Customer segmentation, fad or future?

Customer segmentation, fad or future?
Traditionally insurers have been structured by line of business and some have grouped those around personal lines and commercial lines to differentiate businesses from people. With the opportunities of varied distribution channels and more sophisticated technologies insurers are starting to be much more granular in their view of the customers. Insurers have now the chance to move from their traditional top notch markets and be able to create an offering to attract the different segments. Some of these moves include Microinsurance targeting people in the base of the pyramid and Small and Medium Business (SMB) insurance products. Microinsurance products are being launched almost every month in different parts of Latin America. Most recently it was announced that Asomi and Redcamif will be launching an initiative in El Salvador with life insurance policies written by Pan American Life Insurance Group (Palig) with premiums as low as $0,68 per month. Some brokers, large ones, are moving into the SMB market but using its affinity platforms instead of their commercial platforms to support this business. While originally SMB should have fallen into commercial, they realize that it requires processes and the agility expected also in their affinity business. In another interesting move, Metlife Mexico announced yesterday the creation of a new division that will sell to socio economic segments C and D and to young people, those that are not the usual target of insurers. According to the classifications developed by AMAI, a Mexican association, the country’s population is divided into five segments: AB (people with high purchasing power and income), C+ (people with higher-than-average incomes, whose families are headed by someone with a college degree and have at least two cars), C (people with middle incomes, whose families are headed by someone with a high school degree and have both a car and the ability to take one trip per year), D+ (people with incomes slightly below average, some secondary education and no family vehicle), D (people with low income levels and a fairly austere way of existence, who have a primary school education and who lack access to traditional banking services). Metlife Mexico will be offering simple and flexible products while also developing better distribution channels, with emphasis in the use of technology. Software vendors are coming in also to provide solutions towards being more granular. Solutions around analytics to better understand your customer, digital to better serve them and master the points of contact, core processing and BPM to adjust your products and processes accordingly, just to mention a few. Last year Guidewire presented its vision on how a core system will be able to support customer segmentation already delivering some required functionality. Core systems are just another gear in the engine and it’s important that vendors acknowledge how they need to integrate into other solutions for the insurer to be able to deliver a customer segmented value proposition. While I believe customer segmentation is where the industry needs to go, it is not without huge challenges. Insurers need to address the differences and purchase attitudes of those different segments.  Omni-channel is one of the aspects, but also dealing with channel conflicts and regulation. Products need to be tailored in a way that can be flexible but capable of scaling massively, and this means looking into pricing, packaging, marketing, distribution and servicing. Processes need to be adjusted in order to provide the correct value to each segment. At the end of the day you don’t want to be perceived as under-performing and not providing the required value, but neither you want to over deliver if this means excess of cost and important cuts in your margins. My final thoughts for you. How will your structure look as you move into serving segments? How will this affect reporting and statistics by the way, which today is seen by line of business (even by regulators)? Are you ready? Are we ready?

Celent Predictions for 2014

Celent Predictions for 2014
It’s clear that my colleagues and I see 2014 as something of a tipping point, a water shed for established and new technologies  to take hold in the insurance industry. I’ll try to summarise them succinctly here. Expect to see reports on these topics in the near future. Celent’s 2014 prediction focus on:
  • The increasing importance and evolution of digital
  • The rise of the robots, the sensor swarm and the Internet of Things
  • An eye to the basics
The first topic area is labelled digital but encompasses novel use of technology, user interfaces, evolving interaction, social interaction (enabled by technology) and ye olde customer centricity. Celent predicts vendors would market core systems as customer centric again, but this time meaning digital customer centricity. Celent expects to see core system user interfaces to acquire more social features along with a deeper investment in user interfaces leveraging voice, gesture, expression and eye movements. A specific digital UI example was the wide spread adjustment of auto damage claims (almost) entirely done through photos. In addition, gamification use for both policyholders and brokers will be adopted or increase in use for those early adopters. Celent further predicts greater investment in digital and that comprehensive digitisation projects would start to drive most of the attention and budgets of IT. The second topic I’ve called Robots and Sensors, while digital there is a significant amount of attention and specificity. The merger or evolution of the Internet with the Internet of Things accelerates with devices contributing ever more data. Celent predicts this rise of the Internet of Things or the sensor swarm, will push usage based insurance policies to other lines of business, not just telematics based auto policies that UBI is currently synonymous with. Celent further predicts that the quantified self movement and humans with sensors will in 2014 yield the first potentially disruptive business model for health insurance using this data. As an aside the increasing use of automation, robotics and AI will see broader adoption in the insurance industry. For those reading my tweets, Celent predicts 2014 will see drones used for commercial purposes. I hope we won’t have the need, but wonder if we’ll see drones rather helicopters capturing information about crisis stricken regions in 2014. The final topic I’ve called the basics. Celent predicts insurers will continue to focus heavily on improving performance of the core business – a good counterbalance to the hype around digital and a good pointer to where to focus digitisation efforts. At Celent we have noted a pragmatic interest in the cloud from insurers and we predict increasing complexity in hybrid cloud models, to the benefit of the industry. A little tongue in cheek but finally, Celent suggests that industry will finally find a business case for insurers adopting big data outside of UBI. Avid readers of the blog will be happy to see we haven’t predicted an apocalypse for 2014.   A special thanks to Jamie Macgregor, Juan Mazzini, Donald Light and Jamie Bisker for their contributions.  

