Karlyn Carnahan

About Karlyn Carnahan

Karlyn Carnahan is a Director in Celent’s insurance practice focused on issues related to systems implementation and assuring post implementation value. Karlyn is the lead analyst for questions related to underwriting, distribution management, claims and core systems. She is a widely recognized expert on these topics who has written market-leading reports and presented at numerous conferences. Her consulting work for insurance carriers includes more than 4 dozen system selection projects as well as distribution channel analysis, process analysis, organizational assessments and a wide variety of other strategic projects. For vendors, her consulting typically focuses on product and market analysis. She joined Celent with an extensive career in the insurance industry and holds an MBA from Stanford Business School and a Certified Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation. She can be reached directly at kcarnahan@celent.com.

Distribution Management – New Tools for Strategic Growth

Distribution Management – New  Tools for Strategic Growth

Growth and retention continue to be the top business goals affecting IT investments. Many insurers are focusing on improving their distribution practices as a key technique for driving growth.  Designing, developing, maintaining and managing productive channel relationships can create a sustainable competitive advantage.

Almost every insurer we talk to is focusing on how to grow their book of business.  Some are using underwriting strategies, some are focusing on improving customer service, and others are looking at acquisition.  Virtually every insurer we talk to is also focusing on distribution management.  They’re looking at expanding channels, adding distributors, moving into new territories and working to expand their existing channel in order to improve customer acquisition and retention. 

These multiple channels are effective at targeting different aspects of the market, but add complexity when it comes to channel management. Additionally, the explosion of InsureTech startups carries with it the potential for channel disruption. However, a wide variety of issues creates difficulties for insurers when it comes to effectively managing the distribution channel.

As an insurer begins to focus on managing their distributors more strategically, many put resources towards managing their distributors more effectively in order to extract more revenue from them. Some insurers are focused on managing the compliance aspects of distribution management – assuring the distributors have the right licenses and that state appointments are made in a timely manner.  Others are focusing on using compensation tools and techniques to more effectively stimulate production. Still others are placing their priority on servicing high priority distribution channels and improving service to distributors.  They are utilizing increasingly complex segmentation schemes and tailored programs for preferred producers as a way to retain and grow business.

But in doing so, they often run into a common set of issues.   Standard processes and automation were designed for an environment that has long since passed, one that was much more stable and predictable. In a typical insurance environment today, multiple departments perform separate tasks in the cycle making coordination of activities and integration of information difficult. This is especially problematic since producer management involves large numbers of distributors, different types of distributors, a substantial volume of transactions and data from multiple sources. As insurers expand the number and types of distributors they work with, hierarchies become more complex to manage. This is compounded by multiple jurisdictions, multiple policy admin systems, and limited reporting and analytic tools.

These conditions result in multiple issues including poor service, a lack of insight into producer performance, unreliable data, and high support costs. The inability to link information means that distributors are managed on transactions instead of strategically. Compliance issues continue to plague insurers who find it difficult to monitor licenses and process appointments in a timely manner.

Distribution management systems provide tools and technologies to help insurers with the administrative aspects of distribution management. They are most typically used by insurers with a mixed distribution channel, multiple policy admin systems, multiple jurisdictions, complex compensation programs, or some combination of these factors.  These systems encompass a wide variety of administrative functions that are focused on operational issues such as registering and licensing producers, configuring compensation plans, administering payment and reconciliation, and tracking performance.  They provide tools and technologies to help insurers with the administrative aspects of distribution management.  They are most typically used by insurers with a mixed distribution channel, multiple policy admin systems, multiple jurisdictions, complex compensation programs, or some combination of these factors.

I’ve just published a new report Distribution Management System Vendors: North American Insurance 2017.   It describes what these solutions do and profiles 16 distribution management solutions that are relevant for property casualty and/or life and annuities.  There’s another report that covers all the global vendors as well.  Check it out – or send me a note if you’d like to talk about the report.  And keep your eyes on this space for an upcoming report – Reinventing Distribution – which will give tons of examples of cool stuff that insurers are doing to manage, enable, and shift their distribution channels. 

