Customer journey mapping for a CIO

Customer journey mapping for a CIO

If you’re like most CIOs, your firm has embarked on the latest craze – customer journey mapping.  I’ve blogged about this before.  It’s a terrific exercise – intended to identify how customers engage with your firm through every type of interaction – personal, machine, or paper.  Most are focused on optimizing the interactions between the policyholder and the insurer; some include optimization of the agent experience, and some are starting to look at expanding the experience to look at how to embed the insurance experience in non-insurance aspects of an insureds life.  (See FIGO for a great example).

Some firms have hired third party consultants to help with this exercise; some have even put a new position in place – a Customer Experience Officer – someone who looks across the traditional siloes of underwriting, claims and finance to craft a holistic experience. 

As carriers go through this exercise, demands are being placed on the IT team. Here’s a few ways you may be asked to participate:

  • Data and reporting– Part of understanding the customer journey is tracking it.  Understanding where the biggest interaction points are, and where the biggest pain points are is the first step in improving the experience. You may be asked to install tracking software on the website (if it’s not already there).  Third party data and AI may play into new segmentation schemes as teams are looking at new ways of doing dynamic segmentation (See my report on this topic)  You may be asked to add new reporting or analytics tools as the team looks at using predictive modeling to identify next best action. And you’ll be asked to measure the progress of the new journeys through new reports and new metrics such as a customer friction factor.
  • Workflow and Task Automation – Much of customer journey mapping is figuring out how to operationalize the new journey.  Once the customer experience has been defined, the hard part is to deliver on it.  If you are reliant on people to deliver a consistent experience, you leave yourself open to error.  Your team may need to spend much more time defining business rules and implementing workflows to deliver the experience. If you are one of the insurers that has not yet automated this, you may need to consider adding some additional technology.  (This has actually been one of the major drivers of core system replacement).
  • Customer Communication – Insurers are looking at eliminating the jargon and simplifying the message. This may mean redoing forms or creating new forms.  That’s not a huge deal.  But where we see more effort is finding new ways of communicating with customers.  Text, mobile applications and video are all growing ways of communication.   Here’s a great example of automated video communication to deliver a personal touch with no people involved.  Push communications, text or phone messages letting the claimant know their check has been issued, for example, can reduce calls to the call center while improving customer satisfaction
  • Omni-channel access – Smartphones are on track to bypass desktop computers as the number one way to access websites.   You’ll need to make the website mobile-friendly.  But you also may need to put in a call center – especially for those insurers who are looking at adding a direct or semi-direct channel. 
  • Cool stuff – As insurers start going down this path and get more comfortable being creative, they often look to add more ‘cool stuff’.  Gamification is one of the newer areas – using game techniques to drive engagement and to drive behaviors.  Drones are reducing the need for scheduling inspections.  Video chat for first notice of loss can reduce fraud and improve satisfaction.  There are many tools – and many InsureTech startups playing in this space. One last area that can be kind of cool – the user interface.  If you don’t have formal skills in this area, definitely use an outside consulting firm to help with this. UI design is fairly complex and makes a huge difference in the customer experience.  All of this cool stuff requires integration. One note, while the partners out there likely all have open APIs,  your team may end up spending more time than anticipated making sure your own systems can integrate and send data and service calls back and forth.
  • An agile organization –  As insurers become more skilled at understanding how to tweak and enhance the customer journey, speed becomes even more important.  Creating an innovative, agile organization  is a critical aspect of delivering quickly.  If you haven’t chatted with Mike Fitzgerald on innovation, or Colleen Risk on shifting to an agile development process, now might be the time.

In a highly fragmented industry with excess capital and declining rates, insurers are looking to building a solid customer experience to drive growth and retention.  Journey mapping is one of the tools being used.  Time to step into the fray and get involved. 

The Race to Find the Next Insurance Credit Score (or How, Maybe, to Reinvent P/C Insurance Pricing)

The Race to Find the Next Insurance Credit Score (or How, Maybe, to Reinvent P/C Insurance Pricing)

What is an insurance credit score? Basically it is a set of algorithms applied to data from credit reports which provide guidance for pricing and underwriting personal lines insurance. Although it has been a source of political and regulatory controversy over the years, the use of insurance credit scores is now widespread.

