How Insurity’s Acquisition of Valen Could Create a Virtuous Analytics Circle

How Insurity’s Acquisition of Valen Could Create a Virtuous Analytics Circle
It’s open season on insurance technology acquisitions in general, and for Insurity in particular. Today’s announcement of Insurity’s acquisition of Valen Analytics is now Insurity’s fourth acquisition in a multi-year string: Oceanwide, Tropics, and in rapid succession Systema and Valen.   The potential for crossing selling among the five customer bases is obvious.   Less obvious, but of potentially even greater value, is Insurity’s ability to invite all of its insurer and other customers to use its Enterprise Data Solutions IEV solution as the gateway to Valen’s contributory database and Valen’s InsureRight analytic platform.   Insurity now has the scale and the means to create a virtuous analytics circle: individual customers contributing a lot of data through IEV to Valens and receiving back analytic insights to feed into their pricing, underwriting, and claims operations.   Good move.

Conversation systems and insurance — one experience

Conversation systems and insurance — one experience

To start with full disclosure, I am a huge fan of the Amazon Echo. We have them throughout the house, and have automated our home so Alexa can control most light switches, ceiling fans and more. We play music through them, ask for the weather, schedule appointments, and more.

All my kids are believers from our 5 year-olds on up. It’s fun to hear one of my five year-olds ask Alexa to play the song YMCA and then burst into full song, including the dance. My one personal recommendation. If you have an Echo and children, turn off voice purchases. I found out the hard way.

So I thought I would check out how Alexa does with insurance. My plan is to try all the skills and leverage them into a report. I may even have to purchase one of Google’s new Google Home devices just to compare them in this use case.

So I spent considerable time this morning trying to get an auto quote. Let’s just say the outcome was that I gave up. I won’t name the insurer, as I am sure that their Alexa skill works well in other areas such as information sharing and likely works for others to get a quote, but it sure did not for me. I do want to give credit to the insurer, as they are out on the bleeding edge doing these quotes.

First it asked me my birth year. It heard 1916. That’s not when I was born, but that’s what it heard. I tried to correct it, using the instructions it had provided, but no dice. I gave up and started over, only to be born in 1916 again. This time it was so stuck I had to unplug the Echo. I was surprised, as Alexa’s voice recognition amazes me.

I’m old, but I’m not 101 years old.

I finally made it through on the third try with very careful enunciation. Made it through my wife’s birth year and the fact we’re both married (apparently being married to each other wasn’t important).

Got to the question on what body style. I tried convertible, since, well, it is a convertible. That wasn’t an option. Since the app had prompted 2 door car as an example, I tried it. Um, no. That’s not supported. That seemed odd, but I tried car. Apparently car is OK.

Made it through miles driven a year.

Go to age of the car. My car is a little older, but no antique. However, apparently 12 years old is fatal, as the app crashed with “Sorry I am having trouble accessing your skill right now”.

OK, odd, but wireless sometimes blips, so no problem. Started over for the fourth time.

Worked my way through all the questions, enunciating very, very carefully and got to age of my car.

Yep. Crashed again.

At that point, I gave up and decided to write a blog instead.

Or I could have played a game of Jeopardy with Alexa.

Data in insurance is not only about technology

Data in insurance is not only about technology
In October 2015, I explained that insurers had to hire more data experts if they wanted to better leverage all sorts of data sources they can access nowadays. As I raised this point, I shared the result of a survey we launched in 2015 to identify whether insurance companies were hiring new types of profiles to complement their teams looking at data. For more on this, read the following post: Why the insurance industry needs more data scientists. In March last year, I explained that insurers attempt to hire more data expert had become a clear trend: Insurers are investing in data scientists. With the growing importance of data in insurance and taking into consideration all the activities currently happening around data notably supported by InsurTech companies, we identify that not only insurers are hiring highly qualified data experts but also that these people are getting more and more influential within their organization. Indeed when asked about the level of influence on key business decisions these experts (internal or external consultants) have in their organization it seems that data scientists are gaining more power ​(in % of insurance respondents; n=135): Actually, two categories of experts are gaining influence in insurance: data scientists and user experience specialists. We are not surprised by this result. Insurers deal with a greater amount of data and more sophisticated technologies, therefore they need to hire highly educated experts in order to valuably leverage this data and these technologies. In addition, insurers consider customer interaction to be a key element of their digitization efforts and this is the reason why they are giving more responsibilities to user experience specialists. We will soon publish a report detailing the result of an insurance survey on the use of consumer data and smart technologies. I recommend you take some time to read our report to better understand what insurers are doing around this topic.