The new customer experience – or how so many carriers are getting journey mapping wrong

The new customer experience – or how so many carriers are getting journey mapping wrong

Journey mapping, the process of defining the customer experience, is an activity that has been gaining in popularity over the last two years.  Carriers are using this technique to document the existing customer experience in order to identify areas to improve.  The underlying assumption is that a superior customer experience will drive retention and perhaps improve new business.  Which makes sense.  After all, it’s pretty evident that customers are demanding a different relationship model from their insurers.  They are looking for more transparency and simplicity. They are increasingly self-directed and financially literate.  And they are demanding increasing participation. 

Their expectations are increasingly driven by experience in non-insurance categories.   I can see where my uber car is real-time – why can’t I tell if my claim check has been issued.   I can custom assemble a new pc online with instant knowledge of all the options available and the price associated with them – why can’t I tell what additional insurance options are available and what they cost.   I can get recommendations from Amazon on what I might like and what others like me are purchasing – why can’t I get  good recommendation from a carrier to help me compile the best package of coverages, terms and conditions to suit my profile. 

While efforts have been made to drive effectiveness for insurance processes from an internal perspective, there are still many areas where improvements are possible from a customer perspective. So carriers are working to define an extraordinary experience for customers. They’re defining personas, mapping the new business acquisition process, the billing process, claims, complaint handling, customer inquiries, and all the major processes that occur when customers interact with carriers. 

But that’s the problem. Carriers are focusing on optimizing all those places where the customer and the carrier interact.  Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with this.  Carriers should make sure that interactions are optimized.  Focusing on automating decisions, automating correspondence, and using workflow to assure tasks are completed in a timely manner can have a dramatic effect on delivering a consistently good experience.  Omni channel, real time, digitization – all those trendy words – are very relevant here. But it’s not enough.

If you really want to build loyalty, think about the customer experience when they aren’t interacting with you. Let me give you an example. 

Allstate has a target market of motorcycle riders, and has a mobile app for them called GoodRide.  The app is available for both Allstate customers and non Allstate customers.  It helps riders keep track of all repairs and maintenance.  They can plan a ride –  checking weather, locate gas, and even find others to ride with as it is integrated to social media. They can track their ride by adding notes, adding photos and tracking miles ridden. There’s even a gamification element that awards badges.   And by the way, they can report a claim, check proof of insurance and pay their bill.  So this application really looks at what motorcycle riders are looking to do outside of the insurance interaction and embeds the insurance interactions within the full context of the customer’s life and where insurance itself plays a role rather than simply looking at the interactions discreetly.

In the commercial lines world, a similar application could be industry based and provide tailored risk management materials, an “Ask an Expert” corner where customers can check in with risk management consultants,   create a Facebook-like collaboration mechanism for customers to talk to each other,  arrange discounts on products relevant to the industry.  and of course, access their policy online, pay a bill, pull a loss run or handle other interactions. 

Expanding the customer experience beyond the pure insurance interactions makes a carrier more relevant to a customer by engaging in their everyday lives and looking for ways of adding value within context.  And it creates a way to have an ongoing conversation with a customer – building personal loyalty. 

So – is customer journey mapping a good idea?  Of course.  Are carriers thinking big enough? That is a different question.

What I will say, is exactly what I told a carrier earlier today –  The secret to organic growth?  Deliver a customer experience that your competitors can’t match. 

The Best Advice is Personal

The Best Advice is Personal

Much discussion has happened in the industry portending the inevitable elimination of the insurance agent as consumers move to purchasing insurance direct and online. Disruption of the agency model seems to be a foregone conclusion judging by the amount of recent investment in InsureTech startups focused on transforming the distribution model. The increase in insurers offering commercial insurance direct may be seen as an inflection point not just in terms of commercial lines sold direct, but in terms of a shift in momentum from the agent to technology, across lines of business. It’s not surprising that both insurers and consumers are interested in a shift in channels. It promises to be less expensive for an insurer to go direct, and consumers are clearly showing a shift in preferences for accessing coverage

However, consumers use agents for very good reasons. Prior to direct purchase on the internet, consumers needed agents to access different markets. There was no mechanism for a consumer to purchase directly from an insurer. With the advent of digital agents, aggregators, and direct-to-consumer insurance insurers, this reason is less important than it used to be. However, replacing an agent isn’t as simple as simply automating access to markets.

