For sustained innovation, it is not only the “What” but also the “How”

For sustained innovation, it is not only the “What” but also the “How”

I read an excellent article recently by CoinDesk on John Hancock Insurance Company’s testing of blockchain in insurance. This is one of the early, public declarations that insurers are exploring the potential of this technology. Jamie Macgregor and I also explored this subject recently in the report: Blockchain in Insurance: Use Cases

There is another important angle to the John Hancock story that lies beyond the technology. In our approach to innovation at Celent, we separate the “what” of innovation (blockchain, artificial intelligence, analytics that personalize the customer experience) from the “how”. How companies execute on innovation involves building repeatable processes, incentive systems, and cultures of experimentation that establish a new “way we do things around here”. Note that John Hancock’s LOFT program provided the mechanism through which the insurer could test blockchain. Next week, month, year it will be a different “what” to feed into the “how” machine.

Beginning in the Q3 of last year, Celent research observed the pattern that leading financial services companies which have invested in the "how" of innovation are beginning to gain fast mover advantage over those that have not.  We expect to see an increasing, widening gap between those insurers which have investe in the how of innovation and those that have not. The leaders will use their innovation machines to more rapidly and effectively figure out how to make the “what” of the possible real in their organizations.

John Hancock introduces Vitality in the US – will it transform the industry?

John Hancock introduces Vitality in the US – will it transform the industry?
Bold words, perhaps. Transform the industry? It just might. If you did not see the announcement, you can learn more about the program at the John Hancock Vitality website. If you participate in their program, you can receive rewards and premium savings. The program rewards healthy activity, regular exercise, regular checkups and even reading about topics John Hancock offers. It is a program that will feel familiar, as it works similarly to other retail rewards programs, but is focused on your life style. That’s one of the benefits – it is simple and easy to use. The rewards partners are quite extensive as well. In other words, a win-win. The insured lives a healthier lifestyle and is rewarded for it. The insurer benefits as their customers live longer, which is to their financial benefit. I love a good win-win. The program is not actually new. It’s been in existence, in earlier forms, for a number of years. It began in South Africa, with Discovery Vitality, then moved to the UK and to Asia. What makes it even more interesting now, is the intersection of an innovative program with technology. We have all seen technology in the fitness space. You cannot walk around a mall without seeing a Fitbit. For those that think this is a phenomenon only focuses on youth, look when you go shopping. Wearable tech is on the wrist of every age group. Celent certainly expects that to grow quickly, given the upcoming release date for the Apple Watch in the US. Today is even the day you can see one in your local Apple store. The Vitality program integrates this information directly into the rewards, giving you credit for the exercise, just by virtue of reporting it. There are some questions, and I was asked some of those on CNBC’s Nightly Business Review program on Wednesday night. You can view the interview here. Some are fairly obvious – such as security. We don’t see that as an issue here, as the information shared is very limited and not information of interest to a hacker. How much I walk and my heart rate is just not valuable information to anyone. Let’s also not forget that programs with similar components are in place today in the health insurance world. Many companies offer discounts to their employee’s insurance if they complete some basic steps. Our parent company does and my family saved a significant amount of money by participating. One better known program is Humana’s Vitality program – yes, there is Vitality again. Another could be concern that this would limit Life insurance, or even subject you to cancellation, if you didn’t meet your fitness goals. Again, that’s not really an issue. The contractual obligations of an insurance company are very clear and neither this program, not the contract, allows that to occur. The program is also entirely optional. In fact, what industry should we trust more than the Life insurance industry? The basic premise of life insurance is spreading risk. We pay our premiums, for years or even decades, and expect our loved ones to be taken care of in their times of greatest grief. And they are, and have been for centuries. It is one of the reasons I like being in this industry – we help those that have just been stunned by loss. Readers of earlier blog posts know that I enjoy technology and own and wear a very high-tech watch. I am all set for this program and many of you are too. One of my reports from last year explored this very topic, and referenced Vitality as an example. I’m pleased to see movement on the topic, particularly by a company as strong as John Hancock. I encourage those that are interested to follow some of these links, and check out my interview, to learn more about the program. I am sure we will have more soon.