How is Social Media Being Used in Insurance?

How is Social Media Being Used in Insurance?
Social Media has established a foothold in many insurers in the United States. However, strategies, goals and results vary widely. In order to shed some light on why and how this new tool is being used by insurers to enhance their businesses, Celent and Locke Lord LLP are conducting a survey among their respective clients that answers the questions most often received about the use of social media by insurance companies in North America. The survey explores the benefits, barriers, plans, legal considerations and business results of social media in insurance. The data collected will provide a picture of the current state of play and will also provide a look at what insurers expect in their “social” future. To begin, just click on the link below https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Social_Media_Use_in_Insurance_2013 So that we can get the results back to you in a timely manner, the survey will close on January 31, 2013. If you have any questions, please contact Mike Fitzgerald mfitzgerald@celent.com  

New Year, New Tools to Service Insurance Customers

New Year, New Tools to Service Insurance Customers
For those interested in how new data techniques and availability are changing business models, I can recommend the article Smarter Information, Smarter Consumers in the latest edition of Harvard Business Review. http://hbr.org/2013/01/smarter-information-smarter-consumers/ar/1 The central premise is that legislation in the U.S. and U.K. now requires government agencies to make public data available and consumable in electronic form. This enables new techniques that leverage this information and provides increased value by making the purchasing process more intelligent. The authors offer their concept of “Choice Engines” – on line tools that guide consumers to make better purchasing decisions more efficiently using public information. At some point in the future, they also predict that private data will be added to the mix and allow the engines to work at a personal, individual level. Most of the use cases are consumer product-oriented, but as this blog has described previously, customer service expectations in other industries will influence insurance purchasing. The person who benefits because their cell phone company suggests ways to lower her bill (the authors’ example) will also want the same service from her insurance agent/company. Consumers and businesses will expect to be contacted by their agent/insurer when their risk profile changes. For example, if an addition is added to a house, insureds will expect that their insurance will be monitoring building permits and will want to be contacted proactively so their insurance can be adjusted appropriately. Two questions specifically related to insurance deal with timing and distribution models. Which insurance company will be the first to employ a choice engine for its insureds and prospects? Can an insurer with a mediocre data infrastructure and skill base compete with those which invest early and heavily in data techniques? Will independent agents embrace choice engines as an enabler, or reject them as a threat to their value proposition? Would an insurer be willing to offer such a tool to a distribution force that they don’t control? There is no question that managing risk will move from a point-in-time (usually renewal) event to a more continuous process. What is to be seen is which company changes the insurance purchasing model and transforms the buying process by using a tool like a choice engine.

If You Build It, Will They Come?

If You Build It, Will They Come?

What is the link between improving service technology and improving sales incentives? This was the topic of a very insightful conversation that I had recently with an insurance CIO. It highlighted how interrelated the processes are in the insurance value chain. Investments can be made in one area, but if other, correlated areas do not receive attention, the benefits from the initial investment may be less than expected.

The two areas in question are policy administration and distribution management. This company has determined that the key to managing their profitability properly is the ability to change their mix of business in order to respond to market conditions. This strategic imperative led to a recent investment in best-in-class rating technology to increase the responsiveness of product updates and the speed of new product introductions. The company also upgraded their BI and analytic capabilities, allowing their actuaries to develop new discounting and pricing methods.

