analytics, fraud detection, risk management, and complex
Add cognitive computing to the communications capabilities of the Internet and the physical control of robots and
there appears to be few ways in which humans will outperform
machines in the near future. Will these machines even need
programmers in the future or will they become capable of “
programming” themselves? Which does beg the question: So what
about us humans?
So What About Humans?
Meanwhile, back in today’s version of reality, the insurance
industry still employs hundreds of
thousands of people.
So, what is changing
about who they are,
how they are selected
and trained, and how
they do their jobs?
With an average
age of more than
50-years-old, we still
face the demographic
time bomb, but we
are getting better at
hiring young people, bringing them into and allowing them to
help change our industry.
Several speakers touched on related trends. Companies
increasingly hire for emotional quotient, the ability to get along
with others, share, cooperate, and lead, rather than specific
analytic or technical skills. Having hired the EQs, the current
thinking is to encourage, incent, train, and get out of the way.
More carriers are cross-training people in an apprenticeship
model that gives them the opportunity to learn what the different departments of an insurer do, and that they feel suited to.
Increasingly, there is, as we said above, the recognition that
nothing happens without IT, and so if IT has become strategic we
better make sure IT people actually understand the business they
are now critical to. After years of hearing about it, leading carriers
now really do co-locate cross-discipline teams to build and/or implement software that is needed to move the company forward.
Much depends on environments and tools and one theme
that repeated along the “cross discipline” line is that this works
better in an agile project environment where business people
and IT work, interact, share, and review software on a frequent
and ongoing basis and where change is allowed and even encouraged rather than being seen as a disrupter.
The other “techie” note here was that young people are more
easily drawn to companies that have recognizably modern software platforms. The app/mobile generation understands what
they grew up with, not what we grew up with.
But the demographic time bomb remains. We need to tell
Watson all we know before an entire generation of insurance
experts leave the office for the golf course never to return.
It’s the Customer Experience, Stupid
Another strong theme of ITA LIVE was how, finally, technology
is escaping the strictures of the back office and is moving from
executional efficiency to strategy. Technology is rapidly becoming a business differentiator, especially with younger customers.
I shared the story last year of one of my daughters buying
car insurance for the first time. Together, we selected insurers
based on price and coverage and from that short list she chose
to do business with the carrier that had the “coolest app.” One
carrier at the conference uses apps and social media to engage,
inform, and entertain its client base in a way that insurers simply didn’t do just a few years ago.
Whoever “heard” from their insurance carrier? Many people
still don’t even know who their insurer is, often naming their
agent when asked. Now, both direct and independent-agency
companies are reaching out to insureds via apps, Facebook,
Twitter, and other social media. Companies are extending these
technologies beyond the usual self-service boundaries in order to
provide real-time information on storms and wildfires as well as
road and driving conditions and other useful, unprompted information, which is considered by the insureds to be value added.
Clearly, customer engagement is a much higher-order function for software and technology than back-office efficiency and
it brings with it correspondingly higher demands for usability,
accuracy, timeliness, shear attractiveness, and completeness.
In-house, back-office systems can be ugly and incomplete—they are used by captive humans who get paid to suffer.
External, customer-facing apps are the polar opposite; they
must be nice to look at, easy and fun to use, and complete and
self-contained. The function must complete in real time and
without burdensome follow ups or work arounds. If you don’t
believe me go to www.figopetinsurance.com and see how easy
and fun it is to buy pet insurance.
The age of beautiful software is upon us.
Back to the Future, or at Least Hilton Head
As redundant as it sounds, the future is coming. And probably
more quickly than many of us realize. Figo Insurance, mentioned
briefly above, is as reliant on technology as Uber; without the
technology there would literally be no company. Insurance now is
still recognizably the same as it was 20 years ago. I suspect we will
not be able to say the same in another 20 years. ITA
George Grieve is a popular writer and speaker on the subject of insurance technology solutions. He is the author of
a book composed of a popular collection of his columns,
“Shop Talk,” and is CEO of the consulting firm CastleBay
Consulting. The views and opinions in this column are
those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
views of the ITA.
Insurance is still
same as it was
20 years ago. I
suspect we will
not be able to
say the same in
another 20 years.