Maybe the Innovation Glass is Half Full?

By April 22, 2019October 4th, 2022Press

After attending the OnRamp conference in Minneapolis last week, I come away more optimistic about innovation in insurance than I’ve been in some time.

That feeling began with the keynote panel I moderated with Allianz Life CEO Walter White and Securian Financial CEO Chris Hilger, who laid out a compelling vision. Rather than thinking about using technology to automate jobs or cut expenses, they see ways to make their financial advisers better, more-informed coaches. They also envision extending the benefits of the advice to those many who otherwise couldn’t afford financial counsel, because the high cost structure makes fees prohibitive. (At ITL, we use the word “centaur” to describe employees who, like the mythical creatures, have combined with machines to be more powerful than people alone would be.)

A later panel laid out a new vision of segmentation. While the traditional focus has been on defining segments for marketing purposes, panelists recommended using the techniques to categorize people for different customer experiences. At the moment, companies strain to win customers by demonstrating great understanding of their situations and needs, then do one of two things: 1) dump them into a generic onboarding process that immediately undercuts any claims of trust; or 2) strive (and fail) to deliver a unique experience for each person. Sophisticated segmentation of customers could deliver considerable personalization of the customer journey at a reasonable cost.

(ITL CEO Wayne Allen contributes a related thought from the Sitkins Network conference where he spoke last week. He said the suggestion was to move away from thinking about customer-centricity and toward empathy. In other words, don’t just make the customer the center of your efforts; do everything you can to put yourself in that customer’s shoes and understand what he or she feels, then do what the customer—not the company—needs.)

Still another OnRamp panelist described an opportunity with micro businesses—ones that range from a sole proprietor up to four employees. While many have seen potential in small and medium-sized businesses, I hadn’t yet heard such a clear argument for products and services that can be provided digitally, at low cost, with little friction, while fitting in with personal financial services that the buyer wants and may already receive.

The array of clever ideas behind some startups also struck me. For instance, while I’ve been hearing about telematics in cars for decades, I’d never thought about motorcycles until Marina Mann introduced herself and her company, EatSleepRide. She has tracked 20 million kilometers of motorcycle rides and is rolling out services that not only rate the risk of the rider but offer real-time advice to the rider about signs of fatigue, dangers that may lie ahead, etc.

There was even a startup, Owl Cam, that may let me resolve a pet peeve that has been bugging me for the, oh, 45 years I’ve been driving.

The background: I often offer a running commentary about other drivers, a habit I picked up from my father and, sorry to say, seem to have passed on to my daughters. I get especially annoyed when someone tailgates me in the left lane even though traffic in front of me means I have nowhere to go—these geniuses seem to think they can push safe drivers out of the way by creating dangerous situations—but I’ll also complain if someone cuts me off, if someone seems to think he’s playing Fast and Furious, etc. I’ve always wanted some way to document the crazy driving to help get idiots off the road (and, yeah, vent my spleen a bit) but never had the means. Until now.

Owl Cam sets up a two-way camera on the dashboard that captures both the interior and the road. The main purposes are to record a thief, a vandal or a car that hits yours while you’re not in it, and to help resolve claims quickly if you’re in an accident. But the feature that I covet is the one that lets you keep the past 10 seconds from the forward-facing camera by just saying, “Hey, presto.” Now, if the police set up some way for concerned citizens to share video, and if Owl Cam figures out some way to capture the license plates of those tailgaters, we’ll be in business.

This insurance innovation thing may have a future!


Paul Carroll

Editor in Chief