CES 2017: JUST HOW SMART IS AI GOING TO MAKE CONNECTED CARS AND CONNECTED HOMES?

CES 2017: JUST HOW SMART IS AI GOING TO MAKE CONNECTED CARS AND CONNECTED HOMES?
Walking the exhibit halls and attending sessions at the mammoth Consumer Electronics Show, it was easy to identify the dominant theme: AI-enabled Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPAs).
  • Manufacturers and suppliers of connected cars and homes are betting big on IPAs: overwhelmingly favoring Amazon Alexa.
  • Impressionistically, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana and others trailed some distance behind.
Natural language commands, queries and responses provide a vastly more intuitive UX. And these capabilities in turn make owning and using a connected home or car much more attractive. But there is a deeper potential benefit for the connected car and connected home sellers: developing context-rich data and information about the connected home occupants and the connected car drivers and passengers. This data and information include:
  • Who is in the house, what rooms they occupy—or who is in the car, going to which destinations
  • And what they want to do or see or learn or buy or communicate at what times and locations
Mining this data will enable vendors to anticipate (and sometimes create) more demand for their goods and services. (In a sense, this is the third or fourth generation version of Google’s ad placement algorithms based on a person’s search queries.) Here’s what this means for home and auto insurers:
  • As the value propositions of connected cars and homes increase, so does the imperative for insurers to enter those ecosystems through alliances and standalone offers
  • The IPA-generated data may provide predictive value for pricing and underwriting
  • IPAs are a potential distribution channel (responding to queries and even anticipating the needs of very safety- and budget- conscious consumers)
A note on terminology: the concept of “Intelligent Personal Assistants” is fairly new and evolving quickly. Other related terms are conversational commerce, chatbots, voice control, among others.

2016 – A year of InsurTech as well as Insurance Technology

2016 – A year of InsurTech as well as Insurance Technology
We’re fast approaching the end of what has been a very eventful 2016, one that has seen (amongst other things) significant new investment in the insurance industry and a focus on InsurTech. This interest was reflected in those reading our blog with a clear trend towards innovation and sources of new technology for insurers.
  1. Will your next insurance administration system be on the Blockchain?
  2. Guidewire Acquisition of FirstBest – A Wakeup Call for Core Suite Vendors?
  3. The Evolving Role of Architects
  4. Slice: Insurance disruption in action
  5. Insurance companies are embracing technology — for investment
  6. A golden day for insurance: Celent 2016 Model Insurer winners
  7. In search of a new ‘dominant design’ for the industry. What does insurtech have to offer?
  8. Blockchain in insurance – who needs it, anyway?
  9. Is State Farm Pre-positioning Itself for the End of Auto Insurance (and Maybe the End of Homeowners Insurance Too)?
  10. A positive note for Brazil: A few insurance market developments to follow with interest
Mixed in here are a few topics on the basics of running an insurance company but overall the top 10 most popular blogs focused on InsurTech and innovation topics. InsurTech has certainly been a source of much of the hype. Examining some of the most popular reports this year suggest a more balanced focus from our clients though, with an interest in both established methods and technologies, applying new enterprise technologies as well as InsurTech and Block Chain topics.
  1. EMEA Policy Administration Solutions
  2. Changing the Landscape of Customer Experience with Advanced Analytics: Applications in Banking, Wealth Management, and Insurance
  3. Innovation Outlook 2016: Practitioners’ Predictions
  4. Model Insurer 2016: Case Studies of Effective Technology Use in Insurance
  5. IT Spending in Insurance: A Global Perspective, 2016
  6. North America Policy Administration Solutions
  7. Blockchain in Insurance: Use Cases
  8. Choosing Blockchain Use Cases in Insurance: Guiding the Hammer Toward the Real Nails
  9. Robotic Process Automation in Insurance
  10. Insurtech Has Arrived: A Primer
This mix of focus on core insurance topics with an eye to the future and InsurTech aligns well with what we’re hearing from insurers. So far the InsurTech movement has largely been symbiotic with the insurance industry rather than disrupting the incumbents. We are seeing a focus on partnerships and new firms augmenting the old ones – but the insurers need to be ready to bring in this new technology. 2017 will continue to see insurers investing to reduce costs, to increase agility, reduce these inhibitors and address problematic legacy issues. 2017 looks like it’s shaping up to be a year of opportunities for insurers who choose to take them. In the meantime, perhaps these top 10 breakdowns from most of 2016 will offer some useful holiday reading to help catch you up.