Much of the controversy has been over possible disparate impacts on various societal groups. But a root cause of the controversy has been the non-intuitive relationship between a given person’s use or misuse of credit on the one hand—and that person’s probability of incurring insured losses on the other hand. It just doesn’t seem to make much sense. But statistically there are correlations, which in general have passed regulatory review.

Insurance credit score controversies now ancient history (i.e. were settled before most millennials graduated from high school).

But suddenly something interesting is happening.

The race is on to find the next insurance credit score—and the winners (if there are winners) will gain a pricing (and underwriting) edge.

There are only two requirements to enter in this race.

  1. You have to forget about all the kinds of data and information that insurers have been using to price and underwrite risks.
  2. You have to use your digital imagination to find some new data and models which provide the same or better lift as the old data and models which you have just thrown out the window. (Lift is the increase in the ability of a new pricing model to distinguish between good and bad risks when compared to an existing pricing model.)

So what kind of new data might a digital imagination look at?

  • For personal auto, connected cars will provide a rich data set to mine. How about whether a car is serviced at the manufacturer’s suggested intervals (correlated with whether the car is serviced by a dealer or by an independent repair shop)? Or the use of a mobile phone while the car is in motion (correlated with time of day, precipitation, and whether satellite radio is also playing)? Or use of headlights during daylight hours (correlated with the frequency of manually shifting gears in a vehicle with an automatic transmission).
  • For homeowners insurance, connected homes could supply all types of new data. For example, whether Alexa (or other IPA) controls the home’s HVAC systems, correlated with setting security alarms before 11 pm). Or, electricity and gas consumption, correlated with use of video streaming services on week nights. Or the number and type of connected appliances, correlated with the number of functioning smoke, CO, and moisture detectors.
  • For commercial liability insurance, telematics and IoT will be the key data sources. Does a business with 10 or more commercial vehicles use both fleet management and telematics solutions? What mobile payment options are offered (correlated with dynamic pricing capabilities)? The business’ use of social media and messaging apps, correlated with the degree of supply chain digitization.

Of course obtaining a lot of this data will require permission from policyholders—and even with permission these methods may raise social or political issues. But premium discount and loss control incentives for telematics programs have proven effective. And for better or worse, Scott McNealy got it right in 1999.

Reflections from the Digital Insurance Agenda, Amsterdam

Reflections from the Digital Insurance Agenda, Amsterdam

Earlier this month Craig Beattie and I ventured off to Amsterdam to attend the Digital Insurance Agenda (DIA), where we also delivered a keynote. This was the event’s second year and, within just 12 months, it has grown significantly to around 850 people – attracting insurers, innovative technology players (from both the establishment and budding entrepreneurs), and investors from across Europe and beyond. The format is a sprightly mix of keynote presentations, panels, and live demonstrations. And, like last year, it was another great mix of people and ideas, each focused on driving change in customer engagement across the industry through technology.

(Venue: Gashouder at the Westergasfabriek. An impressive venue – with Celent on stage somewhere up there at the front :-))

Key take-aways for me were:

  • Distribution and front-end engagement remains a strong area of focus for innovation. However, unlike recent history where investment has been heavily channelled into mobile or touch-enabled browser experiences, the presence of chat and other app-less modes of interaction were strongly evidenced throughout most of the live demos. This has been a hot trend over the last 12 months, and where Celent has explored both insurer and consumer attitudes towards it (see Celent report: Applying Conversational Commerce to Insurance: Aligning IT to the Machine World). Given the issues that many insurers have had with trying to encourage customers to download their apps and engage with them through them, it’s not hard to see why 'smart chat' is being pursued so aggressively.
     
  • Heavier focus on the use of data for risk profiling and the application of emerging AI techniques (beyond chat use-cases). Personally, I find it incredible just how low the entry barriers have become for experimenting with data and AI. The perfect storm of huge compute power via the cloud, open-source and pay-per-use models for advanced technology enables those with relatively modest means and a great idea to get started. For me, this continues to be one of the most interesting areas in our industry for mining value. It’s also an area that insurers still find a challenge (see Celent report: Tackling the Big Data Challenges in Global Insurance: Differences Across Continents and Use Cases).
     
  • Celent has been tracking the development of innovation partnerships across the industry for a number of years (see Celent report: Insurer-Startup Partnerships: How to Maximize Insurtech Investments). At DIA, it was easy to see this in action. The vast majority of firms presenting were not a direct threat to the industry at large, but instead were exemplars of better ways of doing things through the use of smart technology. It’s not hard to envision that a few of the firms demonstrating at DIA will walk straight into pilots following the event.