The CIO shared that they were pleased with the cycle time reductions and productivity increases that resulted. However, he reports that they only got full benefits they sought after they updated their compensation system. They needed to be able to change incentives in line with product modifications in order to effectively modify their portfolio and manage profitability. In other words, they had to be able to give their distribution force a reason to sell the new products, not just deliver product changes.

This was a twist on the phrase “if you build it they will come” and a reminder to be sure and consider the interplay between separate processes when evaluating investments. In constructing a product administration roadmap, an assessment of incentive management should be made. Incentive system upgrades may be necessary in order to fully benefit from administration enhancements.

The Importance of Price Optimization and Predictive Analytics in Online Insurance

The Importance of Price Optimization and Predictive Analytics in Online Insurance

For online insurance shoppers, price is the most important parameter and in mature markets aggregators exert strong pressure on insurers and online players need to improve product pricing. To do so, insurers should invest in pricing optimization and sophisticated analytic tools. Predictive analytics and price optimization both together support insurers’ capability to adapt to customer behavior changes, new pricing signals on the market and ranking on aggregators websites.

Price optimization helps insurers maximize data set to perform testing and refine models and pricing strategies. If there is a business sector where insurance companies can take advantage of price optimization, it is certainly in online insurance. Indeed, online sales platforms represent a great opportunity to gather instant information from the market. Implementing real time price optimization consists notably in performing real life field tests that allow insurers to capture trends in customers’ behavior directly from the market. Price optimization also contributes to shorten the time needed to implement new tariffs by using scenarios and pricing strategy models. Overall, real time pricing optimization engine allows for daily pricing scheme changes while helping insurers better capture market data and modify price strategies.

With the strengths of business analytics tools offered on the market, insurers are able to refine their analysis and the evaluation of certain risk’s elements. But the biggest value these tools bring to the industry is the democratization of risk evaluation principles (actuaries have no longer the monopoly of data and risk evaluation elements), which in turn contributes to generate more discussions about identification of new key parameters impacting the risk pricing. We are now in an era where specific teams are built within insurance companies, whose objective is to ask questions that have never been asked and then build models that include dynamic parameters (and not only static parameters) to improve pricing algorithms. According to me, time has come now for insurers to shift from a reactive analytics approach to a proactive analytics approach.

Celent's anti-money laundering vendor report: 2009 update

Celent's anti-money laundering vendor report: 2009 update
Celent’s AML vendor evaluation reports have become something of a de facto standard, referenced by financial institutions and regulators around the world. We began covering the sector in 2003, and are about to start work on our 3rd edition of the report. Although initially the insurance industry was not seen as a high-risk area for AML, in recent years AML has grown as a concern for insurers and regulators. The behavior detection technology that underpins AML software has also expanded its boundaries within the financial institution. Celent has been behind the “enterprise risk” approach, that is, consolidating AML and anti-fraud efforts, since our first AML report back in 2002. But until the last few years there were few real-life examples to point to. Recently, however, financial institutions have become increasingly concerned with fighting fraud, including fraud committed by customers as well as employee fraud. And a growing number of firms are beginning to take a wholistic approach to these issues. So this time around our report will take an enterprise risk approach as well, by including in our evaluation the anti-fraud products of the AML vendors. We’re calling it “Evaluating the Vendors of Enterprise Risk Management Solutions 2009.” We’ll be starting research on the report this month, beginning with qualifying vendors for inclusion in the report. The last edition evaluated 19 vendors and was 100 pages long. As the market has shifted, with new products emerging and others fading from sight, there may be some shuffling in order to keep the field of vendors representative of the marketplace. And although we are constantly looking at this space, we’d welcome any comments on vendors we should consider that we may have missed. As a reminder, the AML software providers evaluated in the 2006 edition of the report were: Accuity, Ace Software Solutions, ACI Worldwide, Actimize, ChoicePoint/Bridger Insight, Experian/Americas Software, Fortent/Searchspace, FircoSoft, LogicaCMG, Mantas, Metavante/Prime Associates, Fiserv/NetEconomy, Norkom Technologies, Northland Solutions, SAS Institute, Side International, STB Systems, Top Systems, Wolters Kluwer Financial Services/PCi