One Session to Stick Around For – The IASA IT Town Hall

As things are wrapping up at the IASA Conference, there is one event attendees should stick around for. The IASA IT Town Hall is an open forum session with a panel of industry professionals, who discuss trends, answer questions, and share their experiences managing insurance IT. Every year, the panel is comprised of an impressive, diverse group of IT leaders, and this year was no exception.

Tony Villa, Insuresoft’s CEO, moderated the panel which included Rusty Sproat, founder and CEO of Figo Pet Insurance; Jim Streicher, Vice President of IT at Cincinnati Insurance Companies; and Tony Jacob, Managing Director, Worldwide Insurance at Microsoft Corporation. Having a startup, a fortune 500 insurer, and a Microsoft business development leader on the panel gave audience members a wide perspective of what’s happening in insurance IT. While their business models couldn’t be more distinct, the underlying themes and trends in the industry applied to all. The three main topics of conversation were digital transformation, disrupters/disruption, and innovation as a culture.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the 2016 IT Town Hall. 

Jim Streicher, Tony Jacob, Rusty Sproat
Jim Streicher, Tony Jacob, Rusty Sproat

Digital Transformation. Change in digital technologies is happening much more quickly than ever before. The job of IT professionals is never over – as Tony stated, we “are never done.” Just as soon as one technology project completes, another will soon be on the horizon. This is the challenging but exciting new role of insurance IT.

Figo and Cincinnati Insurance adapt to the rapid rate of change by using a core system –  the Diamond Suite – that can easily integrate with other applications so that all their systems talk to each other. Customers today expect that no matter how they communicate with you (social, mobile, web, chat, etc.), your representatives can quickly and easily get them the information they need. Figo and Cincinnati Insurance have also realized that all data doesn’t need to be stored, because there is simply too much data that can be collected! Microsoft has been helping insurers strategize and store only what data is considered valuable so they can grab it as needed.

Millennials are the biggest group of consumers today, and they expect a seamless customer experience. However, their demand for user experience has also translated into the same demands from other generational models, as well. Users today want it all! They may research polices online, look at consumer reviews online, but they also want to pick up the phone and call a representative to make a purchase.  They may want to file a claim on their smartphone or through a consumer portal. With questions on their claim or policy, users may want to talk to a person via a phone call or live chat. If they have an issue with their policy, they may want to tweet it to you. Insurers have to be ready to communicate with policyholders in all of these channels and access the information from all the interactions.

While digital communication is important, a personal touch is still valued while facilitating services through technology and, in fact, sets insurers apart. Figo knows when a pet insurance policy is canceled because the pet died. Most policyholders upload a picture of their pet to the Pet Cloud, so Figo takes that photo, prints and frames it in a frame that says “Best Pet Ever”, and mails it to the policyholder. Figo says this personal touch has provided phenomenal feedback. Reviews are positive, and customers have been brought to tears when they get the frame.

Disrupters/Disruption. Disruptors are changing the mindset of how we have traditionally done business with the shift of value from exchange to value from use. From a pure economics standpoint, value from exchange is when you create a product or service, people use itand pay you for it. “Value from use” is the new trend seen with apps like Venmo®, created by Paypal®, which allows people to use a product free of charge, then companies can upsell their customers later once they have active users. Figo’s Pet Cloud is another example of value from use, which provides everything policyholders need for their pet’s life, free of charge. Pet owners can access their vet bills, find pet walkers in their area, find other pet owners who want to meet up, and of course, access their pet insurance info and file a claim. Figo’s thinking is that if you give policyholders the pet cloud for free, then when they are ready to buy pet insurance, they are already using your product or app and trust you, so you will be the preferred provider.

Another business model trend is use-based insurance, which is most commonly used by auto insurers who provide policyholders a premium based upon their miles driven. However, adoption has been slow for older generations with this business model. Millennials seem open to this and appreciate the fact that they get a lower rate based upon usage. Other generations are still not sure about the idea, disliking the thought that insurers can keep track of when/where they are going.

Gamification has also been a successful trend for some auto companies. Microsoft has seen an auto company in Europe create a game where rates will be lowered based upon good driving behavior. Teenagers are competing with siblings and their friends to see who has the highest amount of points in the game, which keeps their parents (the policyholders) happy because their rates are lower.

Innovation as a Culture. Forming a culture of innovation has played a role in driving both the digital transformation and disruption in our industry. Cincinnati Insurance has found that it is important to have both the left- and right-brain thinkers involved in projects. While it’s valuable to have great ideas, teams need to be able to effectively execute on it. Cincinnati listens and responds to every agent’s suggestion. They follow up with the agents and let them know when their suggestion is going to be implemented,;or if the suggestion is rejected, they say why it wasn’t feasible. This encourages suggestions to keep coming in.

Some of the most innovative insurers today are taking public ideas or using crowdsourcing for new products. Some are setting up elaborate testing environments.  Encouraging the exchange of ideas is a part of an innovation culture. Where IT used to be seen as an obstacle to getting things done, the new face of IT is the catapult that keeps the business moving forward.

See you next year at the IT Town Hall! Based on the 2016 panel and discussion, IASA’s 2017 IT Town Hall promises to be an exciting event. The rate of change in technology will certainly bring new innovations and trends that our 2016 selves couldn’t have imagined.

For more information on how Figo or Cincinnati Insurance is using the Diamond System, contact Insuresoft today.