The event was closed with a keynote from Scott Walcheck of Trov. Scott shared openly some of the progress that they have been making – which, to me, feels impressive. For example, they now have ~60-70 engineers working on the team and claim to be growing revenue by ~44% month-on-month (albeit from a starting position of zero).

Out of all of the insurtech start-up activity globally, there are just a handful of firms (in my opinion) who have the potential to really shake things up – and Trov is one of these.  They now have the capital, the engineering capacity and the partnerships to do some truly incredible things – if they choose to.

I also found it interesting to hear that they have started to evolve their business model into three focus areas, being: (1) Trov as a direct brand; (2) White-labelled Trov; and (3) Insurance-as-a-service, where they will rent their platform to partners – plus with an aspiration to evolve it into auto, home and other lines.  Given Celent’s focus on technology research across the industry, this last model-type is of keen interest. Trov’s engineering capacity is already a similar size to (and in some cases larger than) many mid-to-small insurance carriers. It is also larger than some of the traditional independent solution technology providers out there. Could they be the next big technology player on the scene in addition to their existing branded business?  Only time will tell, but it is clear they are already demonstrating how insurtech represents a new way of delivering insurance product development.

For more commentary on DIA, see Craig Beattie’s Moments on Twitter.  Also, keep checking the DIA website as they will shortly release some of the videos from the event.

The Death of Processes and the Birth of High Frequency Underwriting

The Death of Processes and the Birth of High Frequency Underwriting

Let’s consider a car insurance market where all new contracts go through online aggregators. Let’s assume all the car’s information (vehicle brand, type, category, plate number, etc.) and potential insured data (driver’s name, age, address, historical claims, etc.) is standardized, packaged to include all relevant information needed by an insurer to price a motor insurance risk, and instantaneously electronically transferred to an aggregator as soon as the car is purchased (payment triggers the packaged data transfer, quoting, binding, and contract sealing). With today’s technology and connectivity, this quote and bind process can be done in less than a second.

In insurance, a process is a series of tasks to turn raw data into valuable information to make a business decision. In other words, a process requires time between its inception and its end and almost always human intervention. Indeed, today’s quote and bind process captures relevant data about a car and a driver through a questionnaire. Then insurers need to evaluate the risk involved and price it before a quote is given and potentially accepted by the driver. Even though many digital interfaces can be offered to perform the whole process, the potential customer still has to respond to a set of questions and click on a button to accept a proposal. In our extreme digital example, all the tasks are reduced to a minimum of time and fully automated; the driver doesn’t even have to fill in a questionnaire since all relevant data is packaged, transmitted, analysed, and sealed into a new car insurance contract in less than a second as soon as the car purchase is triggered. Can we still call it a process when there is an instantaneous business decision (underwriting and pricing) made and an outcome (contract sealed) produced, and this without human intervention? Well, I think with extreme digital, processes as we know and define them today are dead.

The next question is: How can insurers differentiate in a world where customer engagement is nonexistent? One might think that it would be price. Actually, it is speed. Indeed, I think that the ability to match a specific demand faster than competitors will allow an insurer to win the deal. To do so, they’ll need to support what I call high frequency underwriting in order to have their quote matched with the demand side within milliseconds (faster than competitors’ quotes). Indeed, for the same price, the fastest proposition will win the deal.

Now, let’s get back to my initial assumption: all new contracts go through online aggregators. Let’s consider an aggregator owned by an insurance player. If this insurer can get time advantage versus other insurers feeding its aggregator, it will be able to adapt its quote to optimize its margin using competitors’ information and leverage the speed advantage, even though it is about milliseconds.

This scenario is not unrealistic, because high-frequency trading is about milliseconds. So, who knows, maybe one day we will see insurers not thinking much about processes, but focusing more on speed.

A Day to Celebrate: Celent 2017 Model Insurer Winners

A Day to Celebrate:  Celent 2017 Model Insurer Winners

Last April 4, Boston, a city surrounded by history of patriotism and independence, was witness of Celent Innovation and Insight Day (I&I day), an event in which 16 insurers were recognized as Model Insurers for their technological initiatives that, I’m sure, inspired more 280 professionals of the Financial Service industry by the efforts and ideas on how other insurers could implement them within their organizations.

