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.

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.

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.

Your Natural Best Friend will certainly know that you are sad. But will your customer service chat bot know?

Your Natural Best Friend will certainly know that you are sad.  But will your customer service chat bot know?
AI and machine learning things are moving right along. A few months ago, in a Celent report, I predicted the emergence of a “Natural Best Friend,” a term combining “natural language” and “best friends forever.” However, there is nothing organic about the Natural Best Friend; it is completely a product of technology. The Natural Best Friend will at some point pass the Turing Test (interacting with a person in a way that is indistinguishable from how another person would interact). Natural Best Friends will become sources of not only trusted information and advice, but also of companionship, friendship, and perhaps even some form of wisdom and intimacy. The use of the Natural Best Friend has obvious applications in throughout the entire insurance life cycle: from underwriting to service to claims. Even the possible characteristics of companionship, friendship, wisdom, and intimacy may be of use to insurers. Consider insurers’ brands, built over decades, which stand for trust, reliability, and succor. Once it becomes socially normal to have a personal relationship with the Natural Best Friend, insurers’ (and many other service industries’) sales and service processes will change dramatically. IBM has just announced it is developing customer service software that can interpret the customer’s emotional state by the content and pattern of the customer’s chat messages. Somewhere in the future, the software may be able to analyze a customer’s voice to determine the emotional playing field. Here’s a link to the WSJ story (warning: this might be behind a paywall). The family tree that will produce a baby boom of Natural Best Friends now has a new branch.