One of the primary points of value provided by an agent is personalized advice. Although access to markets is more readily available, consumers still need advice and guidance. Insurance is a complicated product. Understanding which coverages they should purchase, what limits and deductibles are appropriate, and whether additional terms or endorsements are relevant is one of the key points of value that an agent offers.

Consumers are more financially literate than ever before given all the information available on the internet, yet still want transparency in the choices available, and value guidance and advice as to what options are appropriate and why they are appropriate. 58% of consumers surveyed say that when choosing a financial services provider, they are looking for a personalized offer, tailored to the individual firm or person.

Until an insurer can accurately and appropriately provide advice it is unlikely we’ll see a wholesale shift of the channel. Some insurers focus on giving consumers choices by providing price comparisons with other insurers. Others have tried to provide choice by labeling side by side choices with titles such as “less coverage”, “standard coverage”, and “more coverage”. But these choices don't usually have any relationship to the actual risk profile of the prospect and don’t offer any suggestion as to why one option is better than another. Consequently, consumers aren’t confident enough to make a decision.

Want to know how to improve online conversion? Provide actual advice to a prospect with an explanation as to why a particular limit, deductible or coverage is relevant. Anecdotal conversations with companies who have implemented a feature like this indicate potential conversion improvements of 20-30% or more.

Automated advice comes in a variety of permutations that vary depending on how much automation is utilized and how much personalization is provided. Insurers can assess their capabilities and determine how to proceed down the path. Even small amounts of advice seem to have an impact on conversion.

Automated advice can range from very simple parameter driven advice, to incredibly sophisticated advice-for-one backed up with sophisticated analytics. It can be delivered via simple online suggestions, or through a guided journey using a chat bot. Each successive generation of advice engine seems to bring increasing benefits when it comes to conversion.

Yet automated advice also carries potentially significant risks. The customer is relying on the technology – including the assumptions and methodologies that underlie it. For example – did the system ask the right questions; did the prospect understand the questions adequately to answer accurately; did the algorithms act as intended, were the underlying business rules appropriate?

Using third party data can mitigate some of these risks, but raises other issues including the accuracy of that data. On the one hand, consumers are more financially literate, are looking for more transparency and control, and expect insurers to utilize technology in an online environment. However, insurers also have to be careful not to be creepy when using third party data.

Insurers can overcome creepiness by not overreaching, and by clearly communicating how they arrived at their conclusions. In this transparent world, the path to the recommendation becomes nearly as important as the outcome.

Interested in learning more about automated advice engines? Check out my newest report “The Best Advice is Personal: Robo-Advisors v. Agents”.  

Changing the Landscape of Customer Experience with Advanced Analytics

Changing the Landscape of Customer Experience with Advanced Analytics

That timeless principle – “Know Your Customer” – has never been more relevant than today. Customer expectations are escalating rapidly. They want transparency in products and pricing; personalization of options and choices; and control throughout their interactions.

For an insurance company, the path to success is to offer those products, choices, and interactions that are relevant to an individual at the time that they are needed. These offerings extend well beyond product needs and pricing options. Customers expect that easy, relevant experiences and interactions will be offered across multiple channels. After all, they get tailored recommendations from Amazon and Netflix – why not from their insurance company?

Carriers have significant amounts of data necessary to know the customer deeply. It’s there in the public data showing the purchase of a new house or a marriage. It’s there on Facebook and LinkedIn as customers clearly talk about their life changes and new jobs.


One of the newest trends is dynamic segmentation. Carriers are pulling in massive amounts of data from multiple sources creating finely grained segments and then using focused models to dynamically segment customers based on changing behaviors.

This goes well beyond conventional predictive analytics. The new dimension to this is the dynamic nature of segmentation. A traditional segmentation model uses demographics to segment a customer into a broad tier and leaves them there. But with cognitive computing and machine learning an institution can create finely grained segments and can rapidly change that segmentation as customer behaviors change.

To pull off this level of intervention at scale, a carrier needs technology that works simply and easily, pulling in data from a wide variety of sources – both structured and unstructured.

The technology needs to be able to handle the scale of real-time analysis of that data and run the data through predictive and dynamic models. Models need to continuously learn and more accurately predict behaviors using cognitive computing.

Doing this well allows an carrier to humanize a digital interaction and in a live channel, to augment the human so they can scale, allowing the human to focus on what they do best – build relationships with customers and exercise judgment around the relationship.