Andrew Rear, chief executive of Munich Re Digital Partners was the Model Insurer keynote speaker. He discussed the role of Insuretech for large insurers and spoke of how these insurers could acquire agility, the pathway that they needed to choose, and more importantly, the risks they had to bear. He also discussed how Financial Services were redefining the way financial products are sold, delivered, and serviced.

No sensible website asks you for your email address anymore. They should know who you are by other means

~Andrew Rear

 

In the afternoon, our analysts participated in a series of debates focusing on the Internet of Things (IoT); Artificial Intelligence (AI); and Blockchain which was lively discussion. In between, Celent presented its Model Insurers for five categories and the Model Insurer of the Year.

Digital and Omnichannel

  • CUNA Mutual Group

The rapid development and launch of a simplified-issue term life insurance product that enables members to apply entirely online, answering only two health questions supported by a completely automated underwriting platform that delivers an instant decision in minutes.

  • Lincoln Financial Group

Lincoln Financial created a digital process to meet customer expectations of doing business, automate underwriting, reduce cycle time, and minimize human touch.

  • New York Life

The New York Life Portal initiative utilized digital connectivity and a ratings engine cloud-based platform to achieve a faster process and empower various actors across the organization.

To learn more of these Model Insurers, please read our report here.

Legacy and Ecosystem Transformation

  • Republic Indemnity

Republic Indemnity’s previous home-grown, legacy policy administration system was implemented in 1994 as a single state, Workers Compensation policy administration system. As the previous system could not issue multi-state policies and with the concern of technology obsolesce, Republic Indemnity looked for a new solution to replace its home-grown, legacy system.

  • ERS

Under new management, the business had to transform itself rapidly and replace 20-year-old technology. It had a major license renewal date in two years and would have been locked in by the vendor to a prohibitively expensive contract. It set about transforming claims first, and then policy with full data migration and scheme rationalization, all while growing the underlying gross written premium

  • Insurance Corporation of British Columbia

At the beginning of 2013, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) launched the Insurance Sales and Administration System (ISAS) policy transformation program. This was the last project in ICBC’s overall $400 million Transformation Program, which had already successfully replaced legacy claims systems and implemented a new Enterprise Data Warehouse and an enterprise service-oriented architecture.

To learn more of these Model Insurers, please read our report here.

Innovation and Emerging Technologies

  • Suramericana de Seguros S.A.- Wesura

Wesura (Sura) created a peer-to-peer Insurance platform around social networks. It develops private insurance communities so final users can share risk and underwrite people who wants to belong to the private community, the bigger the community the more benefits one can receive.

  • Church Mutual Insurance Company

Church Mutual Insurance Company has partnered with The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (HSB), part of Munich Re, to provide temperature and water sensors connected to a 24/7 monitoring system. This innovative Internet of Things (IoT) technology solution is designed to alert customers to take action before damages and disruptions to their ministries can occur.

  • Markerstudy Insurance

Markerstudy launched VisionTrack in February 2016 to tackle the challenge insurers are facing with rising fraudulent motor claims and to help improve driver behavior.

To learn more of these Model Insurers, please read our report here.

Operational Excellence

  • Aflac

Aflac was in need of some modernizing and is still likely to undergo more change as the industry continues to capitalize on social, mobile, and wearables. In response, the Aflac IT Division implemented an Agile Transformation to its projects and processes to meet the changing needs of the customers.

  • Saxon

Saxon serves the Cayman island community. With a limited pool to hire from or sell product to, Saxon realized that to remain viable in the insurance market, it needed to employ technology to better serve the needs of its customers and grow the business.

  • MassMutual

MassMutual offers a Data Science Development Program (DSDP) in Amherst, MA that trains promising, recent graduates to become well-rounded data scientists over a period of three years. The program combines rigorous academic coursework and practical data science projects for MassMutual — a unique and valuable combination.

To learn more of these Model Insurers, please read our report here.

Data Analytics

  • The Savings Bank Life Insurance Company of Massachusetts

SBLI implemented an advanced risk assessment solution using predictive modeling and data analytics to help reduce cycle times, decrease dropout rates, and eliminate the need to pull fluids and conduct exams, while pricing policies more competitively, placing applicants into appropriate risk classes, and improving customer experience.

  • StarStone Specialty Insurance Company

The initiative is based on the implementation of analytics tools to measure and reduce risk. The solution uses data from internal and external sources. The data may be structured or unstructured. This tool helps underwriters make better decisions.