Guidewire makes blockbuster acquisition of ISCS

Guidewire makes blockbuster acquisition of ISCS
Long sought after by Private Equity firms, other insurers, and the occasional investment banker looking for a transaction, privately held ISCS has chosen to join Guidewire (NYSE:GWRE).   ISCS adds its SurePower Innovation end-to-end suite to Guidewire’s existing InsuranceSuite end-to-end suite. This is a decided change of acquisition strategy for Guidewire. Up to now, all its acquisitions have fit into—or added a single new element—to InsuranceSuite.   Why?   Well, if you are a publicly held company growth is good. ISCS immediately brings more revenue and more importantly brings good market momentum with a solid sales pipeline.   ISCS’ focus on small and midsize insurers brings a few other intriguing possibilities. One is that Guidewire and its SI alliance partners will now aim at the large and very large insurer market, leaving the small and midsize market to ISCS. A second is that ISCS will become a vehicle for small insurer growth outside of the US. The third is that ISCS’ more extensive cloud experience, especially with AWS, will step up Guidewire’s movement to the cloud.   For now Guidewire shareholders have a heckuva gift under their Christmas trees.  

Insurtech 2016=Hype; Insurtech 2017=Value

Insurtech 2016=Hype; Insurtech 2017=Value

As I look back on insurance innovation in 2016 and forward to 2017, the insurtech phenomenon looms large. But, the sight in my rearview mirror is very different from the road before me through my windshield.

Behind I see great excitement, new patterns of interactions, and intriguing applications of technology. I also note unwarranted claims of massive industry disruption and extensive business model revolution. The last few months have brought some more measured discussion, especially around new partnerships. (For research data on incumbent-startup partnerships, see the Celent reports Accelerating Insurance Transformation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Innovation Relationships (Jan 2016) and Insurer-Startup Partnerships: How to Maximize Insurtech Investments (June 2016).)

It may take until the middle of 2017, but I expect to see a move away from hype and to value. In some cases this will be positive value; in others, it will be learning or failure (in other words, negative value). Several levers are in motion:

  • There are more players, and thus a greater chance of success (or failure).
  • More time will have passed for propositions which are currently online to produce results.
  • More efforts will come to production in the next few months; and for other initiatives, the time (read money) to prove their hypothesis will run out.
  • There will be increased recognition of the importance of partnerships as the tedious work of integration proceeds.
  • From a macroeconomic standpoint, interest rates in the US will rise, increasing the attraction of alternative investments and making the competition for investment more fierce.
  • Finally, Brexit and a new US political administration will result in increased uncertainty, which will change risk attitudes.

These challenges will be good for insurtech as they will prove that the easiest thing to do in innovation is to “write a check.” The majority of the difficult work of making insurtech part of a comprehensive insurance innovation approach is in front of us, and 2017 will be the pivotal year when the winners make this happen.

Smartphones, Apps, and Other Stuff

Smartphones, Apps, and Other Stuff

In 1985 when I was a kid in school, one of my favorite TV shows was Robotech, also known as Macross in some regions. They had the technology (alien technology by the way) to transform fighter planes into mechanical robots (a bit like Transformers), however they did not have either cellphones or smartphones. Instead, they had mobile cabs that would travel around the city looking out for when to pick the person up. Not to mention, in some episodes, they even had some kind of Google glasses. It was all very cool stuff in 1985.

Fortunately for us all, today we have our own smart stuff in the form of a super computer in our pockets – being the smartphone. Many of us no longer need to run to a red box to make a call; and a long with smartphones we have data usage, internet, and apps.

The great challenge with smartphones for insurers, is how to engage with customers in this mobile world; that is, how to make apps attractive to them beyond the basic proposition of moving consumers to the mobile channel in order to lower the operating cost.

In insurance, availability of mobile apps varies by region and by country, so does functionality.  In most countries property and casualty insurers are taking the lead, especially to connect to auto insurance policy holders to provide them with a very array of self-servicing features through the app. In many countries, insurers need to work with the regulators hand in hand to find the best ways to boost financial inclusion and the use of insurance through digital channels.

