I recently had the opportunity to judge the ACORD Innovation
Award finals as part of the recent ACORD2016 conference held
last month in Florida. The finals were the culmination of several
months of presentations made by insurtech startups looking to
make a difference in the insurance industry.
The good news is there’s a great deal of activity on the part
of many smart people who see an opportunity to change the
way insurance is experienced by customers. The less than good
news, at least thus far, is that it’s not entirely clear how much of
this new activity will be embraced, and how much change it will
ultimately bring to the industry.
To be fair, much of this is new to insurers, especially the
notions of customer centricity and
information ubiquity and it’ll take
time and fortitude for many in the
industry to process it all.
The ACORD Innovation finals
were a microcosm of just those
kinds of winds blowing into the
industry. Among the finalists were
startups whose ideas and solutions
directly addressed many of the
perceived deficiencies in the insur-
ance industry. One finalist had a
solution for a virtual agent based
on artificial intelligence, real-time
data collection, and analysis. The company has an intuitive
website and once a prospect enters their information they get
instant recommendations on pricing, coverages, and crowd-
sourced references to agents in their geographic area.
Another finalist created a small hardwire device that, once
installed in a vehicle, made any smartphone in that vehicle a
“dumb phone,” with only the ability to make phone calls. Their
aim is to decrease the instances of distracted driving accidents,
especially among younger drivers.
Still another finalist has an app that allows international
travelers to quickly find reputable medical facilities and doctors
if they fall ill or are injured while traveling. They also saw an
opportunity to bundle this service with travel insurance.
In all, it was a great example of the kinds of innovation entering the industry. Interestingly, most of the insurtech activity
is coming from outside the industry, as was the case with the
ACORD finals. The common thread running through most of
these new entrants is their focus on improving or otherwise
altering the status quo in the insurance industry.
That’s commendable, and some might even say optimistic,
Here Comes the Judge
Good news/bad news from someone charged with picking top innovations.
given that the insurance industry is historically reticent about
changing too much too quickly and with some good reason, as
it’s a model that has worked well enough for some hundreds of
However, change is coming to insurance and to the credit
of many inside the industry there is a recognition of what some
fresh, outside thinking can bring to insurance carriers, their
policyholders, and their agents/brokers. Many insurers have
already embraced the new wave of innovation and are using it
as inspiration for changing their own companies, before other
forces change it for them.
While I was humbled to participate as a judge during the
ACORD Innovation contest this past year, in the end there’s
only one judge that really matters and that’s the consumer of
insurance services and products. Nearly all of the insurtech and
carrier activity is aimed at placing the customer in the center
of the insurance world and that is certainly a change for the
Within a short period of time—at least relative to the history
of the industry—customers have become king. That’s why nearly all the startup activity outside the industry and the innovation within the industry is aimed at putting the customer on the
That’s something many in the insurance industry need to
come to grips with, and quickly. The judges of the past—
underwriters, actuaries, claims adjusters, agents, etc.—now need to
give way to the judges of the future. ITA