  • Meteo Protect

Although a broker, Meteo Protect gives clients a means to evaluate how climate variability contributes to their companies’ results by analyzing the relationship between each business activity and the weather. It couples this with a platform to price and underwrite fully customized index-based weather insurance, for any business anywhere in the world.

To learn more of these Model Insurers, please read our report here.

CSE, Model Insurer of the Year

In 2017, CSE has been awarded Model Insurer of the Year for its aspiration to achieve “the best product in the industry.” This meant they had to overcome legacy thinking and practices to re-think all the features including coverage, pricing, rules, process, and communications To do so, they sought inputs from customers and analyzed the market using two common analyses: 5 Cs and SWOT. From this point on, CSE assembled and adapted its core system.

To learn more of the Model Insurers of the Year, please read our report here.

The quality of the submissions this year is a clear indication the industry is turning a corner and embracing transformation, digital initiatives, innovation and valuing data analytics.  It is inspiring to see the positive results the insurers have achieved and a pleasure to recognize them as Model Insurers for their best practices in insurance technology.

How about your company? As you read this, are you thinking of an initiative in your company that should be recognized? We are always looking for good examples of the use of technology in insurance. Stay tuned for more information regarding 2018 Model Insurer nominations.

Lost in Innovation?

Lost in Innovation?

So, how do you avoid getting lost in innovation? The simple (and maybe glib) answer might be to buy a map, a compass and start to plan your route. However, what do you do when there is no map, no obvious path to take and no-one to follow?

The last 24 months have seen an incredible amount of activity across the sector in experimenting with novel proposition concepts fuelled by emerging technologies in the internet of things, distributed ledgers and bot-driven artificial intelligence. Although each new concept shows promise, we are yet to experience a clear and obvious pattern for winning new clients or delivering a superior shareholder return using them. Many of the most exciting novel ideas (and many are genuinely exciting) are yet to see any real business volume behind them (see my earlier blog for additional context of what insurtech has to offer in defining the ‘dominant design’ for new tech-enabled propositions).

So, as an insurer faced with having to balance how much it should invest in these new concepts versus furthering the existing business in what is probably a highly successful and scalable model, two of the big questions we often hear from clients are: “Which of these nascent concepts are most likely to deliver real business value the fastest?” and “How much effort should I be devoting to exploring them today?” These are the questions that we looked to address at our latest event in London that we called ‘Lost in Innovation’, attended by just over 70 inquiring insurance decision makers.

Faced with uncertainty, we followed an agenda that focused on the things that an insurer can control, such as the innovation-led partnerships they enter, the skills they develop internally, the criteria used for measuring value, and the potential challenges ahead that they need to plan for.

Celent analyst Craig Beattie presenting on emerged software development approaches

Alongside presenting some of our latest research on the topic, we were joined on-stage by:

  • Matt Poll from NEOS (the UK’s first connected home proposition in partnership with Hiscox) shared his experience on the criteria for a successful partnership.
     
  • Jennyfer Yeung-Williams from Munich Re and Polly James from Berwin, Leighton, Paisner Law shared their experience and views on some of the challenges in the way of further adoption, including the attitude of the regulator and potential legal challenges presented by using personal data in propositions.
     
  • Dan Feihn, Group CTO from Markerstudy, presented his view of the future and how they are creating just enough space internally to experiment with some radical concepts – demonstrating that you don’t always need big budget project to try out some novel applications of new technologies.

So, what was the conclusion from the day? How do you avoid getting lost in innovation? Simply speaking, when concepts are so new that the direction of travel is unclear, a more explorative approach is required – testing each new path, collecting data and then regrouping to create the tools needed to unveil new paths further ahead until the goal is reached. Scaling concepts too early in their development (and before they are ready) may be akin to buying a 4×4 to plough through the scrub ‘on a hunch’ only to find quicksand on the other side.

Some tips shared to help feel out the way:

  • Partnerships will remain a strong feature of most insurer’s innovation activity over the next 12-24 months. Most struggle to create the space to try out new concepts. Also, realistically, many neither have the skills or the time to experiment (given that their existing capabilities are optimised for the existing business). Consequently, partnerships create a way to experiment without “upsetting the applecart”.
     
  • Hiring staff from outside of the industry can be a great way to change the culture internally and bring-in fresh new ideas…however, unless there is an environment in place to keep them enthused, there remains a risk of them turning ‘blue’ and adopting the existing culture instead of helping to change it.
     