In a recent Celent’s report, we found that at least 80% of P&C insurers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal offer apps to their clients"

In Latin America availability of consumer-focused apps in insurance grew from 21% in 2013 to 39% in 2016"

So we expect in the following years that Latin American insurers keep up other regions. Not to mention that Insurers are very interested in mobility and they plan to invest in this technology.  To learn more about this report, please click here.

Going back to my story, there were occasions where the main character couldn't be contacted because there were no mobile phones, only robots, and maybe the outcome of the story might have changed.  It was 1985 for a story created much earlier; more than 30 years ago, but now mobility, artificial intelligence, robotics, and analytics are a reality.

Technology is playing a very important role enabling insurers to engage customers, and as part of the insurance industry, we need to be aware of these advancements. If you are interested in insurance technology and want to know more of case studies around world, Celent will be awarding the best technological initiatives in our 2017 Innovation & Insight Day in Boston on April 4, 2017

Also, if you are or know of an insurance company which exhibits best practices in the use of technology, please click here and complete the nomination form. Submissions are being accepted until December 16, 2016.  Categories include:

  • Digital and Omnichannel
  • Legacy and Ecosystem Transformation
  • Innovation and Emerging Technologies
  • Operational Excellence
  • Data Analytics

For more information about the Model Insurer program click here, leave a comment, or email me directly at lchipana@celent.com. I’d be more than happy to talk with you. The Celent team and I are looking forward to hearing from you and meeting you in person at the 2017 Innovation & Insight Day.

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”.  

Thanksgiving stuffing and technological change

Thanksgiving stuffing and technological change

I like to cook, a lot. I spend a bit of time each week looking through magazines and my big binder of recipes to plan my menu of dinners for the week. It helps that my family is willing to try new and different things. They also like to offer suggestions for changes or to flat out request that certain recipes never make into the binder for future dinners. One recipe that comes out every year at this time is my grandmother’s turkey stuffing. Bam, as we called my dad’s mom, was of Canadian heritage and known for her traditional French Canadian tourtiere (meat pie). In a sense, her stuffing is a deconstructed meat pie, and my family loves it.

It’s also now a staple of Thanksgiving dinner with my husband’s family since I have been bringing it for the last 12 years. But it wasn’t always a welcome addition to the table. They already had a stuffing so why introduce another? And who ever heard of adding ground beef, pork sausage and potatoes to stuffing? But through a bit of cajoling, my tenacity in continuing to bring it, and introducing how good it is the next morning with a fried egg, I slowly won them over. It’s like that with any change isn’t it? You need to keep plodding forward and continually communicate the benefits even when others can’t see it or are willing to even try it.

There’s a parallel here to introducing technological change, or for that matter any change. Colleen Risk and I have been writing all year on front end technology for life insurers. We continually discussed how technology can help achieve STP and lower the cost of obtaining new business. Our research arc reviewed illustration, eApplication, and new business and underwriting systems. We wrote reports that analyzed how far life insurers have come in automating the new business and underwriting processes and found that there is ample room for further technology in many companies; automation is taking hold, albeit slowly.

A companion benchmarking report showed that since 2007 costs per application and costs per issued policies have dropped. The data shows that technology has been integral to the cost reductions even though making the changes affects how agents and underwriters do their work, for the better. Our last report in this theme will further analyze the benefits of automating the new business and underwriting process by comparing life insurers that have implemented technology into the process with those that have not. It is our hope that our research helps make the case for introducing more technology into the NBUW process and ease the change because the benefits are worth it.

Our 2017 research calendar includes a new research arc that begins with a paper published today, Separating Yourself from the Competition: North America Life Insurance Customer Service Strategy. Within the life insurance market, very few digital revolutions have happened in customer service. Implementing a digital strategy within the operating environment of a life insurer represents a complex set of challenges: organizational silos, multiple distribution channels, and legacy technology considerations make the work especially difficult. Life insurers recognize that customer service is critical to the success of their business. The criticality of customer service is underlined by the insurers’ recognition that the technology provided today is not sufficient, as well as the acknowledgement that significant spending is required to close the gap between what is available today and what should be provided. Yet, the challenge of digitally revolutionizing customer services presents opportunities. New tools exist that can increase the quality of customer interactions and deepen customer relationships. It is our hope that through a series of reports on customer service strategy, customer service operations, websites and portals, as well as mobile apps we can introduce the benefits of digitizing the back end processes related to customer service.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take 12 years to convince your organizations that new technology is beneficial. Celent wishes you all a Happy Thanksgiving. If you want a copy of my grandmother’s recipe, email me and I will send it to you!