They understand the intersection of customer, technology and market boundary shifts by blazing new trails to the future. These leaders distinguish themselves with a stronger focus on initiatives instrumental to creating a new business model, including channel expansion, entering new markets, adding value-added services and developing new products.
Here are six interesting trends and focus areas that stood out to me based on this year’s submissions:
Personalized digital platforms
Undertaking digital transformation begins with customer-centricity via a digital platform that provides an experience with capabilities and value-added services — delivering the great experience customers increasingly expect. While there were a number of portal or mobile app submissions that were niche focused for things like bill payment, they did not rise to the engagement level of personalized digital solutions that offered much more. A couple of submissions really stood out. Another submission which offered services and rewards to their insureds with life insurance, monitored customer behaviors to provide personalized recommendations and rewards that would influence healthy behavior change. The result was a fully-executed digital behavior change platform.
Home and Wearable IOT Ideas Expand
Technologies including IoT and wearables have rapidly matured from emerging technologies over the past five years, highlighted in a number of submissions. As I discussed in my blog, Insurance at the Intersections of Protection and Prevention last year, the real opportunity for these technologies was to create a bridge from P&C and Home Security into Home Health and Wellness. As health awareness technologies arise, there is place for P&C insurers (using IoT devices to protect the home) to add value to those who choose to age-in-place – connected home and health all in one. With more than 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring each day, this is a huge market opportunity. One submission example was the use of home IoT to support the elderly staying at home and being safe. They used smart technology to safeguard their clients and their home while providing access to a range of services including home repairs and maintenance, food delivery, medication reminders, and more. The concept is a creative utilization of traditional P&C and life & health with regard to protection and services. It epitomizes the focus on a customer-first approach, rather than a product approach. In today’s COVID-19 environment and with the increasing cost of nursing home care, this option provides a unique value to their customers.
The growth in data and its innovative use will be a key factor in defining future successful insurers. Ecosystems are the accelerator of growth. Together they provide a unique opportunity to innovate the insurance business. One submission, in particular, followed through on this knowledge. They built a data ecosystem with data partners across a wide array of industries that allowed them to visualize and use the data for underwriting and helping clients minimize risks, increasing premium. The opportunities to build on this concept are enormous.
Travel Insurance Expands to Customer Experience
Buying travel insurance via a travel app is now just the basics. It is now all about a customer experience. One of the submitting teams took this policy transaction and changed it to a broader customer experience, driving engagement, value and loyalty. Travelers receive recommendations on where to go, safety and security alerts (using geo-location from the mobile phone) and other valuable services that will improve the experience while reducing risk. It is a great example of thinking beyond the traditional “risk policy” to a broader customer relationship.
A number of years ago, the concept of a single insurance policy that would adapt as you went through life was an idea discussed within a company I worked for at the time. But the idea could not be done due to the old mainframe, analog systems prevalent back then. Fast forward and the idea has morphed and emerged in one of the submissions. This particular entry looked at a single policy that would meet the needs of the family, including facets of home, accident, health and pet protection – all wrapped into a digital service. Services such as connected home, pet, health and security were delivered via an app, helping to manage common, high-level family needs over the lifetime of the policy. This concept is radically different – approaching the need from the customer point of view, not from our long-held traditional insurance point of view.
The last area that stood out is near and dear to my heart – agriculture. As an “Iowa farm girl,” I see the rapidly changing agriculture landscape and the use of technology to aid farmers from planting through harvest – well beyond just for potential risk and claims. There were three interesting submissions around agriculture that stood out to me. The first was a digital experience for farmers in India that focused on providing crop insurance, but also included value added services such as cultivation recommendations that would help increase crop yields. The second was insurance that also provided intelligent traceability of agriculture products to minimize potential risks – all about secure sourcing and food safety. And finally, the last one was digital, parametric insurance for coffee growers. All of these were unique and interesting but also highlighted how a centuries old agriculture industry is ripe for new products and services to help optimize it while also protecting it.
Innovation is Defining the Future of Insurance
It was so great to be a judge this year and to see the vast array of submissions. Innovation is definitely alive and kicking!
Each of these companies – and others I did not mention – are redefining and reimagining the future of insurance with the customer at the forefront. They are taking control of their future before someone else does. And they are doing it with a focus on both operational and strategic innovation, fitting within A.M. Best’s innovation criteria.
The future of insurance will require us to not only become innovation experts but also to become expert managers of the unexpected. These companies and the winners are well along the path to becoming the innovation experts that will reshape the future of insurance. Congratulations to all! I can’t wait to see next year’s innovative ideas come to life!