  • There are several ways to measure value created by an initiative. The traditional approach is a classic ‘Return on Investment’ (RoI). However, RoI can be hard to calculate when uncertainty is high. To encourage experimentation, other approaches may be better suited, such as rapid low-cost releases to test concepts and gather data to feel the way. Framing these in terms of an ‘affordable loss’ may be another way to approach it – i.e. “What’s the maximum amount that I’m willing to spend to test this out?” – accepting that there may not be an RoI for the initial step. Although no responsible insurer should be ‘betting the house’ on wacky new concepts, reframing the question and containing exposure can sometimes be all that’s required to create the licence to explore.
     
  • There’s still an imbalance between the promise of technology and the reality of just how far end-customers and insurers are willing to go in pursuit of value. The geeks (or ‘path finders’) have rushed in first – but will the majority follows? Regardless, to avoid getting lost in the ‘shiny new stuff’, a focus on customer value, fairness and transparency around how data is being used need to be at the heart of each proposition – plus, recognising that the regulator will not be far behind.
     

In summary, the journey ahead needs to be less about the ‘what’ (with all of its bells, whistles and shiny parts) and more about the ‘how’ (deep in the culture of the firm and its willingness to experiment – even in small ways) – at least while the map to future value is being still being drawn.

Celent continues to research all of these topics, including assessing the different technologies and techniques that insurers can use. Feel free to get in touch to discuss how Celent could assist your organisation further.

Celent clients will be able to access the presentations from the event via their Celent Account Manager.

The ABCD of Emerging Technology

The ABCD of Emerging Technology

Alphabet Blocks A to D

Celent has mapped over 45 emerging technologies in P&C and a similar number in Life & Health. That's way too much for an insurer to handle and the pace of technological change outpaces the industry's capacity to absorb it. You could say though that there is a set of 4 emerging technologies with the most potential to profoundly affect insurance; the ABCD of emerging technology:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Blockchain
  • Cloud
  • Data (big and small)

The four altogether become a strong enabler for Digital. Digital interactions, digital products, digital claims, everything digital. Digital becoming important to meet the expectations of customers that want insurance to be simple, right now, as I want it, when I want it, and relevant to me. On the other hand, many consumers are still not being attracted by insurance; creating a protection gap. Digital comes as a possible response to close this gap, and in the process has the ability to profoundly change insurance as we know it. Actually, we may not call it insurance anymore. It may just be something that comes as a warranty of the product or service. Have I gone mad?

Imagine cars with assisted driving. There is an accident involving the autopilot function and the manufacturer claims no responsibility. Who is going to buy this car after that incident? No surprise then to see some car manufacturers, vested in automated driving, indicate that they will assume liability. Of course they will, and in the process what they are doing is to offer their customers a guarantee that the product will perform as indicated in the user manual. By being able to monitor the car status they are also able to prevent accidents or breakdown. So in the future will you get car insurance or a manufacturer warranty?

You can imagine any other product that can be monitored, for example as part of the IoT. All these products will generate data, and that data will enable their manufacturers to provide a service; in many cases that service will be a preventive one. See the trend here?

Today many digital initiatives in insurance still rely on the use of a call center. That's not digital because it implies human to human interaction. Each interaction needs of a human in the call center, so each interaction adds cost as there is no way you can make the human person be digital. The use of chatbots or robo-advisors enabled by artificial intelligence and natural language capabilities allow digital interactions, where each interaction can be taken simultaneously by a robot with no, or marginal, cost to do it. By robot don't think about a physical robot but software instead. Just as the one used by Lemonade to settle claims fast.

Artificial intelligence with machine learning capabilities also allows us to mess with a huge amount of data; discovering new patterns. The more information ingested to these machines the better answers you get. The more is used, the more it learns, the smarter it gets. Even most importantly, this technology today is very good at taking repetitive and predictable processes and doing it faster, better and cheaper than humans. You are smart, you don't need me to explain how this is relevant to insurance, do you?

Technology as the one described here is available on demand and in the cloud. Need more computing power? being in the cloud can solve that problem very easily. Pay as you go? cloud deployments make this technology available at a per use price. Basically cloud makes technology accessible to anyone.

Blockchain is the glue that can hold it all together. Digital and physical assets (that can be digitized) can be stored in the blockchain. The IoT could be linked to blockchain. Then, any rules applicable to digital transactions can rely on smart contracts. Finally by providing trust and provenance through a decentralized body blockchain becomes the basis to catapult digital in any scale, even when peers don't know each other.