Sophisticated carriers are using advanced analytics and machine learning as a powerful tool to find unexpected opportunities to improve sales, marketing and redefine the customer experience. These powerful tools are allowing carriers to go well beyond simple number crunching and reporting and improve their ability to listen and anticipate the needs of customers.

Guidewire Acquisition of FirstBest – A Wakeup Call for Core Suite Vendors?

Guidewire Acquisition of FirstBest – A Wakeup Call for Core Suite Vendors?

The Guidewire acquisition of First Best should come as a wakeup call to other suite vendors in the marketplace.   Not to be a doomsayer, but the reality is the market for core system replacements is shrinking.  Many carriers are in the middle of a replacement or have already completed their replacement.  There are fewer and fewer deals to be had and more and more vendors in the marketplace chasing those deals.  

Let’s look at the numbers.   Donald Light’s recent PAS Deal Trends report shows that we’ve seen an average of around 85 deals a year over the last two years.  But there are more than 60 suite vendors out there.  Of those available deals, a very few key vendors – including Guidewire – will likely get half or more of them.   That leaves around 40 deals for the remaining 60’ish vendors.  That’s less than one each.  And that’s IF we assume the market will stay steady at 80-85 deals a year. This basic math shows that many core suite vendors will not get a single deal in 2017.  

So how can vendors satisfy their shareholders?  How can they generate growth and remain viable players?  The truth is some of them won’t.  But smart vendors are thinking about other options for growth.  And they have a few paths they can take. 

  • Sell things other than suites.  This is the tactic that Guidewire is showing with their recent announcement of the FirstBest acquisition and is also illustrated by their prior acquisitions of Millbrook and Eagle Eye.  Duck Creek is doing the same as shown by their acquisition of Agencyport.  Providing other core applications that carriers need allows a vendor to continue to grow their existing relationships, and allows them to create new relationships with carriers – even if the carrier doesn’t need a new core system.  Some vendors will purchase these additional applications; others will build them.
  • Sell to a different market – Insurity’s acquisition of Tropics lets them go down market to work with small WC carriers.  Their acquisition of Oceanwide gives them the ability to handle small specialty, or Greenfield projects.  While there are still plenty of deals to be done in the under $100M carrier market, most vendors can’t play in this space. Their price points won’t work for small carriers, and their implementation process won’t work. It’s too expensive and takes too many carrier resources.  The implementation process has to be drastically  different for a carrier with only 6 people in the IT department than it is for a larger carrier.   This strategy of going down market only works if a vendor can appropriately sell and deliver their solution to a small carrier while still making margin – and many vendors just can’t do that. 
  • Enter a different territory – Vue announced today they’ve entered Asia with Aviva; Sapiens entered the US by purchasing MaxProcessing.  And we see other vendors including Guidewire, EIS, and Duck Creek moving outside the US.
  • Sell services – many vendors provide cloud offerings – which provides a steadier stream of income.   Vendors such as CSC or The Innovation Group (prior to the split) had/have a large proportion of revenue coming from services.  Vendors like ISCS provide additional BPO services such as mail services and imaging.   

Any of these strategies are viable – but I predict we’ll see more vendors using them as the market for core system replacements shrinks.  Smart vendors are already thinking ahead, working on their long term strategy. 

Carriers who work with these vendors should be watching as well.  No one wants to work with a vendor that won't be here for the long term.  If you’re a carrier considering a new system –

  • Make sure your vendor is showing momentum – new sales.
  • Look to see what the signals are for their long term viability – will they be a survivor selling new suites?
  • Do they have the resources to create or acquire new capabilities like portals, analytics or distribution management?
  • Are they entering new markets, new territories or providing new service offerings?

If you don’t see these signals, you may want to start having a conversation with your vendors today. 

 

 

Complexities, Capabilities and Budgets

Complexities, Capabilities and Budgets

I've just published a new report called Complexities, Capabilities, and Budgets.   Here's a quick overview – ping me if you'd like to chat in more detail aboaut it.

Insurance is being transformed by rapid changes in information technology, skyrocketing customer expectations, rapidly evolving distribution models, and radical changes in underwriting and claims. How are IT organizations changing to accommodate the new capabilities they’re delivering, and how are budgets shifting to accommodate this transformation?