Are you mastering the ABCD of emerging technology? Not yet? Don't be left behind; insurers around the world have already started. Want to find more about how insurers can take advantage of emerging technology and innovation? Contact me or any person at Celent. We will be happy to dive into this with you.

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.

When plumbers sell insurance

When plumbers sell insurance

Digital and digitization in insurance are terms that have been increasingly used in the insurance industry over the past decade and not only by insurers but also by consultants, IT vendors and research firms. I have already provided my high level definition of digital and digitization in this blog.

While attending RGI's Next event, where an innovation for the connected home was presented, I reflected on the visibility of the relationship between the insurer and the end-consumer. Many innovation and digital gurus claim that with digitization insurance will become invisible. At the first sight, it sounds like an interesting idea and of course it would be logical to believe that if there is less or no human intervention then it would be difficult for a consumer to get a physical representation of an insurance product and the company behind it. However, I don’t like the idea of insurers becoming invisible. Insurance is a difficult product to understand for average consumers because it is not something they can touch and feel. In addition, risk is a concept that is highly conceptual especially for young people. Many consumers, who buy insurance for the first time, do so because it is compulsory and in general they don’t try to analyse the details of the product, which is nothing more than a list of benefits, terms and conditions that are painful to read and difficult to understand. I think digitization represents a great opportunity insurers have to seize to better productize insurance products. Making insurance invisible does not properly address the consumers’ needs and expectations I think. In our open world where information is so easily accessible and transferrable and where transparency is important, insurers need to make insurance more palpable and digitization is a great opportunity to democratize the knowledge of insurance and risk among the public. Let’s take the example of home insurance. What if home insurance is sold on top of a box (an Apple TV style one) that controls various sensors that monitor home parameters including thermostats, smoke detector, video surveillance and water usage? The insured would be able to regularly check these sensors via a smartphone app and be informed quickly about abnormal events. With this box, the insurer would add home insurance at a preferred price (maybe included with the box warranty). The connected home model is an interesting example demonstrating that digital transformation can contribute to making insurance products more palpable and risk easier to understand and to monitor from a customer point of view. So when will we see plumbers and electricians sell home insurance!

It’s Not Just Twitter’s Problem: What Insurers Need to Know about DDoS and the Snake in the IoT Garden of Eden

It’s Not Just Twitter’s Problem: What Insurers Need to Know about DDoS and the Snake in the IoT Garden of Eden

On Friday October 21 a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) made over 1,000 websites unreachable, including, Twitter, Netflix and PayPal. Two cloud providers, Amazon Web Services and Heroku reportedly also experienced periods of unavailability.

The attack was directed against a key part of the internet’s infrastructure, a domain name system provider, Dynamic Network Services aka Dyn. When a person enters a web address into a browser, such as google.com, the browser in turn needs an IP address (a string of numbers and periods) to actually connect with that web address. Domain name system providers are a critical source of IP addresses.

On Friday Dyn was the target of perhaps the largest ever DDoS, when its site was overcome by tens of million of requests for IP addresses. Because Dyn could not provide the correct IP addresses for Twitter and the other affected sites, those sites became unreachable for much of the day.

It also appears that the DDoS was mounted using a widely available malware program called Mirai. Mirai searches the web for IoT connected devices (such as digital video recorders and IP cameras) whose admin systems which can be captured using simple default user names and passwords, such as ADMIN and 12345. Mirai can then mobilize those devices into a botnet which executes a directed DDoS attack.

There are a number of potentially serious implications for insurers:

  • An insurer with a Connected Home or Connected Business IoT initiative that provides discounts for web-connected security systems, moisture detectors, smart locks, etc. may be subsidizing the purchase of devices which could be enlisted in a botnet attack on a variety of targets. This could expose both the policyholder and the insurer providing the discounts to a variety of potential losses.
  • If the same type of safety and security devices are disabled by malware, homeowners and property insurers may have increased and unanticipated losses.
  • As insurers continue to migrate their front-end and back-office systems to the cloud, the availability of those systems to customers, producers, and internal staff may drop below acceptable levels for certain periods of time.

The Internet of Things will change insurance and society in many positive ways. But the means used to mount the October 21 attack highlights vulnerabilities that insurers must recognize as they build their IoT plans and initiatives.