In this environment, IT leaders have had to become very smart about how to run, grow, and transform the business with relatively stagnant budgets. The most effective IT leaders have assumed a strategic role in guiding their companies.  

A growing number of leaders have made understanding and maximizing the value of IT a critical part of their missions. Insurers that have moved toward an outcome-based measure of IT value are increasing, and CIOs using value-based metrics are increasingly seen as more strategic members of the teams.

Most carriers have not increased IT resources significantly to meet these challenges.  Insurer IT budgets have stayed fairly flat as a percentage of premium over the past 10 years, although the percentage spent on maintenance is shrinking as carriers invest more in new capabilities. 

Looking out for the next two to five years, Celent believes that carriers will continue to rapidly deploy new technologies. Measurements of IT value will continue to mature and shift toward value metrics (those looking at the outcomes of cost, time, and value improvements) to rate the performance of IT. This will enable a more informed debate over where to spend scarce IT dollars. 

For many insurers, the approach toward IT budget construction and the measurement of value remains rooted in a traditional approach of centrally planned budgets and top-down portfolio metrics which can mask where IT value is being delivered,  IT organizations that are seen as more strategic are more likely to measure the overall financial impact of technology delivered.

Re-inventing underwriting: New ingredients for the secret sauce

Re-inventing underwriting: New ingredients for the secret sauce

Innovation is exploding across all aspects of underwriting and product management. New technologies are transforming an old art. But if there is one lesson to be learned, it is that carriers whose systems are not already capable of handling these changes will be alarmingly disadvantaged.  I've just published a new report looking at innovation in underwriting. 

Underwriting is at the core of the insurance industry. It is the secret sauce of the insurance industry. For hundreds of years, this process was accomplished through the individual judgement of highly experienced underwriters. Insights were captured in manuals of procedures and carefully taught to succeeding generations. 

Over the last few years, carriers have been heavily engaged in replacing core policy admin systems enabling a fundamental transformation of the underwriting process.  Gone are the days of green eye shades and rating on a napkin.  Gone are the days of identical products across the industry.  Gone are the days of standard rating algorithms used by all carriers. 

Carriers are using their newly gained technology capabilities to create dramatically different products, develop innovative processes driving efficiency, improve decisions, and transform the customer experience.  This transformation of underwriting is enabled by the ability to use business rules to drive automated workflow, but even more importantly this is a story about the fundamental transformation of insurance through the application of data.

This report looks at underwriting and product management and describes some of the newest innovations in each area with specific examples provided where publicly available.

What you’ll see is that almost every aspect of the underwriting and product management functions are being fundamentally transformed as carriers find new ways of utilizing and applying data. Carriers are using their newly gained technology capabilities to create dramatically different products, develop innovative processes driving efficiency, improve decisions, and transform the customer experience.

Key findings:

  • Carriers are using product innovation as a competitive differentiator and are experimenting with new types of insurance products that go well beyond basic indemnification in the event of loss.  Parametric products, behavior based products and products that embed services to prevent or mitigate a loss are becoming more common.
  • Predictive analytics are being used to better assess risk quality and assure price adequacy, as well as to control costs by assessing which types of inspections are warranted, or when to send a physical premium auditor, or when to purchase third party data.
  • Individual risk underwriting hasn’t gone away for commercial Ines, but the characteristics that are driving it are more quantified, requiring more data and more consistent data. 
  • The role of the product manager is changing dramatically to one of managing the rules rather than managing individual transactions.  This requires new skills and new tools. It also will drive changes in how regulators monitor carriers underwriting practices. 

We expect to continue to see innovative technologies being deployed in underwriting and product management over the next 3-5 years – especially in the following areas:

  • Carriers will continue to focus on product differentiation.  The Internet of Things will facilitate more behavior based products and more parametric products. Carriers will find new ways of embedding services within the product, or as part of the remediation after a claim. 
  • The role of the product manager will change dramatically focusing on deep understanding of rules.  Vendors will need to provide tools to better analyze the usage rates, the impact, and the stacking of rules. 
  • We’ll continue to see a massive eruption in the amount and types of data available.  Unstructured data such as in weather, car video, traffic cameras, telematics, weather data, or medical/health data from wearable devices will become even more available.  Carriers will invest in managing and analyzing both structured and unstructured data.  Implementation of reporting and analytic tools as well as supporting technologies – data models, ETL tools, and repositories – will continue to be major projects.
  • New technologies will create new exposures, drive new products, and generate new services.   From wearables, to advanced robotics, from artificial intelligence to gamification and big data, carriers will be applying physical technologies as well as virtual technologies to drive product development and risk assessment.

The available technologies to support property casualty insurance are exploding. Shifting channels, new data elements and tools that can help to improve decisions, provide better customer service or reduce the cost of handling are of great interest to carriers.  Investments are being made across all aspects of underwriting and product management. Staying on top of these trends is going to continue to be a challenge as new technologies continue to proliferate.  But if there is one lesson to be learned, it is that carriers whose systems are not already capable of handling these changes will be alarmingly disadvantaged.

For carriers who are already moving down this path, this report will shine a light on some of the creative ways carriers are transforming the process of underwriting.  For carriers who have not begun this journey, this report may be a wakeup call. The pace of change is increasing and carriers who continue to rely purely on individual underwriting judgment will find themselves at a disadvantage to those who are finding new sources of insights and applying them in a systematic manner to improve profitability. Wherever you sit, this rapid pace of change is exciting, empowering and galvanizing the insurance industry.

Making property/casualty underwriting investments that pay off

Making property/casualty underwriting investments that pay off

Underwriting is at the core of the insurance industry. The processes of selecting and pricing risk and the additional operational processes necessary to deliver a policy and provide ongoing services are essential to the overall profitability of a carrier. Over the last few years, carriers have been heavily engaged in replacing core policy admin systems and increasing the automation of their underwriting processes.

Automation of underwriting processes carries the promise of improved results, but can come at a significant cost — both the hard costs (purchasing technology, implementing technology, and changing processes) and the soft costs. Change can be hard on both underwriting staff inside a carrier and on the agents who receive the output of the underwriting process.

So when does it make sense to invest in automation — or, put another way, are there pieces of the underwriting process that when automated are more likely to result in improved results? We thought it would be interesting to investigate these questions to provide guidance to carriers that are trying to prioritize their efforts.

Our goal was to understand the actual state of underwriting automation in the insurance industry. Are carriers living up to the hype in the media that implies that virtually every carrier out there has automated every step of the process? Or is the progress slower? Are carriers with older systems at a disadvantage against those who have replaced their systems with modern solutions? Do high levels of automation actually result in better financial results?

The process of underwriting was broken into 26 logical components of work. For each component, three levels were defined — ranging from little automation used to significant levels of automation. Carriers can use this report as a self-diagnostic tool by comparing their scores to the benchmarks that follow in this report. To understand what top carriers are doing in this area, Celent conducted a survey around this topic looking to answer these key research questions.

  1. What are the different components of underwriting that can be automated?
  2. Where are carriers utilizing automation in underwriting?
  3. Are high levels of automation in underwriting correlated with improved metrics?

Our key findings were:

  • Average levels of automation vary dramatically by line of business, even within the same company.
  • Personal lines carriers are more likely to be applying high level of automation in the front end processes related to automated quote, issue, and renewals — including automated communications with policyholders.
  • Commercial lines carriers tend to apply higher levels of automation for the back end including workflow, product management, rating, and reporting/analytics.
  • Workers compensation and specialty carriers tend to have slightly lower levels of automation in all aspects of underwriting but can achieve significantly better results when applying automation to processes related to analytics and service.
  • Carriers with newer systems are using high levels of automation in more of the processes. Those who have had their systems for over 15 years have had a lot of time to customize their solutions and have slightly more highly automated processes than those whose systems are between 10 and 15 years old.
  • Personal lines carriers are the most likely to benefit from high levels of automation, especially automation related to process efficiency and underwriting insights.
  • Commercial and specialty carriers benefited most from high levels of automation in processes related to underwriting insights. Generally, the best combined ratios were found in those carriers with a medium level of automation — processes that were supported by technology, but had some level of human intervention as well.
  • Workers comp carriers are most likely to benefit from high levels of automation in processes related to driving underwriting insights.

Here’s a link to the report.  You can download it if you’re a customer. If you’re not a client, ping me and we can chat.

It’s no joke – carriers address real trends in insurance with April Fools products

It’s no joke – carriers address real trends in insurance with April Fools products
I love seeing all the great examples of April Fools jokes put out by carriers.   These pranks are a fun way of illustrating real trends in insurance – taken to absurd extremes. Carriers looking to grow often use a product strategy- creating new products to appeal to different audiences, a channel or market expansion strategy to appeal to a different set of consumers, or a customer service strategy – appealing to clients by providing superior services. Here are a few examples of some good April Fools ideas:
  • Esurance – Here’s an example of a carrier identifying a new risk area and creating a new product to cover the gap. Esurance is offering election insurance in case you suddenly have to move to Canada. The product will “protect your home for the next four years while you’re waiting out the next presidential term.” It’s non-partisan so regardless of your candidate of choice, you can rest easy that a fast escape will leave you protected.
  • Metromile – As a nice example of a market expansion – Metromile is offering walking insurance to “cover customers in the event of being caught in an unexpected rainstorm, losing footing, wearing out socks and shoes and more.” They’ve increased their potential market by expanding the appetite from insurance for drivers to insurance for walkers.
  • Churchill – Here’s a new channel strategy – partnering with a product provider. Churchill launched ÉAU Yes, a perfume with built-in smell insurance so you’ll always smell nice, regardless. When you spray ÉAU Yes you know you’re covered; to smell good and get compliments all day. And if you don’t receive a satisfactory number of compliments on your smell, Churchill will pay you those compliments back!
  • Progressive – When it comes to services, Progressive is offering “April Fools Insurance” as a way to help “prank-less people create the most share-worthy prank.” If you have the risk of being unable to come up with a prank, Progressive has a prank generator that allows to least creative among us to participate in the traditions associated with the first day in April. Those interested can go to NameYourPrank.com, pick a category of news that you want to be featured in, and choose to either upload a photo or connect your Facebook information to the article.
  • SunLife – And using analytics combined with a service based strategy, SunLife is offering the value-added service of a “courtesy pet” when yours is at the vet. You love your pet, but accidents do happen. From today, if your pet is ill or injured, and away receiving care at the vets, the company will deliver a courtesy pet to keep you company. Simon Stanney, General Insurance Director at SunLife, said: “Motor insurance has offered this service for years – a courtesy car while yours is being repaired. But what about something you’ll really miss while it’s away – your pet? The firm uses PetMatch, an algorithm that ensures the courtesy pet matches the original in some important way. This may be by name, color, favorite food or intelligence.
We operate in a very creative industry – and today is a fun time to take it to the extreme – while recognizing the real trends in insurance today.  There are probably a lot more examples – and I invite you to share.

Insights from the trenches – west coast CIO roundtable

Insights from the trenches – west coast CIO roundtable
On March 22 and 23, Celent hosted a CIO roundtable in San Francisco that brought together CIOs from a variety of Property Casualty carriers. Sessions included presentations by CIOs and discussions on innovation, core systems in the cloud, transforming the customer experience, digital strategies, dealing with millennials and gender balance in the workplace, and optimizing the agent experience to drive growth. Some of Celent’s recent research was presented to stimulate discussion as well. The discussion highlighted the similar challenges that carriers face, regardless of size, lines of business, or geography, as they look at transformation.   Innovation Celent research shows that the population of highly digital individuals is growing and that a firm’s ability to innovate has a high impact on a highly digital agent or consumer’s willingness to work with them. Yet there are often barriers to progress as not all leaders within an organization are seen as supporting a company’s innovation efforts. While carriers see that innovation is critical to meeting customer expectations, innovation is not always seen as important to a firm’s strategy.   Carriers discussed the distinction between driving innovation processes and culture within an organization, and implementing specific innovation ideas. It was noted that employee engagement is key to innovation.   One carrier presented the program they initiated to drive innovation within their own organization with the results of improving employee engagement, driving improved financial results, and improving the speed to market of idea deployment. The CIOs discussed a variety of best practices for stimulating new ideas, capturing and triaging these ideas and rewarding employees for their contribution while moving towards implementation.   Core systems in the Cloud Activity in core system replacement continues to occur at record levels with well over half of the carriers in the industry either currently engaged in system replacement projects, or planning a future project. But these projects often take years to complete and deploy. As vendors look for ways to speed up these deployments, one option is a cloud deployment. Software vendors clearly recognize the importance of the cloud to drive their businesses forward – 50% of policy admin vendors surveyed in Celent’s recent report on cloud capabilities tell us that cloud is mission critical, and 50% tell us they offer a cloud solution.   But carrier take-up has been relatively nascent with few carriers choosing to make the leap. Almost 60% are waiting and watching while 20% are sure it’s not for them Typical concerns include data security lack of visibility into the infrastructure, concerns about difficulty moving data off the cloud, and how a cloud deployment will change the IT organization. One carrier spoke about their journey of replacing their core suite with a full cloud deployment. Specific issues the carrier faced were echoed by other carriers as core system replacements are often accompanied by a process redesign and often include a greater use of analytics to improve decisions and streamline processes.   The cultural issues can be significant and change management is key to a successful implementation. Moving solutions to the cloud also raises new terms and condition in the contract with the vendor that carriers need to understand and think through carefully before signing. But a cloud deployment can potentially result in a faster implementation and can allow a carrier to deploy their scarce IT resources on the aspects of maintenance that are strategic to the insurance business rather than using staff on infrastructure management.   A changing workforce 2015 was the year that millennials became the majority in the US workforce and millennials have very different expectations of their career and the role they can and will play. But there is a perception disconnect between what managers and millennials view as the most important factors that indicate career success. Millennials are most interested in meaningful work, flexible working hours and high pay. Managing millennials can require a shift in a leader’s traditional practices. Gender diversity is also a gap in the industry with few women in executive level roles in the financial service industry. Men and women have different views of the opportunities available to them.   CIOs exchanged a number of ways they’ve been successful at attracting and motivating millennials including gamification efforts and opportunities to reward and recognize millennials for their contributions while providing them with expanding learning opportunities. Various sources of unconscious gender bias were discussed and ways of helping women become better at networking and building relationships within an organization were seen as tools to help women progress in an organization   Going Digital Digital is a buzzword in the industry and CIO’s don’t all have a common set of terminology or definition for what digital really is. Some define digital as automation of work processes and some define it as automation of decisions. Celent described four digital goals that are typically the results of a carrier’s digital strategy – getting leaner by reducing expenses or increasing productivity; getting smarter by making better decisions and getting the right content to the policyholder at the right time; getting faster with shorter cycle times for policy issuance claims and product changes; and making the experience better for a customer.   One carrier described their journey towards digital and transforming the customer experience. When every business unit owns the customer experience, it’s difficult to provide a consistent customer experience across the entire relationship without a true owner of customer experience. A discussion of who is the customer resulted with most carriers recognizing the role that the agent plays and the need to optimize the agent experience.   CIOs then discussed some of the cultural issues faced as long-term employees work to absorb the change. It was clear that implementing the technology was not the roadblock to moving forward –but that finding staff that are skilled in understanding the business and also understand the ways to digitize is hard. Combine that with the cultural challenges of massive changes in how the work is being done creates barriers to moving forward quickly. All agreed that aligning their digital initiatives with the company strategy is key to finding the right projects. An interesting question arose around is there a place where it’s too much? How do you know when to stop? CIO’s agreed that this is a constantly evolving world and processes need to be in place to regularly assess, screen and prioritize new initiatives.   Optimizing the agent experience Celent presented some recent primary research around agent needs and drivers when it comes to placing business. Agents clearly state that they place business with carriers that make it easy to do so. While a carrier must have a good product, a solid price, and excellent claims, in a tie, the agent with the easiest process for placing and servicing business wins the deal. CSRs have significant influence in the placement decision and the CSR community, like other roles in the industry is in the process of undergoing a generational shift with older CSRs looking at retirement and younger millennials entering. This generational shift means that carriers are looking at how to provide additional tools and support such as gamifying the training process, providing additional help text and supplying more documentation as transactions occur.   CIOs described their own efforts in prioritizing connectivity with the agency management solutions and discussed the high priority that portals take when it comes to making IT investments.   Overall This event gave CIOs an opportunity to share ideas with their peers and the mix of research and the CIO discussion of the practical applications was seen as extremely valuable by the participants. Additional events will occur over the summer in the Midwest and in the fall in the Northeast.